Staff Writer
Making It Big – By Being Yourself

This year’s Campaign Leading Change Conference explored the theme of ‘Diversity Reboot’ in which it examined how the extraordinary events of the last 18 months have seen leaders take action to reform working culture and practices. Elly Puyat, CEO of Ogilvy Philippines, spoke about how the key to workplace and personal success is rooted in self-belief, a desire to be ever better, and a refusal to let others put you down.

Authenticity is the hallmark of Elly Puyat’s personal style, both as an individual, and as the leader of more than 200 talented young agency individuals. Despite being in an industry she describes as “fighting year on year for relevance” she is evidently happy in that environment, as well as in her home country, the Philippines, after spells in Thailand, Malaysia & Singapore.  As she puts it “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”

Two decades previously, as an upstart employee she recalls asking her boss “what can I aspire to in this company?  I’m young, I’m female, I’m Asian, I’m Filipino? Where can I really go?”. To which he replied ‘anywhere’ and to this day she has taken that as gospel, not least because she wanted it to be true, Elly’s progress is a story of forging her own personal style, and with it her own path.

Personal Brand

“Early in my career, I was lucky enough to be asked what my personal brand is”, she recalls.  “What do I stand for?  What do I want to be known for?  How do I want to be regarded in my organization, by my clients, by my colleagues?” It’s a simple question but with often complex answers. For Elly, on reflection, what she wanted her brand to be could be boiled down to one thing. “I wanted to be known as someone who gets things done” and since she was working in a team environment that implied certain other traits. “I wanted to be known as someone reliable who keeps her word. Someone whose team can rely on to have their backs, celebrate their wins, while demanding the best from them.”  Now that she is leading an organization, and one in such a dramatically shifting business landscape, she has added a new dimension to that desire, one that takes the ideas of trust, of give and take, and of getting it done but with a twist. “Now I want to be someone who allows her teams to fail fast so we can constantly innovate…..  I’m still working on that last one.”

Mind, heart, courage

“Three things were constant themes throughout my journey – developing my mind, kindling my passion, and harnessing my courage.”  Elly is quick to quote David Ogilvy on the issue of kindling passion and always improving. “He said that ‘divine discontent is the antidote to smugness’.  It’s the idea that you never stop aspiring to be better.  It’s not about being better than anyone, it’s about outdoing your own personal best.”

That tireless drive to be better has served her well as the marketing mix has grown to include fast changing elements including one-to-one, CRM, and digital. “You have to work on your skills every single day.”  Part of Elly’s own approach to skill improvement has seen her write down her learnings, every day, since day one at Ogilvy. Typical entries included; “Don’t believe an art director when he says he doesn’t need to do a feasibility study on a location.” Or “if your creatives don’t like the proposition you’ve presented, get them to write it instead.  They can’t reject it then.” Every lost pitch, every rejected proposal was broken down to become fuel for the next success.

Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life

One of her favourite quotes is from Mark Twain when he said; “Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life”. Although she laughingly admits to thinking it was an Oprah Winfrey maxim for a long time. “I always believed it is important to find work that will feed our souls.  We need to do what makes us laugh the loudest and cry the hardest.  When you put your heart into what you do, you will go through big swings of emotions but you will also walk through life with a little bit of bounce and a lot more sparkle… especially during the tough times.”

Live on the edge

Ever a believer that “tomorrow will be better”, Elly doesn’t leave that to chance, instead giving tomorrow a little help in the improvement stakes by always trying the new and testing the limits.

“To achieve more than you ever set out to do, you’ve got to live on the edge.  You’ve got to test the boundaries, and then push! You’ll never know what’s out there otherwise.”

That means, for example, taking advantage of every platform offered to speak out and creating platforms where none seem available. It also means refusing to be silenced or cowed into submission. “As a young leader in my organization, I was often called a brat by those who are older than me.  One day, after being dismissed as such a couple of times, I told them that they were only calling me a brat to diminish what I have to say.  To silence me.  They stopped.”

Whether the issue is gender, race, age, or even BMI Elly fiercely fights back against the prejudices at play in the workplace, and attempts to use them to keep individuals down.

“Surround yourself with people whom you trust.  People who cherish you and want the best for you.  Be gentle to yourself.  Keep your beliefs close by.  And never allow anyone or anything to chip away from your truth.”

Learn, challenge, believe, and above all, grow.

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