A spotlight on female leaders during Women's History Month: meet Lily Anne
From International Women’s Day to Women’s History Month, March is the time to celebrate the achievements of women and highlight their contribution to society at large. Today, female leaders are constantly challenging the norm and taking charge of their own success.
To highlight this important Women’s History Month, we sat down with Lily Anne to hear her experiences as a female leader at Coupang, achieving her career and helping others to do the same.
Hi, Lily Anne. Thank you for your time. Could you please introduce yourself?
Hi, I’m Lily Anne. I was born and raised in the Philippines, worked and lived in the U.S. since 2002, and joined Coupang here in South Korea in March of 2021. I am also a mom of two, a daughter and a son.
Prior to joining Coupang, my job stints in the U.S. included SEC reporting at two big public companies and working as an audit senior manager in one of the Big 4 accounting firms before joining the corporate world.
Moving from the Philippines to the U.S and again to Korea sounds quite bold and exciting, and you have been building a good career. Could you tell us about your work and team?
At Coupang, I lead the Global Transactional Accounting team, which handles the accounting for leases, equity, debt, stock compensation, and payroll accruals. Our team works with the entire accounting department headed by our Chief Accounting Officer with the goal of generating accurate and timely financial reporting. Since being listed in the New York Stock Exchange as a public company in March 2021, Coupang is now required to comply with quarterly and annual financial reporting under the Securities and Exchange Commissions (SEC) of the United States and compliance with the Sarbanes Oxley Act on internal controls. Without boring you with the details, compliance with those reporting requirements is the end goal of the accounting team.
It sounds quite challenging, and I imagine it requires a lot of skill. Could you tell us some of your inherent skills and how you add value to Coupang?
I have more than 15 years of audit experience from the Big 4 accounting firms and more than five years of SEC financial reporting, consolidation and corporate accounting experience from my previous two companies. These experiences, as well as my problem-solving mindset, are the inherent skills that make me successful in what I do as an accountant and how I can add value to my team. Of course, it is a given that you also need to have teamwork, respect for everyone, and other soft skills to become successful in any company setting.
Since you have worked more than 15 years in auditing, you must have faced a variety of obstacles. How do you find the driving force to push boundaries when facing obstacles at work?
That question sounds very sublime, but I always believe obstacles can be overcome by first understanding the root cause of the issue. This is especially true in the accounting world. Most obstacles can be resolved by root cause analysis, communication, and discussion with the concerned parties. We have proven this numerous times in our teams. Most people are reasonable. If you can explain to them in simple words what the issue is and provide them several practical solutions that will be beneficial to them, they will more likely than not agree with you.
Good leadership is also very important when you run into obstacles. What was it like when you became a leader for the first time?
I don’t think there was a point in my life where I told myself, “Now I am a leader.” With the progression in my career, leading, supervising, coaching, and inspiring others just came gradually and naturally. It started way back in my audit days as an audit senior when I had to lead and supervise the staff under me, then as an audit manager and audit senior manager, after which I lead the SEC team at two public companies. Now I lead a group in global accounting. The team and the responsibilities just gradually became bigger and more complex. I genuinely love what I do and I also love training younger staff and helping them succeed in their own careers. I think that is what leadership is about.
Then would you like to share more specific leadership lessons you’ve learned?
In my career, I have been blessed to have worked with many leaders and managers that I truly admire. However, there were also few that had the opposite effect on me. I try my best to emulate the first and make sure that I don’t become like the latter. I would like to recommend not to be a leader that just tells people what to do, but rather to be a leader that can roll up your sleeves and show people how to do things by example.
What has been the most interesting experience you have had as a leader?
It is when I can solve problems and add value to my team members and the company as well. In my previous job, there was a time when I was the only one who insisted that there was a significant error in a business acquisition journal entry. The team in charge of the transaction insisted that the auditors already reviewed the numbers. However, because I was the lead in the SEC Reporting team and understood the overall implications, I stood my ground and convinced them of the error. In the end, I was able to prevent a significant misstatement from being reported in our public filing.
It’s a good thing you were there as a strong leader. With more and more women taking on leadership positions at major companies, do you have any advice for the next generation of female leaders?
The greatest work advice I received as a young staff member was, “Whatever you are doing, just do it right.” I know my manager was talking about the audit work papers at that time, but if we apply that advice to our daily lives, it makes us the kind of leaders we need—ones that lead by example. Don’t focus on your gender. Focus on doing a great job, whatever it is you are doing, and you will truly become a great leader.
As a leader at Coupang, do you also find Coupang to be an organization that values diversity, equity and inclusion?
Yes, definitely. Just look around the office — there is so much diversity in gender, race, and nationality. Coupang values what you can bring to the table and not your ethnicity or your gender.
Diversity, equity and inclusion are important now more than ever because it has truly become a global world. In Coupang alone, we have people from all over the world with different backgrounds, cultures, and traditions. By promoting diversity, equity and inclusion, we will be able to build respect, trust, and understanding across these differences, thus promoting greater satisfaction and productivity at work.
Coupang is proud of our women who make an impact on our customers every day and build a diverse and inclusive workplace. Join us in celebrating Women’s History Month and beyond by embracing the culture of equity.