Let’s face it, the working landscape today is becoming more competitive than ever before. It may seem challenging to some to transit from university to working life, what more to effectively kick-start your early career on an upward trajectory. Despite how daunting it sounds, we’re here to assure you that it is possible to accelerate your career progression. All you need is a proper game plan and to choose the right employer that can provide a conducive environment for professional growth.
If you’re an ambitious graduate looking to fast-track your career, then read on, because we’ve found just the right mentor for you. We recently spoke with Ms. Lavania Balasingam, an Area Insights Manager at BAT Malaysia, who shared valuable insights on her journey from graduate to senior leader at a global company within only 6 years.
As an alumnus of the BAT Global Graduate Programme (previously known as the BAT Management Training Programme), she hopes to inspire other young talents to also dream big and dare to be different. Based on our conversation with Lavania, we have summarised her insights into three competitive advantages that contributed to her professional development and accelerated career progression – all of which you can easily apply to your own career.
1. Choose a company with a great work environment and open culture
My choice in starting my career at BAT Malaysia was driven by a structured learning opportunity as I did not have a business/ marketing related academic background. The decision to stay in BAT however is attributed to the culture that is inherently open and empowering.
Despite the size of the organisation (having over 91,000 employees across 200 markets worldwide), individuals’ voices and ideas that challenge status quo are generally celebrated; superseding hierarchy and pre-set procedures. That way-of-thinking was embedded from the start of my role as a Management Trainee and exists across as facets of the business, regardless of your grade. Additionally, there is a strong push for excellence and a continuous strive to evolve skillsets along with the needs of the environment. It helps that there is a strong support structure to help drive this process of exploration and experimentation.
The individuals that I have worked with across my 6.5 years in the organisation have helped immensely in my development, but above all, making it a great company to walk into every morning of my professional lifespan.
2. Leadership in action from day 1: Join a firm that empowers you to manage your own projects early on
At BAT, we strive to create a learning environment that provides more than just a classroom simulation for training purposes. Instead, we believe it is more impactful – for both the business and Global Graduates – if we assign real challenges for them to solve. I remember serving as a lead on several projects as a trainee. You are expected to push through beyond your comfort zone and be accountable for driving outcomes via critical thinking, planning, project management and navigating through multiple stakeholders and cross functions/ departments. Mistakes are part of the learning curve, and the real developmental value at BAT is reflecting on the project and identifying ways to improve/ apply learnings into the next phase.
From building trade plans and retail partnerships to performing in-depth research and analytics about our market, the wide variety of projects enabled me to establish a wider understanding of the business operations, which proved to be imperative in my long-term career development.
3. Seize and maximise all opportunities & investment made on your development
The third factor that contributed to my career trajectory is the maximisation of all opportunities that were presented to me e.g. workshops, training and international assignments.
International assignments allowed me to broaden and sharpen my perspective on a business and operating landscape, as well to effectively navigate through a multi-cultural environment. My 9-month attachment in Globe House as a trainee taught me to see the bigger picture i.e. I was working on Global Portfolio Strategy and was given the experience to see how insights, brands and ultimately the business is managed across approximately 200 countries. This allowed me to reconcile differences in expectations of operating globally compared to an individual business entity, which was invaluable to me. Post 2 years after graduating from my Trainee programme, I was also given the opportunity to work in the BAT Japan office with gave me a lens on a different market & consumer landscape.
The experience in its entirety exposed me to viewpoints and strategies from various global leaders, a strong network and support structure across multiple countries – many of which are friends to this day.
The management trainee programme has been more of a roller coaster ride rather than a cruise but was worthwhile in shaping my point of view in life, both personally and professionally.
Are you ready to accelerate your own career?
Interested to learn about more inspiring stories from young corporate leaders? Here are 2 simple ways you can gain more valuable insights and explore a career with BAT Malaysia: