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Shifting our Perceptions of Growth

Emma reflects on her personal career transformation at Publicis Sapient and shares her thoughts on how we must be guided by purpose to deliver lasting impact.

Emma Scales
Emma Scales

One of the things I love most about Publicis Sapient is that when we talk business transformation, we mean it. We help clients find their purpose and steer them through complex transitions, and we know how to do it best because we’ve done it ourselves.

We have come a long way since I joined PS over 13 years ago, and the career transformations I have made have been just as profound. As our business evolved from a pure-play Digital Marketing agency to a Transformation consultancy, it’s incredible to look back to my own progression from European Learning & Development Lead in London to where I am today, four career moves later, as the Managing Director of APAC in Sydney.

Growing our business in Asia
My move to Asia was an eye-opener. Living here and experiencing the markets first-hand has helped me understand other people’s perspectives of APAC.

In 2016, I worked with our regional leadership team to roll out a change program that would redefine our proposition and move us into the DBT space. Over 18 months, I saw our strategy came to life as all dimensions of our own business started to transform – new clients, different work & specialized talent.

Looking back now, I underestimated both the opportunities and the challenges of shifting to such a dynamic region. I had an expectation of what I would find and perhaps an unconscious bias of each market’s maturity, but I was challenged by what I learned. I’ve had to rethink how we help clients navigate this region and find their purpose.

“I like to think our work at Publicis Sapient is the same. Growth is not the strategy, it is the outcome of realizing our purpose. As an MD, I am consistently focused on how we create impact for our clients, their customers, and our team.”

Why growth is not success
I’ve fallen victim to the draw of growth since I moved to this region. It is easy to fixate on serving a number to indicate growth, but the reality is that number is a lagging indicator and doesn’t tell us if we are fulfilling our purpose.

Growth is effectively a competition, with success or failure marked on a ledger, but focusing on growth alone is short-sighted and like focussing on the wrong part of a sports metaphor.

The fact that football and basketball are followed like religion or that cricket evokes a sense of national pride is not simply because of competition. While sports are games with plays and scores, winners and losers, that is hardly the most relevant part.

The reasons people become sports fans transcend the game. It’s about loyalty, being part of a team, and recognizing that sport connects people to their family, country, or community and provides them with a sense of belonging.

I like to think our work at Publicis Sapient is the same. Growth is not the strategy, it is the outcome of realizing our purpose. As an MD, I am consistently focused on how we create impact for our clients, their customers, and our team. The choices we make go beyond the numbers on a spreadsheet, as success will be determined by the long-term legacy our businesses leave.

“ We are in an exciting region at a truly exciting time. Each day we support clients and influence the decisions they make to shape their business, industry, and the world. I can’t wait to see how we continue to realize our own purpose to create impact, and of course, seeing where we go next.”

Being bold & taking risks
When we shifted our strategy, we took a risk to find new avenues to service our clients and grow our offering in DBT. It was our purpose that steered us into new directions and our risk has rewarded us with successful moves into new markets, most recently in Thailand.

Just as our business took risks, I urge our people to be fearless as well. As individuals, look for the ways you can take risks that are just outside of your capability and lean into them completely.

Don’t let failure make you second guess yourself. Everyone needs to be reminded that the word ‘fail’ is just an acronym for First Attempt In Learning. As long as we take a lesson from every experience and make an impact, risk has fulfilled its purpose.

Finding my place at PS
Reflecting on my journey, I am proud to say my story is one of many. Publicis Sapient is an environment where people can equally serve their career ambitions and personal purpose. I’ve always taken on bigger, more meaningful opportunities – which often meant being separated from my family – but each time I’ve been rewarded by seeing the value I’ve added to our business and myself.

We are in an exciting region at a truly exciting time. Each day we support clients and influence the decisions they make to shape their business, industry, and the world. I can’t wait to see how we continue to realize our own purpose to create impact, and of course, seeing where we go next.

Emma Scales
Emma Scales
Managing Director, APAC
Emma is the APAC Managing Director at Publicis Sapient, based in Sydney. She has worked across the global Publicis Sapient business for 13 years and helmed numerous roles including, Global Lead for Learning and Organisational Development, People Strategist, Coach, and Change Management Specialist. She is a mother of three, a foodie, a traveller and a lover of music and yoga.

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