Steven Yau
What: APAC CIO Estée Lauder
Field: Beauty
Where: APAC Region


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Estée Lauder has a huge portfolio under it’s umbrella including the likes of; Bobbi Brown, Bumble and Bumble, Clinique, Jo Malone, MAC, Michael Kors Beauty, Origins, Smashbox, Tom Ford beauty, Tommy Hifiger and Tory Birch.

With countless years of experience in IT Steven has worked for many brands including Nike, GAP and Walmart. So we sat down with him to explore the key learnings and words of wisdom he had to share throughout his career to date.

Introduce yourself and tell us what a typical day looks like in the life of Steven Yau at Estee Lauder. 
I work as the regional technology head covering Asia Pacific for the Estée Lauder Companies, the most diverse region in the organisation. My typical day starts with going through what I will achieve during the day and the top 20 emails I need to respond to. Then I will review key projects and initiatives we have prioritized followed by walking the floor to see if my team needs my attention on anything.


Which university did you go to and what did you study?
I went to Aston in the UK and studied Software Engineering. 


How did you first get into IT?
I never wanted to work in IT, it just happened because RAF would not accept me into their fighter pilot program because I did not clear the national security check.


From an employee perspective, what are the key characteristics that would make an individual become a good ROI?
Always deliver on your commitment but also communicate it in a way that business understands.

KPIs and ROIs are very difficult to calculate but all businesses should focus on three things; revenue, market share growth and net operating profit.

Ask the question, what is your part in generating these? That is the key value you should focus on. Forget everything else (unless you are working for a charity).


You’ve worked at a number of MNC’s including Gap, Nike and Walmart. What has been the biggest risk that you’ve taken throughout your career and did that pay off?
I never job hop for the sake of change and it just so happens that headhunters come calling at the appropriate time. Never change for the money or title but for the opportunity to grow as a person.

My move to Walmart was a move that allowed me to learn a new language and culture which I was not familiar with (mandarin and mainland China). It was a steep learning curve but the market is all about China and I gained so much from that experience.


It takes a certain level of focus, resilience and character in each individual to drive routine and want to make their mark on the world. What do you think taught you to be this way and what childhood influences have contributed to this?
Grit and grind with resilience to hardship. Have a vision of your future in your head every 10 years and imagine your life if you had achieved them. You will hit roadblocks and setbacks but you need mental resilience and steady focus to get to your vision. You may not get to 100% of what you want but 50% is better than 0%. As long as you are moving ahead and are never afraid of hard work. I remember starting to work at the age of 12 in part time jobs.


Who in the world of business do you most admire and why?
Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos. Having the foresight and the unrelenting persistent to follow through with the grit and drive to achieve what they believe in. Richard Branson stands out to me because of how he shares his experience back to society.


What does your morning routine look like?
I’m up at 6am, out the door by 7am whilst reading the news on my commute to work.


What advice would you give 20-year-old Steven?
Learn as much as you can and don’t be afraid to work in jobs that you don’t plan to stay in long term or feel disadvantaged.

“Get exposure to as many things as you can before you settle”
Steven Yau


If you could gift one book to someone what would it be?
Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman, written in 1993. I believe everything great starts with a dream. This fictional story written by an astrophysicist tried to imagine what Einstein dreamt about when he wrote the special theory of creativity.


What’s your favourite quote?
“It’s not the plan that make people work, it’s the people that make the plan work. “


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18 FEBRUARY, 2019


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