Heading up MediaVest Malaysia is managing director Piyee Wong. Describing herself as a people person, Wong talks about her career path, the craziest things her staff have told her, and her pet peeves about the industry in Advertising + Marketing’s Meet the CEOs series.
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Describe your management style?
Many have told me I’m a people person and I personally believe in the law of attraction. When it comes to forming and managing teams, I look at the combination of yin and yang, then strive to strike a delicate balance. By providing them the space and opportunities for growth, I hope to facilitate empowerment and the inculcation of a nurturing environment.
Hence, when Stan Chew, currently strategy planning director, expressed his interest a few years ago to explore the China market and work out of the Shanghai Office, I gave him my full support. I am deeply heartened that Stan, along with others who have left to explore other verticals, has since come full circle to further boost MediaVest in Malaysia.
Describe your career path?
I graduated from Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, with a bachelor of business administration and majored in marketing and a minor in economics and management science. My mum wished for me to become an accountant, but I knew better than to embark on a career that I am not strongly passionate about.
Upon graduation, I was presented with two relevant job opportunities and inexplicably drawn to the media planner role at Lintas. There, I made my foray into the Mad Men industry and built a foundation of handling blue-chip clients that included Johnson & Johnson, Unilever and Nestlé – fantastic opportunities for a first job, I must say.
When I moved over to Optimedia, I was tasked to manage and take care of the agency when the then GM resigned. Steadily moving up the ranks, I was subsequently promoted to my current position at MediaVest Malaysia. Fast-forward 17 years, I remain passionate and in love with this exciting ad world. Really, truly.
Who was the mentor who influenced you most and why?
Rather than the mentor, it’ll be mentors for me. For one, my mum, an amazing woman, taught me to be dedicated in everything I do – from the tasks I undertake to the finer details in life. In the working world, there is so much to absorb and learn from both my staff and bosses – I admire Jeffrey Seah, CEO, Starcom MediaVest Group, SEA, for his perceptiveness, and I learnt to truly think out of the box from Ranga Somanathan, COO, Starcom MediaVest Group, SEA.
Proudest moment in your career?
That would be when I drew up my virgin plan for a J&J cologne at Lintas. It was the first time I was given complete free reign and it was wild seeing my brainchild for the very first time come alive. My boss then did not buy it, but the account team thought otherwise. Needless to say, I was extremely heartened and learnt for a fact that when a plan is right, you would feel it in your bones. It’s a certain kind of magic.
What are you doing when you’re not working?
I’m a big foodie as evidenced by my Facebook updates, and proudly so. Blessed with a huge social circle of loved ones, my social calendar is always brimming with the next eat-out.
Harshest thing said to you in your career?
“You almost started a war between two countries” – in relation to a certain past campaign’s ad tag line. I’ve since learnt to be more sensitive to the different ad interpretations. We all learn something new every single day.
When you were a newbie in the industry, did you dream you would be CEO one day? What kind of CEO did you want to be and how closely have you stuck to it?
No, though I always believe opportunities are for those who are ready. My mantra is to be dedicated and give it my all 24/7.
Craziest thing your staff has told you?
Said by staff one day: “I love my job, clients, the agency and you as my boss!”
Written by the same staff the next day: “Here’s my resignation letter.”
What’s the toughest thing about your job?
Managing time and work-life balance as I multi-task as a boss, team-member, mother, wife, daughter-in-law … and the list goes on. I’m happy to report I’m enjoying this constant juggling of roles and responsibilities so far.
Your biggest peeve about the ad industry?
I have two. One: The undervaluing of intellectual property. Two: The unhealthy culture of constant people poaching.
Meet the CEOs is an ongoing series of interviews with Malaysia’s agency leads.