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Women on Top in Tech – Bárbara Ximénez Bruidegom, Founder at Shutta

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(Women on Top in Tech is a series about Women Founders, CEOs, and Leaders in technology. It aims to amplify and bring to the fore diversity in leadership in technology.)

Here is my interview with Bárbara Ximénez Bruidegom, Founder of ShuttaShutta allows you to scroll through your videos and live photos, frame by frame, to capture the perfect moment and save it as a photo without losing any resolution. Any video stored on your phone is available automatically within Shutta. Videos taken with your phone are immediately accessible, or you can sync your GoPro or professional camera footage to your phone and simply save your favorite photo moments, in print quality resolution, back to your phone.

She has experience in business management roles, working in a wide variety of industries in Amsterdam, London, Dubai, Madrid and Ho Chi Minh City.

Shutta_Logo-WTT


What makes you do what you do?

Believe it or not, this question baffled me more than it should. Why would anybody in their right mind choose to work 80 hours a week, with no leave, meanwhile earning – at least for the first few years – a fraction of the pay for triple the responsibility and worry? Like many other entrepreneurs, I didn’t seek out this path, it presented itself to me. But, there is something immensely rewarding about having ultimate responsibility for every failure and every success. The buck stops here, there is no passing it on. It is a very sobering thing, and the responsibility can weigh on you at times. But, it is also extremely liberating. In return for assuming full responsibility for literally everything, you get the freedom to make your own decisions, to explore, to discover. That really appeals to my insatiably curious side, the part of me that is happiest when learning something new, and, for me, this freedom more than outweighs the hard work, long hours, and bad pay.

How did you rise in the industry you are in?

I started out my career in finance/business administration and only entered the IT arena when I took a job at PeopleSoft in Amsterdam in the nineties. I had grown up in a scientific family and had always been surrounded by computers and tech, but it was my first introduction to big data – although, of course, nobody used that term back then. I was fascinated by the insight and the power that systems and data bring to business, and I still am. I think, however, that the path that has led me to where I am now has been more of an epic trek through a mountain range, with many highs and plenty of deep lows, rather than anything you might classify as a rise in the industry. It has been a great journey so far, though, and I can still see many peaks up in the distance that I would love to scale.

Why did you take on this role/start this startup especially since this is perhaps a stretch or challenge for you (or viewed as one since you are not the usual leadership demographics)?

An opportunity presented itself, I recognized it, and I was up for the challenge. Right place, right time, right attitude.  I think it is as simple as that. Whether anybody else would see it as unusual or a stretch never crossed my mind. I am very aware that I stand on the shoulders of giants, and that, thanks to this, I was fortunate enough to grow up believing that glass ceilings are there to be shattered. After all, they are made of glass and not titanium. Look around you, look back, and you will find plenty of people that have achieved mind-blowing things, despite having to beat much harder odds than I ever had to deal with. If you want it, go out and get it.

Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industries or did you look for one or how did that work?

My father spent his entire career at the European Space Agency, truly working at the forefront of science and technology, in an industry where even the smallest mistakes can have disastrous consequences. He was a very tough taskmaster and didn’t accept anything less than excellence; in his eyes doing your best simply wasn’t good enough. I credit him for teaching me that it is easy to be passionate about the things you are good at, but that it takes grit and determination to become good at the things you are not passionate about. Of course, if you can manage to become good at something you dislike, you have also converted it into something new to be passionate about.

How did you make a match if you and how did you end up being mentored by him?

Besides my father who pushed me to try harder and go further than I ever thought I’d be capable of, there have been many advisors and sounding boards along the way. If you want to succeed you need to buckle down, but there is no need to be a hero. It is important to seek advice and to learn from experts around you; it is not efficient to reinvent the wheel over and over again. You’d be surprised how many of the experts that you hold in the highest esteem have the courtesy to offer their advice to someone that they have never met when they recognize passion combined with the humility to ask for help.

Now as a leader how do you spot, develop, keep, grow and support your talent?

In my experience, it all starts with being able to spot the talent in the first place. At Shutta, we have a hiring method that is quite different to the standard question and answer sessions, and it rarely fails. During the recruitment phase, we focus on getting the most balanced picture of a candidate possible; assessing everything from knowledge and ability to resilience, ambition, and people skills. Essentially, we are looking for that little spark of genius. When it is spotted, it is also well documented, and by the time the candidate joins the team, we have a clear idea on how we can best empower each candidate and in which areas they need support; how we can help them discover their own genius. From there on in, and outside of formal assessment periods to establish personal development plans for the year ahead, I think it is vital to be on the floor and work directly with the people that, together, make up your company. It is the only way to stay in touch with everybody’s needs and ambitions, which is vitally important when you try to align company goals with personal goals.

Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?

