As the Communications Director of L’Oréal Australia, Sydneysider Christine Burke has a formidable twenty-year repertoire shaping and leading the strategic direction of the Australian beauty business. As the latest X-Files new season exclusive, Christine Burke shares sage career advice on the world of beauty and discusses leadership and perseverance in a fiercely competitive industry. With portraits by Scott Needham captured at Sydney bar and dining institution Beta Bar, Christine wears new season selects that can take you from the office to events, effortlessly.
What drew your initial interest to beauty?
I’ve worked in the beauty industry for over 20 years now, and I can honestly say it’s one of the most dynamic businesses to work in. I always loved opening my mum’s face creams and trying on her make up. I really wanted to know what it felt like when you used these beauty products, and was fascinated by that feeling… I guess you can say I never looked back!
Describe what your role entails.
My role across the beauty arena has changed and evolved so much over the years, and that’s exactly what I love about it. Today, I work as the Communications Director for the L’Oréal Group, that proudly owns 30 beauty brands. I focus on the corporate communications, which includes managing our sustainability program “Sharing Beauty with All”, in addition to our diversity and inclusion and ethics campaigns within Australia.
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What are integral qualities needed to preserve in your industry?
Authenticity, transparency, advocacy .
Are risks necessary?
‘Calculated risks’ are always necessary!
Who has taught you the most by way of business?
My managers and mentors have been the most influential. A great manager to me is a natural born leader and having a great leader can create your most enjoyable working years, someone who not only believes in you, but celebrates you being in the business is so important.
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What has been the most rewarding project in your career so far?
I have the privilege to work on a global program: L’Oréal’s For Women In Science. This program ignites a voice for women to tell their very own story on how they have the power to change the world, and I don’t say that lightly! L’Oréal is committed to supporting women in the field of science both globally and locally and to change the numbers of women in science, we need more in this space.
What is the most challenging thing about leading people?
People are attracted to leaders, not managers. The key is to find your inner strength as a credible and respected influence and the challenge of leading people is no longer there. Managers often think about tactics, systems and processes. These things are important but as a manager you should equally consider emotional and relational matters in the workplace.
How do you empower and nurture the development of your team and colleagues?
I always check in and ask them how they are; you learn so much from this simple approach. Give your employees autonomy, you hired them because they’re smart so let them do their job their way! Always communicate your team’s value and help them see their contributions. Do your best to free your team from unnecessary stress, they will have more time to focus on achievements. Finally, you need to build trust because people respond to trust. Whatever our situation, we need to be good at establishing, extending and restoring trust as the most effective way of getting results.
What is your own personal philosophy on fashion and beauty?
A quote from Mr. Armani, which I stand by for both fashion and beauty: “Elegance is not about being noticed; it’s about being remembered.” And of course, “Fashion comes and goes but style is eternal.” – Yves Saint Laurent
As a working mother, how to you connect and balance your two worlds?
The key is to be highly organised, have a great network of people who support you in your journey, always put family first, and remember to do what you love. I am committed to staying fit, eating healthy, and sleep is essential.
What are you most excited about?
Professionally, I’m most excited about being part of a company that is leading digital transformation at scale and putting the consumer at the heart of what we do. Beauty is one of the most transformational industries in the digital age. Personally, I’m excited to continue to grow and learn every day and embrace change. My 12-year-old Lola and 9-year-old Louis are blossoming and looking for their role models in life, it’s a privilege to shape their lives.
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Best advice for those inspired by your career path?
Dream of what you want to do and who you want to be. Make smart choices along the way and always be open to learning. Be a good listener and always embrace change. Surround yourself with people who inspire you and make you happy, do what you love and love what you do! It sounds cliché, however it’s a simple philosophy I do my best to follow. Oh, and always do it in a great pair of heels!
See more from Christine Burke @chrissy_burke. A special thanks to Beta Bar Sydney. All images by photographer Scott Needham with hair styling by Christopher Byrne at Sloane Salons and make-up by Grant Power for Giorgio Armani.