Total Rewards Asia Summit 2024 Singapore
human resources online

Advice from 12 women leaders on overcoming career challenges

"Always believe in yourself", "don't pretend to be what you are not", "dream bigger" - these are just some of the nuggets of advice that women leaders would share with their younger selves if given the opportunity.

In this fourth part of our 16-part series, see what advice women leaders such as Singapore’s Minister for Manpower, Josephine Teo, Linda Teo of ManpowerGroup Singapore, Rhonda Wong of Ohmyhome, and many more would give to their younger selves.

Julie Tay, Senior Vice President and Managing Director, Asia Pacific at Align Technology

I am proud to be a part of Align Technology, a company that celebrates women leaders and inspires female professionals. My professional journey has been both challenging and fulfilling which has made me feel accomplished and empowered.

To other women leaders:

I would encourage you to always be confident and believe in yourself, despite obstacles that may come your way.
And believe that it is possible to balance family life, kids and a great professional career.

Deborah Ho, Head of Southeast Asia, BlackRock

Always believe in yourself and the possibilities – the noise and the obstacles are going to be there but don’t let them get in the way of your conviction, and work towards it tirelessly.

Mei-kwei Barker, Country Director, British Council

There’s no limit to the number of people giving their opinions on what you should or shouldn’t do, but remember to listen to yourself, have confidence in your gut feeling.
And build your network of mentors, mentees and champions, both men and women, who will help you hear this voice more clearly.

Sumithra Gomatam - President, Digital Operations, Cognizant

I would tell my younger self to be more fearless in seizing every moment. I never waited for life to happen through my personal and professional evolution and never let societal stereotypes come in the way of my aspirations and dreams.

I would suggest an even more concerted effort at diversifying my skills and building a network of people to further hone my potential as a leader.

I would remind myself that there is no one single way to accomplish anything and that one's success is as much a function of one's individuality and instincts as of the opportunities one creates for oneself.

Noryate Abdul Rahman, Cargo Manager at Emirates Singapore

I would advise my younger self to be independent, accept challenges with an open mind, and be confident about expressing creativity at work. Every day is a new day, so seize the moment and learn as much as you can!

Tan Siok Peng, Senior Vice President Finance, Exyte Asia-Pacific

The one message I would convey is, be true to yourself, stand firm and don't pretend to be what you are not.
It is inevitable that we encounter up’s and down’s; ultimately we must be able to pull ourselves up and keep running. Instead of spending time looking at the glass ceiling that may or may not be there, focus the time on getting the job done well.

Lastly, we should take personal responsibility to encourage and share the same philosophy with the people around us, and be able to influence them positively.

Minal Jagtiani, Co-Founder of LeadThink and When Change Happens...A Story of Organisational Transformation

"Invest in a coach and seek a mentor!” That would be advice-to-self. 
Due to the lack of awareness of my strengths and talents, I would employ the services a coach to make me realise my potential.  In my case, it is not about busting the glass ceiling but pointing a looking glass at me for unravelling myself to me.

Linda Teo, Country Manager, ManpowerGroup Singapore

As a working mother with three children, I used to question when I’ll be ready to take on a bigger role at work without compromising my duty as a mother, only to recognise that the perfect timing is non-existent.
We need to believe in our ability to succeed and never let our self-doubt hinder our career growth.

Rhonda Wong, CEO and co-founder of Ohmyhome

Dream bigger, believe deeper and reach further. At times when you think your body is tired, know that it is much stronger than you think, you just don’t know it yet.
Strive towards that excellence where the strength of your mind can push through all obstacles. That’s when you become unstoppable.

Vivien Li, Director of Human Resources, Quest Technology Systems Singapore

Be bold and trust yourself.

If you have a clear vision of what success looks like and you’re working hard getting closer to the goal every day, you need to give yourself an injection of confidence and recognition from time to time.

