The success of any organization starts and stops with its people. A company where everybody deserves a voice, and everyone’s ideas and opinions matter. Because not one single person has all the right answers but, collectively, we can be successful together.
Expanding on this vision, SupportU was created by Dr. Hui Wu-Curtis along with her partner Ron Petrie.
Both of them believe that it’s important to create a safe work environment where we embrace each other’s differences and that it’s okay for everybody to be themselves. And if we create a culture that truly embraces these qualities, Dr. Hui Wu-Curtis and Ron believe that this underserved talent will deliver exceptional customer service to their clients.
Featuring for CIO Women’s this issue is Dr. Hui Wu-Curtis, COO of SupportU – The Most Influential Businesswomen To Watch Out.
Why This Field:
Like many others, Dr. Hui Wu-Curtis stumbled into the contact center industry. When she was in college, Hui accepted a part-time job at a call center in San Diego where she took incoming calls for alphanumeric pagers.
There were 2 days of training and then you were in production. It was a very high-volume job with 2 days of training to get into production. Hui never got to meet her supervisor and the job itself was so fast-paced and demanding, and because of that, she left after 4 months.
Years later, Hui had the opportunity to go back into a call center as a supervisor. At the time, she was in a mid-level leadership role, and thought it would be challenging to see how you would effectively manage people who were tied to the phones. So, she accepted that job and never left the contact center industry ever since.
As Dr. Hui Wu-Curtis worked through various positions within the contact center, she always absorbed as much knowledge as she could. She believes that learning all aspects of your operations and business allows you to make better business decisions.
Soon enough, Hui fell in love with the hectic nature of call centers and the hundreds and thousands of people she worked with in the various global contact centers.
Hui enjoyed interacting, collaborating, and developing her teams. Each position was an opportunity to do something great and as time progressed, her scope of responsibility kept increasing so the magnitude to prove things and achieve amazing results was realized.
All of this not only benefitted her internal teams but also the millions of customers they served. Seeing her team members and leadership achieve results far beyond their expectations was the driving force for her to continue in the contact center industry.
The contact center industry has offered Hui so many challenges and rewards. It allowed her to be a thought leader for culture, diversity, leadership development, technology, customer experience, strategy, and operations.
After getting married at 22, Hui had her 1st son at 24, and graduated from college in San Diego at 25. Along the way, she had always worked multiple jobs.
In the beginning, it was a matter of priority to find a job that pays enough to support her family. To achieve that, Hui had to upskill herself so she learned as much as she could at every job and started applying for positions that had greater scope or level of responsibility.
If Hui thought she was ready for a supervisor job and her current employer didn’t see it in her or was able to offer the position within the timeframe she wanted, she wasn’t afraid to quit the job.
The way Hui progressively moved up the corporate ladder was by jumping companies in order to promote herself. It was hard being young and not having enough emotional intelligence to see what was holding me back at the time, says Hui.
Dr. Hui Wu-Curtis was constantly getting frustrated and angry at the fact that her bosses couldn’t see her potential or provide her with opportunities for development.
One day, Hui’s husband told her that he understood why she was jumping from one job to another. At each job, she was always getting frustrated for never getting chosen for projects or given the training to grow. Hui’s husband told her after several bouts of frustration with her jobs that the only commonality was her.
Hui’s immediate reaction after her husband expressed himself was to be angry at him for saying such a thing and not supporting her, but his observation did cause her to pause and reflect internally.
So, Hui vowed that she would fundamentally change her outlook and approach towards her job. It wasn’t about always being right but being kind.
Dr. Hui Wu-Curtis worked on her ability to be likable to her colleagues and superiors. When she did that, Hui’s immediate leaders started seeing her in a different light.
Soon, she was called to participate in projects or asked to apply for promotional opportunities. It was about creating advocates inside of work that would communicate to others how she was easy & fun to work with.
All of this paled a part in creating more awareness in other departments to show Hui’s potential. Slowly, this led to increased exposure and opportunities for her throughout several companies. Hui learned the value of networking within her own company and gradually expanded to grow her professional network externally.
Walk-Through of Professional Background:
While Dr. Hui Wu-Curtis was in various leadership roles, she got involved with several large projects at different companies which exposed her to other areas of operations and technology. Exposure to these things helped her learn how to run her operations better and how she and her teams contributed to the overall company success.
Once Dr. Hui Wu-Curtis was able to achieve those successes at one call center, she would leave to do the same thing at another in a higher position to see if she can get the same results in a bigger capacity.
Dr. Hui Wu-Curtis believes that you control your own career and wasn’t afraid to leave the job for a promotional opportunity. Keeping that belief. She left her supervisor job to be a manager. Several years later, she left her manager job to be a director and continued moving up in her career
As Hui moved into a manager position, she decided to go back to school for her MBA to learn and understand more about business strategy.
