We hear women say it all the time. “I want to do things better”, “I want to look like myself but better”, “I want to be a better person”.
There could be many reasons behind this never-ending push for self-improvement. Sometimes, it stems from a desire to hit higher standards. Sometimes, it’s wanting to make a difference in the lives of others. Or it could be a belief that we should always be learning and evolving. But one thing’s for sure – it’s a tough thing to do, and even tougher to keep up.
We speak to four highly accomplished women – all whizzes in their chosen field – on how they pull it off.
Co-founder and CEO of artificial intelligence solutions firm ADDO AI
There aren’t many women in the field of artificial intelligence. How did you get into it?
I worked in applied mathematics and computer science for many years, including 12 years on Wall Street. When I came to Singapore, I saw there was a big gap in the market for helping companies use big data and artificial intelligence to optimise their operations, automate and expand their market base. So, I started my company. We’ve had a lot of success with some very large clients in Asia. Now, we’re expanding to the US and the Middle East.
What has your work taught you about yourself?
That I like working with people a lot. I love that technology is about collaboration. It’s about problem-solving for people.
What challenges did you face to get to where you are now?
The biggest challenge is getting used to hearing “no”. For every one project that you win, you hear a hundred “nos”. It’s a challenge to remain positive.
So how do you cope?
I’m very optimistic and I don’t fear failure. I think that’s my main strength. You tried something, it didn’t work out, so you learn from that experience and try something else.This fearlessness has helped me a great deal.
On a personal level, what would you like to be better at?
As a mum, an entrepreneur and a working woman, it’s important to take time out for myself. I love that technology is such a collaborative thing, but there’s a great deal of pleasure in doing something on your own from beginning to end. Right now, I’m writing a book called U+AI. I get into an immersive flow and when I come out, I’m refreshed by that period of deep focus. It’s very meditative and creative.
What kind of changes do you hope to bring about in society?
For me, the most important thing is education. That’s why I have a charity called 21C Girls. We teach girls coding and AI, partnering with Google, IMDA and Saturday Kids to teach thousands of kids coding.
With such a packed schedule, what do you look for in a skincare product?
As I travel often, it needs to work in different kinds of weather. I like something that keeps my skin hydrated, so I can just put on some makeup and it’s easy.
Would a product like Clinique’s Even Better Clinical Radical Dark Spot Corrector + Interrupter fit your needs?
Definitely. I love my dark brown skin, so for me it’s really just about getting an even tone. Whatever your skin colour, having an even complexion is always nice.
And your regular makeup look?
Natural but professional. I do love using makeup – just a little bit will do. It perks your skin up and makes you look fabulous, which then makes for a better work day.
Founder and CEO of Hegen nursing products
What inspired you to start a nursing products company?
Hegen came from a desire to bring about change and create a positive impact for breastfeeding and working mums. After my fourth child, I noticed that breastfeeding mums returning to work faced a lot of challenges. I wondered if we could help mothers combine all their different products into one nursing system that is also sustainable.
What aspect of yourself would you like to improve?
I realise that I daydream a lot, even though speed to market is very important. I’ve learnt through painful experience that when I’m indecisive, our ideas may be materialised by other people first.
So now, I always remind myself to be more decisive and assertive. I tell myself that it’s okay to make mistakes. There is never a right or wrong.
Are there things you wish you did differently?
I’ve accepted making mistakes as learning and learnt not to be too hard on myself. As long as we keep to our principles – no compromise on product safety and quality – and we make decisions based on facts, it will be alright.
We love that you empathise so much with mothers.
Yes, mothers and babies are very close to my heart, which is why we support a shelter called Safe Pace that protects women with unwanted pregnancies. They can stay there or visit for support and counselling. Hegen helps by conducting workshops and breastfeeding talks.
In Singapore, many of us are unaware of women who suffer in silence, like rape victims, abused wives and those who are pregnant out of wedlock. They are really crying out for help and I’m very proud to be part of their support system.
Being such a busy working mum, what’s your beauty routine like?
I’m a very straightforward three-step person – wash, moisturise, sunblock. I like quick-fix products that can do many things.
You’ve tried Clinique’s Even Better Dark Spot Corrector. What do you think?
It’s very light and easy to use, and something I can add to my routine. It’s got antioxidants, so it serves a protective function. And it’s also supposed to block future dark spots, which means it’s good for prevention too.
