MeiLin Wan

Vice President, Textile Sales, Applied DNA Sciences

Roles in life and work: 

I was born in Malaysia, raised in Canada, educated in Western Australia and I’m a naturalised dual citizen of Australia and US.

I work as VP of Sales for the textile division of an innovative company that uses molecular DNA to tag, test and track products to prevent counterfeiting and assure quality and integrity in products used in supply chains.

Can you share a little more about your background

I have lived in New York since 1997, primarily based in Long Island working with companies that have a biotechnology heritage. Most people think of New York as home to the Brooklyn Bridge, the Empire State Building, Wall Street and Fifth Avenue. Not many folks know that Long Island is home to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories where James Watson conducted ground breaking work regarding the molecular structure of nucleic acids and its significance for information transfer in living material, also known as DNA.

The discovery of DNA was a significant turning point in science as it fundamentally changed the way we understand biology and life. It is a unique molecule and has the potential to store information or content.   It has a much higher storage density compared to an electronic device and that’s what makes it the ultimate tool for traceability in a wide range of materials.

I travel a lot for work, lately visiting  Brisbane, Sydney, Bangkok, Hong Kong, and Perth.  I don’t enjoy the physical part of travel, but I do thoroughly enjoy experiencing different cultures, and learning what is unique and special about the place I am visiting. Even visiting Perth recently was amazing, as the city has changed since I last visited three years ago. I was surprised to see that.

So much of the world is now focused on identity politics, but as I think about my background I believe that so much more can be accomplished if we focus on working with people who bring their skills, know-how, creativity and most important, a positive engaging, enthusiastic energy to the workplace. To be judged by the content of your character, as Martin Luther King Jr so aptly stated, and through your own merit and effort is what I genuinely believe makes all the difference.

Tell us about the work you do and how you got interested in traceability of fabrics

I have always been interested in the question of “are what people saying, actually what they are doing?” .  The work I do today I believe is important in ensuring the products we value, support and consume are based on truthful materials that come from trusted supply chains and brands.

In textiles, we have developed solutions to enable us to use a unique molecular tag to apply onto fibre, and then test in yarn, fabric and finished products like home bedding, towels and garments. 

What has led you down this path?

I have worked at Applied DNA Sciences now for 15 years, and its definitely been an important part of my life to see the company evolve. Working for a small company is not for the faint hearted nor the risk averse.

It is important to also be a part of something that can potentially have a global, humanitarian impact. I can see that DNA technology has positive benefits in so many ways. The food that you eat is DNA tested for bacteria, and now we can DNA test cotton to see if the pima cotton DNA is present in that product labelled 100% pima cotton. Or that the cotton is not from a supplier that uses unethical labour practices.

What are you juggling right now in your life? 

The biggest “juggling” that is happening in my life is how to spend more time with family that live in Australia when I live in the US. It’s not an easy trip to make and so planning my time and making sure I find the time to see them is important.  If a work trip brings me to Australia I will make sure to take a few days leave and visit family.  But with so much travelling, when it comes time to take a holiday, I baulk at getting on an aeroplane.  I do sometimes wish we lived closer. 

I am also juggling to find time to explore my interests in geology and metaphysics.  Geology is like DNA in a way because the provenance of the rock, how it formed over hundreds of millions of years is totally fascinating. The advantage of geology over molecular biology is that you can touch, feel, smell the rock – it’s tangible. Whereas DNA, on the other hand, is not tangible – it’s a molecule!

I am also very interested in metaphysics as it taps into your own intuition and psychology – some things we choose to see or hear and some things we choose to ignore. What I genuinely believe is that life is very much like the Yin and the Yang – and so what goes around, does come around eventually. So I think that the more good energy you can share with others, the more likely it will come back to you, and that’s why I think some people may seem to be “lucky” on the surface but if you dig deeper, you may find that they make their own luck!  

I’m also distracted by this new card game called Unstable Unicorn which is so much fun. It was a game developed on Kickstarter and I just learned how to play it on my recent trip back to Perth. It’s the ultimate game to learn about strategy and in the process you get to know people’s personalities and how they compete, its fascinating.

How do you value your time?

I value time based on the quality of people around me. I stay in touch with my friends back in Australia that go back to my university and high school days. Most people in Perth tend to go to their local university after they leave high school so it enables you to have continuity, even if you leave the country. I think that keeping in touch is made easier thanks to WhatsApp and other social media websites like LinkedIn. I find that is one of the ways to stay in regular contact. That is one of the benefits of having a smartphone as it makes the world feel like a smaller place because information flow is instant. I remember the days when I would send a letter to my pen pal in Vancouver and be checking the mailbox for her reply. Or when we would have to use a pencil to make a phone call only to have to redial to 3 more times because you dialled the wrong number!

A “rotary or analogue” life was not that long ago, and yet, have we really evolved as a society? In some ways we have, and in other ways I feel we have regressed. Communication is truncated now to tweets and Facebook messages. The art of writing a letter, sharing a dialogue that is now reduced to an emoji is what’s changing fast. I hope that the new generation don’t lose the essence of communication. There is nothing wrong in writing a thank you note with your own hand and putting a stamp and mailing it.   

How do you manage your time effectively?

Being in sales, I find a huge amount of my work time is spent traveling to meet clients, attending meetings and conferences, and responding to emails and text messages, so the ability to prioritise and organise my work is crucial. This means planning out my calendar and making sure that I have personal time to spend with my partner, and our families that live in US and Australia.

So planning out how to spend the time in the present and in the future is the key to being able to do all the things I want to do at work and at home.

How do you separate work and personal time?

I think you need to make the effort to balance work and personal time. I know on weekends, I like to spend that with family and in the evenings when I come from work, I like to have dinner with my husband.  

What does your support network look like?

It’s a global network of family, friends and work colleagues that live all over the world. My family and relatives live in UK, US, Canada, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Spain and Germany, just to name a few countries.

My social network is also global and so I feel that the more you can extend your network globally; the more diversity of experience and opportunity is likely to come your way. It’s the way of the world as we know it.

What kind of conversations do you have with your inner voice?

I think my inner voice or intuition is usually right on the mark, but I don’t always trust it or listen to it as much as I should. I find that when you are at a crossroads or you don’t know why you haven’t made a decision about something, my inner voice can guide me through the muddy waters and help me arrive at the destination despite not having all the facts in front of me. That is when I know I am listening to my inner voice. It’s during trying times that I come to know my true metal. 

Do you have any time saving tips for the One P community?

Organising by putting “like” things together. It’s a simple rule of organisation – if you group like things together you are more likely to find them. I also like to colour coding and labelling things – again if you can find the label, or see the colour, you are more likely to reach for them and use them. This is particularly useful for getting ready in the morning – since my wardrobe is colour coded and organised I know exactly where to find my black pants and pinstriped One P shirt, that’s the key.

Applied DNA is using biotechnology as a forensic foundation, to create unique security solutions that address the challenges of modern commerce. Whether working in supply chain security, brand protection or law enforcement applications, their goal is to help establish secure and flourishing environments that foster quality, integrity and success.
For more information about Applied DNA Sciences click here 
Connect with MeiLin on LinkedIn here

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