Waiting for the acknowledgement of others by pleasing people is not going to help you reach success. Trust your ability, your values, and your work ethics will help you realise your potential.
Notes:Quest Technology Systems Singapore is an adopter of the Tripartite Standard on Recruitment PracticesTripartite Standard on Employment of Term Contract EmployeesTripartite Standard on Flexible Work Arrangements, and Tripartite Standard on Grievance Handling.Employers who need guidance to implement diversity policies can refer to TAFEP’s “Creating an Inclusive Workplace: A Start-Up Kit” for more details.

Bonus: Inputs from Standard Chartered Bank’s International Women’s Day breakfast event

Josephine Teo, Minister for Manpower, Republic of Singapore
I would say that the future is brighter than this, if you care to create it.
I believe it for Singapore today, and I believe it next year.

Ayesha Khanna, Co-Founder and CEO, ADDO AI

I would tell myself to be entrepreneurial at a younger age. When I graduated from Harvard I just went to New York and I joined Wall Street. It was a great experience, but I always wanted to build my own company. I failed at many, I built many, and I started software engineering in part of my training.

Early on, I think I was a bit afraid of failing. Over the years, as I got older, I became less fearful. I wish I had told myself: "It's ok, you should just go ahead and start something and find the right team around you."
If I think about the times where I failed, it was when I did it alone, and the times where I succeeded are when I've got the right people around me. So every success I can now attribute to the people who I've got together around me. I wish I've known that and be less egotistical.

Group photo at Standard Chartered Bank's IWD breakfast event From L-R: Patrick Lee, Chief Executive Officer, Singapore, Standard Chartered Bank; Josephine Teo, Minister for Manpower, Republic of Singapore; Manisha Tank, award-winning journalist, CNN; Simon Cooper, Chief Executive, Corporate, Commercial & Institutional Banking, Standard Chartered Bank; Deborah Ho, Managing Director and Head of South East Asia, BlackRock; Ayesha Khanna, Co-Founder and CEO, ADDO AI. Photo by Standard Chartered Bank.

This is just the fourth article in our 16-part series focusing on women leadership, and bridging the gap in gender diversity in organisations. Stay tuned for more!

Part 1: Pearls of wisdom: Career advice from women leaders to their younger selves

Part 2: IWD2019 special: How CDL, Mars Inc, Standard Chartered Bank, and more are building balanced workplaces

Part 3: How leaders across Asia are taking responsibility to advocate a gender-balanced society

Part 5: 10 D&I initiatives that some of Asia’s most successful employers do

Part 6: If you could meet your younger self, what career advice would you give?

Part 7: ‘Don’t be afraid to be different’: Career advice from leaders across Asia

Part 8: 13 ways leaders like yourself can make an impact on gender equality

Part 9: How-To: 10 ideas you can adopt to help #BalanceForBetter

Part 10: Take a leaf out of these 10 women leaders’ career diary

Part 11: Action for change: How leaders from BASF, Emirates, Henkel, and more are taking responsibility for D&I

Part 12: Interviews with AXA Insurance, Cisco, HP, Roland Berger, and more on D&I issues

Part 13: #BalanceForBetter: Equal pay for equal work, meritocracy approach, and more

Part 14: Building diversity isn’t an HR role: How leaders across the board invest time into it

Part 15: [Watch] Nuggets of wisdom: 10 women leaders share career advice to their younger selves

Part 16: Be fearless and fight for your right: Tips for overcoming career challenges

Photo / 123RFPhoto caption: From L-R: Linda Teo, Country Manager, ManpowerGroup Singapore; Vivien Li, Director of Human Resources, Quest Technology Systems Singapore; and Rhonda Wong, CEO and co-founder of Ohmyhome.

Follow us on Telegram and on Instagram @humanresourcesonline for all the latest HR and manpower news from around the region!

Related topics

Related articles

Free newsletter

Get the daily lowdown on Asia's top Human Resources stories.

We break down the big and messy topics of the day so you're updated on the most important developments in Asia's Human Resources development – for free.

subscribe now open in new window