Volunteer spotlight: Jocelyn Oh MFIN’21Feb
Volunteer spotlight: Jocelyn Oh MFIN’21Feb
This week’s volunteer interview series features Vineet Kumar GEMBA 2018, an IAA Singapore mentor specialising in early talent and entrepreneurship. Read about his predictions on work trends post Covid, advice for alumni thinking about volunteering, and more.
Current job title and company: Senior Director- Industry Marketing (Asia Pacific & Japan), SAP.
IAA Singapore volunteering position: Mentor specialising in early talent and Entrepreneurship
Length you have been volunteering for: 3 years
Reason for volunteering and key takeaways: I’ve always had the privilege of learning from industry leaders and wanted to share this positive experience with others. In collaboration with my mentees, the mentorship process has also helped me understand new challenges and find innovative solutions.
Interesting fact about yourself: I joined INSEAD wanting to gain the insights and skills to start my own entrepreneurship journey however, after attending the “New Business venture” course in San Francisco, I decided to pursue venture investing instead. Currently I’m an angel investor in multiple companies across Asia, using my experience to help them scale their business.
Predictions on work trends post Covid: I feel Covid has helped society realise we need to take time out to celebrate life. I also don’t see people returning to work in an office like before. Working from a beach shack, mountain hut or jungle pod, will become mainstream instead.
Ideas on how we can support fellow alumni facing significant challenges during the pandemic: Everyone has been impacted by the pandemic in more ways than we can imagine. We should create a community for engagement and sharing that brings everyone closer and provides comfort without being judged.
Advice to members thinking about volunteering: Get on-board, don’t overthink. Knowledge increases in multiple ways when it’s shared.
What book are you reading? Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins. It’s a story of a disadvantaged child who achieved great results through self-discipline, mental toughness, and hard work. I’m seeking inspiration from this astonishing life story and stay hungry to pursue my dreams.
Current job title and company: General Manager Business Development, Asia Pacific; TUV Rheinland Singapore Pte Ltd NAA Singapore volunteering position: Mentor and co-organisor for NAA Singapore’s mentorship programmes . Length you have been volunteering for: 1 year Reason for volunteering: To stay in touch with alumni, continue to develop new skills and knowledge, and make a contribution to the community. Key takeaways after graduating from INSEAD: Learning is a lifelong journey. I’ve also had the invaluable opportunity to make good, lifetime friends and meet and be inspired by great women from all over the world. How are you adapting to the pandemic? I've had to be more innovative, creative and flexible, especially at work. Ideas on how we can support fellow alumni facing significant challenges during the pandemic? Collect feedback from fellow alumni about their concerns and topics of interest, and then organise online seminars on the related topics. What do you like about your job? I’m working in an international testing, inspection and certification company. I get to develop new business according to customers’ needs and interact and liaise with different colleagues globally each day. Advice to members thinking about volunteering? Volunteering is a good way to stay in touch with INSEAD alumni, make new friends, and it doesn’t require you to retire. Interesting fact about yourself: I arrived in Singapore alone when I was 18 years old. I’m a resilient learner: from Polytechnic (Ngee Ann Poly) to the world’s renowned business school (INSEAD & Tsinghua); from Assistant Engineer to General Manager; from Singapore to Greater China and Asia Pacific. What book are you reading at the moment and why? I’m reading A WOMAN MAKES A PLAN by Maye Musk. She writes “You can’t control everything that happens, but you can live a happier, healthier and fun-filled life at any age. All you have to do is make a plan!” I am super inspired by Maye Musk. I think I could achieve more in the future as long as I keep on learning new things and staying positive.
Our Volunteer Interview Series kicks off this week with Yuwen Wang MBA’19J, organiser of alumni lunches in Buona Vista. Over the next month we’ll be featuring a series of short interviews with some of our amazing volunteers. Read what inspired them to volunteer, how they’ve adapted to the pandemic and more.
