From The Straits Times    |

Image: Lynette Seow, Artwork: Jane Tan

Do you like your job? Or wonder what it would be like if you’d gone against your parents’ advice and pursued your dream career? Her World’s Career Confessions column spotlights the professional journeys of its subjects and reveals how each individual’s career path and the choices they have made can have an impact on their personal finances, psychological health, and interpersonal relationships.

If you love what you’re doing, you will most likely excel at it. That was the advice that Lynette Seow’s parents gave her when she was growing up.

“I grew up in an environment where my parents emphasised finding a job I love. You’ll also enjoy doing something that you’re going to be spending a significant amount of your life working on,” says the co-founder of Safe Space, a local start-up that aims to improve access to mental health services in Singapore.

Despite earning a five-figure monthly salary at the time, Lynette had no qualms about trading her high-paying job with a global consulting firm to focus on building Safe Space in 2020. The 31-year-old had been a business consultant for about seven years before she decided to make the switch.

“I always knew I wanted to get into entrepreneurship, but decided to go into tech consulting in an MNC right after graduation to get some corporate experience,” she shares.

Safe Space is an online platform that connects users to a pool of professional clinical therapists offering both digital and face-to-face counselling sessions, as well as a directory of resources – from webinars to informative articles – on mental health. These services are available on the Safe Space iPhone and Android apps too.

Together with CEO Antoinette Renee Patterson, Lynette currently leads a team of 20 full-time employees. The company also collaborates with an advisory panel that includes entrepreneur Elim Chew, and Georgette Tan, president at local non-profit United Women Singapore.

While it seems like Lynette’s on her way to achieving her dream of closing the gap for mental health treatments in Singapore, her journey today is even more challenging than you might think. On top of working full-time on Safe Space, Lynette is also pursuing her master’s in business administration at the MIT Sloan School of Management in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Just imagine attending a full day of rigorous classes in entrepreneurial management and financial modelling, before coming back to your apartment at 8pm to work through 4am – and doing it all over again the next day.

Lynette, however, has no regrets. “I’m very passionate about mental health, and I’m very grateful that I get to make a real change and help people get access to quality mental healthcare,” she says.

Here, Lynette shares more about how discovering her passion for improving mental health access has changed her life.

Name: Lynette Seow
Highest Education: Master of Technology, Master of Business Administration (in progress)
Job Title & Industry: Co-founder/COO of Safe Space, Medical Technology
Years of Work Experience: 7 years
Salary: $3,000 – $5,000

How did you come to co-found Safe Space?

I actually started out as a volunteer with Safe Space. I had reached a point in my career where I was ready to explore [working with] start-ups, and I also knew that I wanted to be in the mental healthcare industry. So I reached out to our co-founder Antoinette in mid-2020 and became a product volunteer. My job scope involved translating business requirements into technical specifications for our engineering team. We worked so well together that after six months, she asked me to be her co-founder.

Is this truly the career path that you envisioned for yourself?

I’d imagined my career going in a similar direction, but I didn’t expect to enjoy the process and the people so much. My previous jobs had always been intellectually stimulating, but now it’s also soul satisfying. Seeing testimonials from clients whom we’ve been able to help – and knowing that the work we do has real impact – is very fulfilling.

Would you change anything about your job?

It’s been an incredible journey, and I continue to find it exciting every day. It’s tough, for sure, and you’re constantly navigating ambiguous situations with imperfect information, but that’s part of the fun for me. One challenge now is that I’m also studying in the US, so the time zone difference and physical distance mean that I don’t get to spend as much time with my team in Singapore. Still, we try our best, and I’ve been able to build a good rapport with them.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

I love meeting people who love what they do, and it’s very energising to speak with them. One person’s success doesn’t take anything away from your own successes, so if there’s any kind of comparison, it’s mainly to learn the things that I can apply to my own journey. I also recognise that it’s not easy to find a calling that you’re truly passionate about. It’s even harder to find one that can give you some form of financial sustenance. But the trade-off between the volatility and a steady paycheck is worth it to me in order to be able to do what I love every day.

What advice would you share with your younger and future self?

I would tell my younger self that “you’re in for a wild ride and it’s going to be tough, fun and madly rewarding”. At one point, I did feel a bit lost in my career trajectory, but serendipity kicked in and it’s been amazing ever since. Regardless of how things pan out in the future, I would tell my future self to “be proud of the decisions you’ve made”.

Do you have tips for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

Being conscious of your own mental health and that of the people around you is something I only learnt later in my career. However, it’s made such a big difference in how I interact with people because I’m less worried about what they think of me – I can be more authentic and genuine with them, which is an approach that is often reciprocated.