Bel joins us for this segment of Women In Marketing. She is the Director of Marketing Communications at Mandarin Oriental, Kuala Lumpur. She started out as an intern working her way up in the hospitality sector. Little did she know how her trajectory would be. At the age of 28, she became Director of Communications. Next in line for her is CMO which we are confident she’ll definitely land! Let’s learn more about her
LET’S GET PERSONAL
THANK YOU FOR TAKING THE TIME TO PARTICIPATE IN OUR WOMEN IN MARKETING SERIES, WEI BEL. LET’S START ON A LIGHTER NOTE. WHERE WERE YOU BORN? WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR MEMORIES GROWING UP?
You’re welcome! Thank you for having me. Sure!
I was born in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Some of the fondest memories growing up would be celebrating Chinese New Year. Every year, my parents would take me and my three sisters to my late grandfather’s hometown in Ipoh, which is about 3 hours up north from where we stayed.
And before us getting there, our grandfather would then ask what we’d like to eat and what we want for presents. He loved buying things for us. Every year, he would get everything from the list we gave him (mostly unhealthy food!) and our presents.
Getting us presents is his annual practice during the (CNY) festive season. The presents are for our birthdays because he wasn’t staying with us, until very much later when we were all grown up, so giving us our birthday presents on our birthdays would be a long drive for him. Yeah, my grandfather is a very practical man, and resourceful too!
Another memory I have of growing up was that my sisters and I loved to have “urgent meetings” at home. Those “meetings” were always about surprises for our parents on special occasions, gossip, seeking advice, sharing what we found if we were on a little “investigation” about our relatives, friends or neighbours. LOL! Those were fun AND funny times!
WHAT WERE YOU LIKE IN YOUR HIGH SCHOOL/COLLEGE YEARS?
Oh my gosh! I was such a nerd in school.
I was quiet, soft-spoken. But I was committed and driven to graduate from college because I wanted to complete it and get out there to live my dream! It was my dream at the age of 15 to work in a hotel, so I persuaded my mom to let me study Hotel Management when I’m 18.
I needed to persuade my mom because working in a hotel was not quite the norm back then for females as there were negative connotations in society. I was fully aware of this at the time but I was convinced that things will be different and society would have a better perception of women working in the hospitality industry that was dominated by male.
Anyway, so aside from me being quite a nerd in school, I wasn’t the famous or popular one. I had some like-minded friends who, in their ways, made me more confident about myself and they reminded me to be laser-focused on my goals, the very reason that I was there. I am so grateful to have them!
IF YOU COULD BE ANY ANIMAL, WHAT WOULD IT BE AND WHY?
Not something that I have thought of, to be honest. But if I could choose, I would choose to be a human because I believe we can make positive changes for those that don’t have a voice.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE MEAL? THAT ONE MEAL YOU WOULD FEEL NO SHAME FOR NOT SHARING!
Hahaha, I enjoy every meal AND I don’t share any of my food especially desserts!
IMAGINE WAKING UP $10 MILLION RICHER TOMORROW, WHAT WOULD YOU DO WITH YOUR FORTUNE?
I would travel to see the seven wonders of the world, invest in the stock market and start a skincare company with a sustainable end-to-end ecosystem supporting fair trade.
WHAT IS THE ONE INTERESTING THING ABOUT YOU THAT WE WOULDN’T FIND ON YOUR LINKEDIN PROFILE? ANY HIDDEN TALENTS PERHAPS? PREVIOUS WOMEN IN MARKETING CANDIDATE, DR. LIEZEL BYGATE SAID THAT SHE IS AN EXPERT HULA-HOOPER!
I’m an avid yogi!
CAREER AND WORKPLACE
WHAT ENCOURAGED YOU TO PURSUE A CAREER IN MARKETING? AFTER ALL, MOST OF US GREW UP WANTING TO BE DOCTORS, RIGHT?
To be honest, marketing came to me by chance.
I was interning at a hotel at that time and was attached to the Sales department (we get to choose up to four departments for our industrial placement when I was studying Hotel Management). I was approached by the then MarCom Manager who was looking to hire a MarCom Assistant.
