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Inspiring Business Women in APAC: Julie Chiu

Julie Chiu is the Executive Director, Head of Marketing & Marketing Communications at DBS HK Consumer Banking & Wealth Management. Julie is a veteran in business strategy and marketing, and has over 25 years of experience in local and regional marketing, business strategy as well as public affairs in multi-national corporations.

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

I began my career in a management trainee programme at a bank, which was when I first got exposed to marketing. Three years later, I joined the Oil industry where I headed the card centre and introduced the B2C offering and loyalty program which was new to the industry. I was then promoted to a regional strategic marketing role overseeing the East Zone business, with a focus on aligning business strategies regionally and globally whilst also overseeing local operations in Hong Kong.

Afterwards, I took a career break to spend more time with the family and worked as a part-time lecturer teaching Financial Marketing, Principles of Marketing and CRM in Postgraduate and Undergraduate programs. In 2011, I returned to the corporate world and took up a Sales & Marketing role looking after Hong Kong’s largest supermarket chain, with over 310 stores city-wide and over 17M customer visits every month. Soon after, I took on another challenge and joined a Telecoms company with a diverse portfolio of product and services before ultimately joining DBS HK Consumer Banking and Wealth Management, and taking up my current role as the Head of Marketing & Marketing Communications.

What are some of the key moments in your career?

I moved from banking to the oil industry in the early 90s. I was still in my twenties but was already taking up a lot of responsibility looking after a whole department. With oil being such a macro-industry, there were a lot of opportunities to work with senior leaders from around the world, to learn about global strategies and things like upstream and downstream P&L which aren’t usually covered in the Hong Kong market, providing a valuable opportunity that truly broadened my views. I then became a regional head by the time I was thirty, looking after 11 countries’ card and loyalty business (Hong Kong, Macau, South China, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, Pacific Islands, Pakistan, Oman and the Middle East), with direct reporting lines from 7. It was a significant moment in my career to have such exposure in running a business, both in the more macro perspective and in looking after the Hong Kong business specifically. It was also interesting to experience the 1997 handover, witnessing the renewal of all leases for our gas stations, bid for plots at the then-newly opened airport, transitioning from diesel to gas and premium gasoline, etc. It was like taking everything I learnt about Economics from school and putting them into action.

I know that you also worked as a Lecturer at universities, how has that experience impacted your career?

That was in 2007 when I took a career break to spend more time with the family and started teaching part-time. Being on the other side of the classroom after working for 15+ years was a great challenge. I had to combine my knowledge and experience and teach that to a class that was quite diverse, with people who were still in their teen years to those who were in their fifties. What’s funny was that when I went in for the first class, people usually didn’t believe I was the lecturer! With that being said, my experience working with teenagers has really helped my career, as I am able to better understand their concerns and what motivates them. Work nowadays is all about bringing up the next generation, which is rather similar to teaching at a university, when you help develop their academics, ambition, ability, etc. And now returning to the corporate world, I was able to use those insights when I work on things like putting together new teams and grooming successors.

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

I noticed it quite early on when I joined the oil industry back in the early 90s. Despite it being a male-dominated industry, the company already had global diversity policies which were unheard of. I was very shocked to join the company and realise how little women there were, which made me appreciative of the diversity policies in place. I remembered there were concrete guidelines stating that a certain percentage of the management team needed to be women, which I had questioned my boss about, as I believe everyone should be given the same opportunities and the best person should be hired, regardless of their gender.

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

Being open-minded. 

People are often interested in my career because I’ve worked in many different industries. The key to that is to have an open mind, to be respectful and to stay curious. Whenever I enter a new industry, I always make sure that I take with me all that I’ve learnt previously and I give it my all.

When I joined the oil industry, I was living right above the metro station, so it was not necessary for me to drive. However, I still forced myself to do so because of the job, so I could better understand what our customers feel and want. Once you are open and ready to fully commit to your job, there are a lot of interesting experiences you could have working in different companies and industries. For example, I test drove with different fuels working in the oil industry, applied for the broker’s license while working in insurance, and had to physically visit every single store while working for a supermarket, just to name a few. 

In short, it is important to remain open-minded, have that appreciation and respect, and find something that you enjoy doing. 

How do you balance long hours with your personal life?

With modern-day technology, we often find ourselves working around the clock, so what work-life balance comes down to is our mentality. We must discipline ourselves and develop our own hobbies. Whether you are passionate about sports or some form of craft, set aside some time each week for that. Block off a couple of hours where you step away from your desk, put down your phone, and just focus on that hobby. Soon, you will realise that the earth does not stand still during those couple of hours you are away, and you will feel more comfortable doing that regularly. 

As for being a working mom, you will have to find the help that you can trust and learn to let go. When it comes to picking schools, each school requires a different level of involvement from the parents, so it is important to add this to your consideration before making the decision. It is also important not to impose too much of your own expectations on your children, to the point it creates an extra burden for yourself.

Posted over 3 years ago
About the author:
Christy Wong

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