Who? Ting Nee Su, President, SEA
Where? Vinda Group
How long? Since 1999
One organisation. Multiple roles.
"When I first joined Vinda Group, I was the quality assurance manager and I worked in a factory, running a team of quality control people. We developed the quality management systems for the company and made sure the products we produced met the requirements that had been set.
Today, as the Southeast Asian president of the group, most of my days are spent interacting with different people, such as members of my team and other peers. I regularly work on the development of sales in different markets and am also involved in key branding activities as well as tracking competitor and consumer actions.
The most enjoyable part of this role is seeing the resilience and the talent of the people that are working with me and around me. In fact, I feel a strong sense of achievement when I see them shine and working together as a team."
The cornerstone of her success
"From the start of my journey, I was very blessed to have managers who kept encouraging me to work on my strengths. They focused on my areas of improvement instead of judging me for my lack of experiences or my weaknesses. Such encouragement pushed me further to try new things and take on new challenges.
It helped open up a lot of opportunities for me and helped me assume quite a few different roles and positions that were directly and indirectly related to my background and experience. In terms of professional development, the journey has been quite an enriching one."
Doing the right thing, instead of only doing things right
"I’ve learnt quite a few lessons over the course of my journey, but I think one which is worth mentioning is doing the right thing for the business, instead of doing things right. When you are working in a large organisation for such a long period of time and are working in different departments, there is a high risk of being drowned in processes and protocols and to some extent, the history that the firm has been carrying over the years.
What I’ve learnt is that it is critical to consciously take an outsider’s view so you have an unbiased and objective perspective of the business as well as the strategies and solutions that you are implementing. I have always constantly reminded myself that the advantages of yesterday will be replaced by the trends of tomorrow."
Keeping abreast of latest trends
"I read a lot, and keep abreast of what is happening via articles and news that cover not just my business but other businesses as well.
You will be amazed by the amount of learning and the number of takeaways that you can gain by understanding and looking at what’s happening in other industries and companies and applying them back to your own business. That helps me in having the right exposure towards where markets are headed towards."
"I have always constantly reminded myself that the advantages of yesterday will be replaced by the trends of tomorrow."
"Within the last three years, I have had to close some markets. This is tough as we’ve got to exit the market and implement a people redundancy programme. Doing this is never easy, even though it is necessary for the overall sustainability for the business.
What I’ve learnt is that when you are fair and genuine and are empathetic in the process, those who are affected will recognise and appreciate your sincerity and honesty."
A leadership style centred around trust and encouragement
"When I was younger, it was easy for me to confuse micromanagement with being an accountable leader. However, with guidance and over time and experience, I have now evolved to become a leader who is more centred on trust, encouragement and empowerment.
I cannot speak for everyone, but in my opinion, I think one of the biggest skills I need as a leader in my industry is encouragement. On a general level, people want to do well, but are afraid of failure, are not fond of change and need reassurance regularly. To add onto this, they are working in a very volatile and dynamic environment.
Hence, if I want my team to be active, agile, to be proactive, to challenge the status quo and to have the courage to do different and new things, I need to be able to help them to overcome uncertainty and fear. So I believe I need to be good at encouraging them so that they have security and willingness to try new things and to change the way of working."
For more leadership advice, please read our interview with Standard Chartered Bank Malaysia's CFO, or contact us for a confidential discussion.