Today’s leaders require multiple skills to survive and thrive in the rigorous competition. Most women possess these skills from birth. . However, there are some qualities that distinguish women leaders from their male counterparts. Women leaders motivate people around them and highlight the compelling qualities of team members which helps them to grow. Their emotional intelligence helps them excel to new heights by constantly learning new things and embracing change.
Sulian Tan-Wijaya (Executive Director, Retail & Lifestyle at Savills Singapore) is one of those women leaders: empathetic and supportive while also focusing on accomplishing their objectives. She is an astute and dedicated career women who is setting an example for other women leaders to follow.
Wearing Multiple Hats
Sulian Tan-Wijaya graduated from the National University of Singapore with a Bachelor of Law degree and spent nearly 10 years in Indonesia as a senior corporate banker. She is also an alumni of the Stanford-NUS International Executive Program.
Before joining Savills, Sulian Tan-Wijaya worked as a General Manager at The Fullerton Heritage where she led the successful redevelopment and repositioning of the retail, F&B, and office spaces at Fullerton Hotel, Fullerton Bay Hotel, One Fullerton, Customs House, and Waterboat House.
Prior to that, she was Director Tourism Shopping at the Singapore Tourism Board where she was responsible for signature events like Great Singapore Sale, Singapore Fashion Festival, Jewelfest and Christmas Light Up. She promoted key retail sectors like fashion, watch and jewelry, beauty & wellness, and consumer electronics. Sulian Tan-Wijaya advocated Singapore as a Watch capital and promoted iconic watch events like The Hour Glass Tempus and Sincere Watch’s Jubilee.
While working as a Senior Vice President at Pacific Star Group, she was in charge of Wisma Atria shopping mall and Capital Square. During her tenure, Wisma Atria underwent a major redevelopment and revamp in 2003.
She has also volunteered as a mentor for young women at the Singapore Council of Women’s Organization as a part of social services.
Continuous and Unrivaled Growth
Sulian Tan-Wijaya is currently Executive Director overseeing the Retail & Lifestyle department in Savills’ Singapore office, having joined the company 15 years ago to set up this department. Within one year, Savills established themselves as one of the market leaders in this field. Some of the retail development projects Sulian Tan-Wijaya secured include Orchard Gateway, National Gallery Singapore, Raffles Hotel shopping arcade, 8 Club Street Hotel/Retail development, 270 Orchard, Dairy Farm Mall, 8 Club Street, Mondrian Hotel, GR.ID, Le Quest, 140 Robinson, and The Grandstand.
Sulian Tan-Wijaya has also represented and advised international retailers such as Lululemon, Adidas, Minotti, Rimowa, Leica, Rationale, Fila, H&M, Coach, New Balance, Aesop, Penhaligons, APM Monaco, Manifesto, Bimba Y Lola, Doc Martens, and Joseph. Her company also introduced several flagship stores fronting Orchard Road including Adidas Brand Center, Castlery, Abercrombie & Fitch, Crate & Barrel, i.t HK, SixtyEight, Tommy Hilfiger, Topshop and Swatch.
A Leading Retail Advisor
Established in 1855, Savills is a global real estate service provider listed on the London Stock Exchange. The organization employs 40,000 people in 700 offices over 70 countries across the Americas, Europe, Asia Pacific, Africa, and the Middle East. Its scale provides the company with wide-ranging specialists and local knowledge. The organization takes pride in offering the best-in-class advice to individuals, businesses, and institutions which helps them make extraordinary decisions regarding real estate.
Savills is the leading retail advisor in Asia Pacific and its expertise extend globally.. Its regional work with international brands such as Sephora, Apple, Lululemon, and Victoria’s Secret aid the organization to build healthy relationships with key decision-makers for major property landlords in the region. The scale of its leasing team (over 160 retail-focused professionals across the Asia Pacific) gives them access to an unrivaled amount of local and international market intelligence in each key territory.
Every successful leader faces various challenges and each challenge helps them become better versions of themselves. Sulian Tan-Wijaya adopts a unique and unconventional working style to achieve her goals. Sulian Tan-Wijaya considers herself lucky to have worked with exceptional bosses and mentors throughout her career who appreciated her unique strengths and contributions. There were the rare bleak times when she faced bosses who tried hard to suppress her. Despite these negative experiences, Sulian remained optimistic as such moments have only made her stronger and more determined.
Focusing on Team Empowerment
Most of Sulian’s team members joined her straight out of university in their 20’s, so she takes extra care in mentoring and guiding them. Hers is an all-female team, as retail leasing in Singapore tends to attract more females in general. The retail landscape is dynamic and evolving very rapidly. While her young team members may lack work experience, they compensate with their youth, energy and speed in keeping up with new retail trends.
Since the pandemic, Gen Z workers have been embracing working from home (WFH). However, they also report feeling isolated due to the lack of social and professional face-to-face interactions with colleagues. To address this, Sulian Tan-Wijaya implements a hybrid working arrangement and plans weekly meetings with her teammates in and outside the office. As their team leader and mentor, Sulian shares her own experiences with team members to steepen their learning curve, and help them avoid some mistakes she made in her early career.
Surrounded by Compelling Women
Savills Singapore as an organization is well-represented by male and female leaders. Sulian Tan-Wijaya has never used the term ‘feminism’ in any of her conversations. In her hometown Singapore, Sulian Tan-Wijaya has met many powerful and successful business or career women who have also successfully raised wonderful children.
Sources of Inspiration
Sulian’s biggest source of inspiration is her mother, a university graduate(quite rare in her time) who had an outstanding career while successfully raising her two daughters. Her mother also retired relatively early to help raise Sulian’s young children, her niece and nephew, in order for Sulian Tan-Wijaya and her sister to better focus on their respective careers. At 85, Sulian’s mother is living a full life and still keeps busy. An avid reader, she regularly keeps up with global geo-political matters and business news.
Life beyond Work
At times, Sulian still struggles to strike a work-life balance.
She says, “I find myself often working late into the night and on weekends. But my work is interesting and enjoyable, so sometimes I forget that I’m actually working.” Outside of work, she still indulges in her first love, music, and makes time everyday to update her eclectic music playlists.
Being a former musician (keyboardist) and DJ, she will always have a soft spot for music in her heart.
Words of Wisdom
Here are some words of advice Sulian Tan-Wijaya shares with upcoming women entrepreneurs:
- There is no shortcut to success unless you are a genius and extremely gifted with an ample amount of talent. Since competition is everywhere and intensifying every day, one needs to work hard and smart to excel.
- The world is evolving every day and customer preferences keep changing. One should therefore never stop learning or embracing change
- Follow your passion, choose a business or job you love and just enjoy the process. Nothing beats having fun at work while making money at the same time.