Updated: Mar 30, 2021
Empowerment is a deeply personal journey. One can be empowered in different ways, from picking up a new hobby, to launching a business, to making a career switch.
In this series, we speak to Chun Yue, Shilpa, and Jalene who share with us how they have stepped outside their comfort zone in the past year to try new experiences, and how they were supported by the YWLC community along the way.
Leading a Project with Chun Yue
While helping out at the Women Leaders of Abbott, Chun Yue realised that linking YWLC and Abbott would unlock tremendous value for members of both organisations. Thus, she initiated, led, and moderated the recent Women Breaking Barriers in Healthcare and Science event.
Chun Yue shares her experience in leading this collaboration as well as tips for aspiring moderators.
What inspired you to lead a discussion on this topic in this collaboration between YWLC and Abbott?
It started when I was helping Abbott with their diversity strategy for their Women Leaders of Abbott network. We were looking at how Abbott could also have a meaningful external impact on the community and drive greater awareness on the impact of Abbott's women leaders.
Having been a YWLC member for the last three years, I knew we are always on the lookout for inspiring speakers and topics that would benefit the community, and we have not had many healthcare-related events or speakers. It was a no-brainer that linking YWLC and Abbott would unlock tremendous value for members of both organisations.
At that time, the healthcare and science industry were also in the spotlight amid the pandemic and there was a lot of interest to know more about working in this industry. Women are also very much underrepresented in leadership roles in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
You played a lead role in linking Abbott up with YWLC as well as organising the entire session. Could you share one key challenge in leading this project and how you solved it?
A key challenge I faced was having to manage and balance the interests of both YWLC and Abbott, as I was representing both at the same time. It was my first time organising a YWLC event, and it took me a while to understand YWLC's interests and practices. Abbott also has its own set of considerations, especially when it comes to engaging with the public. There were multiple internal stakeholders to manage and convince in order to clear the topic and questions pre-event, and the media publications post-event.
Being a member of both organisations allowed me to understand and convey both parties' interests, and offer more effective solutions that align well with both organisations.
You also took up the moderator role during the panel discussion, do you have any tips for future aspiring moderators?
Always organise a chemistry session ahead of the actual session with the panelists. Because I was able to build rapport and understood the positions from the panelists, it felt as though I was having a natural conversation during the discussion.
Plan for rehearsals with the panelists to test out the flow of the conversation and see if you need to resolve any technical difficulties or manage time more effectively. The rehearsal we had helped reduce any anxiety during the actual session.
Listen actively and take notes during the discussion. Also, don't be afraid to share your own opinions e.g. if someone raised an interesting point that connected well with another point raised earlier, call it out and help the audience connect the dots. A moderator can do more than just ask questions.
Don't be afraid to ask for help. This was by no means a one-woman show. I had Yvonne, YWLC’s Recruitment Director, who leaned in throughout the whole process, from brainstorming and bouncing of ideas to the logistics of the session. It was a team effort that made the event a success.
Becoming a Young Mentor with Shilpa S Nath
Many feel intimidated about stepping outside their comfort zone and becoming a mentor due
to the misconception that mentors should have all the answers. In reality, being a mentor is not about directing someone to a solution, but rather, to simply hold space for them.
Shilpa, who was a mentor in YWLC’s 4th Cycle of the Pay It Forward Mentorship Programme, shares more about her experience.
You were a mentor in the Pay It Forward Mentorship Programme, what made you sign up?
Over the last few years, I have had women formally and informally mentor me and it made a huge difference in my life, both career and personal. I have also mentored students who are interested in a career in marketing, and it really filled my heart to see them flourish on their own. So when I heard of Pay It Forward mentorship, I was really excited to be a part of it.
Were there any challenges and how did you overcome it?
There wasn't much challenge between my mentee and myself, other than trying to find the right time to catch up. We usually tried to meet once every two weeks over a video call as it was at the height of lockdown so we couldn't meet in person. We usually caught up on what was happening in her life, her aspirations, her doubts, and different perspectives for her to think about.
Any words to inspire those who have some interest but are still hesitant to be a mentor to others?
Being a mentor is not about directing someone to a solution. If you are ready to be a listening ear, hold space for someone, and are genuinely interested in being a cheerleader, sign up to be a mentor! You will learn about yourself and from your mentee as well.
Having a Mentor with Jalene Seah
Jalene launched Kinquo, a sustainable fashion business, in September 2020, after seven years in the corporate world. Taking the plunge to start a business during the Covid period was a brave decision.
Jalene shares with us what she has learnt in her entrepreneurship journey and how Tjin Lee, her YWLC mentor, has impacted her life and business.
You made the brave decision to launch Kinquo, a sustainable fashion business, after seven years in the corporate world. What made you leave the (perceived) security of a corporate job to plunge into starting a business during the COVID period?
My journey has been more of a gradual one because my first foray into fashion was during my first year of work! I joined a global advertising agency right after graduation to pursue my other love - marketing and clever advertising. While I really enjoyed my job, I chanced upon an advertisement for a part-time sewing course by the Textile and Fashion Training Centre (TaF.tc) and thought “why not?”, I could work and also try out dressmaking to see if it’s something that I enjoyed.
So I did! I worked hard at my day job but I always set aside one night a week to go for class and I was hooked! One class led to the next and before I knew it I was sewing my own dresses, tops, and trousers as a hobby and I really loved it. I loved how it engaged my creativity and logical mind at the same time, as patternmaking is like an engineering drawing – you combine measurements and create a 2D “technical plan” that will be sewn into a 3D object.
After I left advertising, I joined my family business in organising large scale events like trade shows and conferences. This experience contributed to my eventual decision to start Kinquo. It’s a small family business so I was involved in most aspects of the day-to-day operations – from welcoming new employees, setting up laptops, to project management, marketing, cold calls to potential clients, operations and managing the profit & loss of the company. It made me realise that I loved the challenges that came with running a business and I felt a different kind of fulfilment from it.
It was during this time when I began thinking about starting my own fashion business and decided that if I did want to pursue it, the first step would be to buff up my knowledge on the industry! So I took a fashion diploma at TaF.tc, and several courses such as experimental patternmaking, draping, hand sewing for couture, and sustainable fashion design in London at Central Saint Martins and London College of Fashion. All this finally gave me the confidence to start Kinquo, and here we are today!
Share with us some examples of how Tjin, your mentor, impacted your life and business.
I am fortunate to have Tjin as my mentor as she has so much knowledge and experience in both the fashion industry, and also, the entrepreneurial journey. She is a great sounding board for discussing new ideas and gives very useful advice on various business-related milestones that I can act on.
For example, Tjin recommended for me to join CRIB Society, where I found an amazing community of women entrepreneurs who are happy to share and help each other move forward in their businesses. She has also encouraged me to join some of the CRIB initiatives which helped to raise brand awareness for Kinquo, especially since we are still in the infancy of our brand (we launched in end Sept 2020).
I am also grateful for Tjin’s willingness to set aside time in her busy schedule to catch up. The conversations we have are always enjoyable and insightful, and I always leave our conversations with more energy to keep going!
If there were a single takeaway from your entrepreneurship journey, what would that be?
Don’t be afraid to try and get out of your comfort zone. Whether it is a business decision, or asking someone for help, most things that you do as an entrepreneur will not be easy or comfortable and it’s okay. Put your head down, do the work, and then ask for help or advice because the people might surprise you with their support and generosity.
I’ve learned so much in this journey, whether it’s via my own research or from my community of friends, family and mentors, and this has made entrepreneurship even more fulfilling!
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Organising Committee: Marketing and Communications
Artwork: Larissa Thia
Interviewer: Larissa Thia