After a brief hiatus, Future Fintech (FFT) was back at INSEAD on July 15 (albeit virtually), for our first event of 2021. Given the way global markets have performed and the renewed interest generated in wealth management over the last 18 months, it was only apt to kickstart proceedings in 2021 with a discussion on Robo Advisory.
In classic FFT fashion, speakers from leading Singapore based Fintechs and Banks, faced off against each other for a thoughtful and lively discussion on the topic. ‘Team Fintechs’ was represented by Laurent Bertrand, CEO and co-founder of Better Trade Off (BTO) and Michele Ferrario, CEO and co-founder of Stashaway. ‘Team Banks’ was represented by Amelia Chua, Director at Bank of Singapore and Veronika Kuznetsova, Director of Innovation & Strategy at UBS.
The event kicked-off with product demos and presentations from Laurent and Michele. Among other things, they talked about their respective growth journeys, impact of the pandemic on their respective businesses and the new product innovations they have introduced to keep pace with growing customer demand. It was very insightful to see different business models at play in the industry. While Stashway is trying to challenge the big banks by offering their unique product suite to customers directly, BTO is partnering with banks to help them with their wealth management needs.
The product demos were followed by a panel discussion where Amelia and Veronika gave their perspectives on competition faced from challenger fintechs and future direction of the industry. They shared their insights on the latest products their respective banks had launched to attract more digitally savvy customers. A major theme that emerged from the discussion was that the industry is going through a digital revolution that ultimately benefits the end customer. The digital wealth management industry is expected to grow exponentially in the future. Worldwide, assets under management by digital wealth managers are expected to grow from $987,494 million in 2020 to $2,487,280 million by 2024, while the number of users is expected to almost double, from 224.5 million in 2020 to 436.3 million in 2024.
We at FFT are excited about this space and will keep bringing you events, discussions, blogs and podcasts on this topic. So keep watching this space for more
Written by Sagar Sarbhai MBA’17J
For more information about FFT click here.
On 15th April 2021, three Singapore-based INSEAD Alumni Clubs came together for a very special private conversation with Ms Sabrina Tan, founder and CEO of Skin Inc, whose ability to fuse disparate ideas together has given her comparisons to Steve Jobs and Elon Musk.
Here is the story of Sabrina Tan and her amazing and innovative skincare company.
Sabrina was only 34 when she started. On the back of 11 hard years of work in tech corporate jobs, traveling across Asia, she realised one night that her vanity graveyard was the last straw. At the time a mother of 2 toddlers suffering from eczema, she was the epitome of the time-starved high-performing modern woman whose skincare just did not serve her needs.
Sabrina set herself a task – outsmart this outdated view of beauty as a leisurely pampering ritual and bring it up to speed for a results-oriented data-driven entrepreneur who needed reliable speed and quality. She knew her market well. Through research, she realised that up to 80% of the skin’s evolving conditions are heavily affected by lifestyle and environment factors such as lack of sleep, stress, pollution, travel environment, and so much more. She wants Skin Inc to be recognized as the most innovative skincare, wellness and tech company that harnesses the power of AI & Skin Inc Cloud to deliver customised skincare on demand, resulting in healthy glowing skin.
Sabrina went to Japan to find answers in its world-class labs and skin doctors. She told the experts that she wanted three serums multi-tasking in a single step and they stared at her blankly and told her ‘No! You can only have one active ingredient.’ However, a picture of a capsule triggered an inspiration from her tech experience of encrypting and encapsulating data into packets that could be delivered discretely. The experts responded – active ingredients encapsulated and suspended in a hydrating base serum.
