Human on the Inside with TheRY Group’s Cindy Liu

Article

5 min read

We’re big believers in the power of human skills. But don’t just take our word for it – the evidence for excellence powered by human (‘soft’) skills are everywhere! In this engaging, ever-enlightening series, we speak with industry leaders, innovators, and game-changers to learn a little about their personal career journeys, and how human-led strategies, philosophies, and cultures are proving a force for good in their working worlds …

Welcome Cindy, and thanks for stepping into the #SuccessIsHuman Spotlight! 

You’re the Founder, Chief Executive and Research Office at TheRY (The Reason Why) Group – a newly established women’s retail line supporting women through pregnancy and beyond. Quality products built with purpose, without compromising comfort or style. Made for modern mums and mums to be.

In 1 sentence (ok, we’ll give you 3), what does your role entail?

As a new start-up, my job is overarching, and no day is the same which keeps everything exciting. I oversee everything from product development and research, supply and sourcing, financials, marketing, and our online store. Having just launched I’ve been frequently introducing the brand and products to new partners and contractors – it’s been great to get such positive feedback on our brand concept and products.

Your impressive career has involved many years in the retail space heading up product, buying and planning/analyst divisions for household brands such as 2XU (Global Head of Product) for almost a decade, Snooze (Product Manager/Buyer), and Calvin Klein Underwear Australia for over six years.

How does all this work speak to your personal purpose and what drives you as an individual?

From my management roles, I’ve learnt as much about what to do, as what not to do. I’ve worked in some great companies and environments with some great business leaders, and in ones that have been, or turned pretty toxic too.  

I’m driven by 3 basic principles 

  1. Enjoy what you do and the people you spend time with. This is in your personal life as much as work. You spend too many hours at work to not enjoy what you do or the people you work with.
  2. Don’t let your ego get in the way. Never stop learning and developing your own skills – seek out advice or expert help if you need to.
  3. Do better and make a difference. As companies, managers, and individuals, we can try to improve the world and people – be it through the products you create; charities and causes you support; or teaching and developing your staff in their careers, and providing understanding and support when needed (because life can throw us curve balls that we need to balance with work).

As the founder of this new start-up, I’m lucky to have the opportunity to create a brand and culture based on these principles.

Tell us a little about your personal education pathway/s – what led you to where you are now? How closely do your formal qualifications match your current career?

I have a combined Bachelor of Commerce/Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Melbourne. This does match my current career – I use both sides of my Degree. Commerce directly relates to the practical business side of my roles, particularly when it comes to financials and planning. For my Arts Degree, I majored in Psychology, so combined with the marketing side of commerce, has been helpful with principles from a work perspective of consumer behaviour. My Arts Degree definitely helped with some soft skills too. More important than my Degrees though, is the practical experience I’ve gained from each workplace I’ve been involved in – those experiences have definitely driven my career forward.

If you could share one piece of career advice to your 21 year-old self it would be …

Don’t be so concerned about being offered every job you apply for, and make sure you’re using interviews to see if a role and company is right for you, and not just the other way around. Be confident to ask as much about the role as the company culture and people you’re going to be working most closely with.  

Sometimes missing out on a job might come down to what type of personality fits better with the existing people in an organisation, or who can put up with a hectic work environment, as opposed to what’s on your CV. This isn’t always a bad thing. Different people thrive in different types of environments, and under different types of managers. A large part of your career success will rest in finding the right environment for you to excel in.

Maximising the potential of individuals, communities, and businesses through the power of human skills is the reason Maxme exists. Can you tell us a little about the role and/or value of human skills in the work/workplaces you’re involved with right now?

Human skills are some of the most important skills. There is not a single aspect of any role I have had that hasn’t involved human skills. They are key to connections and relationships with teams, suppliers, business partnerships and successful negotiations. These are stronger when there is trust, empathy, and good communication. Increasingly, EQ is becoming more important. There is no room in our company for people without human skills, as everything we do involves working with people.

Self Awareness sets the critical foundation for all Maxme learning experiences. With that said … what’s your strongest trait/personal superpower?

Being inquisitive. Always wanting to learn or understand how something works. Having the confidence to know if I learn or am trained in what is needed, then I can complete a certain task or job (all within my core capabilities). This attitude is what landed me a job with a big 4 accounting firm without an accounting major, and what has allowed me to work across so many different industries – from accounting, fashion, FMCG, furniture, performance sports and now purpose driven maternity wear.

And on the flip side, what’s one human/‘soft’ skill you’ve had to really work on improving over the course of your career?

I’ve never been one to seek the limelight, and for a long time disliked public speaking. I’ve always been more comfortable with meetings and smaller group presentations, as I’ve found it much easier to engage with smaller groups. Presentations to large groups, I didn’t enjoy. My attitude towards the thought of public speaking is something I’ve had to work on – in fact, I’ve had to make a conscious effort to stop telling myself how much I disliked public speaking. When I did this, the engagements became easier. I’ve done so many now that I’m actually happy to do them!

If you could share one piece of career advice with tertiary graduates, or other individuals keen to work at an organisation like TheRY Group, what would it be?

Push yourself into situations where you’re challenged to use the skills you want to develop. Don’t wait for formal performance reviews for feedback. Be confident to ask informally for feedback from your manager, or others within the organisation who you trust, for constructive feedback to your projects, presentations, or the experience of working with you. It will give you areas to work on!

You’ve been granted approval to add one University graduate to your team, but have 100 applicants, all with outstanding academic results. How do you find your perfect candidate – what are you looking for?

It’s important to share our company’s vision, and to be a part of what we’re doing. Outside of this, there are some key traits.

  • Grit – passion and determination to keep going. Startups can be a challenge and can mean a lot of work while the business is in the development stage. I’d be looking for people who don’t give up easily and are driven. 
  • Good sense of humour – we spend too long at work not to have a laugh together.
  • Empathy – is conducive to better teamwork and work culture. 
  • Lastly, people whose skills and personalities complement the rest of the existing team. I believe in the ‘no asshole rule’.

In the words of John Dewey, “education is not preparation for life, education is life itself.” What’s next on your #learning agenda?

Learning Spanish! My partner is Colombian.