Dr. Hui Wu-Curtis got the opportunity to be in a director role at Choice Hotels. She was originally hired as Director of Business Results, soon she was promoted to Sr. Director – Global Customer Care Strategy and was responsible for all of the support services which included over 2,000 employees globally. This scope included teams of people who handled global reservations, member services, customer relations, social media, and property support (for the hotel franchisees and staff).
During her time at Choice Hotels, Dr. Hui’s leadership team and she achieved so many milestones and paved new roads to higher levels of performance and profitability. She was asked to speak at several conferences all over the world to share the hotels’ operational successes. Later, she was asked to join CCW’s advisory board and started to establish herself as a thought leader in contact center operations and customer experience.
Soon, Dr. Hui was headhunted by Arizona Public Service (APS), Arizona’s largest public utility company. They had created a new role for her as General Manager, Customer Operations, reporting directly to the Chief Customer Officer.
After a little over two years at APS, Dr. Hui was headhunted again to be the President of World Connection, a medium size business process outsourcing company managing call centers in Boise, Idaho and Guatemala City. She transitioned into this President/COO role right before the pandemic hit.
In 2021, Dr. Hui left her position to start her own business process outsourcing (BPO) company called SupportU. It was an opportunity for her to build a company the right way, by focusing on employees first. Far too often the BPO industry is seen merely as a labor arbitrage-driven model, a practice of searching for and using the lowest cost workforce to outsource services.
We don’t subscribe to this business model and offer our employees a living wage where they can afford necessities like health insurance. So, Dr. Hui Wu-Curtis set out to create a purpose and mission-driven company that is focused on employing underserved populations of people, providing support and development for them to have opportunities for mentorship, growth, and promotional opportunities.
Helping Hand of Education:
Dr. Hui Wu-Curtis has always been a great learner and loves to learn as much as possible. Honestly, does one need a degree to do my job? Probably not, but having a college degree and then an MBA and Doctorate in Business Administration, has helped open my eyes to learning more about other areas of business, says Dr. Hui. It created more opportunities for her in providing credentials and credibility.
The leadership style of Dr. Hui Wu-Curtis is very much a teaching style. So, whatever she knows or has learned, she passes it down to her leadership teams. She wants her leaders to understand all the operational elements, and learn how to effectively manage people, while critically thinking through processes.
Dr. Hui Wu-Curtis believes that if people are taught things and truly understand the business, then they will in turn make better business decisions. This is why a learning organization really resonates with her.
“I believe in education and learning and that can be achieved in different ways.”Dr. Hui Wu-Curtis
How Personal Experiences Influence The Entrepreneur Within:
Dr. Hui Wu-Curtis grew up in a very conservative Chinese family where the focus is more on the boys in the family to succeed. Characteristics such as boldness and risk-taking are not often seen in women in her culture growing up.
Dr. Hui Wu-Curtis says she had thought about being an entrepreneur early on. However, it was always ingrained in her to study, get good grades, and get a good-paying job. It took years of working to find her own level of self-confidence.
As Dr. Hui Wu-Curtis moved into higher-level leadership positions, she was exposed to more politics and personally experienced several incidences of unethical business dealings. She couldn’t believe people could do such awful and unethical things to others.
All of it just showed her what she didn’t want to become. It also motivated her to do her own thing so she can have control over what was being done and whom she wanted to do business with.
Dr. Hui’s future plans are to continue to grow SupportU. She wants to use the company as a platform to show others how focusing on your employees first will bring you far more success than only being focused on revenue.
“I love pushing the envelope and seeing how we can take the right innovative technologies, a balanced approach with the right people and processes, and create superior performance and value for our clients”, says Dr. Hui Wu-Curtis. She also enjoys being an early adopter, taking risks, and seeing how they can fundamentally change the way they deliver customer experience.
Dr. Hui says that her alternate focus is to bring more education and awareness to others on investing in people who have been marginalized in the workforce. She is very purposeful in her approach to narrowing the disparities in the workplace that she had experienced and seen in the past. She will continue her efforts in working with community partners and other organizations to promote diversity and inclusion in leadership roles and mentorship by showcasing SupportU’s business model and approach
A Piece Of Advice To Younger Self:
“I would tell my younger self that business is tough, really tough. There are unimaginable things such as greed, elitism, entitlement, and unethical business behavior. And some of those things will happen to you and be prepared to deal with those situations and not internalize them. Know who you are, and what you stand for, and keep moving forward. Don’t let other people’s bad behavior limit your ability to be successful.”Dr. Hui Wu-Curtis
Some Wise Words For Budding Entrepreneurs:
To those aiming to become entrepreneurs, Dr. Hui Wu-Curtis suggests focusing on what you are good at and love doing and the business idea will come to you. She advises that once you take the plunge to start your own business, go learn from others and ask for help from people who are experts in certain facets of the business. Don’t feel like you have to figure it all out by yourself. Grow your network and call upon your network for help. You will be surprised by the number of people out there willing to help you.
It’s hard to determine what success will look like for each person. This is something you have to personally define. Owning your own business is definitely not for the faint of heart and you have to believe in yourself and your abilities in order for you to succeed, says Dr. Hui.