She found out about me through her former lecturer who coincidentally was my lecturer in the college that I was studying in. I accepted the job right after I graduated from Hotel Management. It was a challenging start as I was new to the workforce and wasn’t sure what to expect. The manager back then inspired me to be who I am today.
As I remembered, she was very driven, committed, outspoken and strong. She became a Director of MarCom at the age of 27 and I aspired to be like her. So I worked my way up, no matter how hard it was, I hustled because I knew I had to work twice as hard as I didn’t have the knowledge and experience that I needed in marketing/communications.
At the age of 28, I became the Director of Communications.
GIVE US A SNEAK PEEK OF HOW YOU TYPICALLY START YOUR DAY. ARE YOU #TEAMCOFFEE OR #TEAMTEA? OR BOTH? YOU BEAUTIFUL REBEL!
Oh, this is a no brainer. #TeamCoffee for sure!
Before coffee, I strongly recommend anyone not to talk to me about anything or, you’ll face the “wrath”. After coffee, I can be the sweetest person!
HOW BEST DO YOU MAINTAIN A WORK-LIFE BALANCE?
This might sound a little cliche, but I have to say better time management. It is so important to be aware of how we spend time on every task. For me, I planned out my week on a Friday on the week before so I can leave for the weekend feeling organized and returning to work on a Monday feeling motivated and inspired.
After work, I switch off completely and focus on spending quality time for myself and with my husband. I workout four times a week, between 30-45 minutes each time before dinner. I find working out or doing yoga help me to find my pace and strength, and learn to be mindful.
YOU OBTAINED YOUR MBA IN INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF EAST LONDON. YESSS GIRL! ACCORDING TO CNBC, RESEARCH CONDUCTED BY GLASSDOOR FOUND THAT COMPANIES LIKE APPLE, GOOGLE AND IBM (AMONGST OTHERS) OFFER WORK-FROM-HOME JOBS THAT DO NOT REQUIRE ANY FORMAL EDUCATION. IN YOUR OPINION, HOW CAN YOUNG WOMEN UTILISE THE INTERNET TO UPSKILL THEIR CAREERS PARTICULARLY IF THEY ARE NOT ABLE TO AFFORD A FORMAL EDUCATION?
There are many online courses these days that help individuals to learn new skills and knowledge and they come at reasonable prices.
Aside from that, there are eBooks that one could subscribe to learn specific topics relevant to their career. While having a formal education may give a better edge, I believe that having the right soft skills matter a lot more as these skills are not easily taught in formal education.
SABRA MWAURA WAS A FEATURE FOR OUR WOMEN IN MARKETING SERIES. SHE MADE A FEW GOOD POINTS ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF MENTORSHIP FOR WOMEN. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON MENTORSHIP?
I believe in mentoring and women helping other women grow is so powerful.
Mentorship is almost like an answer to “what would you tell your younger self?”
We do need someone who can share their journey and experience with you to speed up your learning and look out for things you may not even have thought of.
WHAT’S YOUR SMARTEST WORK-RELATED SHORTCUT OR PRODUCTIVITY HACK?
Because my work involves a lot of meetings, appointments etc, I would coincide some of these with people that I do need to catch up or follow up with on things so I don’t need to keep reminding myself at the back of my mind that there are things that I have not completed.
I can easily tick this off from my to-do list while getting some work done. When I plan my week, I would schedule all my meetings and appointments to certain days of the week while I dedicated other days to be in the office to complete the paperwork, the planning, the strategizing etc.
JOB HOPPING IS A COMMON PHENOMENA ESPECIALLY IN THE DYNAMIC WORLD OF ADVERTISING AND MARKETING. WHAT’S YOUR OPINION ON JOB HOPPING? DOES IT HURT OR AID ONE’S CAREER?
We need to ask ourselves the question about why we’re working in the first place – is it for money or is it because it’s our passion, what do I care about, what problem am I solving here?
We can’t be job-hopping all the time for money. Money is a temporary satisfaction and doesn’t guarantee job satisfaction or happiness. Job hoppers will soon become overpriced with no career milestones or achievements and meagre results.
