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Training & Education Empathy Leadership Lessons

EssenceMediacom's Sujatha Maniya on diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace with InMobi’s Susannah Llewellyn



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November 21, 2023 | 5 min read

Insights With InMobi is a series of inspiring conversations with industry leaders in the marketing and advertising space

In this edition, we hear from Sujatha Maniya (chief people officer, EssenceMediacom) and Susannah Jane Llewellyn (vice president, agency partnerships, Asia Pacific, InMobi) on making workplaces more inclusive, leading with empathy, and fostering wellbeing.

In the current workplace ecosystem, conversations around fostering positive cultures are gaining steam. A people-first approach, with empathy at its core, has emerged as the key to a thriving business landscape, with some companies already championing it to boost well-being and productivity.

Discussing the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion in today’s workplace culture, InMobi’s Susannah Jane Llewellyn (vice president, agency partnerships, Asia Pacific) and EssenceMediacom’s Sujatha Maniya (chief people officer, Asia Pacific) talk about how leaders in the advertising industry can bring about a positive change through these powerful principles. Take a look at the highlights of the conversation and catch their ideas and insights on creating better workplaces for advertisers and marketers.

Reminiscing about the journey so far

Sujatha: “I've been involved in setting up offices in Southeast Asia, building an HR team from scratch, and immersed in mergers, which has given me the opportunity to build a strong HR foundation. I've also had the chance to be deeply involved in business meetings, working in partnership with business leaders to shape the future of the company while ensuring that the talent agenda aligns with the business priorities. Staying solution-focused and embracing change with an open mind has been crucial.”

Approaching change management in the business landscape

Sujatha: “A key takeaway in change management is creating channels and opportunities for our people to share their feedback, whether positive or concerning, and their suggestions. That's why we have the Global People Voice Forum at EssenceMediacom, which has been instrumental in supporting leadership, reviewing plans, and providing suggestions all the way to communication strategies. In today's dynamic and rapidly evolving business landscape, change management is continuous, not just a strategic choice but an imperative.”

Defining people-centric culture principles

Sujatha: “Culture is a significant aspect of who we are at EssenceMediacom and how we show up at work and with our clients. Our culture is explained by six global principles that we launched at the beginning of this year:

  • Learn everyday
  • Build better together
  • Always include
  • Celebrate every success, appreciate every experiment
  • Seek help gladly, offer help generously
  • Relentless pursue breakthrough

Our leaders and people managers play a crucial role in embodying these principles and embedding them in their interactions with their teams. Each market has the empowerment and ownership to bring these principles to life and adapt them according to what works best for them.”

Leading with empathy

Sujatha: “Firstly, as a manager or leader, we must create a safe and non-judgmental space for our teams to discuss governmental health concerns, encourage open and honest communication, actively listen to their needs, and be approachable and empathetic when they seek support.

The second point goes back to the culture principle that I shared, which is “always include.” As leaders, we want to charge forward and run at a speed of 260 km per hour. But in the process of doing this, we must stop and check if everyone is on the journey with you or if someone is struggling to catch up.”

Susannah: “It's lovely to hear that leaders within organizations are taking that stance and making it really personal and personable. I think human-to-human understanding about how someone you know personally is experiencing this themselves is really important. Having worked in the advertising industry myself for quite some time, I am fully aware that this industry can move at a very fast pace, and changes are always happening. What sometimes comes with that are very packed schedules, busy lifestyles, and long hours.”

Driving people development and effective training

Sujatha: “DEI (diversity, equity, inclusion) has been embedded in our people development program. It includes topics such as unconscious bias and inclusive leadership to train our leaders and people managers on how to create an inclusive work environment, lead diverse teams effectively, and leverage the strengths of each team member. Topics also include inclusive decision-making, managing diverse perspectives, and fostering psychological safety.”

Susannah: “Recognizing that people are different is essential. Not everyone is the same, and what might bring happiness to one person may not bring happiness to another.”

Looking at leaders as catalysts of change

Sujatha: “It is critical for our leaders to role model inclusive behavior and actively promote diversity and inclusion. Culture starts from the top, and leadership sets the tone. This is an expectation from our leaders at EssenceMediacom. It's a journey that starts from the top and extends all the way to our people managers. Once our people see leaders and people managers role-modeling it, it will naturally become the behavior of the organization.”

The conversation reminds marketers and advertisers to bring what they do in their jobs to their workplaces, too – driving meaningful connections beyond boundaries. Embracing change in the ever-evolving ad tech space and advocating a strong and inclusive people-centric culture remain the pillars to make this happen.

Training & Education Empathy Leadership Lessons


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