Every morning, Mr Vernon Siow applies a thin layer of foundation and dusts a fine layer of loose powder on his face before heading to his office.
The 32-year-old field sales and education executive at beauty brand Clinique does so not out of vanity, but because he wants to set an example for the beauty consultants he trains.
“When you work in the cosmetics industry, you need to look pleasant. First impressions are very important,” he says.
While his job title may seem like a mouthful to some, Mr Siow’s job essentially comprises two main parts.
As field sales executive, he is responsible for the retail sales volume of the Clinique counters – known as the field — he is in charge of. He also shares with its beauty consultants the company’s new goals.
As an education executive, he helps to motivate and train beauty consultants to better serve their clients and meet sales targets.
He spends most of the week visiting the eight counters under his care to make sure that things are running smoothly.
The other days are spent in meetings with the other departments, brainstorming how they can best help consultants perform well.
Mr Siow’s passion for the beauty industry started about eight years ago. Then, he was battling problem skin, which he said was oily and prone to breakouts.
A friend recommended the Clinique 3-step programme, consisting of a cleanser, exfoliator and moisturiser, which he tried. His skin cleared up.
His positive experience with Clinique products paved the way for a career switch.
He was working as a training manager in a movie theatre company then, a job he enjoyed.
However, when the company was bought over by a new management team, Mr Siow decided to take the plunge into the beauty industry.
He joined the Estee Lauder Companies – Clinique’s parent company – in 2003 as a grooming consultant at Aramis. The brand, also owned by Estee Lauder, is known for its men’s fragrances.
After about a year, he took on the role of a beauty analyst, first with cosmetics brand Prescriptives and then Stila. Both brands were then owned by Estee Lauder.
To upgrade his skills, he completed a six-month diploma course in professional make-up.
Being a man in what is often considered a woman’s world does not faze him, he says.
In fact, he has dealt with only one sceptical customer during these seven years, he said.
A woman had approached a Prescriptives counter he was at and asked if she could try on foundation.
Mr Siow recommended one that was a shade lighter than her skin tone, but she refused to take his advice.
She thought his recommendations were unreliable because he did not understand a woman’s skin.
Foundation should ideally be a shade lighter than one’s skin tone because the liquid oxidises and darkens some time after application, he explains.
Undeterred, he gave her some foundation samples to test at home. A few days later, she returned to the counter and bought the shade Mr Siow had recommended.
“We became friends after that. After I moved to Clinique, she still came to me,” he says.
Mr Siow’s move to Clinique happened three years ago at his request, when Estee Lauder sold the brand.
“I was very excited about the move because I’ve always believed in its products,” he says.
It turned out to be a great move.
In less than two years, he was promoted thrice. He was even recently selected for Clinique’s Stars to New York, an accreditation programme that only outstanding field executives or counter managers worldwide can attend.
It has been a fulfilling journey, he says.
“I like sharing knowledge with others, with both the consultants and customers. It’s all about passion. If I tell a woman I can make her beautiful, chances are, she won’t reject the offer,” he says.