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Dr. Maren Schweizer, CEO of Schweizer World

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Dr Maren Schweizer is revolutionsing the automotive industry and believes Singapore is at the forefront of automotive innovation.

What’s your story?
From an early age I was fascinated with aviation and eventually decided to follow my dream of earning a pilot’s license while pursuing my engineering degree. I joined private jet company Dassault Falcon Service in Paris after my studies as a sales director and as an aviation captain. I learned so much working for Dassault: Understanding the differences and needs of our target markets, restructuring and growing a company. In 2005, I joined the family business. Success didn’t come easy, and we had to adapt quickly to change and evolve our business mindset to survive. Since then, the company has grown into a global tech company focused on revolutionising the automotive industry.

What excites you most about your industry?
Disruptive, technology-driven trends that are already on the horizon, creating new challenges and opportunities for the automotive industry. The industry is working furiously to adapt to these changes and it’s definitely going to be an interesting ride.

What’s your connection to Asia?
As a child my parents brought me to Singapore, where my father had started his joint venture Pentex-Schweizer. I will never forget my first shopping mall experience in Singapore. We visited a Chinese pharmacy in People’s Park, Chinatown to buy a tub of Tiger Balm. For many years thereafter, I was in Singapore twice a year and fell in love with the fast-paced, exciting environment which has inspired many aspects of my life. I really couldn’t get Singapore out of my head and moved here four years ago with my children.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore, obviously!

It maintains its edge as an innovation-driven economy. Singapore will slowly but surely become the Silicon Valley of Asia.

Autonomous cars will transform the passenger experience. Passengers will get to kick back while vehicles drive them to their destinations. Singapore is at the forefront of the move to driverless cars primarily because it has a strong ecosystem needed for these type of innovations to thrive.

To sustain this momentum and retain pole position as an innovation hub, the city-state needs to continually ramp up its efforts in:
IoT – the future of automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies
R&D – on elements, devices and functions required to support self-driving capabilities
AI ecosystem – large corporations have in-house Artificial Intelligence departments, SMEs can use crowdsourcing platforms to get secure, customised AI solutions.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
My father and grandfather told me as a kid that it is important to focus on a win-win for everybody in a company. Focus on the people that work with you. Make employees and their families happy and they will contribute to making our customers happy and the company successful. I believe in the importance of working for a company also benefits your private life as well.

Who inspires you?
Winston Churchill. He once said; “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” He was a great leader and managed to bridge the gap and reconcile the differences between communities in conflict. Also, Oscar Wilde who said; “Be yourself, everybody else is taken.” We need to have the courage and commitment to be our authentic self – to stay in alignment with who and what we really are.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
My unexpected “promotion” from CEO to DEO in February this year and joining the club of “Dismissed Executive Officers.” I’ve embraced it as just another test of character and see it as life offering me a new path of possibilities and choices.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would have focussed on finding myself earlier and adjusting my choices and decisions accordingly.

How do you unwind?
I look for inspiration. I love going for walks, people-watching, discovering new places. I also read a lot and love creating mashups of electronic songs during long-haul flights.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
The Maldives. I have wonderful memories as a teenager. It was here that I started scuba diving at the age of 15 and where I experienced feeding the sharks. Little did I know I would be in a corporate shark tank later in my life.

Everyone in business should read this book:
“Good to Great” by Jim Collins and “Stumbling on Happiness” by Daniel Gilbert

Shameless plug for your business:
Trading as family-run businesses with a long tradition since 1849, we are geared towards sustainable, long-term success. Our expertise is in restructuring, corporate finance, International M&A and Succession. Our services connect the world and will help you change the way you do business.

How can people connect with you?
LinkedIn: https://sg.linkedin.com/in/dr-schweizer
http://www.schweizer.world

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

Callum Connects

Ee Ling, Co-founder & CEO of Smarter Me

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Ee Ling, co-founder and CEO of Smarter Me, took a leap of faith to pursue the startup route. She is using her life learnings to better prepare the next generation for the technology-charged future.

