At first glance, Mollie Jean De Dieu may seem similar to the global citizens who’ve come to call Singapore home. Like many of the expatriate talents that the Lion City attracts, Jean De Dieu, who grew up in Paris and has worked in New York and Hong Kong, has deep industry experience and an international outlook that informs her role as General Manager of Longchamp – Singapore and Malaysia.
What sets her apart, however, is how she manages to maximise the same 24 hours that all of us have. Apart from her leadership post at Longchamp—a company she’s been with for 16 years—her free time is spent developing a podcast-turned-NGO called Ei, short for Emotional Inclusion. It advocates humanising the workplace by not only looking at emotional intelligence but embracing the fact that we are all emotional beings. “As humans we are wired to feel. Why is it that showing our emotions at work still equates to either weakness or unprofessionalism?”, she says.
In this edition of Seize The Day, we speak to Jean De Dieu on her work habits, and how she balances being a mother of two, a business leader and a thriving advocate for mental wellness.
I start my day with a big glass of water and a dash of lemon juice. My morning routine is sacred as it’s the only time of the day where I have real “me” time.
My day starts at 5:30 am, and I use the early hours of my day to workout. After my “meditation in movement”, I work on my personal projects. Right now, it’s all about writing my book, which is due to be released in March 2023 with Penguin Random House.
I also carve out time towards my NGO, which I founded two years ago called Emotional Inclusion or Ei for short. It calls on companies to oversee the mental wellness of their employees in a sustainable way by investing in an in-house psychologist. No easy feat, but it’s purposeful and mission-driven work. Afterwards, I see my children off to school and then prep for my day.
The moment I set foot in the office is full-on “go mode”. While it’s hectic, I love the people I work and interact with daily. I have been working at Longchamp Asia for 15 years, and feel so grateful to be part of a company that I so deeply align with on a value basis. This obviously explains why I have stayed on this long!
I switch off at night with a hot bath or shower. In the evenings, we always have some candles lit or some incense burning, plus some jazz playing in the background. As the years go by, I value sleep more and more and I need 9 hours of it to feel at my best. So, I have learnt to ritualise my evenings to recharge as best I can.
Work and Career
I landed in the luxury fashion industry by chance. That being said, my upbringing in Paris prepared me for it in so many ways. I graduated with a double Bachelors of Arts – Spanish and Italian at a time of recession, and landing my first job was no easy feat. I moved to New York after graduating from college, and still vividly picture myself sitting in a cafe on the Upper East side looking at job postings in the newspaper (that’s how we did it back then!). Longchamp popped out of the page—it was my first bag ever as a young lady—as if it were destined for me and the rest is history.
I kickstarted my career with Longchamp in retail two decades ago. I then parted ways to oversee the beautiful Caron Paris, a French high perfumery house developed in 1904. Our store on Madison Avenue had the most gorgeous fine fragrances in baccarat urns. I was tasked with developing the brand in North America, and took it on with a whole lot of fear of failing but a hefty dose of fervour in making it work.
I moved to Hong Kong in 2006 where I rejoined Longchamp as their Head of Wholesale in APAC. I stayed in this role for nine years before being asked to open the Singapore and Malaysia affiliates in 2015. I have always felt grateful for having people believe in me along the way.
My work habits and values are to have discipline, honesty and integrity in all that I do. Above everything else, I make sure that I practice what I preach.
Success is knowing innately that what you do is making a difference. It has to impact both the business you serve and the people who surround you. Being of value and doing what matters is what success at work looks like to me.
We often speak of different types of inclusion but there’s not the one that pertains to the emotional realm. And yet, we emote before we even reason! As humans we are wired to feel. In my two-decade-long career, I have never quite understood the archaic work landscape we’re still in. Why is it that showing our emotions at work still equates to either weakness or unprofessionalism? This is how I coined the term “emotional inclusion”—it was born out of the necessity for us all to be seen and treated as humans at work.
Emotional intelligence is about knowing how to navigate our emotions and the emotions of the people we interact with. Emotional inclusion, on the other hand, is focused on action. While the pandemic has helped with shedding light on mental health at work, so much more still needs to be done in taking the matter seriously.
Emotional inclusion (Ei) is here to showcase that if we leaders cannot make ourselves vulnerable, then we will never be able to create a solid workplace in the long term. Sustainable business formats depend on happy, wholesome people who feel cared for and valued. We have the lion’s share of responsibility in supporting our employees in a way that goes beyond the mindfulness classes and yoga sessions. Unless business leaders and human resource representatives are equipped with psychological degrees, they are simply not fit to oversee the emotional well-being of their employees. Destigmatizing the matter through laser-focused action is key.
Vertical descrimination based on sexism, racism or how emotionally responsive one can be is still a sad reality. That’s why movements like #metoo, #blacklivesmatter, #stopasianhate, #mymentalhealthpledge and more are so important. We have to rise together in breaking inequalities and false stigmas. We have to collectively say “enough” once and for all. I keep the faith that we will get there one day… hopefully sooner rather than later.
Being a better leader consists of walking my talk and leading by example. I choose to be empathetic, grateful, trusting and trustworthy. An important foundation is to be both a good listener and a good communicator.
Travel and Work-Life Balance
Drawing the line between life and work boils down to choice and discipline. My faith and my family is what keeps me balanced.
To de-stress I go for a massage. I also go for a run or a walk in nature, dive in and get a good swim, go boating, or simply have a meal with close friends filled with bubbles and lots of laughter.
My secret to beating jet lag is… not thinking about it!
My favourite cities to travel to for work are Paris and New York. For holidays, I love going to Thailand and the South of France. For future trips, Greece and Corsica are on my list!
My ideal “DayAway” would look like this: An early morning walk in the botanical gardens or a swim, followed by a family boating escapade from 11 to 3, home for a nap and dinner with friends either at home or somewhere out in town.
The best piece of career advice I received: Don’t wait until you have mastered something to start it. Courage in taking (bold) initiatives goes a long way.
The three things I would like to pass on would be simple. First, you are uniquely perfect as you are—comparison is the thief of joy, curiosity is the twin sister of humility. Second, if you don’t believe in yourself first, no one else will. Only great things come out from being comfortable with being uncomfortable. And finally, be bold and brave, especially in those moments when you feel you really don’t have it in you. Those are the moments where the magic happens.
Seize The Day is a series on inspiring leaders who share their success stories and how they shape the future of work. Read our recent interviews with adventurer and travel designer Carla Petzold-Beck and communications and marketing maven Catherine Feliciano-Chon.