FOR IT’S 2019 MOST INFLUENTIAL CMO’S REPORT, FORBES LISTED 31 WOMEN OUT OF 50 CANDIDATES (19 MEN). IT APPEARS THAT MORE WOMEN OCCUPY CMO ROLES COMPARED TO OTHER C-SUITE ROLES. WHY DO YOU THINK THIS IS THE CASE?
Gender equality is becoming more and more prevalent. It’s interesting to see that more and more women are stepping up to C-suite roles. I think women can be more attuned to the needs of others, understanding their team, their customers and coming up with better “solutions” to problems and challenges.
REPRESENTATION OF WOMEN IN MARKETING, PARTICULARLY, IN SENIOR ROLES IS ON THE UP. IN YOUR OWN OPINION, WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CHALLENGES THAT WOMEN STILL FACE DESPITE THESE CHANGES AND HOW BEST SHOULD THESE BE ADDRESSED?
Competing with their male counterpart.
I think proving themselves worthy of the promotion to their bosses who may not necessarily see gender equality the same as others. I think continuing advocating gender equality without judging the commitment of female/women when they have a family. Over time, society will change its perception and believe that everyone is equal.
ONE OF THE LEARNING CURVES FOR MOST ORGANISATIONS SINCE THE BEGINNING OF THE PANDEMIC, IS THE SUCCESSFUL IMPLEMENTATION OF DIGITAL INFRASTRUCTURES TO FACILITATE REMOTE WORK. FOR TECH PLAYERS IN SILICON VALLEY THE TRANSITION WAS RELATIVELY SMOOTH WITH THE LIKES OF FACEBOOK AND TWITTER DESIGNING A FUTURE WHERE THEIR STAFF MAY POTENTIALLY WORK REMOTELY FOREVER. THE ARGUMENT THOUGH, IS THAT THIS IS LONG OVERDUE. IN YOUR OPINION, WHY HAVE COMPANIES TAKEN SO LONG TO IMPLEMENT REMOTE WORK OPPORTUNITIES?
I believe that there has to be a change in work culture and, trust should be at the core of this culture. The trust between the employer and employee needs to be established for remote work to be achieved without compromising on what needs to be done.
Though remote work is not new to many of us and has been a discussion for many years, making it happen is not as easy as being said. It takes a lot and with the right people – employer and employee. That said, not every job out there can be changed into remote work like hospitality. We can’t have room attendants to be working remotely to perform room makeup, can we?
It will take some time before remote work can be the norm. Employees need to adapt and with remote work, time management is even more crucial, while employers need to understand and respect time with their employees so as not to eat into their time.
WORKING FROM HOME IS AWESOME! MOST OF US CAN AGREE. HOWEVER, IT IS NOT WITHOUT IT’S SET OF CHALLENGES. EMPLOYEE WELLNESS HAS TAKEN A SIGNIFICANT STRAIN WITH PEOPLE WORKING LONGER HOURS AS A RESULT OF EMPLOYEES BEING ‘ALWAYS ON’ AND NOT BEING ABLE TO SWITCH OFF. HOW CAN EMPLOYERS GUARD AGAINST EMPLOYEE BURNOUT OR IN THE WORST EVENT, LOSING THEIR BEST TALENT?
Employers need to be aware of the impact of their “always-on” approach with their employees and understand the full consequences.
Employers need to practice good time management and inspire/motivate their employees by being a role model, walking the talk. Also, maintaining a strict office hours-only for work and nothing more outside of those hours so employees can focus effectively on their other commitments.
BCG PUBLISHED ITS INNOVATION REPORT FOR 2020 AND AT THE CORE OF ITS SELECTION CRITERIA ARE COMPANIES THAT HAVE SUCCESSFULLY MARRIED ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE IN THEIR PRODUCTS AND SERVICES. ACCORDING TO YOU, WHAT MAKES SOMETHING INNOVATIVE?
Anything that answers to everyday problems effectively or problems that we don’t even realise is a problem!