Fusing data and science, a simple 3-minute skin identity quiz based on your unique concerns and lifestyle generates My Daily Dose and My Nightly Dose, a custom-blended serum and booster-activated sleeping mask that’s best suited for your skin needs, customizing beauty for every you. To increase effectiveness and use marine technology, Skin Inc created their proprietary algae-based encapsulation of active and potent ingredients into the customized serums. Later on, Skin Inc launched our NASA-inspired LED Trilight Voyager, a device that increases absorption of skincare by 300x, Sabrina was able to launch products that reduced the guesswork of skincare ingredients, while significantly boosting its performance. A perfect marriage of customization, marine tech (using the proprietary encapsulation) and high-tech technology (using LED tech).
Rebooting beauty, Sabrina has been a visionary game-changer and thought-leader in the skintech and wellness industry by harnessing the power of customization and tech to augment the efficacy of skincare. With a passionate calling to “reboot beauty”, Sabrina conceived Skin Inc as the world’s first Customized Serum Cocktail Bar offering fully-customizable beauty serum with the ability to fit up to 10 active ingredients for a personalized skincare up to 120 combinations. This was just the beginning. From a single 200 sq ft store in The Central at Eu Tong Sen street in 2008, Skin Inc has penetrated Singapore Airlines flight catalog since 2012, and global beauty mega-store Sephora since 2013 – giving it unequalled reach. China’s Dragon Air, major department store chains, and boutique hotels across Europe jumped onboard.
There have also been multiple collaborations: with fashion (Self-Portrait, for the dewy look for its 2017 New York Fashion Week show), entertainment (a limited-edition Beauty & The Beast serum with Disney, investment from South Korea’s Spackman Entertainment Group) and celebrities (award-winning actress Son Ye-Jin as Skin Inc.’s first brand evangelist).
To put things in perspective, Skin Inc celebrated its 10th anniversary with a three-day bash, hosting social media and brand influencers from around the world. It was streamed “live” and saw 7 million views, with a reach of over 80 million.
In the middle of the whirlwind of success, it is easy to forget the super power at the heart of Sabrina’s company. Her visionary mind knew from the start that hers would be a tech company – that responded as an “always listening” big data machine creating targeted solutions “live” as her customers’ data changed right in front of her.
With the million-profile rich database of consumer insights, coupled with their proprietary decision-support intelligence (online “Skin Identity Check”), Skin Inc is uniquely able to give customers instant feedback on their needs and the immediate means to access the solution. A few clicks online, and a full beauty rescue would be winging its way to your home.
There was no need for slow traditional forecasting. As a digital and data-driven brand who listens to consumers’ needs, our objective is to introduce innovations as a solution to consumers’ concerns. The customers’ voices are continuously captured by Skin Inc’s R&D labs, gap in the market are identified quickly, and their team of scientists ensured translation of the skin dreams of women and men from all over the world into practical, and effective skincare products and devices.
Skin Inc had beaten the competition, and the track record shows: 60 data-driven formulations, devices and timely innovations (like the maskliner to prevent maskne), in addition to solidifying the bestselling hero products, the My Daily Dose® Serum and the ground-breaking Optimizer Voyage Tri-Light++ LED device.
Skin Inc has grown into 78 cities and won over 140 Beauty Awards and counting.
While COVID-19 threw a major spanner in the works, it did not stop Sabrina at all. In fact, she saw it as a new inspiration to double down on her “why” – help women and men save time daily while addressing their most pressing skin needs. In 2020 alone, she pivoted online with a resounding 4-fold increase in sales, and launched 6 life-changing COVID-aid innovations:
1. Beauty Jelly Dose
2. Serum Glow Filter
3. My Daily Dose® of Armour
4. Serum UV Moisturizer
6. Refresh & Nourish Hand Serum Duo – this last was a stroke of genius, taking the most skin-dehydrating necessity of 2020 and turning it around into an opportunity to incorporate both a hand sanitizer and hand serum in one bottle.
All of these products are what tech folk would call “plug and play” with earlier products launched. For example, the moisturizing effects of Hand Serum Duo could be further enhanced by using the Optimizer Voyage Tri-Light++ (Blue LED Light Therapy for anti-bacterial and soothing).
