The advertising industry is known for its gruelling working hours and Chan, now executive creative director at Ogilvy & Mather Advertising, was exceptionally busy, trying to learn as rapidly as she could.
"My boss was quite hands off, so I had a lot of opportunities to learn. But I had to pay for it with my time," says the graphic design graduate of Parsons the New School for Design, the storied New York institution with more than 100 years of history.
More interested in the dynamics of meeting people than sitting at a desk, Chan decided to pursue a career in advertising and took a course in the subject at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University upon her return to Hong Kong.
Her enthusiasm for her job and the long working hours she put in paid off, and she was promoted to art director within a year. Yet, as she changed jobs, she once again found that she was the last to leave the office at the end of the day.
At the time there were no computers and everything was hand drawn. Close team work was required, which she very much enjoyed. "When you are young, you think it's fun to be in the office," Chan says.
After two and a half years of hard graft, she was offered another job, a promotion to senior art director. Being part of the creative group responsible for McDonalds' advertising in Greater China, her cultural sensitivity and China experience proved to be useful.
So, when her boss left the company six months later, she was promoted to associate creative director and then, less than half a year later, she was nudged up the ladder again, to the post of creative director.
"It was the toughest part of my career. Hiring was particularly difficult because I had to hire people who were three to four years my senior," she remembers.
Applicants declined offers because of that and finally, her boss had to help in recruiting staff for her. In meetings, she had to hold her ground.
"In creative work, there is no right or wrong. You just have to follow your guts and do it," sh