Wanting a career filled with travel is common. Getting one and then making a mark away from home is far less so. But that’s just what JuE Wong, president of cosmetics and fragrance company Elizabeth Arden, has achieved. Starting out as a commodities trader in Singapore with opportunities to work in Hong Kong, Geneva and London, she landed on the skincare track, eventually shifting her toward big beauty business in the US. Here are the traits that got her the top job.
01: She likes people
And not just superficially. Wong likes people enough to want them to succeed. “I would think about what my boss might need and deliver over and above what is expected, and if anyone were to ask me something in front of my boss, I will give him or her full credit,” she says. “Similarly with my peers and subordinates. I will always try and reference something they did, or say they did all the heavy lifting and I’m the lucky one who gets to talk about it.”
02: She’s tenacious
“To me, the answer ‘no’ just means ‘not right now’. It’s not permanent,” she says, explaining the time she was trying to get a job at the former Dial Corporation in San Francisco when she first moved there. “I spent a year calling the same person and going to the Arizona World Trade Centre to try and get in touch. Each time I was told they didn’t have anything for me then.” They eventually did call her, saying her tenacity paid off, and it has taught her to push for things her gut tells her are right.
03: She understands balance
Wong lost her husband to a sudden heart attack seven years ago, and it was a blow that changed her outlook on life forever. “My children became more important and I was more empathetic to people I work with. It made me a better person,” she says. “When my female colleagues go on maternity leave, I made not calling in a KPI. They didn’t think I was serious but I really docked their bonuses when they checked up on work.”
04: She never assumes
It stands to reason that Wong’s encouraging leadership style was inspired by similarly heartening bosses in the past. One of the most valuable lessons she learned was to understand that no one is the same. “Just because I’m good at something doesn’t mean other people will be too, so whenever I write e-mail, I explain every acronym,” she says. “If I wrongly assume everyone will get it, those that don’t will just get frustrated and not read my e-mail or understand where I’m coming from.”
05: She’s Singaporean
Wong has likely spent more time away from the little red dot than in it, and even raised her children on the road, but she has never forgotten her roots. “When people think of Singapore they think of a city full of intelligent people with lots of financial acumen, and it’s a generalisation I’ve played up,” she says. “I tell my kids that their Achilles heel is not being brought up in Singapore, otherwise they would have the traits that will help with success, alongside the American way of giving people second chances.”