Many Facets, One Life: The Story of Mary Li - Part I

She is known as a titan in the Travel Industry in China. Her ‘never give up' attitude has won her the admiration of colleagues and businesses alike. She has broken gender biases and social stereotypes to build top-ranking businesses. While many know her as a leading veteran in the Travel Industry, we fondly know her as Mary Li, Mystifly's co-captain.  Although Mary's accolades and achievements are clear for all to see, few know of her story. 

Mary with her parents






Mary photographed with her parents

It is easy to imagine Mary's journey to success in the Travel Industry originating from the halls of an Ivy League college. However, her story actually begins within the walls of her home, as a housewife. Although Mary was an exceptional student and achieved great academic feats, she recalls "I did what many women in my position were meant to do – take care of my daughter, cook, clean, and ensure everything was as it should be. That became my identity."  As with most women, Mary accepted and fulfilled the demands that being a housewife entailed. But something was always missing. "I felt disconnected from the outside world", she adds. "There is no question that being a housewife is a fulfilling and selfless role. But, I wanted to explore the professional aspect of life as well." 

Finding a job was not an easy task. "I couldn't expect a high-profile job in a renowned company. I had no work experience for close to seven years. Most times I did not meet the job requirements," she explains. "But, I made up my mind, I would not quit". After many rejections, Mary was hired as a receptionist for a Swiss company. To many, it may seem like a lowly job for a graduate, but for Mary, it was a second chance at life. "I did everything I was told, but I always ensured that what I did was the best." says Mary. "I would make sure my boss's day-to-day schedule went smoothly. I would even get an early start in the day just so I could get him his favorite sports paper." Mary's work and ethics earned her the respect of her boss. "He once asked me if I could work on the company's finance report," she recalls. "It was a job that was usually outsourced and cost the company quite a bit of money. But I took it on as a challenge. I allocated half a day for close to a month towards maintaining the financial report. During the audit, I answered every question from the authorities. They were surprised that a receptionist could handle the company’s financial records." Impressed by her thorough and efficient work, Mary’s boss gave her a promotion; this would be the first of many.  

"I felt my self-esteem building," gleams Mary. "I began seeing myself in a whole new light."During her tenure at the company, Mary had grown in stature and position. She was second only to her boss. When the job no longer challenged her, she bid adieu to the company that had set her on the path to career fulfilment. Mary dabbled in various jobs across diverse career fields. "I was offered a job in an International School," she says. "I served there as their Principal. It was a great learning experience because I got to experience first-hand the importance of inculcating knowledge while having a sound business." Mary incorporated various policies and refined processes, which helped the school become successful. 

Mary representing ASLAN at a business event

Her integrity and flair for business did not go unnoticed. She was soon referred by an associate to the biggest single-brand travel franchise, Uniglobe. A meeting with the company's CEO marked the beginning of her journey into the travel realm. 

"Why travel? Because it's so dynamic," explains Mary. "There is never a dull moment in the Travel Industry. There is constant innovation. You never know what to expect. No two days are ever the same." After gathering years of work experience and insights across various sectors in the business, Mary founded the first data-driven travel business called Wingon, which was later renamed ASLAN Co. Ltd. in 2005. "The name actually came from my daughter, Xinyu," laughs Mary. "She was fascinated by the lion from the Narnia series. I liked how Aslan was synonymous with strength and courage, so we stuck with it."  

What happened next? Stay tuned for part two that will unravel her journey to Mystifly as it's Co-CEO.