Sabrina shared that such developments were supported by Skin Inc Innovation scientists Dr. Shekhar Mitra, an esteemed global innovation expert who was previously Senior Vice President Research & Development at Procter & Gamble and Dr. Donald L. Bisset, author of over 60 published technical manuscripts and the inventor of over 30 US patents with 32 years of skincare research experience at Procter & Gamble.
Another source of inspiration drawn from her tech experience was the Hackathon. Skin Inc had previously held a Beauty Hackathon with 10 YouTube influencers (in collaboration with Youtube). They answered the call for products that the market was still lacking: a masking moisturizer, plus a primer, plus serum, plus mist! And this has been created. “Customise, don’t compromise.”
Sabrina carries a heritage within her that has given her the gumption and resilience to do what she has done. Her late mother, Madam Ivy Eu, used to own a chain of three salons in the Bukit Timah area called Sabrina Beauty Centre – named after her daughter. By the time she was six, Sabrina was packing stocks, doing window displays and blending masks. By age 9, her mother had her practising facials. This was priceless ground experience in what it took to make a beauty business successful. In truth, through her family, Sabrina has had almost 30 years of business exposure by the time she started Skin Inc. Aside from her mother, her father ran a construction business, and 3 brothers had their own businesses.
Sabrina was the youngest of 4 siblings and the only girl, with impaired hearing in one side. Here was her second great gift from her upbringing. Her parents had raised their children gender and physical-ability-agnostic – expecting her to be as capable and confident and strong as her brothers. She was not treated differently and therefore never had to battle familial gender limitations. This bears out current research that gender bias sets in by age 8 – and the raising of young children played a part. Sabrina has passed on this ethos to her own two children, Ashley and Asher. “The main aim is to teach how to think critically,” she had said before.
Despite such will and determination, Sabrina has had her tough years, when she survived on 5 hours sleep nightly, had dinner with her children, and then continued to work past midnight after they have gone to bed. She recounted that there was once she broke down in front of her daughter with the worry that she would lose control of all the balls in the air.
Sabrina is an amazing example and living proof of the extraordinary contributions that innovative women can make. However, we acknowledge that there is still work to be done to address how to balance it all. She realises this too, and has been actively mentoring and adding value. For Sabrina, work-life balance was a state of mind. Balance is about staying connected, and being present emotionally and intellectually. “I want to be a motivation and inspiration to young women entrepreneurs, and show them it is possible to achieve their goals”, she had said in an interview with High Net Worth in 2016.
Sabrina was an initiator of the Galboss conference in 2016, which was wildly-successful, and she headlined the 2016 Great Women Of Our Time as keynote speaker. She had continued as advisor to multiple women entrepreneurship and leadership initiatives by the Singapore government (CFE, Committee on the Future Economy). Skin Inc had partnered World Vision International on their child sponsorship programme to support 100 underprivileged girls’ education for a year.
Sabrina’s advice to share with other women: “Perfection is counter-productive. This is even more valid in the new normal, go for impact! It’s important to pay attention to details but it’s energy-depleting when you’re sweating the details.” This also gels with current evidence that women hesitate to go the next step (promotions, opportunities) until they felt 100% ready, while men would take on the challenge with less.
Sabrina has observed that nearly all entrepreneurs are self-starters with passion and goals for their business. However, there may be different choices in how male and female entrepreneurs choose to run. Having said that, once the ground was equal, gender no longer counted – it was about competing and being the best one can be among peers.
Sabrina wrapped up by sharing that her Choose To Challenge was to herself, to support other women chase their goals and dreams.
She said: Don’t minimize yourself, don’t deflect a compliment, or don’t give up your power by thinking you don’t have any. I remembered a quote I came across: “Dream with ambition. Lead with conviction. And see yourself in a way that others might not see you, simply because they’ve never seen it before.”
Thank you, Sabrina, for your hour with us. We have indeed learnt a lot from you!
