How Elaine Too Shattered The Glass Ceiling At Shiseido Malaysia
In 2017, Elaine Too became the first Malaysian woman to assume the role of managing director at Japanese beauty conglomerate, Shiseido Malaysia. When I congratulated her for this achievement in her career, Elaine graciously attributed it to the faith that her superiors had in her leadership skills and capabilities.
“During my interview, I could tell that they were not interested in my gender, race or nationality. They only cared about whether I would bring quality work to the table and lead Shiseido Malaysia in a challenging business environment,” said Elaine.
On paper, Elaine certainly fits the bill. With close to 2 decades of experience in the beauty industry, she knows the ins and outs of her field like the back of her hand. Scroll on to read our interview with this gutsy lady boss on success, leadership and work-life balance.
1/3 Act & Lead Decisively
“In business, everything changes in a blink of an eye, so you must always move swiftly and decisively. There’s no time to waste,” she expresses.
Ever since she took over the number 1 spot, Elaine’s priorities lie in building a stronger back-end support for the company’s business units and strengthening the ‘pillars’ of Shiseido Malaysia—the people that drive its success.
“In the past one year, I spent a lot of my time improving the processes for our business units. Once you join the dots internally, it will reflect externally. My staff, especially those on the frontlines serving our customers and stakeholders, are depending on me to help them do their jobs better. I take that responsibility seriously,” she says.
2/3 Hire Future Leaders, Not Just Doers
Elaine grew up in an entrepreneurial family. Her parents instilled a strong sense of work ethics in her from a young age. “I have always enjoyed hard work. It is satisfying to put my nose to the grind and see the outcome of your labours in improving profit margins for the company,” she says with pride.
As such, when she puts together a team at Shiseido, she keeps an eye out for individuals with an entrepreneurial streak.
“When I hire, I make it clear that I am not looking for a doer, or someone who complies without question. I am searching for future leaders—employees who possess a strong sense of ownership for the roles they take on. Dynamic growth is key,” she stresses.
I have always enjoyed hard work. It is satisfying to put my nose to the grind and see the outcome of my labours in improving profit margins for the company.
— Elaine Too
3/3 Know Your Priorities In Life, Outside Of Work
If you think that Elaine is a workaholic, nothing is further than the truth. She is strict about work-life balance and makes it a policy to be home for a meal with her husband and three daughters.
“My family is everything to me. I work because I want to give the best to my girls. So that’s why when I clock into the office, I am clear about getting my job done in the most efficient way possible so I can go home to them,” she says.
I am not looking for a doer, or someone who complies without question. I am searching for future leaders—employees who possess a strong sense of ownership for the roles they take on.
— Elaine Too
Here are Elaine's advice for her daughters—and for other future female leaders—to forge a successful life for themselves.
- Speak your mind. Mean what you say and say what you mean.
- Carry yourself with poise and dignity.
- Be humble and have respect for others.
- Be patient and listen to your team members with an open mind.
- Be well-groomed and take care of yourself. There’s a sense of empowerment that comes from the idea of taking care of yourself. When you feel beautiful inside and out, things will just flow for you.
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- Photography Khairul Imran
- Hair Eric Koh from E.EX Hair Salon & Academy using Shiseido Professional
- Make-Up Alan using NARS