Recently, the Singapore General Assembly hosted a panel of leading women in Tech to offer a ‘rare insider’s look on their own career paths’. Sitting on the panel were Padmini Pandya, Director of Strategy, Asia Pacific & Japan, at Citrix, Pernille Dahlgaard, Director at Accenture Singapore, and Shao-Ning Leigh Huang, a Private Investor, and Start Up Advisor for Entrepreneur First. The panel was moderated by Katarina Uherova Hasbani, Founder of Enrupt and The August Company and Board Member at Female Founders and Alliance for Rural Electrification, who kept the conversation upbeat by navigating topics from building a successful start-up, networking and career transitions.
These leading women have a wealth of experience in sectors ranging from fashion design, to shipping, to Human Resources, and had the most fascinating stories (and pearls of wisdom) to match. As one woman working for an international company founded by another, this forum was a great opportunity to get ideas and lessons for successfully building and growing a company in a competitive market.
On Building a Successful Start-Up
A myth that must be busted when comparing start-ups to corporate environments is the false dichotomy that start-ups are free and easy while corporate jobs are regimented with rules, structures and processes. Shao-Ning, an Angel Investor in start-ups and founder of JobsCentral.com, was quick to clarify that to build a successful start-up, founders need to set up their own processes to ensure smooth operations. In fact, a critical marker of success in either environment is that they maximise efficiency with because of, not despite, a healthy workflow and operations process.
It is no surprise, then, that a major cause of start-up failure is due to ‘founder incoherence’. Being a start-up founder necessitates taking charge of your own company’s problems and the internalisation of responsibility, rather than deflecting through outsourcing your responsibilities away. Furthermore, despite the strides that are being made regarding gender equality in the workplace, women today still have to remain uniquely wary of the tenuous balance to be struck between familial and entrepreneurial pursuits.
For the uninitiated, networking may be a tedious and unnerving process. Padmini acknowledged this, but added that whether one is an introvert, ambivert or extrovert – being an effective networker is vital. Pernille added that once, when she was laid off a job, she set up 200 coffees in a span of 6 months and met anyone who would agree. Networking is a little bit of an adventure, so always ask your new coffee connection: who else should I meet? You simply never know where you could end up unless you ask. Furthermore, every person who recommends another is putting their reputation and social capital on the line – so seize every opportunity you get. Without consistent networking efforts, your world will get very small, very quickly.
Personally, I have been inspired by the networking flair of Yerra’s Founder & CEO, Rajitha Boer. She has never met a stranger. Instead, she extends her warmth and kindness to everyone regardless of their role or level in an organization. Most importantly, she keeps in touch with everyone through checking in with them to see how they’re doing and even remembering birthdays and anniversaries. There is a lot to be said for being not just well-known, but also, well-liked as an entrepreneur.
On Career Transitions and Taking the Leap of Faith
Shao-Ning highlighted that a growth mindset is crucial in being an entrepreneur. When solving your own problems, curiosity is an asset not to be undermined or feared. Entrepreneurs must wear multiple hats simultaneously, and it is almost impossible that their formal education had trained them for all of them. It is important to embrace every change while ensuring you are in line with your vision and your team is well-equipped to respond. Furthermore, a strong belief in your vision means that in gauging the performance of the team, you might need to make tough decisions, like firing a team member.
Finally, as Padmini attested, whether you are in a corporate job, or are founding your fifth start-up – your personal growth is always a work in progress, and part of a larger process. Many face fears of being cooped up too soon as they fall for the fallacy that they must define themselves as a specialist of some kind. The truth, however, is that career paths are rarely linear – so go ahead and take the leap of faith. The quickly growing network of female entrepreneurs is there for every woman to leverage, further demonstrating the power of women in business.
The Yerra Team wishes everyone a Happy International Women’s Day!