Written by Li Lian Liew EMBA’13Dec – President INSEAD Alumni Club Women in Business
Previous interviews with Sabrina:
Articles unhiding the secret sauce & impact of giving girls an equal start in life:
Balazs, MBA ’06, is the epitome of innovative problem-solving. He set up Ember Associates 7 years ago, where he uses the game of poker to break open fixed adult mindsets in how to see and solve challenges. Balazs is also an Adjunct Professor at INSEAD. But he is no desk nerd either, having spent over 10 years mostly in the dealing rooms of several banks.
Entrepreneurship has been in his blood all the while – his first founded company was Hungary’s first online hotel reservation business in 1996. He set this up after spending his teens making his pocket money – mostly after and occasionally instead of school – writing codes for SMEs, and playing the bass in multiple rock bands.
It is my pleasure to interview Balazs Fogoly, President of the Entrepreneurship Alumni Club, for Choose To Challenge.
When you see this year’s IWD theme, what comes to mind? How does it make you think about gender diversity and inclusion matters?
Shame is the first thing that pops in my mind.
Shame, that we still need to challenge ourselves about gender equality in 2021.
But we still live in times when not all lives matter equally, and not all opportunities are accessible for everyone.
Can you give us some background on what experiences has created the Balazs of “now” who sees the world this way?
There are plenty of experiences that created the Balazs of “now”. But let me take out one specifically that relates to where I want to challenge fellow men.
I played tennis as a teen, and I was considered talented. But when I competed at tournaments, I never rose to the occasion. I often just sank to the level of my competition. I needed better players to play better.
After a while, I started noticing this as a pattern in other areas of my life. I need strong (but preferably friendly) competition to strive. So other than the morals of equal opportunity, the efficiency of cognitive diversity, I also benefit from competing with and learning from a larger pool of superstars.
Given the world that we are in right now, what would you choose to challenge and why would you choose it/them? How would you turn this into tangible changes?
Majority of men understand why women should have equal opportunities.
Those men who do but still resist, I would challenge them to think about the benefits that more competition brings to them.
With a growth mindset and a passion for lifelong learning, we can all leverage our increased competition, especially from people different from us. And imagine, where would science and technology be now if women had an equal chance for education and advancements from the start.
Are there collaborators and/or resources that you foresee would help you achieve this/these change(s)? How could we make this happen?
Everyone we meet needs to become our collaborator. And life is the best resource.
We just need to learn to think like a scientist, form our hypothesis based on patterns we notice and try to prove ourselves wrong. And if we do it like good scientists, we will arrive at the same conclusion.
We will all benefit from women having equal opportunities.
Thank you Balazs for sharing your perspectives. It gives me food for thought on what needs to be worked on so that we can collectively become a better force for good!
Li Lian Liew EMBA’13Dec – President INSEAD Alumni Club Women in Business
I hope that the first quarter of 2021 passed smoothly for you.
This week, I am pleased to introduce Ms. Gaya Ananda MAP’18Jul from our Women In Business (WiB) executive committee, who is Education Channel Marketing Manager, Microsoft Devices partners solution sales at Microsoft.
Gaya is passionate about building relationships and driving growth. She fuses her 2 superpowers together at work to deliver smart agile solutions. Her colleagues know that she is the go-to for insightful feedback and creative ideas for new initiatives.
Gaya has worked across APAC and North America, from a family business, management consultancy, start-up and complex global organisation in 6 different industries.
Gaya is the perfect innovation leader to be the WiB interviewer for our exclusive CEO fireside chat with Ms Sabrina Tan, the founder of Skin Inc. Sabrina has overcome many personal challenges, leapt across industries and garnered huge international respect for her innovative approach to youth and longevity – her company is known as “The Apple of skincare”.
Gaya shares her perspectives on 21st-century womanhood and her Choices on what to Challenge:
Q: Can you tell us a how you have grown as a person over the years? What has helped you push through challenging times?
