Thriving in a Culture That Appreciates Your Differences

By Ahmed Wafi

British American Tobacco Malaysia has successfully cultivated a culture where differences are appreciated and celebrated.

When we think of a traditional sales executive, the picture of a smart-looking man donning his company’s standard trade uniform comes to mind. That is not the case at British American Tobacco Malaysia (BATM) though, a company that defies everyday norms and thrives on it.

Staying true to the pillar of ‘Bring Your Difference’, one of three pillars that governs its newly launched Employee Value Proposition of ‘Be The Change’ (the other two being ‘Work on the World Stage’ and ‘Make a Positive Impact’), BATM appreciates and celebrates the differences its people bring, honing their skills and empowering them to become well-rounded professionals ready to take on any challenge that comes their way.

“Be bold to speak up your point of views even though you know you are the only one who thinks differently from the rest; don’t hold back!” Glaries Yee, BATM’s National Sales Planning Manager said when asked about what it means to Bring Your Difference. Wei Wei Hong, Associate National Sales Planning Manager, defines it as the culture of “respecting and valuing the skills and differences each staff member brings into the workplace.” Celene Wee, who is a Territory Sales Executive, believes that “everyone has their own perspectives and life experiences. To me, Bring Your Difference means unleashing your own uninfluenced creativity and uniqueness.”

These women are only three of BATM’s many Wonder Women, empowering themselves every day to reach new heights while making leaps and bounds in what used to be a male-dominated field of Corporate Malaysia.

“I wish people knew women are natural caretakers and how far women would soar so long as they are given the same opportunities as those given to men,” Celene highlighted the strengths she along with most other women bring to the workplace.

As an incredibly diverse business, BATM believes that a mixture of unique experiences and perspectives will create a vibrant and inclusive learning environment that will in turn be the foundation of a culture of high performance and creativity.

Many understand the term women empowerment to be giving women the confidence and authority to complete a task, usually in a corporate setting. BATM’s three Wonder Women however, define women empowerment differently, emphasising the fact that gender plays no role in differentiating men and women at the workplace. The only thing that sets talent apart are their skills and abilities to tackle the task at hand.

Glaries believes that women empowerment goes beyond gender, and that it is achieved when “everyone has equal opportunities to share their viewpoints and that they are being heard/accepted regardless of their gender.”

Glaries who has been with the organisation for over a decade and assumed seven different roles across the Trade Marketing & Distribution, and the Brand and Strategic Planning & Insights functions, also added that women at the workplace need to know their rights and act as agents of change to “equalise” the playing field if ever faced with inequality.

A level playing field is in fact something aspiring BAT employees can look forward to. Taking Wei Wei as an example: 2021 marks her 10th year at the company, first joining as a Trade Marketing Executive (TME). She was the first female District Manager at the company after spending just two years as a TME.

Citing Oprah Winfrey as one of her inspirations, Wei Wei’s career soared to new heights when she was appointed Associate Key Account Manager when she joined the Head Office before moving on to the Channel Growth Team.

Celene, a self-proclaimed adrenaline junkie who indulges in scuba diving, hiking, squash and many other outdoor sports, shares the same viewpoint and has no issue in empowering herself at the workplace, having raked up over RM350,000 (yes, you read that right!) in sales in just her third month at the organisation.

But climbing up the ladder hasn’t been an easy feat. The trio of Wonder Women highlighted a number of challenges they faced in their climb up to where they are today. “Even though we live in an evolving society, women still face certain drawbacks when compared to their male counterparts,” Celene said. “Gender biasness is one of the main challenges faced in this line of work, especially when it comes to new clients or prospects who are not familiar with me.”

Wei Wei echoed a similar challenge: Without resilience and a strong mental fortitude, these challenges can discourage talent from continuing their journey in a traditionally male-dominated function such as sales.

BATM has definitely paved the way for a progressive and inclusive Corporate Malaysia and the organisation’s culture seems to be what the future of Corporate Malaysia will turn out to be. A study by the World Bank in 2019 showed that Malaysia’s income per capita could grow by 26.2% if all barriers to employment for local women are removed.

“I believe that the future of Corporate Malaysia will see more women joining the workforce and holding more leadership roles, thus creating a wide range of modern-day role models who show that excelling in one’s family and career is far from impossible!” Celene shared her vision of Corporate Malaysia.

Wei Wei believes that the future of Corporate Malaysia consists of an “inclusive culture where individuality is valued and respected, and where everyone is given the fair opportunity to excel and develop.”

We managed to get one last piece of advice from our Wonder Women specially for young women who are looking to kickstart their careers in the Corporate World.

Glaries: It’s not about men vs. women in the workplace; it’s about the capability and agility. Let’s strive to be the best version of ourselves.

Celene: Be dauntless, be fearless. Know and embrace your capabilities and do not be afraid to show them.

Wei Wei: Have confidence, speak up, watch and mirror our successful male counterparts. Be detail oriented and pay attention to the surrounding situation. This is key in establishing, building and strengthening business growth and development.

There you have it, insight into some of the careers of one of Malaysia’s Most Preferred FMCG companies’ Wonder Women. If you’re looking to kickstart your career in an organisation that values the differences you bring to the table, look no further than British American Tobacco Malaysia!

Click here to view available vacancies at the company.

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