How I do it: Datin Sri Zarida Noordin

PANDORA Malaysia's managing director tells us how she finds time for her family and Netflix binges despite her busy career

By Andrea Tim | Published: 8 Feb 2017

HIDI: Zarida Noordin
Photo: Bryan Ong

My name is Zarida Binti Noordin, I'm from Penang. I'm the managing director of PANDORA Malaysia and executive director of Habib Group. I joined Habib, which is my husband's family business, after marrying him, and I've been with them for 27 years. He opened the branch in KL in 1986. I met him in 1987 as a customer at the store, while visiting with a cousin who had a friend working there. A week later, that friend called me and said "My boss is asking if you would be kind enough to model for free in the first anniversary ad for Habib." I said "Why isn't your boss calling me himself? Tell him that. If he wants a favour, ask him to call me." So he did, and I did it for free, but now he's learned his lesson, because he's still paying me for that ad! (Laughs)

I'm awake at around 6am, after six to eight hours of sleep. I wash up and then I pray, and have my coffee and a date. After some Quran reading, I exercise a little and then have muesli or eggs for breakfast, and my vitamins. I have a timetable for not the day, but for the week. I leave the house at 9.15am, and try to be in the office by about 10am. It's a little later than the conventional time because I want to avoid the traffic jam, and give my secretary time to prepare her work. So that when I come in, my tasks for the day are already on my table.

Most days, I wear baju kurung because that's the easiest, or baju kedah. But I also love typical office wear like pants and a jacket. I never leave home without my wallet and my red Revlon lipstick.

Photo: Bryan Ong

I use a cleanser and face lotion from Oil of Olay, which I've been using since I was 18. My makeup is usually something from the drugstore, like my Revlon mascara and lipstick. The only thing that isn't is my Clinique blusher. What I will spend a lot on is perfume; I have a big collection of perfumes! At night, my skincare routine is similar, but when I'm not too lazy, I use Bio Oil, especially when I travel to colder countries and my skin is drier than usual.

I have lunch in my office, usually a takeaway from whatever is in the area, and normally something simple like noodle soup, chicken rice, or a salad with boiled eggs and chicken. I avoid snacking in the afternoons, but if I have to, it's my all-time favourite cream crackers. For dinner, I like ayam kampung soup, with lots of vegetables and a bit of rice, or wraps made with pan-fried chicken strips and salad. I have two to four cups of coffee a day, but nothing after 4.30pm or I won't be able to sleep. I also love juices – watermelon or anything vegetable.

The first thing I do is go through cheques, and then at 10.30am, we have a meeting where we bring each other up to speed with what we'll be doing, so if anyone's having any problems, someone else can say "Hey, I can help you with that." Other meetings or discussions will start at 11.30am. I've also made a pledge to my PANDORA team to walk the store more because I think it's important that I interact with not just the office staff but the retail staff too. When I travel for work, it's to visit stores or open new stores in Malaysia, or to attend jewellery fairs overseas.

Photo: Bryan Ong

I would say my biggest challenge was working with millennials because their mindset is very different from what I was used to before. When we started PANDORA six years ago, we decided to start afresh with staff, rather than use the existing Habib staff we had. I believed that hiring younger people would bring in fresh ideas, but more importantly, I'd have to change my own mindset. It turned from telling them what to do to working with them, listening to their ideas, treating them like equals. It's also important to make them feel that it's their success, too, not just mine.

I leave the office by 8pm, and am home by 8.30pm. After dinner and prayers, I used to just stay in my room and read. But then I discovered Netflix. I blame my son for installing it at home – I was never a TV series person but now I'm hooked on Gilmore Girls! The mother-daughter theme touches me so much, as I sent my daughter to boarding school when she was 16, which is sort of when the mother and daughter become friends, and I feel like I missed that a little. Now even my husband is hooked on it, more than me!

I go to bed no earlier than 10pm because that's when our sales reports from Hearts on Fire and PANDORA come in, and I look forward to those. If I have any trouble sleeping, I get up and do something like clean my cupboard or anything that I couldn't find time to do before.


The best lesson I've ever learned on the job
Everything you do, do it with sincerity because people who work with you can read you. And if you're not sincere, you cannot give your best.

How I overcome professional setbacks
I used to be reluctant to do anything that pulls any attention to myself. Before my time at Habib Group, when I used to do marketing for a bank, I had to visit banks in Malaysia and meet the managers and that was really difficult for me. Some people are really friendly and welcoming, but others can make your life really difficult. But I told myself, I took this job, so no matter what, I have to overcome this fear of mine, and I'm glad I did as it has toughened me up for the jewellery retail industry.

My secret to productivity
Plan well. I know what I'll be doing every hour of the day, so it keeps me organised and sometimes I can even achieve a lot more than what I initially planned.

What's the best career advice anyone has ever given you?
I think this applies to both work and life, they're three things my father used to tell me: tolerance, understanding and patience.

Datin Sri Zarida examining PANDORA's latest collection with store staff (Photo: Bryan Ong)

What advice would you give someone aspiring to do what you do?
Chill out a little bit more. Don't always think that you need to be right or to be seen as the decision maker all the time. Listen more, talk less. Work with your team and trust your team.

My perfect holiday:
I look forward to going for a holiday with my children. We try to do it once a year.
My perfect day off: On Sundays, after doing what I want in the morning, I try to organise a family get-together – a brunch or tea – at home.
My perfect night out: A nice dinner with great conversations. I always love a nice evening with my children, husband and siblings.

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