Meet Cindy Lau, GSK Consumer Healthcare China’s General Manager (and bar owner in her personal life). Her career has moved from one success story to another, culminating in a leadership role at a Fortune 500 company; all before the age of 40.
“When I was doing my MBA, I had a very modest dream – I just wanted to be a brand manager, and I felt marketing was really a great place to be. And, outside of career goals, I had another little dream: opening a bar or a café, where I could meet up my friends regularly.”
Cindy started out after graduation in sales for American Express and quickly moved to advertising and brand management for companies like Nestle, Johnson & Johnson and PepsiCo. Her lack of experience in these fields did not stop her, and she built an impressive career in China and Hong Kong.
Before I turned 40, my boss turned to me one day and said, “Here’s a chance for you now to become General Manager for China.”
My instant reaction was, “What? I can’t, I can’t do it. I don’t have enough experience; I’ve only done sales and marketing and don’t know anything else.”
My boss said, “If I think you can do it, why would you think you can’t?” So I just went ahead. Actually, my boss was right, I had been ready all along, but didn’t think I was ready.
Cindy’s nature to seize the moment and always enjoy a challenge has been a running theme of every success she had over the years. It was this “dare to do” attitude that allowed her to learn, experience new things and prepare her for the next challenge.
So what advice does she have for anyone looking to emulate her success? She shares her top tips to overcoming adversity, adapting to challenges and trailblazing to success.
Cindy’s 5 tips for success.
Be brave to challenge new things
No matter what role I am in – be it brand manager, general manager, or president – in considering company matters, I always try to think from the point of view of a CEO. This helps to train you to develop holistic tinking and contribute more value to your company.
Be forward looking and prepare for the future
In choosing the industry, you have to take a long-term view. The company and industry I chose were not necessarily the best of the moment, but I believed they had a future.
Here, I have to tell you, pick an industry where there’s no clear leader yet, so you will still have a lot of space to grow and innovate. You can still do something unexpected and surprising.
Learn from the best
At work, you should be always ready to learn from experts in other departments. I was very lucky indeed in my own career as I was surrounded by experts.
When I was in marketing, I knew a lot of very well-known experts in advertising and sales. Many of my good friends were big agency bosses and I learnt a lot from them too.
Once I had a shortcoming in supply chain management. I knew this was my weakness, so I sat next to the supply chain head each day, asking him to tell me how to the KPIs are defined.
Be ready to learn from experts from different areas and make yourself a well-rounded business.
Love what you do
Do seek a job you like and passionate about. At least half of every day is spent working. If you don’t like it, it’s going to be a tough grind.
If you love your work, you really won’t feel like ‘I’m working, I should stop.’ But if you pick a job you are not into, you will keep telling yourself, I want work-life balance.
Think like a CEO
No matter what role I am in – be it brand manager, general manager, or president – in considering company matters, I always try to think from the point of view of a CEO. This helps to develop holistic thinking and allows you to deliver true value to any organisation.