Chutima Ping Kamonsirinunt is the Head of Finance at ASICS. With over 18 years of experience in the finance industry in a regional and global capacity, she is well-experienced in all aspects of accounting, strategic planning, budgeting and business acumen.
Can you tell me about your career progression into your current role?
For the first six years, I worked as an auditor and a tax consultant within the consulting world. At that time, I was curious to learn more about how business works, especially the commercial side, so I did my first Master’s degree in accounting and took on my first role in the commercial world.
Not long after, I entered the sporting goods industry by joining Adidas, which was an eye-opener for me as I started working with people from around the world. That spiked my interest to explore other parts of finance besides accounting and to take up regional responsibilities. Being in a big company unfortunately does not give many opportunities, therefore I moved into a regional position at a smaller company instead, where I stayed for around four years before joining Oriflame for bigger regional exposure. What impressed me about them was that they really promoted female leadership and had it in their agenda, they also valued employee’s growth as they relocated me to Poland after I expressed my desire to work aboard. After returning to Thailand, I worked in other industries for a while and is now back in the sporting goods industry with ASICS.
Can you pinpoint when you first noticed an emphasis on diversity and inclusion around you?
That would be when I worked in a regional finance role at Callaway. At that time, we were just establishing the subsidiary in Thailand so I had to travel to many countries and go to the US for meetings. That was the time when I started to notice diversity and inclusion, that it’s not just about race or gender; I’ve also found the experience working with people from different parts of the world really beautiful.
Having worked both in Thailand and abroad, how did you navigate through the cultural differences?
Luckily, before I moved to Poland, I had been working at an international company so I had seen different forms of diversity for quite some time. Of course, I was still a little scared and worried about the cultural differences I might face, therefore I just tried to be open, to understand the other side and not to take things personally. Sometimes, Europeans and Americans can be very direct, if I were to take it personally, I wouldn’t have been able to survive.
When I was in Poland, one thing that helped was that we had an expat community, not just at work but outside of work as well. Being involved in the expat community allowed me to get to know people from different parts of the world and having that understanding of the different cultures actually made life a lot more beautiful. For example, I didn’t use to have any Iranian friends, but I do now after working at Poland.
The key here is to be open-minded, to talk to more people and to understand them.
Do you think cultural differences play a part in the relationship between genders?
In a way, I believe men in Asia have stronger voices than women, but that doesn’t mean they don’t respect each other. The reason for this is most probably due to seniority, as most people in senior positions in Asia are men and culturally we respect people by their seniority. If we look at the European or American culture, equality is quite important and they respect people based on their opinions and not seniority. Their way of working treats everyone as equals – no matter if you’re a senior or a junior, everyone can freely express their views.
What is one factor that has helped you the most in your career?
I think it’s all about attitude. A lot of people have similar backgrounds of going to good schools, either local or aboard, and what it boils down to is having the right attitude, whether it is passionate, open-minded or just a simply can-do.
In terms of attitude, what would your emphasis be on?
First and foremost, it’s important to love what you do; if you have passion, you’ll be able to get through it no matter how much workload you have. Being open is also important because you are not just working on your computer or within your team, you have to work with other departments and people from around the world. If you’re not open and take things personally, you’ll be the one who ends up suffering.
Have you had any mentors in your career?
I had my first mentor when I was at Adidas, the CFO at the time was a powerful woman and she taught me a lot. She didn’t teach me verbally but she led by example, showing me how to deal with certain situations and how to talk to people. When I was a young manager, I didn’t know how to manage people and she showed me how to work with others and be part of the team. She’s the one who taught me to think bigger, to think about the business instead of just being a bookkeeper.
What do you think is the value of having a mentor?
Having a mentor is not just to have a good sample or role model for yourself, it’s also about having someone who would give you direct feedback, which would help you reflect and improve. It’s really valuable to have someone giving you direct feedback because we don’t always see the whole picture when we look at ourselves, and others will be able to look at things from the outside.
What advice would you give to your mentees?
The key things in my career are attitude and being open, and I give my mentees the same thing. I learnt from my mentor that things don’t always have to be taught verbally, which is what I have adopted myself. While I talk a lot with my staff, I don’t coach them by telling them what not to say or do because that’s micromanaging and people might take it personally. Instead, I show them how to work with other teams, how to talk to people outside of our department and how by being open we can progress as a team and as a company. I also coach them indirectly by providing different perspectives to help them think. Obviously, just telling them what to do would be much easier, but sometimes they’ll just end up doing things without understanding them, so I prefer to lead by example instead, even if it’s going to take a much longer time.
How do you balance long hours with your personal life successfully?
It’s important to plan your time well, so you can balance between family and work. It’s also important to manage the expectations from your family and boss, so your family understands why you have to work longer hours some days and your boss understand that you want to take some time to spend with your family. And above all things, I love what I am doing, so work never drains all my energy, which is important.
What is the main thing you see that works in terms of diversity and inclusion, or in empowering women?
I’ve seen companies that understand and celebrate differences. Everyone is different and that’s beautiful. Once companies accept that they’ll realise that these differences can actually complement each other, and being able to utilise this can help lift the company to reach its goals.
What is your advice to leaders who want to create a more diverse and inclusive culture?
First of all, you’ll need to let your staff know where you want to go while also listening and respecting everyone’s opinion. Once you have established that culture at the top, it will spread out to everyone and help build a company culture where people respect others based on their opinions and not gender or tenure. It will take some time, but once people understand and appreciate the differences, they can complement each other better and progress together as a team.
Are there any obstacles your foresee in terms of diversity and inclusion for future generations?
Maybe I’m optimistic, but I don’t think we will have any issues. It may be a little harder for occupations that require a lot of work in the field, but I’m confident we will find places for everyone. We aren’t where we want to be yet, but in the next generation, the results will be there.