Suda Hualgasin has over 20 years of HR experience and is well-qualified as an individual contributor as well as a people manager. Having played the significant role of a change agent in various transformation projects throughout her professional career, Suda is currently the HR Director at Diageo Thailand.
Can you tell us about your career progression into your current role?
My career has always been in HR, just different industries and roles.
In the late 90s, I worked as the HR Country Head at Honeywell, an electronics manufacturing company from the US, where I repositioned HR as a Business Partner by adopting the Shared Service and Expertise model, pioneering such transition in Thailand. I later joined one of the biggest FMCG companies - Unilever as a Service Delivery Lead. Working there over 5 years, I had managed 10 countries in Asia as “in-source HR” while working together with countries running the “out-source” model. Afterwards, I ventured into the Hospitality industry working for Rentokil in Singapore before moving back to a country role as HR Director when Diageo Thailand approached me. Johnnie Walker has always been my favourite whisky, and that on top of my admiration for Diageo’s Purpose made the offer one I couldn’t refuse. Till now, I still live by Diageo’s Purpose every day – “Celebrating Life Every day, Everywhere.”
Looking back at your career to date, can you pinpoint when you first noticed an emphasis on diversity and inclusion around you?
As far as I’m concerned, every global company has been massively driving this agenda, but I’m particularly proud of Diageo’s focus and boldness in terms of its actions. We recently announced the “Family Policy”, which provides 26 weeks of leave to all employees regardless of gender because treating everyone equally is important to us. Our commitment to championing diversity and inclusion to drive and empower female leadership with tangible targets is amazing.
What one factor has helped you the most throughout your career?
Having mentors is key. Normally, your supervisor would double up as your coach and you will get a buddy when you first join the company, but what’s critical to success is having a mentor as a sounding board who you can bounce ideas off, whether that is your supervisor or external senior friends.
Do you have a mentor/role model in your career? What's the value of having a mentor?
I do have both formal and informal mentors in my career. Having a mentor is extremely valuable because they can act as a sounding board where they’ll listen and provide a different point of view, they’ll help shape the thinking and are usually sincere in wanting to see you succeed.
Do you have any advice for family women on how to progress and succeed?
Having the support from family is very important, in order to have that, you’ll have to share with them the stages of your career, your expectations and the support you need from them. That is the basics. At the same time, you will also need to prioritise your work using the Pareto rule, utilise technology and not shy away from asking for help when you need it.
In your experience, what are the benefits of diverse teams and diverse organisations?
You would need different skill sets when you create a football team and it’s the same when it comes to a successful organisation, you would want diverse talent who can give you varying perspectives. Men come from Mars and Women from Venus, but together they can complement each other. One of the benefits of having a diverse team is that you will get more ideas which would help balance our decision making and lower the risks of having insensitive or aggressive outcomes. Having diverse organisations will also lead to a better culture, one that is more fluid, agile and resilient.
What is the main thing you've seen in any organisation that you think works, from a diversity point of view, or that enables women to progress?
When you look at organisations that promote diversity and enable women to progress, you’ll see empowerment. That really attracts talent. Think about the world population and the growing female workforce, promoting gender diversity will definitely attract more female talent to join.
What's your advice to leaders who want to create a more diverse and inclusive culture?
The first step is to have a clear direction, be bold when setting goals and having an open mind when it comes to change. Start empowering the female workforce and stop defining whether roles should be filled by a man or woman because roles aren’t gendered. Make sure to include and engage with the female workforce when making decisions and celebrate female leaders’ success by sharing their stories. Cultures are co-created by leaders and people in the organisations, while it takes time and the right behaviour, having role models in leaders will help create that.
Are there any specific challenges in terms of achieving better gender diversity within the alcohol industry?
Yes and No.
“Yes” in the sense that the industry is being perceived as more male-oriented here in Thailand and there tends to be more opportunities for men to join.
However, I’d also say “no” because we have achieved a 48%:52% female-male ratio in our workforce. Perception differs between generations and we need to create new beliefs through our work for the community and how we value diversity and inclusion. Our active involvement in the community in promoting positive drinking and reducing harmful use of alcohol according to WHO mission, as well as advocating for life-long learning and family leave policy are all things we do holistically to help us break through the obstacles and challenges.