A: I’ve learnt to slow down. When I was younger, I was so eager to prove myself and have a hand in anything and everything. I have learned that it is better to take a step back, take on things that actually add value to your goals vs trying to impress anyone and everyone. Slowing down also lets you reflect on the learning, and you enjoy it a lot more as a result. In the rush to get things done, I have sometimes neglected to take time to create an atmosphere where everyone else wants to win with me. Carve out time for social activities and do the things other people like doing with them – vs trying to slot them in when it’s only convenient for you.
Q: What has been your most difficult challenge, and how did you handle this?
A: Focus. I suffer from chronic FOMO (fear of missing out). Being ok with saying no to things, or rather saying yes to what you really want and value is hard.
How am I handling it? Three strategies:
“The Power of a Positive No” – great book. Read it if you suffer from FOMO.
Coaching circle – I have a one hour commitment with 2 friends every week on what is important to each of us, and to keep us honest about what we say yes to, and NO to!
Being grateful to yourself for saying yes to YOU vs the many other things that are fun distractions.
Q: Drawing from your life experiences, what gives you the most satisfaction? What gives you the deepest regret, and would there have been anything you would have chosen differently looking back?
A: As cheesy as it sounds, helping others gives me genuine satisfaction. But what I’m trying to get better at is controlling my desire to try and always be helpful if my help does not add “actual” value to the other person. Sometimes showing empathy is enough, vs trying to solve a problem I’m not apt to solve.
Deepest regret – not having had more belief in myself to take on bigger risks and challenges. I let the fear of failure, and my perception of how others would see me when I fail hold me back. Maybe I am lucky, but whenever I have experienced failure – I’ve learnt so much more and built stronger connections with people who came to help me back up. I did not even notice the nay-sayers, yet I spent so much time worrying about what they may think.
Q: How do you see your continuing life journey from here? What challenges will you choose from here? How might you want to define success and learning?
A: As much as I want to say I have conquered my past challenges, I have not. The same patterns in my approach still exist – but I keep getting better at recognizing it and adjusting my approach.
Success to me is to keep that value of perseverance, knowing I will never be perfect – but that I notice the change within myself and in how others respond.
Thank you, Gaya!
Li Lian Liew EMBA’13Dec – President INSEAD Alumni Club Women in Business
I hope that you have had a smooth March 2021. Thank you for supporting this year’s International Women’s Day (IWD) kickoff of the 2021 theme of #ChooseToChallenge which we marked with 2 landmark campaigns: A collaboration between the NAA and the DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) team from INSEAD with a series of knowledge sharing; and a #IWiBchallengesyou2021 social media challenge in solidarity across all INSEAD Women in Business (WiB) Alumni Clubs to raise awareness of IWD and its 2021 theme.
IWiB (Singapore) will continue to carry the theme of Choose To Challenge across all our events this year, starting with a Private Conversation with Sabrina Tan, Founder and CEO of Skin Inc, on 15 April. This is jointly organised by RCLG, Entrepreneurship and IWiB (Sg) Alumni Clubs, and is a great opportunity to hear the secrets of this groundbreaking business leader who had chosen to challenge and conquered the worlds of skincare, tech, and female entrepreneurship all at once.
Alongside this, we are pleased to share with you some thoughts on Choose To Challenge from our RCLG Alumni Club President, Aymeric Lacroix EMBA’17Dec, Managing Director Asia South at DFS (LVMH).
Aymeric is the golden eye of the retailing and luxury brand management across our region, and has countless successes under his belt combining his passion for capturing the hearts of consumers, the art of using technology, and creativity driving business growth.
“Hello, Aymeric,” I started. “What do you think of this year’s IWD theme “Choose To Challenge”?” Aymeric leaned slightly and blinked his clear brown eyes once as he began to speak. “There are plenty of initiatives from Public to Private sectors celebrating March 8th as IWD. Hopefully this creates more consideration around diversity and inclusion at large.”
