Career Path

Female chief finds her second nature

by Grace Chan

Robin Moriarty
managing director
Kimberly-Clark (Hong Kong) Limited
Photo: Edde Ngan
Some 15 years ago, Robin Moriarty's career took a dramatic turn—one that led her away from the relative comfort of academia. Since then, her corporate roles have taken her from her native US to South America and, finally, Hong Kong.

With a university degree in political science from Duke University, Durham, and a doctorate in international relations from Emory University, Atlanta, Ms Moriarty spent her first two working years as a visiting professor at the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs at Georgia Tech in Atlanta before moving on in 1998 to join BellSouth International, a pan-regional provider of cellular services in Latin America and now a part of AT&T.

Ms Moriarty, who is currently managing director of Kimberly-Clark (Hong Kong) Limited, never looked back. "At the time, I felt I was too young to be a university professor. Although I was intellectually on top of the subjects that I taught, I didn't have the underlying experience."

At BellSouth International, she carried responsibilities towards expanding the company's wireless communication business, including driving organisational change and supporting in-house and corporate communications. "I spent a year in Israel working on a telecom project and the rest of my time in Latin America, based mainly in Argentina," she recalls.

A feminine touch

In 2005, an opportunity arose at Kimberly-Clark and Ms Moriarty grabbed it with both hands. "It's an international company that is open to creative ideas. The company's strong focus on consumers also greatly appealed to me," she says, explaining her move.

Kimberly-Clark manufactures a huge range of consumer household products—from personal care brands to baby-care essentials, boasting a global distribution network of more than 150 countries. "Although I was changing industries, I was fascinated by the fresh challenge and concentrated on my transferable skills," she points out.

The job kicked off with a role as regional director of feminine care in Latin America. Ms Moriarty was responsible for developing a new vision and strategy for this category, bringing "femininity and excitement" to a sector that used to be "functional and technical".

She led an array of specialist teams, including marketing, research and development, finance, operations and agency partners, working across several regions and functions. The success of the campaign brought her great satisfaction.

In December last year, she was appointed to her new role in Hong Kong. "Moving people to different jobs and locations is part of the company's talent development strategy. Our culture entails empowering people to enhance business growth," she says, stressing that an important key to success is cultural understanding.

The new marketing campaign for Huggies Pull-Ups "training pants" for toddlers has been a case in point. "We came up with this brand category in 1989, but recently saw an opportunity in Hong Kong to emphasise the product's convenience to busy parents, rather than focus solely on toilet training." The brand maintains a top market position globally.

Ms Moriarty's current position encompasses a broad spectrum of strategic responsibilities including overseeing sales, marketing, finance, supply chain and human resources. She meets daily with department heads to steer business direction and handles human resources issues including recruitment and talent development.

She is also charged with driving growth and financial results for Kimberly-Clark's core consumer brands, in particular, helping to draw up marketing strategies for development in Greater China and running the group's Leadership Development Committee, focusing on nurturing top talent. In addition, she has an advisory position on the North Asia leadership team.

Guiding role

With exemplary professional accomplishments and a strong academic portfolio, in addition to past fellowships at the University of Michigan and Stanford University, Ms Moriarty has also completed programmes at international business school INSEAD and at US-based Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management. She believes in continuous learning, and spends much of her time coaching and developing staff, as well as encouraging employees to take "ownership" of their jobs through a number of training initiatives, including Outward Bound activities. "Only by nurturing the best people can we make a difference, so our aim is always to boost creativity and innovation," she stresses.

The company's Hong Kong office is due for a major renovation, opening up the space to create a lighter, more "transparent" atmosphere to support creative expression and a contented workforce.

She relaxes by taking short, refreshing breaks. "I like to sit on a bench in Victoria Park for 10 minutes before going for lunch, enjoy exercising in the morning before work and go for yoga every other day," Ms Moriarty concedes. She also finds time in her schedule for duties as a director of non-profit independent industry-support body GS1 Hong Kong and to contribute to the Women's Foundation charity's mentoring scheme for women leaders.

"The art of time management is to prioritise effectively," Ms Moriarty concludes.

Taken from Career Times 3 December 2010, A16
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