From The Straits Times    |

In a world where talent is everywhere but opportunity isn’t, mentors can provide guidance and support, cultivate confidence, and share their knowledge to help foster growth in a positive direction. This is why Her World launched its mentorship programme this year. At its core, the inaugural programme connects mentees with influential women who are leaders in their respective fields.

The pairing process started late last year. We shortlisted eight mentors, extraordinary women who have overcome obstacles, and are keen to pay it forward by sharing their knowledge, and paired them with 11 mentees.

Mentor Puiyan Leung, partner at Vertex Ventures SE Asia and India, and her mentee Charlene Sim, founder of Glowfully, tell us about their experience together.

Puiyan Leung

What was your impression of each other? 

Puiyan Leung (PYL): I could sense soon after we met that Charlene was intentional and sincere about the mentorship journey. She came prepared with a list of questions and thoughtfully brought up relevant topics while I was sharing about my own personal and professional experience. I enjoyed our first conversation very much.

Charlene Sim (CS): I remember the first session I had with Pui Yan. I arranged a follow-up session with her really quickly, right after our initial pairing at the launch at The Great Room. We had a session near her office. I shared with her the goals I would love to achieve for Glowfully and also for myself.

As a mom, I’m always struggling between going full throttle for the business or allocating certain time for my kids. She shared some valuable insights on how I should navigate this. It was a one-hour session, and she advised me on certain business strategies to explore if I wish to have more time for personal goals. As I mentioned, there’s no right or wrong answer, but if I really want to go full scale and bring in investors, she suggested targeting specific individuals or groups and advised on the approach I should take.

How have you witnessed Charlene’s growth and progress during the mentorship? 

PY: Founders like Charlene frequently have to – based on limited information – make strategic choices that may potentially change the entire trajectory of the business. More often than not, there are no right answers.

So far, Charlene and I have covered a range of topics including fundraising, market expansion and hiring. One of the qualities I appreciate most about Charlene is that, regardless of her pre-existing assumptions and prior experience, she has remained open-minded to explore and iterate on new ideas and directions, even if some of these are not within her immediate comfort zone.

While it may be too soon to quantify progress over a short few months, I am quite confident that Charlene will continue to develop professionally in her own way and I am happy to have contributed in my small way to her journey.

How did the mentorship impact your own personal and professional development, and what did you learn from Charlene?

PY: First of all, I always have immense admiration for founders, and Charlene is no exception. Beyond having a clear vision, to build companies that last, founders must possess a good balance of grit, optimism, realism and execution capabilities. 

Charlene and I are also mothers to young children. As I am navigating my own personal and professional growth, it is inspiring to meet and exchange notes with women leaders who share similar backgrounds.

Charlene has remained open-minded to explore and iterate on new ideas and directions, even if some of these are not not within her immediate comfort zone.

Puiyan Leung

What specific goals or objectives did you set at the beginning of the mentorship, and were they achieved?

CS: As much as I have great ambitions globally, a part of me always struggles with the fact that I don’t have enough time, especially when my husband, who is also an entrepreneur, is frequently away from home. It’s hard for the kids. So, I try to make it work by allocating specific time of the week just for them. However, I also understand that by doing this, it means I have a little less time to dedicate to work. So, I’m still trying to find a sweet spot in managing both aspects. Yeah, where it’s not like, “You can take your time,” but rather finding a way that works best for us. There’s no one method that will fit everyone.

Are there plans for continued interactions?

PY: Goes without saying.

CS: In terms of future sessions, I will assess if there’s anything urgent that needs immediate attention. Otherwise, I will consolidate my questions into one session, maybe once every four to five months, taking into consideration her schedule. For trivial matters, we can reach out to each other through texts or emails, which has been the case so far. Sometimes, I have questions and I ask for her view or opinion on how I should navigate a particular path or handle certain situations.

Apart from working with your mentor, how else has the Her World mentorship programme helped you?

CS: When I shared about the mentorship programme on my social media, many of my friends started coming to me, asking how I reached out to find a mentor. They know that I’m an entrepreneur and no longer working for someone else, so they were curious about who my mentor was and how I found one. They asked if there is a specific programme or if there are societies or associations where they can apply for mentorship. There is a lot of interest among women and even young working adults in finding mentors.

For Puiyan:

HAIR & MAKEUP Aung Apichai / Artistry, using Shu Uemura & Kevin Murphy; Benedict Choo, using Laura Mercier

For Charlene:

PHOTOGRAPHY Phyllicia Wang and Lawrence Teo
HAIR & MAKEUP Benedict Choo using Chanel & Victoria Hwang