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Hasbro’s Jessica Qian on leaning in

Empathy and a commitment to being a lifelong learner are qualities that Hasbro's Jessica Qian says have helped her succeed in her role at the American multinational

by Robynne Tindall
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To mark Women’s History Month in March, FOCUS is profiling female business leaders in the UK and China to hear their tips for correcting gender imbalance and to discover how they got to where they are today. Here, Robynne Tindall speaks to Jessica Qian, Director of Licensing Consumer Products for Hasbro China

launchpad CBBC

What inspired you to get into your current industry?

I started my licensing journey on a business trip to the US. I was working for an apparel company and had an annual meeting at the head office in New York. During a visit to a market, I came across a store with a huge wall filled with all kinds of character print T-shirts. Some of the IPs were familiar to me, such as Mickey Mouse, Hello Kitty and The Beatles, but most of them were characters or celebrities I didn’t know. I felt so surprised at how clothing could really help people to showcase their tastes and attitude. I fell in love with this idea and eventually moved my career from the apparel industry to licensing.

Have you ever experienced a tough time that made you want to give up?

My tough period in the licensing industry was when I transferred from an apparel buyer to a licensing out category manager. The challenges I faced mainly resulted from my lack of knowledge about my new industry, my limited network and the different mindset between buyers and salespeople. But I’ve never thought of giving up, as my passion for the licensing industry gave me the confidence to continue my journey.

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How important is it to have a role model or mentor? Who is your role model?

A role model can help you build confidence and reach your goals; a role model is a bright light that can show you the path out of difficult situations; a role model can guide you to find the missing piece of a puzzle.

Sheryl Sandberg is my role model on how to balance work and life, how to bravely voice my point of view and how to dream bigger – Lean In is one of my favourite books.

What resources have helped you to achieve more and get further in your industry?

I have always been a strong believer in life-long learning and continuous training. I majored in brand management for my MBA degree from 2012 to 2015. I found it very helpful for understanding IP from the franchisee perspective, to talk with customers with a brand manager’s mindset, to empathise more easily and to ultimately foster collaboration and even friendship.

Hasbro also gives plenty of internal learning opportunities to support talent growth. For example, the Harvard University Management Academy is one of the most impressive courses I’ve taken at Hasbro, helping me to increase my self- awareness of my strengths and shortcomings, as well as set up plans to be a better team player and later a leader.

What do you think needs to be done to encourage more women to enter your industry?

It is clear that more and more women are ready to lean in in the workplace. These women are vibrant, self-driven, collaborative and competitive, all at the same time. I am often impressed and touched by the exuberant “girl power” of female colleagues or partners in the workplace. Involving more women in every profession should be more important than ever, and I personally believe there should be laws or policies to support women’s participation rate in different professions. Senior female leaders should also encourage young colleagues to step forward bravely.

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What is one thing people can do at work to help eliminate gender bias in the workplace?

Traditionally, women were considered to have a shorter career lifespan than men. There were added complexities for women to land a new job after the age of 45, even though this was still a prime time in a person’s career, with women often facing biases when companies were choosing talent or successors during interviews and internal promotions. I hope all parts of society, including employers, spouses and colleagues, can have more faith in women’s career paths and encourage women to pursue long, meaningful careers.

If you could sum up your best bit of business advice in one sentence, what would it be?

Stay curious about a broad range of new innovations, but stay calm when deciding to follow trends.

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