HEMAL THAKKAR, BRAND MANAGER FOR BURGER KING INDIA IS A RECENT WOMEN IN MARKETING FEATURE. ONE OF THE KEY AREAS SHE IDENTIFIED FOR CONTINUED GROWTH IS THAT OF INFLUENCER MARKETING. WHAT DOES THE FUTURE OF MARKETING LOOK LIKE ACCORDING TO YOU?
The future of marketing will focus more on gaining trust from consumers. With more and more data privacy breaches with the amount of data that marketers collect, trust becomes a very expensive commodity to own and very fragile to lose.
For marketers to gain trust and ultimately loyalty, it will become imperative to be creative with their approach in marketing to stand out from the competition for their target audience to take notice. Influencer marketing is one platform that consumers trust more compared to brands preaching about their services and products.
There’s nothing worth more than having a third person endorsing your products and/or services, word of mouth has always been very effective, but there needs to be a balance between the experience of your products/services that you want to share and the influencing power of the influencer.
There are so many influencers out there that brands need to be careful in their selection. That said, influencer marketing needs to be used wisely within a marketer’s budget as it can and will be very expensive.
2020 AND BEYOND
IF YOU COULD GO BACK IN TIME, WHAT WOULD YOU TELL YOUR YOUNGER SELF?
Never believe in haters! There are a lot of people who don’t want to see you succeed.
WHAT CHALLENGE IS ON YOUR PLATE? WHAT ARE SOME OF THE PAIN POINTS YOU ARE TRYING TO OVERCOME IN YOUR LIFE WHETHER PROFESSIONALLY, PERSONALLY OR BOTH?
Letting others see that we need to move with time and faster. While we are all immersed in technology, some still don’t understand or fully grasp the benefits or use of technology. These are the ones who need a lot of time to educate and convince.
ANY BUCKET LIST ITEMS?
To be CMO by the age of 45.
To be able to see the completion of the Basilica de La Sagrada Familia. I was in Barcelona for my honeymoon in 2018 and I was almost in tears seeing how beautiful the exterior and the interiors were so I made a little prayer there that I would be able to bring my parents to see it one day when it is completed.
WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR SHEROES?
Michelle Obama. I have recently completed reading her book ‘Becoming‘ and I was so inspired by all that she’d done. I was glued to every single word in the book, reading, page after page.
She’s a true definition of women balancing family and work. She’s selfless when she needs to be. She’s focused on what’s important and followed through.
WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?
‘Leading with Questions‘ by Michael Marquardt; ‘Find Your Why‘ by Simon Sinek; ‘Humour Seriously‘ by Naomi Bagdonas & Jennifer Aaker; ‘No Filter The Inside Story of Instagram‘ by Sarah Frier. Paperback 100%!
WHAT WOULD YOU COME BACK AS IN THE NEXT LIFETIME CAREER-WISE? DO YOU THINK YOU MISSED A CALLING?
Skincare and makeup guru!
WHAT IS ON YOUR NETFLIX WATCHLIST?
Bridgerton, The Crown, Rebecca, Tiny Pretty Things, The Queen’s Gambit
WHO HAVEN’T YOU SEEN OR TALKED TO IN A LONG TIME AND HOPE THEY ARE DOING OKAY?
One of my former flames whom I knew when we were working together. We haven’t talked or seen each other for a very long time, and I hope he’s doing great.
WE ARE ALWAYS LOOKING FOR AMAZING WOMEN IN MARKETING TO PROFILE. WHO WOULD YOU LIKE US TO GET IN TOUCH WITH?
Cheryl Lum, Complex Director of Marketing at Sheraton Grand Macao and The St Regis Macao.
A UNIQUE MESSAGE FOR ALL YOUNG PROFESSIONALS IN THE MARKETING INDUSTRY
Get yourself a mentor. Don’t believe in haters because they never mattered. You do you.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME WEI BEL. WE HOPE THIS INTERVIEW WILL INSPIRE FUTURE LEADERS AND OTHER WOMEN IN MARKETING. HOW CAN PEOPLE FOLLOW YOU ON SOCIAL MEDIA?
They can find me on LinkedIn (linkedin.com/in/shemweibel) and Instagram (@weibelle).