GREAT MINDS NEVER THINK ALIKE

This is a compendium of recipes for how some people work. The routines, habits, hacks, gadgets and escapes to consistently live their best life at work and at play. While high performance is the common thread, the personalities couldn’t be more diverse, and the gems we found couldn’t be more timely and inspiring.

This interview series is brought by The Great Room Singapore.

What is your morning hack for a productive day?

Maria Li: I usually write out little notes/to-do lists for myself the night before

Then in the mornings, I hunker down with a coffee and cocoon for about an hour to knock out whatever I’m dreading the most on my list. Once I get started, I realize that it’s usually not that bad. Checking off the scary item first thing in the morning gives me a burst of energy and helps me feel ready to tackle the rest of the day.

  1. What is the best purchase you have done recently that have upped your game at work? (App/ Technology/ Wellness gadget/ nutrition)

Maria Li: I bought a pair of blue-light glasses for days when I’m staring at my screen a lot. TBH, I don’t know if they work, but they help me get into work mode.

I also try to drink a glass of beet juice every day… beet juice has tons of nutrients and helps with blood circulation & energy

  1. What or where do you eat when you are alone for lunch on a workday?  Is there a favourite takeaway spot?

Maria Li: I LOVE eating alone at my desk, it helps me take a quick second to reset. I usually just take away veggie rice at the nearby hawker centres and bring it back to my desk.

“Everything you want is on the other side of fear”

  1. What is the last book you read that created an impact on you and name 1-2 key takeaways?

Maria Li: I recently read two books that really resonated: “Life in Code” by Ellen Ullman and “Exhalations” by Ted Chiang. Both books made me think deeply about how we use technology in our lives and all the subconscious ways in which technology has altered our culture and world.

Being at a company where we are constantly thinking & reporting on tech companies, tech trends, and tech’s impact, it is super refreshing to take a step back and ponder the more philosophical questions around technology. How do we interact with it? How can we put guardrails up between us and tech?

“Life in Code” is a memoir of a female programmer. She details all the underlying biases that get built into code by its programmers. As end consumers, we assume that code is objective and neutral, but there are layers of human decisions in the course of writing that code. So if you have a relatively homogenous set of programmers, they end up building programs that carry their implicit biases. And then this code, and the values built into that code, get exported around the world by the spread of technology.

“Exhalations” is an incredible set of short stories that take well-known concepts within tech and expands/stretches/inverts them in ways that again, make you question how tech factors into our daily lives. There are stories about time travel, robots, and parrots that are like funhouse mirrors to fundamental moral and philosophical questions about technology. It questions where the line is drawn between humans and technology and how much power we let tech have in our lives.

  1. Do you have a favourite superhero costume/ accessory that you rely on for the most important business meetings?

Maria Li: Bright power suit and gold hoops!

Maria Li, COO of Tech in Asia

  1. Do you have a favourite place/country you love travelling to that rejuvenates you?

Maria Li: Any time I’m hiking/camping/exploring in the mountains, I feel like I can breathe a little more deeply. New Zealand always calms me.

  1. If you’re not doing what you are doing now, what would you be doing?

Maria Li: A journalist in the war-torn region. Running a non-profit in developing countries. Starting a company in East Africa.

Continue these sentences

  • My favourite time-waster is… getting into Wikipedia blackholes
  • If I am having a really challenging day, I will reset by… taking a walk around the neighbourhood with my husband.
  • I have an irrational love for … all condiments, especially hot sauces & mustard. 90s emo pop music. looking at rice terraces & tea fields.
  • My preferred winddown drink is… a slightly chilled glass of Shiraz or Malbec
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