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These Words Sabotage Your Promotion




You know those famous last words, right?

Be careful of what you ask for because you may end up getting it?

I started out strong in my career with lots of high hopes about what I could achieve. I enrolled in every training course that was offered, thinking that if I filled my head with concepts about how to get things done,  I would get my promotion. 

My first boss, Brian, a recently promoted eager-to-please-everyone kind of manager, wanted to do great things in our department. I was part of his team and wanted to show him what I could do so I asked what I needed to get to my next promotion.

“Show me what you can achieve!” he told me. Pumped up by the promise of a possible future advancement, I worked my ass off for 2 years running. My performance reviews were the best I had ever have. Even colleagues would come up, out of the blue, to congratulate me.  I felt pumped, happy because I knew what was coming next. 

It was not what I had expected.

My boss got promoted, due to his team’s outstanding results, in good part, thanks in part to my efforts.

Before he left, I asked him for the promotion he had promised.

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Sorry, said Brian, I can’t do anything right now. But I will speak to the new boss who is replacing me so he will reward you as you should be” 

I was gutted. The hardest part was facing people at work. I felt they were sorry for me but no one ever said anything to my face and that only made things worse. For the next 3 months, all I could talk about was: 

– How I could have got that promotion, but my boss… (fill in the blanks!) 

– How I should have got a better position but my boss… (fill in the blanks!) 

– It’s so unfair because my boss… (fill in the blanks!)


Do you see the warning signs? 

I made Brian my manager the prime decision-maker in achieving my goals in life. I essentially gave him the keys to decide what I would achieve or not, I gave him the opportunities to define who I be and when I would advance. He stalled my career but he did not take away my resolve to make it happen.

If you have a great boss great things will happen at work. When your boss is crap, great things can still happen but the way forward needs to be adjusted.

Looking back, I thank Brian, because of him I made a decision that year to move into a another department. I set my sights on getting promoted into a different department because I did not not want to have to prove myself again with the new boss.

So let’s look at where you are currently in your job. Do you use the killer words sometimes? Often? Can’t get those darn words out of your brain? 

I want to, but…

I should have, but…

I could have, but… 

It might have been, but…

How do you feel every time you say something like that to yourself when you speak about your job? Now, imagine the impact these words would create in your mind if you continuously used them to describe what you could have done in your career? 

I changed the way I spoke about myself. It took me a year to adjust my course and this is how I did it. 

These 3 things changed my approach got me closer to my promotion. 

j1em-lnv-eg-jacob-sciacchitanoNumber 1

Never become too comfortable in your job. When we do it so well we become complacent and stop learning. What took us days to achieve we can now do in hours so we have more time on our hands. How do we spend that time is significant for our growth. For example, I asked myself what else could I learn about my current job that would prove to be useful in my new one? What know-how could I leverage?  Who else was skilled who could help me in exchange for my help in their jobs?

I asked people, what is the number one thing that keeps them motivated in their jobs? Almost everyone answered, when they are learning new things. So what kind of new things are happening in your industry that you would like to know more about? What new program can you learn? What articles can you read to help you understand more about your job? What courses are available for you? For example, I approached my HR department and asked them for time to study to prove that I was serious.

Number 2

Before I got promoted, I asked myself, what kind of skills do I need for that next promotion? Up-skilling yourself is the most important factor in moving laterally if you cannot move upwards because you happen to have a “horrible boss”.  Go out and interview co-workers to find out more about their jobs and the kind of skills you require to move to another department. Believe me, Ask them and You Will Receive!

I asked the director of the department I wanted to move into for an interview and I got 5 minutes of her time. I put everything I had in my heart in that conversation. 

The best thing is, she listened, and asked me a few questions. The fact that I was working AND studying cinched it. 

You cringe… I could never do that??! Really? You would be surprised at how passionate people get when they love their work! People love sharing their skills and knowledge, but you will never know that until you step out of your complacency and ASK! That director only gave me 5 minutes of her time but she also suggested that I speak to her assistant for anything else I needed. That got me a foot in the door. 

