By Leslie Tse, Global Insights & Foresights manager
Recently, our Asian and women employee resource groups hosted our newest Clorox board member, Esther Lee, SVP of Marketing, Advertising and Sponsorships at AT&T, for a conversation about success in the workplace. Esther touched on a number of topics, including how to manage the pressure of “shoulds” in our lives by developing and maintaining a clear sense of self.
In Esther’s case, she described how her perspective has been influenced by her parents’ experiences as young immigrants. Growing up, she watched as her father, a chemist, experimented with many different pursuits – from developing a hair dye that doesn’t stain fabric, to teaching university students – and essentially always finding a home for his desire to learn. His persistence and staying true to his own passions, Esther said, is what contributed to the True North principle she still holds today.
She iterated there are many “shoulds” that get into our heads via parents, colleagues, career paths and life circumstances. Having this awareness is fine, but it becomes destructive when we start to blindly believe and ultimately succumb to these self-imposed mandates. After reporting to a handful of female managers, Esther related how these women successfully navigated the “old boys club” mentality at some of these organizations. She learned “you don’t have to be exactly like the men, but you do have to be taken just as seriously – and you can find your own way of doing that. You can have your own personality, your own way of managing, your own way of having conversations, and still have just as much credibility.”
Her No. 1 tip to debunk stereotypes? “Biases that others have should not get in the way of what you show up to create. As soon as it makes sense for you to do it, get out there with the real you. Make sure that dynamic is truthful. Don’t overcompensate. Be straightforward and have an honest dialogue with the people you’re dealing with at a graceful time for it to take place.”
Like many others, Esther’s most difficult professional challenges were finding that first job, understanding what makes a great career fit and adjusting to corporate life. But she didn’t let stereotypes dictate how she should think or behave; rather, she saw them as challenges to exemplify her dad and “to be curious, and see them as ways to learn and opportunities to wrap our arms around.”
It was so inspiring for me, a female Asian in Marketing, to hear that negative perceptions are not necessarily a misunderstanding to combat, but rather a challenge that can be overcome by persistence and passion.
Long after this discussion, Esther’s perspective will continue to inspire and stretch my thinking on how best to navigate the ever-changing marketplace with grace and success.
Leslie Tse is the Global Insights & Foresights manager for Brita® water filtration products and an active member of the Asian employee resource group. A Midwest-native, Leslie recently relocated to the California to join the Clorox Marketing team. When she’s not busy up-cycling furniture for her apartment in San Francisco, Leslie enjoys baking, snowboarding and photography.