They may come from different industries and diverse backgrounds, but the eight mentors with Her World’s inaugural Mentorship Programme have plenty in common: For one, they are keen to lend their insights and advice from their own journeys.
Many of them have also had non-linear career paths, sometimes taking leaps of faith to land their biggest breakthroughs. Others have struggled with being the only woman in the room, or juggling the realities of being a mother, wife, and daughter. We hear from our mentors directly, and learn how the power of mentorship has helped in their own careers.
Pui Yan Leung, Partner at Vertex Ventures
Pui Yan is currently a partner at Vertex Ventures Southeast Asia and India, an early-stage venture capital funding platform, but she wasn’t always in the venture capitalism space. In fact, when she first graduated with an engineering degree from the National University of Singapore, she immediately joined a telecom company as an engineer as “it felt like an obvious choice” then.
After a couple of years, she found herself stuck in a career rut. Career shifts can be intimidating for anyone, and it was also something that she struggled with, says Pui Yan. “At first, I naively believed that because I graduated as an engineer, I had to stick with it. I was also afraid that if I left to try something different and failed, it would therefore mean I wasn’t good enough.”
Her turning point came when she realised that she could easily switch roles internally with the support of her supervisor and HR team. It marked a light-bulb moment for her: “I realised that, sometimes, all I needed to do was reach out to others to share my struggles, and the solutions to my problems may come easier than expected.”
After spending a decade taking on different operating roles in a large enterprise, she once again switched gears to pursue venture capital and corporate innovation for the next phase of her career.
What do you hope to achieve as a mentor?
I have been very fortunate to have crossed paths with formal and informal mentors who have been generous with their time with me, for no reason other than to support my personal and professional growth. They have helped me with my self-discovery journey as well as addressing my blind spots.
Besides hoping to do the same for someone else by paying it forward, I believe this experience will also help me to reflect on my own experience, and expose me to new perspectives.
What’s the most significant turning point in your career?
Eight years ago, I switched from being an enterprise operator to a venture capitalist. This occurred after I had spent time being posted overseas and realised that I had strong interest in the start-up ecosystem, and could become a good partner to founders by leveraging my operating and business planning experience.
I learnt that it was not easy switching career paths because you have to unlearn almost everything you knew, and rebuild your skills, networks and reputation in the new field. You’d need a good mix of grit, wit, patience, luck and, of course, friends and mentors to get you through.
What’s the best advice your personal mentors have given you?
I worked with Edward Ying, who ran Singtel’s TV and digital business as the chief of its Multimedia Group, as his business manager for almost three years. I had a front-row seat in witnessing what it took to be an effective business leader – the intensity of dealing with fierce and brutal market competition, the hard choices and trade-offs, the challenges in dealing with demands from multiple stakeholders, and the need to lead with vision and continuously motivate the team.
And he did it all with a sense of humour. He always reminded us not to be overly theoretical and academic in the way we problem-solved, but instead to make decisions based on the practical situation before us.
What advice would you share with someone who’s switching careers?
Ask yourself why you’d like to do so and be honest with yourself. Do your homework on the best and worst case scenarios if you do take the plunge, and decide if you can live with these outcomes. Once you’ve made your decision, be at peace with your choice and stay committed.
Do you have any tips for our mentees?
Action is always better than inaction. But always do your homework to minimise foolish mistakes.
About the Her World Mentorship Programme
Whether you’re just starting out or at a crossroads in your career, Her World’s Mentorship Programme connects mentees with influential women who are leaders in their respective fields. Besides professional development, one stands to build valuable connections as well as gain professional insight and female support from this peer community.
PHOTOGRAPHY Veronica Tay
ART DIRECTION Adeline Eng
STYLING ASSISTANCE Lena Kamaruddin
HAIR & MAKEUP Aung Apichai / Artistry, using Shu Uemura & Kevin Murphy; Benedict Choo, using Laura Mercier