As Web 700x500 (45)

Inspiring Female Leaders: Suzanne Yee

Suzanne Yee is the Global Brand Marketing Director: Enfa, Infant & Child Nutrition at RB. She has worked across local, regional and global marketing roles in pursuit of healthcare marketing excellence.  She is currently responsible for developing global strategy and driving innovation for child nutrition.

Can you tell us about your career progression into your current role?

I began my career at a market research company, which sparked my interest in the trade marketing and category development space. That’s what led me to RB, with a trade marketing role. Over time, I switched into general marketing to broaden my experience and get better exposure to more business opportunities. I started with a local role in the New Zealand business and worked my way up the ranks, eventually heading marketing and trade marketing for the Health business unit, which encompassed our OTC and Personal Care brands. I then moved into a regional marketing role for Europe, which also included Russia and ANZ. Based in the UK, that role focused on innovation and equity for one of the key healthcare brands. It was very much about achieving innovation scale, commercialising best practice opportunities and developing consumer communications for the region. This was all before I moved to Singapore for my current global marketing role for Enfa, Infant & Child Nutrition.

Having worked in RB for 13 years (and with seven promotions under your belt in that time!), how did you go about growing your profile within the business?

While I’m very career-focused and have always wanted that progression for myself, it was more about focusing on the job in hand and learning as much as I could, so that my contributions could get bigger over time. Healthcare is a knowledge-based industry which requires time to develop. When I entered this industry, I understood the long-term value you need to bring to the table and so I focused on building my knowledge and expertise. And as the company grew, I was there at the right time for those opportunities.

I’d gotten to the most senior marketing level possible in my local role. Therefore, I was very lucky to have sponsorship from not just the General Manager at the time, but also the HR team in the broader region, to be exported for the role in the UK which was also a healthcare-driven market. I was transitioning from a local business in New Zealand to a power market in the UK and being in the UK market helped to get me to progress. I think my progression came down to a combination of working hard, being open to those opportunities and having the aspiration to keep improving, even if I didn’t know exactly what my next role would be.

When I look back, I did always want to do a global marketing role. While it might not have been a conscious articulation, it was definitely a subconscious one. And sometimes, that’s the most powerful thing to propel you into the next level and open up opportunities.

Looking back at your career to date, can you pinpoint when you first noticed an emphasis on diversity and inclusion around you?

In all the companies I’ve worked for, there’s always been diversity, so I’ve never really noticed it. What I’ve noticed is the conscious emphasis in the last four to five years, particularly around gender diversity. I’ve noticed more programs that aim to support women and more articulated targets in our development plans to help progress the diversity agenda. All of those have been very positive and powerful. For me, it’s not just about looking around and seeing that diversity, but also looking up and seeing some of those intentions and targets being reflected in the senior leadership boards. It’s a continual evolution that needs to keep happening and gathering momentum.

What one factor has helped you the most throughout your career?

In terms of a personal attribute – resilience. Being in one company for 13 years, I’ve experienced a lot of changes and tough situations, and resilience is the one thing that has kept me going, despite the many challenges.

How do you balance long hours with your personal life successfully?

It’s never been easy as a working mom, so there are two things I consciously try to do.

First, I try to compartmentalise my time as much as possible, so I can concentrate on my work when I’m in the office and with my family when I’m at home. I don’t always do that successfully and it’s something I have to work on. It’s especially tough in a global role where you have to make very early or late work calls due to time zone differences, so I have to have a lot of discipline in diary management, to block out time and make sure I’m present for the time that’s needed, as opposed to being mentally fragmented.

The other thing is that I’m much more conscious of my priorities and what I value. Overall, I know that I want to be a working mom and I am vested in making it work because I do get fulfilment from both work and home. I do control how I manage the time and the priorities within that.

Do you have any advice for working moms on how to progress and succeed?

Especially for first time moms returning to the workforce, it’s important to acknowledge that your values and lifestyle may have changed, and it’s important to identify your priorities based on that. Sometimes there’s an expectation that you can still work in the same style as you did before, so having that self-awareness is important. Another thing is to be open regarding where the challenges are and the type of support you need to do your job well. It’s important not to forget about your career goals, even if they’ve changed or if you want to achieve them at a different pace. Tell the business about them as much as possible – communication is key! I think these are the areas I wish I had leveraged sooner when I went back to work.

Do you think that your gender has ever hindered you or blocked any personal progression?

No, it hasn’t. I’ve had a very steady career progression, particularly within RB. With that being said, I do think it’s made the journey much harder, heightening certain tension points just because of my gender. There are questions around whether to have a child, when to have a child, how much maternity leave to take and the impact of that on the role that you return to, etc. Therefore, I wouldn’t say it blocked any progression, but it definitely made things harder because there are a lot more considerations for working women.

In your experience, what are the benefits of diverse teams and diverse organisations?

Diversity brings an element of dynamism, freshness and new points of view that you won’t get otherwise. We need this for counteracting stagnation or becoming obsolete. Diversity has now become a necessity in this global economy where things are moving so quickly.

Are there any other pieces of advice you’d like to pass on?

Acknowledge that achieving a work-life balance isn’t easy, so be kind to yourself. If you can prioritize your own mental wellbeing, this is a really good start.

Posted almost 4 years ago
About the author:
Tristan Bullworthy

Our blogs and insights help keep you up to date with market developments and regional news