Jane Huang is the General Manager, China at Alpha-H, an award-winning Australian skincare brand pioneering corrective and preventative formulas.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
For 17 years I have been an industry aficionado for all things beauty and skincare within the Asia-Pacific region.
Having first launched a career in advertising along the tree-lined St.Kilda Rd, Melbourne as an Account Manager, I have helped to build some of the world’s most beloved FMCG and skincare brands.
These included: Estee Lauder, Olay, Nivea, Clinique, Sukin, Nestle, and most recently, Alpha-H. For those who know me, I live by the “work hard play hard” motto and will never pass up a good laugh or challenge.
My current role and mission involve establishing both the Alpha-H brand and its empowering Alphaism values into the coveted China market. Given the current pandemic and macro-economic environment, there has not been a dull moment so far into the rocky journey!
2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
My week is sectioned into three themes, these being:
- strategic planning.
I usually spend the first two days of the week scheduling meetings with other functions (be it face to face or remotely). This provides a good starting point for what needs to be planned or managed throughout the week.
Then there would be constant remote engagements digitally to provide direction or manage our team in China, this often involves heavy duty negotiations and conflict resolution eye roll+giggle.
Finally, I would dedicate one full day to replenish/rejuvenate and renew my own strategic thinking so that there is a constant stream of fresh and relevant ideas and data to be shared on a weekly basis, contributing to the bigger strategic priorities of the business.
If you zoomed into how I would typically break up the hours of a working day, I would just leave you with this mantra, “I work to the rhythm of the sun.” Basically, if the sun is out, I would be out and about exercising or getting my fair share of fresh air, even holding meetings outdoors.
If and when the sun is recessed, I would be indoors plugging away on my documents or preparing to finish dinner or put my toddler to bed early so that I can do overtime at night.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
Absolutely! I am very blessed with the opportunity to embrace flexible and remote working at its finest, so that it not only makes working at Alpha-H such an amazing experience but super aspirational.
Our company is headquartered up in the Gold Coast with core manufacturing anchored in one of the most pristine, beautiful, and to-die-for locations. Meanwhile, we are also spread across a few key business hubs that service our global markets, including key regions: UK/EU, USA, Australia, and China.
To stay in tune and in line with the strategic and business needs of all our teams and customers across different time-zones and geographies, we leverage the most up-to-date and efficient technologies daily.
Hardware and infrastructure alone are only half of the equation. Alpha-H lives and breathes efficiency and effectiveness, embedding “purpose” into every meeting and piece of work required of everyone and anyone.
Consequently, there is a lot of respect for people’s times and I seldom find that meetings come at a cost of finding time to “do the work”. When we are not bound by traditional “business hours”, I tend to find that there are a lot more options on when and where my best work can be done.
Sometimes I find myself “always on” and working (which is exactly what is needed in one of the fastest paced markets in the world), yet still being able to spend time to cut my toddler’s nails!
Figuratively speaking, I have somehow manipulated quantum physics and given myself more time and it is a virtuous cycle too, the more you become efficient and better at what you do, the more time you earn. This is a very rare and precious corporate cultural gem.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
Work-life balance to me is not only a priority, but the fuel for my pursuit of excellence and advocating for it is my passion. It means being empowered to do one’s best in whatever roles they choose to adopt or already have.
As many women can relate, we are not only an employee of a certain company; we are also someone’s wife, a mother, a daughter, and a friend to many others in society.
A healthy economy involves not only mobilizing hardworking people, but also motivating them so that they can be their most creative, innovative, agile, adaptive, happy, and loyal self. To achieve and obtain this privilege, I have always worked towards demonstrating my accountability and really aiming to deliver beyond what is expected.
This applies to both my family life and at work. Fortunately, I have so far come across very trusting and super forward-thinking leaders, combined with a super intelligent and supportive husband who have supported a great work-life rhythm. Australian businesses overall definitely lead the way in this cause.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
I have always been a piano and violin player in my youth. Since the force majeure overwhelmed us back in March 2020 during the first lock down and we began working from home, I used the time in the mornings (when I would have been stuck in traffic) to re-acquaint myself with these elegant instruments.
Surprisingly, the other half hour I won back (on the way home) was then re-applied towards learning Japanese, another long-lost love of mine. It has been so rewarding because it not only calms and relieves stress, but also ignites different creative nodes which may have remained dormant.
I still attribute retention of my sanity and part of our success during the Singles Day Campaign to these new habits.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
There are a few go-to websites or books which I regularly read. Some are industry specific; others are more general knowledge seeking.
These include: Business of Fashion, AFR.com, Jing Daily (China ecommerce and luxury industry news), TEDTalks, Freakonomics, Outliers, The Art of Getting to Yes, and anything by Warren Buffet.
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
Qian Niu (Alibaba workdesk for monitoring our ecommerce store metrics), Tmall, Taobao, WeChat, Whatsapp, Facebook, Little Red Book, CommSec.
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
Warren Buffet. He is such an inspiration to me as a person, philanthropist, and business tycoon. Many of the philosophies and attitudes he has towards work-life balance and work ethics resonates with me and what I believe in. Maybe in a way, I am trying to practice what my inspirer is preaching.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
Identify what drives you and makes you tick in your career or role. Write it down and crystalize it so it becomes part of you and what makes you put on that power suit (or pjs in this day and age).
Try to re-align your priorities and remove obstacles that stop you from optimizing and bettering yourself for the purpose of realizing this purpose. Then surround yourself with a healthy and happy environment and design a well-balanced routine so that you can sustain your momentum and drive on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.
As a wise man once taught me, these small marginal fundamental tweaks or improvements in your work-life may just be enough to give you that breakthrough and oomph you were (not) looking for smile. When you achieve true work-life balance, there will no longer be a need to balance anything. Because the two will blend into a co-existential state of bliss (logging off happily at 1am).
Before you go…
If you’d like to sponsor or advertise with Balance the Grind, let’s talk here.
Join our community and never miss a conversation about work, life & balance – subscribe to our newsletter.