Women with GRITT
May 04, 2021
by Danielle Gay

Women With GRITT: Shamini Rajarethnam On Going From Coordinator to CEO In 4 Years And Why Self-Care Isn’t A Buzzword

by Danielle Gay

“Self-care has become something of a buzzword term or idea but I believe, for me, it’s the confidence that is cultivated when you take the time to invest in yourself each day.”

Welcome to Women With GRITT: a series where we interview the resilient, hardworking women who have kicked in the glass ceiling and inspire us to do the same.

Shamini Rajarethnam’s story of success is seriously impressive. It goes like this: she joined cult beauty brand Rationale as a marketing and digital coordinator, and four years later, she was promoted to CEO. 

It makes her sound like an overnight success, but Rajarethnam’s quick rise up the corporate ladder at the Australian beauty brand, founded by Richard Parker (pictured below with Shamini), took hard work and serious dedication. “I applied for a coordinator role back in 2011 as the company was starting to engage with clients directly after nearly 20 years of being exclusively available through dermatologists, plastic surgeons and cosmetic physicians,” explains Rajarethnam. “I was fortunate, due to the size of Rationale at that time, to interact and work with Richard directly and often. As the company grew, I was afforded many opportunities at Rationale that I will always be grateful to Richard for advocating me to pursue and for believing in me.”

Now, as Chief Executive Officer of the business, she finds herself advocating for and believing in her own staff, and looks for people who have “initiative, trustworthiness” and are “lateral thinkers.”

Here, Rajarethnam shares with us what it’s really like to be a beauty CEO, why family and self-care are both important to her and the habits she’s adopted to become a better boss.

Where did you grow up and what are some of your fondest childhood memories that you think have shaped you into the woman you are today?

I grew up in Singapore as the youngest of three, and surrounded by extended family. My father had eleven brothers and sisters so we did grow up with an outrageous number of aunties and uncles who we spent time with. Besides having many fond memories of Sunday family gatherings, some of my other fondest childhood memories were the trips that our family took around Southeast Asia. Due to the nature of my father’s work, we often accompanied him on work trips that turned into family trips, and we were fortunate to be exposed to different cultures and experiences. Those trips really taught me tolerance, being open and accepting, and that people worked, lived and cherished different things in life. It also instilled a love of travel, and how travel experiences nourish your life and provide perspective.

Who inspired you most growing up?

My parents. They worked so hard to give us the opportunities in life that they never had, and there was no shortage of love in our household. My mother gave up her aspirations and career to take care of us and her mother. She really is the true definition of a selfless human being; she continues to give everything she has to her family and loved ones. My father started his own business and was what I like to call an ‘early-adopter entrepreneur’—dabbling in different ventures. That, combined with how often he travelled for work, meant that he did not have a traditional work week. That gave myself and my siblings first-hand experience of different ways to work, and how we always felt connected and loved by him although he wasn’t always physically there. 

If you could only pick five beauty products to use for the rest of your life, what would they be?

I’m sorry but you know it’s going to have to be six! My Rationale Essential Six regimen, of course. 

Working for Rationale, we have to ask, how often do you get facials or other skin treatments? And which ones do you get?

I don’t get them as often as I would like but at a minimum once a month. I have our wonderful therapist assess my skin on the day and they recommend the right facial, but I have to say, The EpiNova Brilliance Facial is the ultimate benchmark—90 minutes of absolute bliss!

What was your first ever job? And how did that job shape you in your professional life?

My first ever job was working for my Mum, sorting and filing paperwork at her job at the Polo Club in Singapore when I was in primary school. I fondly remember sitting on the floor of her office filing, looking forward to the bowl of chips I could have at the end of my “shift”. She taught me that doing my tasks and doing them well was important, and that everything I did was a reflection on me. It instilled that there are no shortcuts to life and to always put your best effort into everything you do, because it’s a reflection of you as a person.

What about the juggle of your personal life—are there specific habits you’ve put in place to ensure you’re not working around the clock?

I have learnt to be quite disciplined and realistic about the time I need to focus on work. I continue to put in the effort to work smarter and be more productive with how I spend my day. I try to get through my most important work task in the morning and understand which conversations I can have on the go. I’ve also challenged myself to make decisions on the spot and not spend too much time mulling over decisions.  

What advice would you give your younger self?

Time is a luxury and don’t take it for granted! 

