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

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“Don’t be afraid to be different”, “persevere and overcome whatever challenges are ahead of you”, and “your work, knowledge and performance earn you respect” – these are just some of the nuggets of advice that women leaders would share with their younger selves if given the opportunity.

In this seventh part of our 16-part series, see what advice women leaders such as Manuela Dragomir of ING, Barkha Jasani of Quadrant, Toh Mong Sah of Wipro Unza Malaysia, and many more would give to their younger selves.


Yuko Nakahira, Managing Director, 3M Singapore

Having started my career in 3M Japan in R&D where I stayed for eight years, I would have made my move into business and stepped out of Japan much earlier to accelerate my learning curve.

This would have increased my exposure to different learning opportunities and leadership styles.


Aileen Tang, Head of Marketing, ASEAN, Japan and Korea, Commvault

Success stems from the strength of self and situational awareness.

As you climb the ladder, place the team above yourself – people are the greatest assets you can have, especially when change is a constant. Take care of your team, and they will take care of the business, and you. 

Showing vulnerability as a leader is never wrong, this is when connections are made and strengthened.


Dorothy Yiu, Co-Founder and COO of EngageRocket

Don’t lament so much about what others think of you. If you give them the power to build you up, they’ll have the same power to break you down.

Give yourself permission to be afraid but feel the fear and do it anyway. What you will most definitely find on the other side of that fear, is growth.


Manuela Dragomir, Regional Head of HR for Asia-Pacific, ING

Don’t be afraid to be different. Don’t be afraid to show you are vulnerable. Don’t be afraid to speak up. Don’t be afraid to be yourself. Courage doesn’t have any gender.

Liu Lu, Co-Founder & Chief Operating Officer, JustCo

Savor the small joys, celebrate milestones that mean something to you no matter how small, and enjoy them every step of the way. Never compare yourself to others, but also never give up competing against yourself.

Dr Shireen Henry, MyDoc’s Clinical Operations Director

Don’t focus on your weaknesses and spend all your time trying to improve your weak points. It’s more effective to identify and play to your own strengths or talents.

Your weakness or potential shortcomings may be the strength or talent found in another team member, so it’s ok!

I use the example of writing – if you are right handed, you have a much better chance of improving your handwriting in your right hand opposed to teaching your left hand to write better. Your left hand will never be as good as the right – no matter how much you train or practise, but with training and practice your right hand can learn to write even more beautifully! (This analogy excludes the truly ambidextrous people, of course.)


Barkha Jasani, Director of Engineering at Quadrant

As a leader I always have a million and one ideas that I want to do particularly around the location data space and blockchain. Patience is needed, though, and when things don’t go to plan, don’t give up!

Persevere and overcome whatever challenges are ahead of you.

Arlene Wherrett, VP & Managing Director, Sage Asia

I would say – you go girl!

During the 80s, when starting my career – the pressure on women to ‘do it all’ was tremendous. While I did manage to juggle career, relationships, graduate studies, children, volunteering and moving countries – if I had to do it over again – I would want to be a bit gentler with myself – knowing that I could ‘do it all’ over time, instead of all at once.

Rather than focusing on ‘fixing the women’, men and women alike must change their mindsets and truly recognise and appreciate the benefits of diversity and inclusion.


Malina Platon, Managing Director of ASEAN at UiPath

Keep learning, be positive, always have an open heart and mind, wear your passion on your sleeves! Trust your dreams fiercely and work relentlessly for make them happen!

Life is a continuous journey of professional and personal learning experiences, shaping us towards the best version of ourselves.


Jasie Fon, General Manager, ASEAN at Workday

I would remind myself to pursue my ambitions with tenacity and not let other people’s perceptions deter me from becoming the best that I can be.

As long as I have faith in myself, I’d be able to step outside of my comfort zone and be capable of conquering the impossible.


Toh Mong Sah, Head of Research & Development, Wipro Unza Malaysia

Your work, knowledge and performance earn you respect. It is important to bear in mind that in order to gain respect from others, we need to ensure that we are performing well ourselves.

We need to build credibility through our work with solid grounding. It is also important to be inclusive when working with others and continuously encourage and support them in their work to gain their trust and respect.


We still have nine more parts to our 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 4: Advice from 12 women leaders on overcoming career challenges

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 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



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