Chief marketing officer of Gourmet Food Holdings, and founder of women’s financial platform The New Savvy
Tell us a bit about what your work involves.
I’m currently the chief marketing officer for Gourmet Food Holdings, a firm that makes investments in the F&B industry. At the same time, I’m running my start-up, The New Savvy, a financial investment and career platform for women in Asia. We want to empower women to achieve financial happiness.
What made you decide to start The New Savvy?
I was a private banker for 10 years. I’ve always been very interested in finance because I don’t want to live from paycheck to paycheck. My family had difficulties during the Asian financial crisis, so money security has always been important to me.
I’ve always felt that financial education is very lacking. Nobody teaches us how to manage money or have healthy money habits. That was why I started The New Savvy.
Why is it specifically for women?
Women are a very underserved and overlooked market. When I started The New Savvy, many people thought it was a stupid idea. They said women don’t care about finances. I think while they may not care about having 20 per cent returns, they do care about how to protect their loved ones.
Another thing is that financial concepts are usually full of jargon – it’s very boring and technical. I wanted to make them engaging, bite-sized and relevant to women.
Has your work given you insights about yourself?
The hardest thing I learnt during my start-up journey was how to pick myself up – but I also found that I’m very resilient. One and a half years after The New Savvy was started, the site got hacked and the hackers asked for a big ransom. I refused to pay and a week later, they wiped out the entire site. We had over a thousand articles – all gone.
I was very depressed, but couldn’t show my emotions at work. In the end, I decided to rebuild the site and streamline the business.
What aspect of yourself would you like to improve?
Whenever I have to speak in public, I clam up, no matter how I prepare. I grew up in Indonesia, so I only learnt English and Mandarin at age 10. People used to make fun of my accent and I was very insecure. I think improving my speech would give me more confidence and help me get my messages across better.
How would you define success?
I don’t know if it’s ever possible to think of yourself as having succeeded. I always feel I can do better, and there’s always another level to achieve. But on a micro level, success is having daily time for myself, my parents, and the people I love. It’s also having the flexibility to do what I want, and to choose the type of life that I want.
What do you want from your skincare?
I’m a minimalist because I don’t have time, so my skincare has to be efficient. If I don’t see results after a few weeks, I’ll switch products.
What are your thoughts on Clinique’s Even Better Dark Spot Corrector + Interrupter?
It’s good! I don’t even want to share it with my friends. It’s very lightweight, fast to absorb and a good multitasker. It helps even out my complexion and also has antioxidants for skin protection. It slots really easily into my lifestyle.
Dr Elaine Kim
Palliative care doctor and founder of Trehaus School
How did you go from being a doctor to running a preschool business?
After I had my three children, I co-founded a non-profit social enterprise called Crib, a network that empowers women to be successful entrepreneurs. There, I became aware of the challenges they face as working mothers. That inspired me to co-found Trehaus, a co-working office with a nursery where parents could work and have their children looked after just a few steps away.
Then parents started telling us ‘We love it here, but our kids need to go to a proper school. Can you please start one?’. And that’s how Trehaus School came about.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve encountered?
Balancing wanting to be the best mum, the best CEO, and the best everything. We want to excel at them all. But you need to make sure your own needs are met, so that you can better meet the needs of others.
At what point would you feel like you’ve achieved your goal?
It’s definitely an ongoing journey. Right now, I’m content with what I have. I believe there’s no point in constantly striving without being appreciative and thankful. But I’m also striving to be better, to serve others more and make a bigger impact.
What area do you want to bring about the most change in?
The biggest impact I want to leave is in Trehaus School, by raising the next generation to be change-makers who are prepared for the future, and want to make a positive impact.
Tell us a bit about your skincare habits.
My routine is simple and takes just 10 minutes. I cleanse and moisturise, that’s about it. I’m usually out the whole day, so it’s important that what I use is long-lasting and keeps my skin feeling comfortable all day.
What’s your kind of makeup look?
Natural. I usually prefer something with a fresh finish. That’s why a foundation like Clinique’s Even Better Makeup works for me – it’s lightweight, has SPF and keeps me looking fresh until the end of the day.
Follow Clinique on its #EvenBetterYou journey to support and empower women to be the best versions of themselves, and to have the confidence to lead the lives they truly want.
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