With careers spanning over three decades between them and casting a net so wide it touches three continents, APAC CEO of Essence, Kyoko Matsushita and Camellia Tan, Managing Director of Strategic Growth in Asia for VMLY&R, have never shied away from a challenge. They compare notes on the lack of a typical day and life lessons for women in leadership.
Camellia Tan, Managing Director, Strategic Growth, Asia, VMLY&R:
I don’t have any children but I know you do, and I wanted to ask you whether you think becoming a mother helps with being a leader at all?
Kyoko Matsushita, CEO APAC, Essence:
Definitely – it teaches you incredible patience. Work for me became much more manageable when I had kids and realised that nothing goes according to plan. A child’s attention span is very short so being able to communicate very clearly, directly, in a very limited time period, trains you to be effective in getting your messages across.
I was curious about your role and what a “normal” day looks like for you?
CT: Every day is different and every day I learn something new. That’s probably the best part of my job: interacting with so many different people from different parts of the world.
Everyone has a point of view and their own specialist area, but being able to collaborate is really the most important thing in success now
KM: You’ve got an interesting background, I’m interested to hear how you’ve got to where you are now?
CT: I started out as a regional business lead but my career fork in the road came about seven or eight years ago when my boss asked what I would like to do next? An opportunity to grow VML into Asia arose; building the network by finding the right people and capabilities in this region. I thought, I know nothing about mergers and acquisitions, I know nothing about VML, I’m not even from a digital agency so that sounds like the scariest thing I could possibly do. So that’s exactly what I want to do!
It turned out to be the best decision I ever made. I’ve learned a lot from all the WPP teams I’ve worked with and it introduced me to a world that I’m incredibly happy in, and proud to be a part of.
KM: Has your view of what success looks like changed over your career?
CT: It’s definitely changed. Ten years ago I saw success as having thought about every question I might be asked and having all the answers. Now I see it’s really about continuous learning. It’s about being with a group of people you trust and supporting each other. The landscape is so complex now and no one has all the answers so it’s really about a team coming together. Everyone has a point of view and their own specialist area, but being able to collaborate is really the most important thing in success now.
Hire smart people around you, people who complement you and your skill sets. Don’t hire similar people – you can only go so far if you don’t have a diverse workforce
Now that you’ve set Essence up in nine markets – an incredible achievement – what’s your advice for women in leadership positions?
KM: Learn and gain experience outside of your comfort zone. One of the things I’ve learned over the past decade is that it’s essential to understand other people’s roles, how they can help me in the role that I’m in, understanding the challenges that people are facing, whether that’s in your area of expertise or not. Also, hire smart people around you, people who complement you and your skill sets. Don’t hire similar people – you can only go so far if you don’t have a diverse workforce.
CT: I agree, it’s really important to have T-shaped people – those who have expertise but who also have a wider perspective and awareness of the bigger picture.
I think the thing about leadership in general is to remember that as a leader you’re there to lift people up. It’s incredibly competitive and not the easiest of industries but ultimately if you make it your mission to lift your people up, and lift each other up, then I think we’re all going to be better.
08 March 2019