As part of our Leading Women series, we want to highlight the professional challenges and career aspirations of the women we work with here in Asia. In this story, Polly C Heiss, Global Commercial Director - Integrated Logistics at Kerry Logistics talks about the struggles to balance work and her personal life, being successful in a male-dominated industry and some of the best advice she’s received. Polly is one of the inspirational female leaders in Supply Chain & Procurement in Asia helping to pave the way for other women to achieve success and climb the ranks in this field. 

Q: How did you get into the supply chain/ logistics field? 

I got into logistics when I graduated as I believed it is the backbone of any business. I am currently with Kerry Logistics as Global Commercial Director-Integrated Logistics, based in Singapore. I head up Business Development and Commercial, incorporating all of Kerry Logistics verticals as well as supporting the strategic direction of Integrated  Logistics. I work with Global Brands, curating and operationalizing supply chain solutions, supporting their immediate and future business growth aspirations. 

Q: In reaching the level of success you have, if anything – what have you sacrificed along the way? Have you experienced any barriers in the journey to becoming a leader? 

Work life balance doesn’t exist for me. No matter how hard I try, there are times when work consumes my personal and family time. I try to avoid a conflict when setting up a meeting or work trip by scheduling my important family events ahead of time but even then, I have ended up missing many of my children’s development milestones due to work commitments. When Ryan (my eldest son) lost his first tooth, I was in Macau attending a work conference. After I had my second child, Markus I was back at work 10 weeks after his birth. Thankfully, my husband is very supportive of my career, and has my back. 

In the past, I have been on the receiving end of biases against female leadership. Back then, when I graduated from college, logistics was a male-dominated industry. However, the logistics workforce today is supported by many women, including those in senior leadership roles. There is a growing awareness of the importance of gender equality in recent times. Large corporations now see that diverse teams produce better results. While it is progressing, there is still a lot to do to close the gap. 

Q: What lesson/story can you share from your experiences that is unique to being a woman? 

Integrity is my guiding principle. While it’s not unique to women, it is important for a woman to gain respect and trust because when you do, people will be more willing to work with you. 

Q: What’s the greatest risk you’ve taken? 

Does owning (and riding) a motorcycle count? In my early career days, I was embarrassed when I felt I did not know enough and I felt that I could never risk admitting I don’t have all the answers. I’ve learnt to admit when I don’t know something, and I’m willing to ask and happy to learn. 

Q: What are the traits of leaders you admire? 

As Lee Kuan Yew, founding father and first premier of Singapore would say, “If there was one formula for our success, it was that we were constantly studying how to make things work, or how to make them work better.” His thinking has always inspired me and has influenced my work as well as my engagements with my clients and colleagues. 

Q: What is the best advice you have ever received? 

To empathise (we can’t solve problems that we don’t see ourselves), to embrace change and to never stop pushing yourself.  

Q: Would you have done anything differently in your life (career or personal) if you knew what you know now? 

On hindsight there were many lessons learnt. The most important being, I would have spent more time with my father before his passing. 

Q: Any tips you’d like to share with anyone especially females wanting to get to the top in business? 

Benchmark and learn from your competitors or risk getting left behind. Also, I feel it is important to dress well because it shows respect to the people you meet in business. First impressions do matter, and it goes a long way. 

Q: If you could have one superpower, what would you like it to be? 

The ability to rewind and replay the precious moments that I’ve missed, without correcting the outcome (that’s dabbling with fate!). 

Q: Which of your personality traits always gets you into trouble? 

Multitasking. I’m always trying to do it all, often at the same time. 

Q: If you could write a book that was guaranteed to be a best seller, what would you write? 

“How to help your child develop empathy – Guaranteed.” 

Q: How would you sum up this year? What is the biggest take away from this year for you? 

2020 has been a year of resilience, in all possible ways. Whether it was about shifting supply chains, workplace locations, demographics or getting my hands on a can of tomatoes, we learnt what to look for and how to respond better.   

Jonathan Goldstein

Eliza Ho
Asia Pacific

This interview was conducted by Eliza Ho, Partner with Page Executive and Head of Supply Chain, Operations & Procurement Practice, with a primary focus on the search and selection of business leaders, functional heads and C-Suites within the Supply Chain space. She brings 14 years of executive search experience supporting clients on leadership level hires within APAC.

Being a specialist recruiter in the world of Supply Chain & Logistics which is still traditionally seen as a male-dominated sector, Eliza has witnessed the growth in female leaders in the region. Working on various senior assignments in the region has given her the opportunity to meet a number of highly accomplished female leaders in the industry. Many of them have risen the ranks within their organisations due to their capabilities, tenacity, strong work ethic and support from family, friends and co-workers.

For the next 6 months, Eliza will connect with some of these successful female leaders in Asia to talk about their personal and professional challenges in achieving success in the Supply Chain & Procurement sector.

Partner with Eliza Ho to strengthen your senior leadership team.