As an example, this is a possible script when you ask for that interview: “Hi! My name is Shirley, I work in (…) and I love what I’m doing (…)! I am curious to find out more about your department and what you all do, because everyone here only says great things about your team (…). I know you are busy but can I buy you lunch/tea/snack/ so you could spend a few moments to answer a few questions? I’d love to know more!  

Number 3

What is it going to take to shift your mindset from “poor me, my horrible boss does not want to promote me” to “what do I want to achieve in the next 3 months in my job?”  When we view ourselves as victims, and use defeatist words like, I could have, I should have, If only … we are imprinting in our minds that we have no choice BUT to remain where we are. It’s someone else’s fault that we are miserable at work!

This is what I did. I replaced the negative words in my mind, with:

– What else is possible, if I do (…)

– What would it take for me to achieve (…) in the next 3 months? 

– How can I learn/reach/achieve (…)? 

When we use questions that begin with “Why”, our brain tends to pull us back into the past and the merry-go- round-of all our excuses lights up with all its bells and whistles! Questions that begin with “What” and “How” are more empowering as they force our brains to look forward for new options, and options give us choice. When we choose, we move forward. 

I wrote my questions down – pen and paper helps me think better – and came up with some possible options. Then I took one of those possible options and ACTED! Taking swift action creates momentum and once momentum is going, it makes it harder to back down.

For example, pick up that phone and make an appointment to speak to someone TODAY about something you really want to do/learn/know at work. Or even better, get up from your seat, walk down those stairs to the person’s work space and ask them if you could speak to them for a moment and ask for an appointment. 

Miracles happen within our brain when we start walking!

I’d like to to hear from you! 

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Yes I really do, I reply to every email.


Shirley Soodeen - Business Coach Luxury Fashion

Shirley Soodeen – Business Coach Luxury Fashion


Science is the Next Big Thing in Startups



From pharmaceuticals to petrochemical processes: Newcomer companies and investors and investors alike are setting their sights on science. How the start-up scene moves beyond the mobile apps bubble…

For the last two years Silicon Valley analysts and venture capitalists are anticipating the burst of yet another bubble. This time, under the risk are the mobile start-ups which constitute the biggest share of the market. Out of 50 companies listed in Forbes’ “the hottest startup of 2015” (by valuation) only six companies are based on innovations in other-than-mobile area, one company provide cleaning services, while the rest are diverse mobile apps.

Meanwhile many products listed can be barely called innovative. A significant proportion of the listed start-ups are texting apps, apps for people search (starting from business partners to life partners) or delivery services. While those services can definitely facilitate one’s life, in general they differ from their predecessors by only a narrower audience.

Many venture investors expect stagnation if not decrease on the markets, which is why they start to transfer their capitals from start-ups offering customers software to start-ups offering specific solutions for existing businesses. Such companies are expected to demonstrate more stability in the near future.

The Market for Mobile Apps Might be Saturated

Back in 2012 a talented entrepreneur could walk into a venture capitalist’s office, say his startup was a mobile-first solution for pretty much any problem (payments! photos! blogging!), and walk out with a good-size seed investment. “That pitch was enough to get going,” says Roelof Botha, a partner with VC firm Sequoia Capital. “It’s not enough anymore.”

“I think investors are bored with investing in another messaging app. And our idea is crazy enough that it might just work. ”, has declared in 2014 Nadir Bagaveyev a founder of a start-up using 3-D printers to make rocket engines. By 2016 the company attracted investors funding sufficient to launch its first rocket.

Pharma and Biotech Start-Ups in High Demand

Currently the most successful science-based start-ups are the companies offering innovative solutions in the field of pharmaceuticals and biotechnologies. It’s noteworthy that despite the previous revelations and even judicial proceedings the list of the most expensive start-ups still includes Theranos, blood analyzing laboratory, whose story did not descend from the main pages of the global leading media from 2014.

