In 2016, Ee Boon Huey shattered the glass ceiling by becoming the first woman to be President and CEO for Merck Malaysia. “All my predecessors were male, so I’m proud to be the first female president and CEO. It goes to prove, yet again, that this can be attained with the right values and goals.”

She approaches her daily challenges pragmatically, with the opinion that one would have to be very clear and focused as to how one can contribute positively and effectively. To this, she credits having a strong network to support her aspirations.

Ee Boon Huey's beginnings

Upon obtaining her degree in chemistry and biology, Boon Huey was employed at Bayer as a sales representative. This provided the valuable insight into the importance of reciprocal relationships between customer and company, and gave her an overall understanding of the industry.

Boon Huey Ee, President & CEO of Merck Malaysia
Boon Huey Ee, President & CEO of Merck Malaysia

Having gained a stronger footing, she moved to GlaxoSmithKline and was involved in the marketing and brand management side of the business.

Shortly after, she was approached by Merck Malaysia and took up the role as head of sales and marketing, where she was responsible for the set-up of a new oncology unit.

This greatly appealed to her, since it involved more than just heading a department. It presented an opportunity to engage in people management and development over and above the sales and marketing and product launching aspect of the business.

Navigating the international business environment

From there onwards, Boon Huey rose through rank and file in roles with increasing responsibility in oncology in Singapore, as well as covering the domestic markets in six other neighbouring countries.

While a pivotal move to China as vice-president of oncology brought with it significant opportunities, it was not without its challenges. Boon Huey, with her tenacity, drew on her multilingual skills as well as her experience to adjust to this rapidly developing socioeconomic environment. This was more so with the introduction of new policies throughout the year that brought about the need for constant adjustment and adaptation.

During this time, Boon Huey sat on the global oncology leadership team and represented the Asian region. This role came with high expectations, as management staff were expected to deliver upwards of 20% growth year on year.

In her four years in China, Boon Huey doubled the size of the business – and this without new product launches. The growing business meant that she was required to recruit new staff, including a new leadership team.

Naturally, she had to oversee their training and development, and credits a sound understanding of the culture, not to mention sheer hard work, which led to her success. “It was extremely hard work in those four years but, looking back, it was richly rewarding,” she added.

Coming home to lead Merck Malaysia

Having gained valuable exposure at the highest levels of management, with insight to global strategies, Boon Huey then sought to head Merck’s business at a national level. An opportunity arose to be based back in Malaysia, the land of her birth. It also proved a nurturing, comfortable environment to bring up her two children.

“I want them to understand more about their home country. I think it’s important to have a firm grasp of one’s roots. It had been eight years and I wanted to come home to see what else I could do for this company and my country. It was an easy decision to make.”

Boon Huey strongly believes that Malaysia, with its unique characteristics, has a strong, conducive environment with adequate resources in a capable and talented workforce.

“My international stints equipped me with invaluable experience and innovative ideas to meet the needs of Malaysia’s fast-evolving business environment. Being a Malaysian, I am familiar with our local culture, mindset and behaviour, hence my drive to further support local talent with their career aspirations and further strengthen Merck’s footprint in this country,” she says.

“Personally, I would also like to bring a little more awareness to female executives that they are equal to their male counterparts in leadership positions,” she says, adding, “We should be proud of who we are, with our talents and capabilities. I’m pleased to see that the stereotype mindset is slowly but surely changing.”

Dedication, vision & passion

Boon Huey receives satisfaction and fulfilment when she speaks about innovative medicines that significantly improve the lives of patients through their safety, efficacy and quality. Stories from patients give her immense gratification in that she has contributed back to society, and this gives her further impetus to strive harder.

I am privileged to be with the oldest pharmaceutical and chemical company in the world.

Boon Huey has been with Merck for 13 years and has embraced the company’s core values of courage, achievement, responsibility, respect, integrity and transparency. “I am privileged to be with the oldest pharmaceutical and chemical company in the world – as a matter of fact, we shall be celebrating our 350 year anniversary in 2018,” she proudly states.

Boon Huey’s commendable achievements have earned her the respect and admiration of many in the industry. She proves to be a formidable equal to her peers. With her dedication and vision, she looks set to break further barriers. With the addition of her passion, she is well on her way to conquer new frontiers. The world awaits.