How I do it: Nicola Parker
The Brand Director of Fragrance Du Bois tells us what life in Singapore is like for a woman like her
Who are you and what do you do?
I'm Nicola Parker, Brand Director for Fragrance Du Bois, the niche luxury perfume house.
HOW I WORK
What time do you wake up? How much sleep do you generally get?
I am up on weekdays at 6.15am with my son getting ready for school. I definitely need more than seven hours' sleep to function well.
What do you eat during the day?
I actually enjoy fairly healthy food, so breakfast usually consists of yoghurt and at least two cups of tea. My work days are busy so I will get a salad to eat at my desk. Then dinner at home will be some fish or chicken. A treat is a Thai or Indian meal at the weekend.
What do you usually wear?
For the workplace I think it is important to look like you mean business! It sets the right impression and gives you confidence. Always heels for work. I love Zara for good work pieces. I don't think it matters how much something costs it has to feel good – feel good and you look good. My mum tells me I wear too much black!
What time to you get to work and how do you get there?
I try to get into the office at least half an hour before official start time, this gives me time to think quietly, catch up with overnight emails from Europe and make my lists for the day. I cannot work without lists. Singapore's MRT service is very efficient and fast so I find this is the best way to get into the city.
What tasks do you have at work?
My day is never the same. My team and I are responsible for the running of Fragrance Du Bois, and this is a diverse job. My job is to initiate projects and then ensure they happen. At the moment there is a lot of product development going on so I have piles of samples sitting on my desk which we are trialling. The fragrance business is a very complex one and of course there are lots of regulations in place from development through to delivery, so we have to ensure every single aspect of the process is absolutely done by the book, there are no shortcuts. We have just re-launched our packaging so I am very much looking forward to seeing that hit the shops at the end of the year. We are also launching shops in Hong Kong, Dubai and Europe at the moment, to add to our boutiques in Singapore, KL and Bangkok, so this is hectic but very exciting.
What time do you leave the office?
Usually around 6pm, however if there is something to be finished I can be later. Our colleagues are based in Dubai and Europe so actually work usually comes home with me.
Do you exercise/go to the gym?
I don't have a lot of time these days to get to the gym. I usually give a wistful glance to the neighbours doing their Pilates classes as I leave for work in the morning! I am always running around so I probably burn off a few calories this way. My colleague is totally into hot yoga and is trying to persuade me to take it up.
What do you do after work?
When I leave the office my other job starts, looking after my family. We try to sit down to dinner together if we can. This is the best time to catch up on everyone's day and interrogate teenage boys on what is happening at school! My luxury time is to sit down and read a magazine to keep up with what's going on in the beauty and fashion world. Friday night, my husband and I will usually meet up with friends and go for some drinks and dinner. It's a great way to wind down after the working week.
What's the best lesson you've ever learned on the job?
My first full-time job was working in the buying department of a fashion retail company. It was all women with exception of the managing director. I soon realised that to succeed as a woman you had to be extremely dedicated, put in the hours and most importantly be passionate about what you do. Being confident and decisive is a huge attribute and gives other people confidence in you. It sounds like a terrible cliché but there is no such thing as "can't". If you put your mind to it you really can do anything, it just takes hard work and patience.
What challenges have you faced in your work?
I joined Fragrance Du Bois at a conceptual stage. It was incredibly exciting and we had so many big ideas, however being a fairly small company at that stage our fabulous ideas were restricted because of our buying power at that time. It certainly made us think outside of the box. The rules and regulations are often huge stumbling blocks but we get there eventually.
How do you overcome setbacks?
It doesn't matter what you do, most people will suffer setbacks every once in a while. I think keeping focused, staying positive and at times holding your nerve is important. Nothing is ever that bad that you cannot turn it around, and often you can be surprised at the outcome. Setbacks are hard to deal with but character building and are the best way to learn, whatever age you are.
What's your secret to being productive?
I have to have weekly and daily lists to keep me on track and also my playlist on the way to work makes me feel ready to go. A great team to work with has a huge impact on how you function. Respect your colleagues and productivity will flow. I think down time is also incredibly important. You need to reset yourself, it doesn't matter how busy you are, thinking about other things focuses your mind back to your tasks and makes you more productive.
What's the best career advice anyone has ever given you?
Take criticism constructively, not personally. I can be quite sensitive but you have to grow a thick skin in this business.
What advice would you give someone aspiring to do what you do?
It's not a bad thing to start at the bottom. To run a business successfully you have to have a knowledge and understanding of all aspects of the company. Taking the opportunity to travel or relocate to different regions also adds to your dimension, don't be afraid to try something new! These days there are lots of choices in areas like luxury brand management and marketing. This will give you a foundation to understand your product. Irrespective of what position you reach, remain humble and never forget where you came from. You never know what is around the corner.
Do you have a life motto or philosophy?
Strive to do what you believe in. Always have a passion and a strength. This will overcome your fears. Also you can never have too many shoes.
What songs are on your playlist now?
I love old-school dance and R&B and that takes up most of my playlist. I think I am actually a frustrated DJ and always take over the music with my playlists at parties! I am really liking Jess Glynn at the moment and for chill out tunes, Hotel Costes is always a favourite.
What must you always have in your bag?
A bottle of Fragrance Du Bois Sahraa Oud, lip gloss and always my mobile phone.
What's your favourite fashion/beauty cheat?
A pair of killer heels. Immediately changes your appearance.
What kick starts your day?
I am lucky enough to live in a fabulous area called Sentosa and my balcony looks out onto the sea. A cup of tea watching the day break makes me feel very blessed. If you love what you do that kick starts your day, every day.
What is the one thing you can't avoid but would rather not have in your day?
My alarm and perfume regulations.
How often do you take a holiday and where do you like to go?
I don't seem to be able to fit too many holidays into my schedule at the moment, but with London being my home city, I take every opportunity to get back and see my family. The city always fills me with inspiration. So many people have great individual style. Stores like Selfridges and Harrods are great for niche fragrance brands and fantastic ideas, and there are amazing individual boutiques. My husband regularly works for Astro in KL so we often have weekend breaks there which is always fun. Top of my wish list is the Maldives. Hopefully soon!