It first amazed the audience with its fantastic take-off and then with its collapse. One of the crucial parts of the success story of this start-up is its fundamental difference from the majority of the services produced in the Silicon Valley. Unlike the others, it was not a story of yet another beautiful gadget for communication or mobile app, but the story of the scientific idea which intended to conquer the world.

The great success stories in other scientific areas are now happening on occasional basis. However certain facts allow to predict that the situation is to change soon. One of such factors is growing interest among the big corporations to attract innovative solutions from outside to develop their businesses.

Given the accelerating pace of scientific and technological development of the world, the activities of internal R & D departments are often turn to be insufficient to ensure stable development of innovative business. Outsourcing of the R&D may become the efficient mechanism to stimulate the growth of the company. And high-tech start-up can certainly benefit from it.

Start-Up Technology for the Petro-Business

In December, 2016 world leading companies in the field of gas processing, petrochemicals and chemicals announced their intentions to enforce their R&D capacities by attracting start-ups. 3M, AkzoNobel, BASF, The Dow Chemical Company, DuPont, Henkel, Honeywell UOP, LG Chem, Linde, Sibur, Solvay and Technip together created a global stage for startups and investors.

“The petrochemicals industry can and must rely on the potential of open innovations to facilitate further inventions and implementation of new solutions in all major application areas, from construction and medicine to packaging and 3D printing. Thanks to the participation of international partners, IQ-CHem is now the largest global project within the industry which attracts innovative solutions and provides for their implementation into practice,” said Vasily Nomokonov, Executive Director of Sibur, a company which coordinates the project.

Positive Experience in Chemicals and Beyond

Some of the listed companies have already gained positive experience in working with start-ups which may have driven them to elaborate a systemic approach to attract innovative companies.

At the beginning of 2016, SIBUR and RRT Global start-up reached an agreement to build a pilot plant for isomerization based on RRT Global technologies in Sibur’s Industrial Park SIBUR “Tolyattisintez”. According to Oleg Giyazov, co-founder and CEO of RRT Global cooperation with a large corporation bring significant advantages to his company.

“By cooperation with Sibur we get a huge industrial experience that enables us to develop technologies and solutions better fitted to the market demand. This advantage is often not given due attention, but we, on the contrary, see significant opportunities in it. Currently, RRT Global cooperates with several companies around the world” he said.

Another petrochemical leader BASF enjoys successful cooperation with Genomatica start-up. In 2013 BASF started the production of 1,4-butanediol based on renewable feedstock (renewable BDO) using Genomatica’s patented process and in 2015 the license was expanded to the Asian market.

Unlike traditional forms of cooperation between a start-up and a venture capitalist, a cooperation between start-up and a relevant corporation allows to minimize the risks associated with investing in a potentially promising idea where the key word is “potential” (but not “guaranteed”). While delivering services in the same field as the start-up the corporation gets an opportunity to more effectively and accurately estimate the market value of an innovative idea and to support its implementation.

Structural Changes Ahead: Outlines of A Coming Market

In the short term prospective, possibly in 2017, the global start-up market will face structural changes – both in terms of start-ups professional orientation and of funding mechanism. In the future science-based start-ups will dominate the market and will change our lives at a deeper level than the way of sending a text message or searching the restaurant for an evening meal. To be more concise this is already happening in the pharmaceutical industry, and the other scientific areas are to follow.


About the Author

This article was written by Dominik Stephan of Process Worldwide. See more.

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Callum Connects

Norman Tien, Founder of Neuromath and Early Math Matters



From a young age, Norman Tien, found his passion helping students as a math tutor and went on to translate that into a successful business.

What’s your story?
From the age of 14, I knew I would be in business for myself and started designing my company logo.

Growing up in a poor family, I worked part time while I was in school. That’s when I started tutoring and realised I had a gift to help students “see” mathematics. I delivered good results, and my students started to love math as well.

A turning point was when I was down with dengue fever and I realised I had to grow my business to the next level. I started a learning centre and that was the beginning of Neuromath. The initial years were tough as costs went up while my personal income took a dive. I almost gave up, but I pushed through.

Today, we have 3 specialty math enrichment centres managed and delivered by my dedicated team of teachers.

