In one of our first editions of Career Wise, we got the chance to chat with marketing professional Yin Woon Rani about her career and experience working in marketing as an Asian woman
- Her career, in her own words:
I’ve worked in the advertising and marketing industry for over 20 years, holding leadership positions in an advertising agency, a media agency and most recently at Campbell’s Soup Company on the marketer side. I’ve been fortunate to work on many well-known global and American brands like Campbell’s, V8, Spaghettio’s, Charles Schwab, IHOP, L’Oreal, Pantene, Crisco, Jif, Smucker’s, Playskool, TUMS, Milton Bradley and Parker Brothers.
- The impact of her education:
I grew up and finished high school in Singapore, then graduated magna cum laude from Yale University with a double degree in English & Chinese Literature. I also have an Executive MBA from NYU’s Stern School of Business where I graduated second in my class. So yes, I am the walking stereotype of the overachieving Asian student! I consider myself a lifelong learner which is an important characteristic for the ever-changing marketplace conditions. I appreciate the discipline and rigor of my Singaporean education but am grateful that the emphasis on rote learning was balanced by other influences in my high school and undergraduate education that also emphasized critical thinking and individual expression.
I remember distinctly in my first semester at Yale when my English seminar professor pulled me aside mid-term and asked me if I knew that class participation was 30% of my grade as I rarely spoke up in class, but was doing well on the homework assignments. It was a revelation to me! I finished the class with a great grade overall, and grateful for her mentorship.
Going back for my MBA as an adult while working was an amazing experience for me, as I was able to relish studying for my own needs and desires without undue external expectations. I really broadened my business horizons and added to my toolkit for leadership positions.
- On discrimination:
I’m lucky to say that I have not experienced much overt discrimination in the workplace, but as I become more senior, I do confront the reality of how thin the ranks start to become of women of color…….I think it’s important to build strong networks across all kinds of people to have the necessary support and sponsorship to succeed. I have experienced the surprise people feel when I sometimes defy the model minority stereotypes by being quite outspoken, good with people and guilty of casual profanity!
- The good and the bad of her career:
My favorite thing about marketing is that it combines many disparate things together to create actual business impact – you need to appreciate both big ideas and careful analysis, you need to harness complex teams while keeping an unique voice, you need to be inclusive yet highly personalized. It’s like a complicated stage production but with a new opening night every day! However, when petty politics make people and teams lose sight of the greater good, and everyone retreats into silos versus holding hands to work through issues collectively. I find the lack of empathy for the final end-user in big companies can be quite startling at times. As if all the other stakeholders in the value chain (management, shareholders, media, etc.) have almost drowned out the voice of the consumer.
- On challenges:
I am almost positive my biggest challenges still lie ahead of me, or at least I hope they do as i have plenty of career runway ahead. My biggest responsibility is to be a great mother to my son and I often describe that as my “real job”! No professional challenge no matter the scale can really compare with the awesome responsibility to try to raise a good human being.
- When asked about her experiences with failure:
Wow, I could probably write a whole book on how the failures I’ve experienced – which is often more interesting and more instructive than success. Well, I have been let go from two (almost three) jobs before which I think most people would see as a failure. But for me, these were just the beginnings of another chapter in the journey. The days of working for one employer are well over and so everyone needs to be prepared to craft their own career with that reality in front of them. It’s important not to let external circumstances define your own sense of self-worth, so I got through it by harnessing my network and my experience to figure out the next big gig! I’m in the middle of that process again right now, and working hard at staying positive and counting my blessings.
- Her goals when she started:
I have to admit that I was not one of those amazingly organized people with their 5-year, 10-year plans all laid out ahead of them when I started working. I was actually just super excited to actually get a check every two weeks, and for the chance to live in amazing New York City. My goals were pretty simple — I wanted to learn something new all the time, I wanted to be around interesting committed people working in teams, and I wanted to be somewhere where powerful ideas were valuable. I have been very lucky to have a career where those goals were achievable every day! Those goals are still important to me, but I’ve added another one which is to try to help pave the future for the next generation of talent in the industry, particular those from diverse backgrounds of ethnicity, socio-economic background, physical abilities, etc.
- Some advice from a woman who’s been there:
My advice would be to always balance passion with pragmatism, as successful entrepreneurs I know have to make hard decisions often and quickly – and just having a great vision is necessary but insufficient. I think one of the strengths that the Asian culture can bring to the entrepreneurial journey is the emphasis on collective networks and relationships to success versus the mythical lone wolf striking out his own without any help. I love that book “Everything You Needed to know you learnt in Kindergarten” because sometimes life’s lessons are really that basic but hard to remember when life gets complex. So play nice, learn how to share but be ready to stand up for yourself, keep trying even when it is hard, color outside the lines and always have fun!
Yin Woon Rani was most recently VP, Chief Consumer Experience Officer at Campbell’s Soup Company – leading integrated marketing communications for the U.S. Meals division which includes brands like Campbell’s, Chunky, Swanson, Prego, V8, Spaghettio’s and multiple new product launches. She joined the company as the VP of Integrated Marketing to help drive marketing and digital transformation across content, digital, media, design and marketing technology. She helped launch several rebranding campaigns that feature a more diverse range of audiences for the company, including The Real Real Life campaign which was featured by Stephen Colbert. Previously, she was the President of UM (IPG’s largest media agency) for North America leading 1000+ team across five offices for a wide range of clients including L’Oreal, Charles Schwab, Nationwide, BMW, IHOP, Applebee’s etc. She also worked for many years at Grey Worldwide (part of WPP) leading businesses and brands for clients like Pantene, Hasbro/Milton Bradley, GlaxoSmithKline OTC, Mars, and others. She grew up in Singapore and is married to an Indian, and have a 12 year old son on his third passport!
Find Yin here:
Linkedin: Yin Woon Rani