Yang Yu is the President, Asia Pacific at Monica Vinader Ltd, a leading British Luxury Jewellery brand. In this role, she is responsible for the overall business and performance of the Monica Vinader brand in the Asia Pacific region, building growth and strong footprints across multiple markets from China, Hong Kong, Singapore to Korea and other ASEAN countries. She previously worked in the EMEA region for 10 years, focusing on driving business performance and sustainable growth in multiple markets within Europe and Middle East.
Having worked in both Europe and Asia, are there any differences that you've noticed between the talent in the two regions?
Having lived and worked in both regions has given me the opportunity to understand the different cultures and also allow me to appreciate that there are different ways of doing business in different markets.
I’ve been very fortunate to have met and worked with some very inspiring individuals in both Europe and Asia. There are some fundamental qualities they share that holds true regardless where they are from: they are all extremely smart, driven and brave, whether they are entrepreneurs or leaders in a large organisation, their vision and passion in what they do is what’s driving them to success.
What differences in diversity, if any, have you noticed between European and Asian work cultures?
I feel that the work culture in Europe is relatively more diverse, which might be due to the multi-cultural nature of their societies. With that being said, certain markets in APAC for example Singapore and Hong Kong also have very diverse talents, they come from different cultures and backgrounds, offering a variety of skill sets and experiences, having these people in the workplace will ultimately lead to increased creativity, higher innovation, and allow more informed and improved decision making to happen.
Can you tell us more about your move between finance and retail functions?
Moving from looking at numbers and managing investments to building a regional business, focused on strategising growth plans and making sure we can deliver on those long-term visions and objectives has been a real game-changer for my career, and I’m loving every minute of it.
This move has pushed me so much further. It requires me to be more forward thinking, to share visions and take charge in focusing on the bigger objectives of the business, and at the same time to ensure that these bigger goals are realistic and can be well executed. Having a finance background definitely gives me some key advantages, my habit naturally prompts me to check on the health of our Asia business and ensure each of the building blocks for growth we set is realistic and sustainable.
What do you think was the biggest challenge with that transition?
For me, the biggest challenge would be managing, coaching, and developing a diverse team. The business side is the easy part, whereas managing people from different cultures, backgrounds, ages, and genders while trying to get the best out of them is not easy.
Over the years, I’ve learnt and developed my own leadership style through what I do. I believe leadership is not about walking in front of your people, but it’s sharing visions and inspiring people so that they’d walk with you towards the same goal.
What one factor has helped you the most throughout your career?
Being passionate about what I do is definitely the key that keeps me moving forward. I always say this to my team, if you have passion in what you do, nothing could stop you from getting to where you want to be. I also think It’s very important to stay resilient throughout, to take on challenges with the right attitude and commitment.
Looking back at your career to date, can you pinpoint when you first noticed an emphasis on diversity and inclusion around you?
It was probably around 4-5 years ago and I’ve been seeing the growing awareness of the business case for diversity and inclusion since. Companies are definitely becoming more aware and conscious of D&I as many regards them as a competitive advantage or even a key enabler of growth. I feel this is a natural progression as our world moves towards becoming a more diverse, accepting, and inclusive society; and companies are slowly but surely following suit.
Do you think that your gender has ever hindered you or blocked any personal progression?
Not at all, I’m very fortunate to be living in a time where opportunities are open to us regardless of gender. Of course, there are still issues to address and things to improve on, but I feel the world and career opportunities have become a lot more balanced today.
I guess the reality is that any women in a leadership role will come to a point where we’ll have to choose between family and career, some continue with their careers while others might choose to put theirs on hold and start a family. Both options are equally respected in this day and age. I’ve met women who chose work and others who chose family, some that excel in both at the same time. There are many different stories and they are all very inspirational.
Working directly with Monica and her sister Gabriela in this business, I found them incredibly brave and inspirational, they are the perfect example of women in leadership roles. They are visionary, driven and resilient, they saw a gap in the market between fine and custom jewellery 10 years ago, and just went for it with huge passion and determination, and created this incredibly successful business we’re seeing today.
At Monica Vinader, we have a culture of supporting female (and male) employees, for instance, we have a generous and supportive maternity leave policy for female employees (paternity leave policy for male employees), to make sure they get time off to spend with their new families.
Do you find yourself gravitating towards either female or male leaders, and have there been any points of inspiration that you have adopted and share yourself now?
There are so many inspirational business leaders I work with or I know of, I don’t find myself labelling them based on their gender, I think that’s quite an immature way to look at the world today. Of course, I would like to see more female professionals taking on leadership roles, which I think is already happening nowadays.
Both male and female leaders have equal importance in our society, businesses, and the world we live in, contributing to drive excellence at workplaces and generate growth. They lead businesses forward with the same passion, determination, and integrity. I truly believe that companies that have a more balanced leadership team, not just in terms of gender, but also race and age, would have more competitive advantages when it comes to performance and driving growth.
Have you ever hired or promoted people based on gender?
I hire people based on their attitude, whether they are a good cultural fit, and if they possess the right skill sets for the position, not because of their gender. Equally, I promote people for their achievements and the excellence they demonstrate at work because I want to make sure they can grow professionally with the company as we grow our business.
Where do you see Monica Vinader at in terms of diversity and inclusion?
We are definitely at the forefront of this movement; we value diversity highly and have a very inclusive culture. Founded by a strong and inspirational woman, Monica herself, our business has a diverse and balanced senior leadership team, for which people of different cultural backgrounds lead different areas and functions within the business. Our teams in APAC are very diverse as well, in terms of cultural and educational backgrounds, as well as life experiences.
What advice would you give to leaders who want to create a more diverse and inclusive culture?
I think leaders need to be open-minded these days when looking for talent, appreciate that different people from different cultures and backgrounds can offer huge benefits to the overall business performance. There’s a need to invest time and money, sometimes even looking further afield just to find the right people.
Having the right people is critical for success. You’d want to make sure that everyone in the team is on the same boat with you, rowing together for the very same goal.