Leadership is having compassion, listening with the intent to understand, and facilitating growth and developmentRanjini Mei Hua
A Senior Regional Manager for the e-commerce giant Lazada (Alibaba), Ranjini loves art and is a nonconformist of note. We thoroughly enjoyed our interview with her for this segment of Women In Marketing. And, we’ll be the first to welcome you should you decide to relocate to South Africa Ranjini!
LET’S GET PERSONAL
WHERE WERE YOU BORN? WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FONDEST MEMORIES?
I was born in a small city just over one degree north of the Equator – in tropical Singapore! 🙂
As a child, I remember thinking that kindergarten was a waste of time. I found the classes boring and didn’t enjoy being subjected to a regimented schedule each day. Perhaps I was just not comfortable with the concept of institutionalised education and would’ve much preferred learning in a different environment. It’s funny that I had such nonconformist thoughts at that age.
SHOW OFF TO OUR READERS. ANY HIDDEN TALENTS YOU CAN SHARE WITH US? A CLARINET STAR IN THE MAKING PERHAPS?
I enjoy making art – charcoal painting and sculptures were my thing back in college.
WE WOULD ALL LOVE TO WIN THE LOTTERY RIGHT? IF YOU WON $10 MILLION TOMORROW, WHAT WOULD YOU DO WITH YOUR FORTUNE?
Firstly, I would buy a nice house for my family to live in and set aside some money for travel and retirement. I would allocate some funds into setting up a foundation that supports skills training for youth (especially girls) from disadvantaged backgrounds.
I would invest a portion into real estate, some into ETFs and stocks, and the rest into other long-term investments. I would also circulate some money into start-ups that are focused on harnessing solar energy, developing nutrient-rich plant-based food, and scaling alternatives to single-use plastic bags i.e. turning food waste into bioplastic.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE MEAL? THAT ONE MEAL YOU WOULDN’T SHARE WITH ANYONE!
I like a lot of different kinds of food. One of my favourite meals is a poke bowl – Hawaiian cuisine.
WHAT MADE YOU FALL IN LOVE WITH THE WORLD OF MARKETING? WHAT PARTICULAR MOMENT IN TIME PUSHED YOU TO PURSUE THIS CAREER? AFTER ALL, WE ALL WANTED TO BE DOCTORS GROWING UP, RIGHT?
I was working for a small company for a while and its core product was a proprietary research software that combined quantitative and qualitative analyses. Since we didn’t have a dedicated marketing resource, I learned the importance of marketing our product through existing networks and via platforms/forums where potential clients or partners would congregate.
I also realised that I became an evangelist for the product in my conversations with people as the fundamentals of the product were very strong and the concept behind it drew from evolutionary theory, physics, psychology, and cognitive science.
IF YOU COULD BE ANY ANIMAL IN THE WORLD, WHAT ANIMAL WOULD YOU BE AND WHY?
I’d probably choose to be one of the Great Apes as they are the closest living relatives to Homo Sapiens. Either that or a dolphin so that I can dive without equipment and explore life beneath the ocean.
WHAT’S THE MOST INTERESTING THING ABOUT YOU THAT WE WOULDN’T LEARN FROM YOUR LINKEDIN PROFILE ALONE?
I’m not sure that this is particularly interesting but I like to stand on my hands, be amongst nature, or just enjoy a good book at home with a cup of green/ginger/chamomile/lavender tea. I’ve got a huge stash of tea at home and I have a cup of tea almost every day.
ENTERING THE WORKPLACE
GIVE US A SNEAK PEEK OF HOW YOU TYPICALLY START YOUR DAY. ARE YOU #TEAMCOFFEE OR #TEAMTEA? OR BOTH? YOU BEAUTIFUL REBEL!
I start my day with a 10min meditation to clear my head and set an intention for the day. I usually have a cup of coffee after 9 am when my cortisol level is not at its peak. I try to go for a morning cycle once a week or an easy jog around my neighbourhood. Some days, in the afternoon, I like to go for a walk to my local cafe and get a pour-over coffee or cold brew.
HOW BEST DO YOU STRIKE A WORK-LIFE BALANCE?
I try to keep my evenings and weekends free. I find that I am more productive when I give myself a break from work. I’m also more creative and can take a fresh perspective on things after I’ve done some exercise or gone for a walk.
WHAT APPS/SOFTWARE/TOOLS CAN YOU NOT GO A DAY WITHOUT UTILISING?
I think I’d be fine not using any apps for a day, but Google calendar is one tool that I find useful for scheduling.
HOW BEST WOULD YOU DEFINE GREAT LEADERSHIP?
Leadership is having compassion, listening with the intent to understand, and facilitating growth and development. It’s essentially putting others’ success above your own.
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?
It depends on the time horizon and the reason for the move. I don’t see a problem with moving for an interesting new opportunity. On the other hand, if you want to grow with the company and rise through the ranks, it’s best to stay for at least a few years.
FOR OUR INTERVIEW WITH YAEL TAMAR FROM SOLIDBLOCK, SHE REMARKED THAT WOMEN ARE MOST LIKELY TO OCCUPY THE CMO ROLE AS COMPARED TO THEIR MALE COUNTERPARTS. WITH WOMEN CONTROLLING OVER $20 TRILLION IN GLOBAL SPENDING, WHY HAS IT BECOME INCREASINGLY IMPORTANT TO HAVE FEMALE CMOS IN YOUR OPINION?
