Neela Mukherjee, 1978 to 1991
What do you do now?
I am the Non Food Commercial Director for Tesco Malaysia. That means I am responsible for the buying and ranging of all products such as Electrical, Clothing, Toys, Home etc that we sell in our hypermarkets. Last year we sold 140 million UK pounds worth of Non Food products to our customers across the country.
How did you get into this line of work?
After graduating from Oxford University, I worked in advertising for Young & Rubicam in London and New York. I then went to study for an MBA at INSEAD business school both on its campus in Fontainebleau near Paris and Singapore. When I had finished my MBA, I wanted to work in media so spent some time at The Economist before I saw a job advertised for Tesco in its internal strategy team in the UK. I had never considered retail before but after 8 years at Tesco, I now love the pace, variety and challenges of working in such a dynamic industry.
Has it been difficult in a traditionally mans world?
At senior levels, retail tends to be quite male-dominated which is surprising given that 80% of the 300 000 plus people Tesco employs are actually women. As a woman in that context, I think it is important to be yourself and not feel intimidated as you will often be the only woman in the room at senior levels.
What does it take to be successful?
Knowing who you are and being true to that is critical. Every day in my job, I make a range of decisions which impact many people and its easier if you are clear on your own values. Being able to communicate and connect with people at all levels, whether they are a CEO or work as a cashier, also becomes increasingly important the more senior you become. Of course, it also helps if you are well organised, can juggle multiple priorities and adapt quickly to change.
Any advice for Westholme girls today?
My advice is to get the best qualifications from the most recognised place you can. Although they dont make you a future leader, they get you the first interview and through the door of most organisations. To get the second interview and the job, you need many of the leadership qualities I have described above. Always look for ways to contribute and broaden your horizons, whether it is through volunteering or travelling. Developing you personality is just as important as developing your CV and you never know what an experience outside of work/school may teach you. Good luck!