We revisit The Future is Female Conference 2017 and look in on the panel for Supercharging Your Career: How Do You Achieve Big Things Quickly and Efficiently?
Aziza Sheerin, Regional Director for General Assembly expertly moderated the last panel discussion for The Future is Female. She teased out as much advice as possible from the youthful panel on how to supercharge our careers.
What is Success?
How do you measure success? Do you feel like you started out saying you want to be the CEO of a security company? What were the metrics you used to define what success means to you?
Yee-Ning Tan, CEO, United Security Solutions: Success is about breaking out of your boundaries. I think it’s all about whether you can be brave and be honest to yourself.
At this point in my life, I want to do charity – something I don’t believe that Asians have not done in Middle East and Africa, specifically for the Syrian refugees. When I first saw the news of how refugees suffered I was in Dubai, and I was in tears.
I actually was training to be a Chinese teacher when my life took a turn. From journalism to working for an international non-governmental organisation and now as a CEO of a security company in a male-dominated industry, I want to be the one who can inspire and encourage anyone who is young that you can do amazing things in a platform that we can co-create together.
How Do I Make the Best Career Decision?
When you left your cushy job at your previous corporate, did you set yourself goals on what you want to achieve and do you think you’re achieving them or do you now think that you should have stayed at where you was?
David Sanderson, CEO of Nugit: After I left my job my main motivation was to just survive – I was working all day. It was only after I was able to get things going that I started forming tangible metrics to focus on. As my company grows, just making sure we’re on track, that my staff are happy, and the company culture is intact is key at the moment.
Both of you have changed careers recently. I was having a conversation with a 21-year-old just now about her desire to change careers and she feels that she’s too old! What advice can you give to such individuals?
Markus Gnirck, Managing Director of tryb Capital: We recently had an intern and he was feeling the pressure of the industry after reading about all the successes other people around his age groups are achieving on social media. I just went ‘Dude, you’re just 18 you should be playing!’ I think there is a social pressure going around that can be quite influential but should be pressurizing on anyone.
David: That bothers me when people change companies but stay in exactly the same industry or position. For me, I really appreciate different backgrounds and different skills in my company. Everyone has transferable skills and with the right attitude, it’s not impossible to change industries.
Confidence is the Key
Men go for jobs based on how they think they can handle what is asked, but women feel they need a strong track record before they decide to place their resume for that new job. What do you think?
David: I think it’s a trait for most people actually. I know men who don’t move out of the industry they have been working in too. Generally, I would recommend changing your industry when you do want to change your job. Skills are applicable across industries – don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Kexin, you have been with PwC for 15 years. You have a long list of accolades and awards and you were sharing with me earlier about how you measure your metrics of success and how choosing the right working environment is important. Could you share with us your metrics and then decided that PWC is the place for you?
Kexin Lim, Tax Director, PwC Singapore: Well I don’t always know if it is the right place for me all the time. I like to tell my bosses that we are in a perpetual courtship where I never assume they love me forever and they never assume I love them too. If we treat each other well then yeah, we should hang out.
When it comes to the metrics of success, it’s a lot about the ability to unplug and plug. Be it whether you’re in an unchanged role and in the same organisation for quite some time, every year I reinvest the things that I do and have. I look for new projects and opportunities. Find junctions to unplug and shift.
One of my mentors gave one of the best advice of my life. How many of us allow our handphones to go dead? [Kexin asks the audience.]
Most of us freak out, bring out our power sockets, etc. Why do you allow yourself this headache? Remember, when you’re gone tomorrow, they will just throw your stuff into a recycle bin and they might send your family a wreath. The company moves on!
If you’ve come to a stage where you think you need a new chapter, take up new projects, new initiatives or take a self-declared holiday. Every year end I shut down for two to three days and have my Yogi bear break. He hibernates during the winter and I think we should too. I switch off my phone and hide. By hide, I mean remain uncontactable.
I ask myself, am I a great person, am I happy, am I friends with people I want to be friends with, have I treated people well, and are there people whom I need to apologise to? Are there things I need to change and how do I change it? Then I write my new year resolutions. If it’s the same, then so be it. If it isn’t, then edit your resolution.
How to Leverage What I Have?
Your career trajectory is rather interesting, Yee-Ning. You went from one industry to another and it seems like a calculated risk. At what point did you realise it was the right move to make, and how did you know how to leverage what you have to create your next best position?
Yee-Ning: I would like to challenge myself and create an important role for myself. For example a year ago I used to work for one of the largest trading company in the world. I represented all their Chinese business outside China leading the ‘one route one trade’ strategy. I couldn’t climb the corporate ladder any further because it was a male-dominated and Western industry. Yet, I was in my comfort zone. When I was offered to take up my current position in a totally different industry, I had to start from ground zero. I had to combine multiple steps into one step. I definitely freaked out at the start, but I have a team of people leaving their previous jobs to join me too and while it is a huge challenge to lead a team of experienced men, I really enjoy it!
The panel discussion ended with a resounding round of applause. It was a feast for the audience to interact with these motivating panellists who are still constantly improving themselves. The best advice the panellists had for everyone was to promote their soft skills when applying for a position in another industry, highlighting that the corporate life is not restricted to one specific industry.
Edited By Abigail Wong
She was nominated and selected for FORTUNE Most Powerful Women conference in 2016 (Asia) and 2015 (San Francisco, Next Gen).
Anna has 10 years of experience in the financial sector and is currently a Director in Tera Capital. Her previous work experience includes positions at Citigroup, United Overseas Bank, a regional role in Business Monitor and a boutique private equity firm based in Shanghai. She graduated from Singapore Management University (Finance and Quantitative Finance).