His brow arched as he continued, “As a Leader, March 8th forces us to create head and mind space about the topic and make sure that we talk about the role of women in the workplace without any taboo. We then create a voice that can be echoed within all departments of the company.”
“In the industry I am in, luxury retail, and the company I have worked with or currently working, men are outnumbered by women.”
“However,” Aymeric emphasized, “the efforts that must be made is about a bigger representation of women in managerial and leadership position.” He gestured with his arms open in front of him, visually showing the gap that he spoke about.
“I see myself as an ally and a supporter to promote more and better diversity starting with my team. I am a believer that the future belongs to women!” Here, Aymeric smiled his easy dazzling smile and his expression softened. “Maybe,” he admitted, “it is because I am a father of two girls and an admirer of my wife for carrying successfully so many critical roles at the same time: a great Mom, a professional Investor, and a loving Wife.”
I nodded and asked, “Given the world that we are in right now, what would you choose to challenge and why would you choose it?” Aymeric replied decisively, “I would challenge the fact that “we, men and women, can only be good at one thing”. I would like people to start thinking that we, especially Women, can be multifaceted.” He fixed his eyes on a future target and quietly but firmly said, “Like a precious stone, every facet has a story to tell and one unique way to shine. It is up to you to have a close look at it and see how beautiful it can be.”
“Are there collaborators and/or resources that we need to make this happen?” I asked. Aymeric nodded. “I would say that everyone’s voice counts. There needs to be some key ingredients to push our agenda forward.” He counted out 2 fingers, “First, openness and willingness to challenge the status quo. Second, it requires accountability and responsibility to turn the nice slogans into actions beyond March 8th. Being part of the INSEAD community, I am glad to see the efforts made by the entire school to call for action and push for progress.”
In closing, Aymeric left us with this pragmatic truth: “Ultimately, this is a journey and we need everyone to embark with us to be successful in our quest of a better world.”
Thank you, Aymeric, for sharing your time with us.
Li Lian Liew EMBA’13Dec – President INSEAD Alumni Club Women in Business
In support of International Women’s Day, Li Lian Liew EMBA’13Dec, President of the INSEAD Alumni Club Women in Business, captured some thoughts on IWD from Jaz Athenia Chua TIEMBA’16Jan, Business Operations Director, Growth Markets, Paypal, and current President of the Association.
“Hmm, that’s a good question,” mused Jaz, her eyes twinkling, as I asked her what experiences made her the Jaz that we know now. “I think I was fortunate to grow up in Singapore,” she said, after some thought. “Here, we are quite lucky – I never felt that my gender got in the way of competing against boys.”
Jaz was a math whizz, who took Additional Mathematics in middle school years, and often tutored her peers. On top of her school work, she developed a strong personality and discipline, as an alumnus of Hwa Chong Institution, National University of Singapore, and later INSEAD. This would stand her well.
“INSEAD was an eye opener,” she shared. The diversity of background, ethnicities and ways of thinking opened up her perspectives. However, “going international” had its own quirks. Classmates from all over the world saw gender differently. She began to appreciate how women were treated differently from men in different cultures, from very conservative norms where female classmates’ opinions were ignored, to daily micro-sexisms that were meant to be flattery.
Although she had not grown up in those environments, this sparked Jaz’ passion to change the way things were. This eventually led her to join the INSEAD Women In Business (WiB) Alumni Club in Singapore, and led her to her current presidency.
“Choose To Challenge is close to my heart,” she said. Jaz tapped her finger gently twice on the table, listing the 2 things that she would champion and choose to challenge: unconscious bias and gendered roles. These affected everyone to the detriment of the society they live in. It could colour the way people were hired, the way people perceived themselves as being good enough, the way money and property changed hands, and even national institutions. More than that, it could create an invisible barrier which women had to continuously strain against, just to be on equal footing.
“I support this year’s IWD theme of #choosetochallenge together with our fellow alumni across the world,” Jaz beamed.