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Sam Mang

Sam Mang: U.S. Personal Care Portfolio Manager, Part Time Boxer

My role focuses on finding and driving growth opportunities in the U.S., spotting and evaluating patterns across our big four categories – Hair, Skin Cleansing, Deodorants and Skin Care – and acting as the liaison between global and local teams.

It's a very exciting and multi-faceted job, requiring me to wear (and juggle!) many different hats throughout the day. Sometimes I'm knee-deep in analytical work and strategic reviews. Other times, I'm connecting with our marketers to understand how we can help them in their day jobs. I've been in this role for close to 1.5 years and am loving it so far.

Outside of school and work, I've always had serious hobbies. Growing up, it was ballet, and then competitive ballroom dancing during my pre-Unilever career. After I hung up my dance shoes, I wasn't doing anything for a long time and felt a little unfulfilled.

I discovered boxing through a random online promotion and slowly fell in love with it. I started with beginner boot camp classes and transitioned into training one-on-one with a coach. I then began sparring and somehow found myself fighting competitively. I now box five days a week and cross-train on my own the sixth day. I also help teach boxing classes on weekends.

I've always strongly believed in finding passions outside of work. To me, being passionate about both work and extracurricular activities is an integral part of wellbeing.

Boxing has pretty much changed my life. I used to be a night owl and had trouble getting up in the mornings. I now get up at 5 am on weekdays to train, so I can still get to work on time.

I also used to prioritize most things over sleep, but I now force myself to get at least seven hours of sleep a night to allow my body to recover. You have to be in such peak physical and mental condition that boxing forces you to prioritize other areas of your life.

I’m even more engaged whenever I am working now because I know the moment I lace up my gloves, I physically cannot check my email or phone. Whether I'm assisting a class, working pads with my coach or sparring, I have no choice but to mentally disconnect from work – I have to focus 100% or I get hit in the face!

Boxing has had a tremendous impact in the office, as it teaches me how to harness stress and anxiety in a productive way and not get fazed when pressure intensifies. It’s about learning to stay calm, how to grit my teeth and push myself even when my body is exhausted. I have also learned that the real obstacle is never the competition, but yourself.

I remember when I first started sparring – I could feel the stress and adrenaline start to rise (which is very natural, you don't get people punching your face working at Unilever!). I would get mad when I'd get hit, but over time, I've learned to check the emotions and control the fear and anxiety. It's a matter of perspective – once you've had someone try to beat you up, there's no situation you can't handle at work.

Unilever has done a lot of work around #unstereotype, and Dove has even featured one of my favorite female fighters, Heather Hardy, in the My Beauty, My Say campaign. While boxing is becoming increasingly popular as a form of exercise, most people are still surprised that girls fight. There's nothing more satisfying than proving people wrong. I've stepped into the ring with guys who wanted to take it easy on me – until they realized I can take a hit and hit them back just as hard.

I've had people ask me, "aren't you afraid of being too muscular?" or "why would you want to ruin your face?" or "that's cute – are you going to beat me up?" To me, there's nothing gender-specific about feeling both physically and mentally strong, and nothing should stand in the way of your right to feel that way.

Finding and doing something you're truly passionate about means everything works together. Even though boxing seems mostly related to physical wellbeing, it's incredibly mental and emotional as well.

Boxing has been an empowering outlet for me, and the empowerment doesn't stem from knowing you can punch hard but from knowing that you're far stronger and more resilient than you think you are.