Jennifer Di Liping is the Director, Human Resources at Baxter South East Asia & APAC Corporate Functions. Jennifer is a commercial-minded, purpose-led and result-driven Human Resources Leader, specialised in translating business needs into HR strategy, Organisation Development, HR Digital Transformation, Future of Work and large scale change management. Her professional goal is to create extraordinary value for organizations and to enable people's purpose and unleashing their potential so they can give their best, at work, and in life.
Please tell us a bit about your career to date.
I started my career as a Management Consultant with Accenture, doing that for about a year before I made a switch in my career journey to HR. After working at Accenture for a couple of years, I decided to further my in-depth knowledge of HR by moving to the States to do a Master’s degree in Organisational Dynamics at the University of Pennsylvania. After returning to the APAC region, like many of my colleagues here at Baxter, I was attracted by Baxter's mission to save and sustain lives and luckily there was an opportunity to join them. The next thing I know, 10 years have passed by! I have had the chance to move around the region during my time here and take on multiple HR leadership roles from China to Singapore. I'm currently supporting the Baxter Southeast Asia cluster which covers over 10 different ASEAN markets.
Did your experience in Management Consulting influence the way you have built your career? What factors have influenced you the most?
It was not a single factor or decision. In my early career, I was still figuring what kind of job would suit me. I was still exploring the differences between consultancy and HR, but as I say now to my own team, it's important to keep an open mind, as you never know what opportunities will come along. When I realised that HR was my passion and that I wanted to be an HR leader, I had to work out what the building blocks would be to help me get there. One of the things that I learned in my consulting career is to be purpose-driven and always have a big picture in mind. Having a clear understanding of objectives and problems, developing solutions and following through with actions, this is also the approach I applied in building my career. The decisions of furthering my knowledge and taking roles in different cultures in Asia were all building blocks that I was creating for myself to reach my goals.
Have you had any role models or mentors that have helped you on your career journey?
I am very lucky to have had a couple of mentors in my life who have guided me, particularly at critical moments in my career. One of my managers, who is also a very good friend of mine, had the original idea that I should go abroad and gain international exposure that would help my career. I'm a big believer in having a mentor or a coach in one’s professional life for development. We all benefit when someone with more experience can show us the ropes and support us for personal and professional growth.
As a mentor yourself, is that how you work with your mentees, imparting advice and transferring knowledge?
I enjoy mentoring others because the process is one where I can grow myself as well. Obviously, I get a great sense of satisfaction from helping other people in their careers, but meanwhile, I'm learning too. My mentees have taught me a lot of things, especially nowadays, the reverse mentoring with the new generation offers so much rich information and knowledge. It's a mutually beneficial process. One piece of advice that I give to almost all my mentees is to stay curious and try different things. Don't stay in that comfort zone. If you want to make changes in your professional life and progress, then sometimes you have to disrupt it.
Do you think that your gender has ever hindered you or blocked any personal progression?
I have never felt that way. I've heard feedback and comments from female peers that they feel there are certain disadvantages to being female in certain organisations, but I have never felt that at the organisations I’ve worked for. All the companies I came across have a very strong culture of diversity and inclusion. Many workplaces really position women at the centre of everything they design. At Baxter, we review systems and processes to support our female employees, for example, even before COVID we had a very clear, flexible working arrangement policy that enables female colleagues to balance their work and life obligations. And when we are hiring, our recruiting process means that we always make sure that we have a strong female representation on the candidate slate.
What do you think are the main benefits of diverse teams and diverse organisations?
The benefits can be tremendous. Diversity and inclusion are two different things. First of all, diversity means people with different characteristics and backgrounds such as gender, race or generation. Diversity brings a wider range of skills, experiences and cultural insight, which is very crucial to organisation productivity, innovation and employee engagement. Then in terms of inclusion, which refers to a variety of perspectives and viewpoints, an inclusive organisation will be open to dynamic viewpoints. Different perceptions and ideas all bring a rich input to a business. Employees can bring more of themselves to work, and more engaged when they feel safe and valued. And with that more positive culture, being inclusive to all people, the company will also be able to attract more talent, which helps with growth.
Can organisations place too much emphasis on D&I because it has such a spotlight on it?
That can happen. I have seen companies doing it for the sake of it. For example, in terms of recruitment, I saw one instance where a male candidate was the best fit for a position, but the company pushed a female candidate, who was still a strong candidate but not the best one, into that position. And it didn't work out after a while. So, organisations have to do it properly and choose what’s right for the organisation and people in a long run and be careful how hard they pursue D&I and not do it for the sake of it.
What advice would you give to leaders wanting to create a more diverse and inclusive culture?
This connects back to how to create a culture. The beliefs and actions of the people in an organisation constitute the culture. So, in order to create a certain culture, whether that's a D&I culture or a digital culture, you have to start by creating a certain set of experiences. Leaders are in charge of creating a vision and the experiences every day that will help shape our organisational culture. Each interaction we have with others creates experiences that either foster or undermine that journey, so leaders have to walk the talk and provide opportunities and embrace different ideas.
What about advice to women in general?
Women can be very powerful when we unleash our energy and potential, but sometimes, we can also seem to be too sensitive from time to time. We don't have to be that sensitive. I was in a forum with female leaders a few years ago and some women there had that victim mindset. There was a lot of talk about barriers and how they couldn't achieve their aspirations because of this or that. I feel differently to that and believe that a lot of limitations can be self-imposed. By the end of day, it's a personal choice of where and when we want to spend our time and energy.
Plenty of women do that successfully, so maybe they're better than men at other things too?
Traditionally, we define strength as meaning physical strength, so men are "stronger". Research data shows that women are often a lot more resilient than men; they're extremely tenacious, and often more organised. That's why when women and men work together, you get better results, because it's a more balanced team.
Do you foresee any obstacles for future generations of women and is there anything they can start to do about it now?
Maybe I'm too optimistic, but I actually see positive changes in our working environment for the next generation of female employees. The next generation are less traditional and more open to the new ways of working. They also have more courage to challenge the status quo, so I have huge confidence in the next generation and their capabilities and mindset. At the same time, more and more organisations are building the right culture to enable female employees to develop and flourish, so I'm hoping that there won't be any obstacles in their way!
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