Obtaining an MBA from one of the top business schools in the world, progressing well in their careers as team leaders, and balancing work and family; these INSEAD MBA alumnae seem to have it all. We caught up with June-Mee Hong, Managing Director (China) at SMCP (Sandro, Maje, Claudie Pierlot), Rochelle Seguss, Senior Manager of Product Management at Amazon and Sabrina Ng, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) at Hummingbird Bioscience to understand how they define success, their leadership philosophies and their views on challenges women face in the business world.
Defining success and leadership
“Success is not just about making capital, but also about creating a positive impact and energy in your workplace through relationships, collaboration, and cyclical inspiration,” says June-Mee who graduated from INSEAD’s MBA programme in 2010. With more than 15 years of work experience in the fashion industry in Shanghai, Hong Kong and the USA, she believes that passion and developing genuine relationships are driving factors that motivate her team. “It is important to understand each members’ strengths and weaknesses in order to become the best possible team architect, and ensure everyone feels like a true contributor to the company regardless of seniority level,” she adds.
Rochelle, who has been with Amazon since she graduated from INSEAD in 2012, is now in her fourth role within the company and manages various product development teams that help sellers on Amazon reach customers all over the world. “As you mature, your definition of success changes. I would now define success as doing something that makes you excited to get out bed every day and makes you happy.” Having led different teams – small and large, based in same and across locations - the one thing she found in common about motivating people is to focus on connecting their projects and tasks to the overall goals of the business, so that everyone understands the importance of their role. “If I had to describe my management style in a single sentence it would be ‘trust (the people you work with) but verify’,” she adds.
“I view management from all angles - not just as a boss - because the reality is you have to manage upwards, sidewards, externally etc. I calibrate my interactions based on the situation and task at hand - there isn't a singular approach,” shares Sabrina Ng (MBA Class of 2010), CFO of Hummingbird, a drug development startup in Singapore that recently clinched a US$13.1million award from the Cancer Research and Prevention Institute of Texas. “I try to ensure that I have some human connection with the people I need to manage so it's not all work and instructions.”
Balancing work and family
With two teenagers and a toddler to manage at home, Sabrina describes parenthood as a marathon where pacing herself is key. “For example, there's a gym class I really like on Tuesday evenings, so I don't make it for bedtime those nights. I have learnt not to feel so guilty about missing kid-related stuff sometimes if I have something else going on. It is all about knowing which trade-offs you are willing to make.” Career wise, she has also found satisfaction in what she does. “I am really proud to participate in creating solutions for a significant and growing healthcare issue as life expectancies increase. I have been able to bring my business experience as well as INSEAD lessons into this, despite not having a science background,” shares Sabrina.
Rochelle’s one-year-old daughter keeps her busy at home and she is happy with the help from childcare and a housekeeper that keep her work-family schedule running. “At work, I’m really clear with my team, any partner teams that I work with and my manager about the hours I am in the office and the hours I’m not. My experience at Amazon is that most of my colleagues (both male and female) who have children have the same sort of defined boundaries so everyone is used to working within these.”
Advancing in Careers: Tips for Women
Sabrina shares four tips for women looking to advance in their careers: 1) pick an organisation with the right culture that will support your growth 2) find the right sponsors or mentors who will be part of your voice in the organisation 3) try not to take things too personally and 4) don't be afraid to ask or voice an opinion. Summing it up simply, she says, “If you don’t ask, you don’t get!”
For Rochelle, it is all about getting out there. “Do not assume that someone is going to give you that stretch assignment or your next role because you are doing an awesome job in your current assignment. You need to be networking and making people know that you want to get ahead. Specifically for people looking to move into managing people or teams for the first time - determine how you can get experience at leading teams or mentoring people to demonstrate that you have those skills.”
“As women, we have an emotional side to lead our everyday decisions, and I truly believe that that is why we are able to lead with a beautifully nuanced power in today’s business world,” says June-Mee. “Having female role models, mentors, and friends around you is the most important so we can inspire each other and build on each others’ strengths.”