What role does beauty play in your personal life? 

It plays an important role in that it affords me the time and space to just focus on myself. Self-care has become something of a buzzword term or idea but I believe, for me, it’s the confidence that is cultivated when you take the time to invest in yourself each day.

Shamini Rajarethnam’s story of success is seriously impressive. It goes like this: she joined cult beauty brand Rationale as a marketing and digital coordinator, and four years later, she was promoted to CEO. 

It makes her sound like an overnight success, but Rajarethnam’s quick rise up the corporate ladder at the Australian beauty brand, founded by Richard Parker (pictured below with Shamini), took hard work and serious dedication. “I applied for a coordinator role back in 2011 as the company was starting to engage with clients directly after nearly 20 years of being exclusively available through dermatologists, plastic surgeons and cosmetic physicians,” explains Rajarethnam. “I was fortunate, due to the size of Rationale at that time, to interact and work with Richard directly and often. As the company grew, I was afforded many opportunities at Rationale that I will always be grateful to Richard for advocating me to pursue and for believing in me.”

Now, as Chief Executive Officer of the business, she finds herself advocating for and believing in her own staff, and looks for people who have “initiative, trustworthiness” and are “lateral thinkers.”

Here, Rajarethnam shares with us what it’s really like to be a beauty CEO, why family and self-care are both important to her and the habits she’s adopted to become a better boss.

Where did you grow up and what are some of your fondest childhood memories that you think have shaped you into the woman you are today?

I grew up in Singapore as the youngest of three, and surrounded by extended family. My father had eleven brothers and sisters so we did grow up with an outrageous number of aunties and uncles who we spent time with. Besides having many fond memories of Sunday family gatherings, some of my other fondest childhood memories were the trips that our family took around Southeast Asia. Due to the nature of my father’s work, we often accompanied him on work trips that turned into family trips, and we were fortunate to be exposed to different cultures and experiences. Those trips really taught me tolerance, being open and accepting, and that people worked, lived and cherished different things in life. It also instilled a love of travel, and how travel experiences nourish your life and provide perspective.

Who inspired you most growing up?

My parents. They worked so hard to give us the opportunities in life that they never had, and there was no shortage of love in our household. My mother gave up her aspirations and career to take care of us and her mother. She really is the true definition of a selfless human being; she continues to give everything she has to her family and loved ones. My father started his own business and was what I like to call an ‘early-adopter entrepreneur’—dabbling in different ventures. That, combined with how often he travelled for work, meant that he did not have a traditional work week. That gave myself and my siblings first-hand experience of different ways to work, and how we always felt connected and loved by him although he wasn’t always physically there. 

What was your first ever job? And how did that job shape you in your professional life?

My first ever job was working for my Mum, sorting and filing paperwork at her job at the Polo Club in Singapore when I was in primary school. I fondly remember sitting on the floor of her office filing, looking forward to the bowl of chips I could have at the end of my “shift”. She taught me that doing my tasks and doing them well was important, and that everything I did was a reflection on me. It instilled that there are no shortcuts to life and to always put your best effort into everything you do, because it’s a reflection of you as a person.

What about the juggle of your personal life—are there specific habits you’ve put in place to ensure you’re not working around the clock?

I have learnt to be quite disciplined and realistic about the time I need to focus on work. I continue to put in the effort to work smarter and be more productive with how I spend my day. I try to get through my most important work task in the morning and understand which conversations I can have on the go. I’ve also challenged myself to make decisions on the spot and not spend too much time mulling over decisions.  

What advice would you give your younger self?

Time is a luxury and don’t take it for granted! 

What role does beauty play in your personal life? 

It plays an important role in that it affords me the time and space to just focus on myself. Self-care has become something of a buzzword term or idea but I believe, for me, it’s the confidence that is cultivated when you take the time to invest in yourself each day.

If you could only pick five beauty products to use for the rest of your life, what would they be?

I’m sorry but you know it’s going to have to be six! My Rationale Essential Six regimen, of course. 

Working for Rationale, we have to ask, how often do you get facials or other skin treatments? And which ones do you get?

I don’t get them as often as I would like but at a minimum once a month. I have our wonderful therapist assess my skin on the day and they recommend the right facial, but I have to say, The EpiNova Brilliance Facial is the ultimate benchmark—90 minutes of absolute bliss!

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