Through the Looking Glass: Audrey's Law Career Story
schedule 5 MINUTES

A peek into the adventurous career of Audrey Cheng, VP and Fund Advisor General Counsel

schedule 5 MINUTES

If Audrey Cheng had to choose a Disney character to practice law, she would pick Mulan.

“Mulan would make the best lawyer because she is a quick thinker and strategist and is able to be resourceful, improvise and turn on a dime if needed to achieve the goal,” said Audrey, VP and Fund Advisor General Counsel at Pacific Life.

More than a lawyer, Audrey is a wife, mother, karaoke songstress and Disney aficionado. She’s a lover of old Hollywood movies and, as you can tell by her first name, so was her mother.

In honor of her favorite Disney movie, the 1958 “Alice in Wonderland,” follow us down the rabbit hole of her 12-and-a-half-year career at Pacific Life:

Perhaps you’d have guessed Audrey wanted to a be a famous singer when she grew up with her last several birthday parties being karaoke-themed. Yet, at a young age, Audrey decided a law career would be her path.

Fast forward to 2001 when Audrey was a young city lawyer strolling the pavement of Washington, D.C. working grueling 80-hour weeks. Though she seemed to fit into city life seamlessly with her briefcase and quick pace, Audrey was in fact a transplant from Orange County, California. The George Washington University School of Law had beckoned to her for higher education and led to a 7-year career practicing with two different law firms in the city. But when an opportunity presented itself to move back to Orange County, Audrey knew it was time to return to her home state.  Her first job back in the OC was as in-house counsel at PIMCO, across from Pacific Life’s Newport Beach office and a 10 minute drive from her high school.

In 2012, she crossed the street and began working at Pacific Life as an Assistant Vice President. Sounds like a smooth transition, especially because PIMCO was previously owned by Pacific Life, but the career move was anything but easy.

“I was a bull in a China shop,” admitted Audrey.

The culture of Pacific Life was vastly different than her previous roles. She had to learn how to use her words wisely and how to carry herself. Luckily, she had two mentors to help steer her in the right direction. Charlene Grant and Steve Toretto were invaluable mentors.

Audrey put it like this: “They really helped steer me straight when my ship was leaning sideways.”

Now, 12-and-a-half years later, Audrey is fully embedded into life at Pacific Life. She achieved her goal of being promoted to VP & Fund Advisor to our asset management division, and learned a few things along the way.

One of Audrey’s favorite memories at Pacific Life is when she invited Asian Americans Advancing Justice to come speak at an AAPI@PL event.

“AAAJ is an advocacy organization that puts real work into the advocacy, including staffing clinics on subjects ranging from immigration and voting to mental health issues, and litigation on real issues affecting the AAPI community," she said. "The president of AAAJ came to speak and she shared about Asian-American history in the United States. The contrasting periods of railroad workers in the 1800s and in the 1970s to doctors and highly skilled immigrants was especially eye-opening since my parents immigrated from Taiwan in the 1970s because of those circumstances.”

In addition to being a member of AAPI@PL, she is on the board of a nonprofit called the Constitutional Rights Foundation Orange County that supports local high school students with civics education. Of the six marquee events they host for students every year, mock trial is one of her favorites.

Another event Audrey enjoys hosting is a career forum that exposes students to different career options for when they graduate high school.

"Speakers volunteer to host panels and the kids attend the panels that interest them. We try to get a wide range of careers such as working at Disney, the FBI, sports, real estate, being a manicurist, doctor and everything in between. For our event this past March, 800 high school kids attended!"

With her work, volunteering, and job as a wife and mother to two children, Audrey is grateful that Pacific Life cares about work-life balance.

“Work-life balance helps us be our best in the workplace,” Audrey said. “It’s important for me to have the time to do things with my kids, like volunteer at their school. You need to be able to get outside, smell the roses, and then you’ll be in your best mentality for work. It’s a win-win for both life and work.”

What’s next for Audrey? She plans to continue to assist PLFA in growing its business and helping the enterprise. And definitely using her annual Disney pass to spend quality time with her family, too!

Audrey's Career Tips

Being a leader doesn’t mean you have to manage people. Audrey had direct reports previously but realized managing people wasn’t her strength. She operates for efficiency and was able to transition her reports to someone else. She is flourishing in a Leader as Coach role where she is more than happy to mentor others but works without direct reports.

Changing seats can be valuable to the business and good for your career. When Audrey first started working with her internal clients, Pacific Life Fund Advisors (PLFA), she was seated with her Office of the General Counsel colleagues. Audrey changed seats to sit with her clients in PLFA and, in doing so, she was included in the beginning stages of decision making. Being part of early conversations made her job as a collaborator easier. It was important to her that she was viewed as a partner, not just the middleman to getting things approved by legal.

Being brave leads to growth. The biggest challenge Audrey overcame was presenting to the Board of Trustees for the first time. She had worked on materials that would be presented to the Board, but had never presented in person to them before. It was a tough topic to present, but the PLFA team and the general counsel at the time provided her the opportunity and advice she needed to do it. The presentation increased her confidence for future endeavors and gave her a closer relationship with the trustees.


Audrey enjoys volunteering with the Pacific Life Foundation. 

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