What excites you most about your industry?
“How to win” has always influenced how I position myself in the industry. I researched the psychology of learning, why some students are so naturally good at math, while others struggled. I managed to find the connection, and have always sought out niches to position myself so I can win.

In the beginning, I fused academic delivery with psychology to differentiate my services. Now I have a good team of teachers fully equipped with a psychological skillset.

In the next evolution of our business, we will incorporate technology into education in order to customise each student’s learning experience based on his or her needs.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and educated in Singapore. One key driver why I started a business was, as a youth, I witnessed how my dad struggled daily as a taxi driver trying to make ends meet.

That said, I am very blessed to be in Singapore and to be given the right education. I see this as a very important factor to my success today.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore – well, for one, most of my businesses are here. Singapore is convenient for business and is very well governed. There are rules and systems that make the entire entrepreneurial journey more secure here. One big plus is the location: Singapore is a hub that allows us to connect to the world.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
船到桥头自然直 –
There is a Chinese saying that when a boat goes near the pier, it will automatically align itself (with the current). It means we don’t have to worry too much, that things will take care of themselves.

A mentor once challenged me: “But who can guarantee you can even reach the pier?”

It is such a highly competitive world we are in, who can guarantee success? This is the ONE question that has been etched in my mind for decades. The Chinese saying always comes to mind when I am positioning, designing and strategizing for my business.

Who inspires you?
Mr. Lee Kuan Yew – The fact that he started ruling the country just like a startup. With limited resources, he was able to find a strong positioning to differentiate his country from the rest of the of Asia. With hardwork and proper planning, he transformed Singapore from a fishing village to a prominent financial hub in Asia.

Because Mr. Lee Kuan Yew positioned Singapore so well, government owned companies, such as Singapore Airlines, have emerged as the best in the world.

His story inspires me, spurs me to understand that success is not by chance but by design – every little step, all the strategies are all planned out. Not at all by chance.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
My business coach, Marshall Thurber, shared with me the power of the “Trim Tab” – a small part of the rudder system in a ship. This Trim Tab, despite its small size, is able to influence the entire ship’s direction by turning it.

This metaphor helped me see that a man can influence the entire world if the right effort is applied. We are now living in an entirely new world, the way we commute with an app on the phone – that’s the power of the Trim Tab at work.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would embark on the same journey but I would seek a mentor at a very early age.

I have been through many hard knocks along the way, and I definitely could have shortened the learning curve if I had a mentor to advise me on the many aspects of entrepreneurship.

How do you unwind?
Driving down long highways helps me unwind, that’s when I let my mind relax and wander.

I love long distance driving and riding. My wife gave me a Harley Davidson Tourer for my 50th birthday and we intend to embark on riding holidays together in Asia.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Hong Kong – I love the fast pace and the vibrance of the city. I love the cars there and it’s a very unique and exciting experience for me. And of course, I love the food there too!

Everyone in business should read this book:
One Minute Millionaire – this book highlights the mindset of an individual that is the key determinant for success in whatever we embark on. As long as we know we have a very strong reason why we need to do it, we can do it!

Shameless plug for your business:
I am the CEO and Founder of 2 Math enrichment brands:
Neuromath is a Specialist Math Learning Centre that helps students from Primary 1 to Junior College, empowering them with strategies, skills and a strong desire to learn and problem solve. We use technology to train students to avoid careless mistakes reclaiming 30 marks or more in Math exams and achieve their full potential in math.

Early Math Matters is a premier Mathematics and Cognitive Development enrichment centre for preschool children aged 3-6 years old. Through purposeful play and our renowned EMM approach, we help learners build a strong foundation for problem solving at an early age, and instil in them a passion & love for math that will stay with them for life.

We are actively seeking passionate teachers, entrepreneurs and investors who are keen to grow the education business with us.

How can people connect with you?
I speak regularly at workshops for schools, parents and platforms demonstrating the use of technology for peak performance in education.

Do contact me at

Alternatively, you can connect with me:

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:
Download free copies of his books here:

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