What’s your story?
I’m Ee Ling, co-founder and CEO of Smarter Me, an edtech company. Before this, I was an Investment Banker for almost a decade, clocking 100-hour work weeks working on transactions in South East Asia. I loved every bit of it – the intensity, challenges and endless learning.
When I became a VP, I started covering the technology, consumer and retail industries – and it struck me – how much technology could improve daily lives and solve real-life problems which we have always taken as the status quo. Specifically, I was more and more convinced of the vast potential of using technology to solve real-life parenting challenges.
So in 2016, I took a leap of faith and quit investment banking to pursue the startup route!

What excites you most about your industry?
For decades and centuries, education has remained largely unchanged. The subjects taught in our parents’ generation are the same as those being taught today to our children. Yes, some schools are adopting more technology – apps and hardware – than others, and Singapore was recently ranked as being at the forefront of preparing kids for jobs of the future. But there’s still a lot to evolve and change.
The majority of children still do not have the opportunity to learn coding, robotics, entrepreneurship and digital art – key “hard skills” for the fourth industrial revolution. Beyond that, what I’m super passionate about is helping kids understand their purpose and goal in life, to discover themselves. I’m so excited about the changes that can take place in education, it’s just dependent on how open we are to driving and embracing such changes.

What’s your connection to Asia?
Asia is home. I was born and bred in Malaysia, and moved to Singapore almost 7 years ago.

 

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore, without a doubt. The Government’s support for innovation and startups is immense, coupled with a strong infrastructure that makes almost everything possible. But if any opportunity presents itself, I would also try setting up a business in Hong Kong. It’s another melting pot of cultures and simply bustling with action.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Run your own race. Most of us grew up working towards a future that was defined by our parents (who wanted only the best for us) and shaped by society around us – but what happens then is that we do it not for ourselves, but for the recognition and validation from others.
Now I ask myself, what race am I running? I should re-define what success means to
me, and let that be the guiding principle to all my actions. It doesn’t matter what naysayers say, as long as I hold true to myself.

Who inspires you?
It may sound like a cliché, but this goes to my husband and my kids. His ‘everything is possible’ mindset has pushed me to explore business directions and my own personal development far beyond my comfort zone. Before we started this entrepreneurship journey together, I had serious doubts about the success of working with one’s spouse. We were such opposites. But I’ve come to realise that he compliments me professionally, and challenges me to be the better version of myself.
My kids also inspire me. Parenting is tough! In order to be able to guide them, I find myself needing to grow more and develop myself further and that has motivated me to keep learning.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I’ve recently discovered Mindvalley. There are so many teachings by global thought leaders there that have blown me away. I am inspired by these life educators including Vishen Lakhiani, Robin Sharma, Jon Butcher and so many more. They are able to inspire individuals and enact changes in mindsets and lifestyle, and to make individuals more in tune with themselves. These are the true changemakers and they have inspired me to embark on the journey of inspiring young children.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Nothing. I believe everything happens for a reason at the right time, and I value the experience and knowledge that I have gained through my banking days.
If there’s just one thing, it would be that I would have taken up more personal mastery courses and kept growing myself. I was too busy being busy back then.

How do you unwind?
This one’s easy. I love reading a book in bed as my pre-bedtime routine.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
I would have to say Japan and Bali. To me, a good holiday is defined by the food I had – so Japan wins hands down in that aspect. But Bali is the epitome of relaxation, whether you choose to be hanging out on a cliff, by the beach, or in a paddy field, and coupled with the wide variety of quality food options – ranging from local Balinese food to hipster cafes. Bali also holds a special place in my heart as it’s where I got married!

Everyone in business should read this book:
I know quite a few have said this, but I have to go with ‘Start With Why’ by Simon Sinek. I think it’s vital to not just understand your ‘ikigai’, your “Why do I get up in the morning,” on a personal level, but also learning how to apply it to your business and communicate it to your employees and customers. It’s quite the game changer. (I’m still reading his new one – Leaders Eat Last). I also like Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger, which sheds light on what makes things go viral.