It’s important to not just have women CMOs but women CTOs, CPOs, CEOs, and so on. There is a huge body of literature on why diversity of representation is important in all sectors of life, and it’s not limited to women, but also people of colour, people with disabilities, etc.
COVID19 HAS BROUGHT WITH IT AN UNPRECEDENTED DISRUPTION TO THE WORLD. SEVERAL COMPANIES ARE NEARING BANKRUPTCY WHILE OTHERS HAVE BEEN FORCED TO SHUTDOWN OR LAY OFF THEIR STAFF. WHAT SHOULD THE BEST COURSE OF ACTION BE ESPECIALLY IN THE MARKETING CONTEXT AS WE ADAPT IN THIS ENVIRONMENT? HOW HAVE YOU AND YOUR DEPARTMENT COUNTERED THE EFFECTS OF THE PANDEMIC?
We’ve observed a change in the types of products that customers have started searching for since the lockdown and you can see that pattern reflected in offline purchases as well. This meant that we had to adapt to this change in demand and curate product selections that were essential and relevant for the customer during this period. Marketing is really about highlighting the range of products that we have on our platform and being able to personalise these curations at the same time.
SYSTEMS AROUND REMOTE WORK AND VIDEO CONFERENCING ARE INCREASINGLY BECOMING STAPLE IN MOST ORGANISATIONS. ACCORDING TO THE INFOGRAPHIC CREATED BY VISUAL CAPITALIST, ZOOM IS NOW WORTH MORE THAN THE 7 BIGGEST AIRLINES IN THE WORLD AT A WHOPPING MARKET CAPITALIZATION OF JUST OVER $40BN. SUFFICE TO SAY, REMOTE WORKING IS AN ASPECT OF MODERN-DAY WORK THAT HAS BEEN LONG OVERDUE. IN YOUR OPINION, WHY HAVE MOST ORGANISATIONS STRUGGLED TO CONVERT TO THIS WAY OF WORK?
I think it’s a systemic issue – we haven’t quite redefined the workplace since the industrial era though some attempts have been made by certain organisations allowing for more flexibility.
We’ve also been conditioned through a routine to expect a clear, physical demarcation between work and home. I used to work from home 100% for over 3 years in a former company. It was great and I loved it, but I recognise that some people thrive in an office environment instead, where they’re around people. There are benefits to both so I think finding a happy balance is ideal to employees’ well-being and will improve productivity in the long run.
REMOTE WORK HAS COME WITH ITS OWN SET OF CHALLENGES, PARAMOUNT TO THIS IS THE FACT THAT EMPLOYEES ARE NOW ‘ALWAYS ON’ WITH WORK CARRYING OVER EVEN BEYOND WORKING HOURS. IN YOUR OPINION, HOW CAN ORGANISATIONS MANAGE THIS BETTER TO PROTECT THE WELLBEING OF THEIR EMPLOYEES?
Organisations need to instil a sense of empathy amongst the leadership. Leaders need to demonstrate patience and understanding. People have lives outside of work and that personal space should be respected by colleagues and managers. It’s important to encourage positive habits during this work-from-home period and discourage certain practices such as texting or calling someone after office hours (unless critical). Employees need to also set healthy boundaries so that they do not feel overwhelmed or suffer from burnout.
2020 AND BEYOND
WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING? (WHAT DO YOU READ, AND HOW DO YOU CONSUME INFORMATION? PAPERBACK VS EREADER?)
‘Sapiens’ by Yuval Noah Harari.
WHAT IS ON YOUR NETFLIX WATCHLIST?
AS WE LEARN TO LIVE WITH COVID19 IF YOU COULD REPLACE THE HANDSHAKE AS A FORM OF GREETING, WHAT INTERESTING NEW GREETING WOULD YOU INTRODUCE?
The shaka sign or hand over the heart.
WHO HAVEN’T YOU SEEN OR TALKED TO IN A LONG TIME AND HOPE THEY ARE DOING OKAY?
My friends overseas.
A UNIQUE MESSAGE FOR ALL YOUNG PROFESSIONALS IN THE MARKETING INDUSTRY
Know your audience. Understand their needs. Empathise.
IF YOU COULD GO BACK IN TIME, WHAT WOULD YOU TELL YOUR YOUNGER SELF?
Learn more languages and musical instruments. Pay more attention in class haha
WHAT CHALLENGE IS ON YOUR PLATE? WHAT ARE SOME OF THE PAINPOINTS YOU ARE TRYING TO OVERCOME IN YOUR LIFE WHETHER PROFESSIONALLY, PERSONALLY OR BOTH?
Reducing the glorification of working unhealthily long hours. Promoting a positive work culture based on compassion, humility, respect, conviction, authenticity, and openness.
WE ARE ALWAYS LOOKING FOR AWESOME WOMEN IN MARKETING TO PROFILE. WHO WOULD YOU LIKE US TO INTERVIEW IN FUTURE?
Aivonne is a good friend of mine and an entrepreneur in sustainable wines, she has a strong background in marketing and would have some interesting stories to share.
ANY BUCKET LIST ITEMS (PROFESSIONAL AS WELL AS PERSONAL)?
Skydive. Travel and/or live in South America and Africa.
WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR FEMALE HEROES?
My mum, Misty Copeland, Simone Biles, Katherine Johnson, Jane Goodall, Jane Elliott, Fauziya Kassindja, Malala Yousafzai. There are too many!