Shameless plug for your business:
Smarter Me was formed to inspire children to discover, grow and live their passion.
We believe that education for children can be more relevant and realistic, to better prepare them for the technology – charged future. We believe that education can be more meaningful when children understand who they are, what their purpose in life is, and why they learn what they learn. We believe in making quality education accessible to all children.
We believe that the children of today are not yet sufficiently exposed to the skillset which they need for the future, and so this year, we will be releasing a series of curated and holistic classes which not only equip children with key skills in coding, robotics and entrepreneurship, but more importantly, with core 21st century skills which will hopefully better prepare them for the future. Do check out our site if you are a parent!

How can people connect with you?
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ee-ling-lim-36ab3a29/
Email: [email protected]

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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Callum Connects

Ng Rongxin, Co-founder of Explorer Junior

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Ng Rongxin started Explorer Junior to nurture a child’s own creativity and learning.

What’s your story?
I believe in education and technology as vehicles for development in the 21st century. Inspired by a speech by Sir Ken Robinson on TEDTalk, “Do Schools kill Creativity?” I started Explorer Junior with two friends, four years ago. We believe that every child is a curious explorer; yet the one-size-fits-all, outcome driven, education system does not optimize the individual’s potential. And that’s how our journey begins. We set out to research, design and develop a set of pedagogy to nurture the curiosity and creativity of every child that comes through our door, enabling them to build confidence and discover their unique interests!

What excites you most about your industry?
It’s so dynamic! The fact the world is changing at an unprecedented rate, means education has to keep up to speed in order to remain relevant. What’s most exciting for me is the challenge to combine good traditional educational practices with modern technology to bring across better learning experiences for the young minds and reach out to more children too.
It’s also invigorating because people in this industry are always so enthusiastic and passionate about what they are doing and they are very willing to share. Interacting and learning from the the industry experts and peers is always inspiring and humbling.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I’m a born and breed Singaporean and grew up in a multi-racial and cultural city.
Since young, my travelling destinations with my family have been in Asia due to the proximity to home – Tokyo in Japan, Taipei in Taiwan, Beijing/Shanghai in China, Bangkok in Thailand.
Currently, I run Explorer Junior in Singapore and Jakarta (Indonesia) and I am looking to expand to other Asian cities.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
I love Singapore because it’s very easy to start a business here. The government policies make barrier of entry to start a business very low and thus easy for one to start a business. And I love Jakarta for its diversity and creativity – the young population there also means a great pool of hardworking talents to work with.
I haven’t really explored other Asian cities long enough though!

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“In life, you have to prioritize.”
This came as an important piece of advice to me because as a young entrepreneur, I was too ambitious and had too much on my plate. Prioritizing forces me to think what was the ultimate goal for my business and decide on what stays on the plate and what goes. This helped to set a strong focus for the business.

Who inspires you?
This is hard, because many people inspire me. But one consistent beacon of light is my grandmother. She’s 84 this year but still wraps “popiah” (this is a Singapore street food) everyday for her hawker stall! What’s more, she spends time to help her immobile neighbour with their daily chores. She’s been a role model to me since a young age and taught me many values such as discipline, endurance and kindness just by being herself.
Another important person would be Sir Ken Robinson. He was the reason I started Explorer Junior, and is still a constant source of wisdom and inspiration to me today.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Devil resides in the details.
Often as the leader of the team, the priority revolves around looking at the big picture and strategic thinking. But recently, I realised that while that remains imperative, success is often determined by execution and that’s when details are crucial. While thinking big, entrepreneurs also need to think small and stay on top of the critical details.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Invest in an air purifier for our old office earlier! The team was taking turns to fall sick during that period of time because of the poor air quality! While it seemed trivial, it was a timely reminder back then to spend time and effort in building a conducive (not just physical but also cultural) working environment for our team.

How do you unwind?
Spending time with family, playing badminton, listening to music and reading.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Taiwan. I love the rich culture and there’re just so much to explore – nature, culture, history and food! It’s also a place with awesome bookstores (even 24 hours operating one) holding a huge range of Chinese books. I love Chinese literature and read them for leisure. The titles they have are 10 times more than what we have here in Singapore!

Everyone in business should read this book:
The Lean Startup by Eric Ries – Timeless classic.

Shameless plug for your business:
If there’s only one enrichment program you want to send your child to, it’s us.

How can people connect with you?
https://www.linkedin.com/in/ng-rong-xin/ or [email protected]

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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