Looking in from the outside, I wouldn’t blame anyone for looking at us and seeing a group of misfits. One of the greatest benefits of our selection process is that we are forced to look beyond the mere facts of a person’s life and see the individual beneath. Shutta is developing all manner of innovative solutions, from computer vision and machine learning to marketing methods that are up to 60 times more successful than the current digital marketing benchmarks. We need people who can look at an existing problem and come up with a new way of solving it. This means that, if we want to find people that look at the world from a slightly different angle, we must treasure quirks and peculiarities. A (fortunate) fringe benefit is that this quest has quite naturally led us to have a very diverse, but very tight and collaborative team.

What is your take on what it takes to be a great leader in your industry and as a general rule of thumb?

Forget about being a great leader. Aspire to be a great person, the greatest person you can be; intellectually, emotionally, socially, at all times and in every aspect of everyday life. I think that we have all experienced the exhilarating feeling of being “in the zone” when everything seems to flow naturally and with absolute ease. I believe that we get to that zone the minute we let go of our tendency to focus on the end goal and instead focus simply on the task or situation at hand. When people find their own zone(s), they also find their own talent, or what I call their own genius. And when we start spending as much of our lives as possible in that flow, we will naturally progress to become the best version of ourselves that we can possibly be.

Advice for others?

Be curious, be hungry, be passionate, and be humble. It doesn’t matter how many years of experience you have under your belt, you’re never done developing into a better person than you were the day before. Be flexible and be well prepared. Plan everything to the minutest detail, then accept that nothing will go according to plan. The purpose of your preparation is not to be in absolute control of a situation, it is to allow you to recognise deviations and to make adjustments accordingly. Most of all, enjoy the ride. Have fun, laugh a lot, and don’t take it all too seriously. Life is the ultimate adventure, and you only get one shot at it, so aim for a life of happiness, not success.


To learn more about Shutta, please see http://shutta.co/.

I am a huge fan and cheerleader of Women Leaders — If you know of an AMAZING Woman Founder, CEO, Leader in Tech or you are one yourself — Write me here.
AMPLIFY Conscious Business Leadership with me.

Entrepreneurship

Women on Top in Tech – Daphne Ng, CEO of JEDTrade

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(Women on Top in Tech is a series about Women Founders, CEOs, and Leaders in technology. It aims to amplify and bring to the fore diversity in leadership in technology.)

Daphne Ng is the CEO of JEDTrade, a blockchain technology company focused on trade, supply chain, and financial inclusion projects in ASEAN. She is also the Scretary-General at ACCESS and Exco. of Singapore Fintech Association

What makes you do what you do?
I was introduced to blockchain technology in 2016 after I left my corporate banking career after 10 years. It was my mentor who first got me interested in this technology, which I then went on to delve further into, on its potential applications in the lending and trade finance space – domains where I came from.

How did you rise in the industry you are in?
Being in the space for 2 years and actively involved in the ecosystem, I was able to bring on the projects, network and a good degree of thought leadership in this vertical. Early on in the startup journey, our team faced many challenges. And to me, the key to rising above failures are two essential factors – resilience and support. While resilience is innate, I received a lot of help be it in terms of connections or advice. ‘Nobody succeeds without help’ rings very true for me.

Why did you take on this role/start this startup especially since this is perhaps a stretch or challenge for you (or viewed as one since you are not the usual leadership demographics)?
From the start, I focused on my domain expertise in trade finance and the application construct of how blockchain and DLT can be applied to these use cases. Also, my strategy from the start was to build a technology company made up of 80% tech and engineers, which is also our key competitive advantage today. At the end of the day, deliverables are about strategy and execution, which includes building and leading an ‘A’ team.

Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industries or did you look for one or how did that work?
I have many mentors, which includes our company advisors (all of whom are well-known in this industry) and mostly informal mentors I meet via my connections, and on various occasions and circumstances. Creating opportunities also means putting myself in the right place, at the right time. And in my case, these were mostly organic and genuine friendships formed from the initial connection.

How did you make a match if you and how did you end up being mentored by him?
To me, a match in values is very important. It also takes humility to ask for help and be willing to listen to advice, which is important in order for mentorships to be successful – be it formal or informal.

Now as a leader how do you spot, develop, keep, grow and support your talent?
I love this question! I am passionate about building strong teams and helping my people grow. I abide by the 3Rs when identifying talents: resourcefulness, resilience and right values. And then I invest in the ‘potential’ and this means giving them room to lead, make decisions and take risks.

Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?
My support of diverse talents, skillsets and characters can be seen in the make-up of our core team – all helming specific roles and each bringing their own value to the table. We need the sum of all parts to build a great company.

What is your take on what it takes to be a great leader in your industry and as a general rule of thumb?
Great leaders emerge in times of failures and challenges, never abandoning the team, and always putting the team’s interests before her own. And I consciously live by these mottos every day.

Advice for others?
My advice to other entrepreneurs: be resolute and dare to be different. If you are going to follow others, then you will end up on the same path as them. No right or wrong; but I would rather chart my own path. This June, we are officially launching our blockchain project, Jupiter Chain (www.jupiterchain.tech), which have garnered much interest in the industry, even before we made it public. We believe this project is the epitome of marrying innovation with practical implementation, and we want to be the first to truly operationalize blockchain for our ecosystem projects in this region.


If you’d like to get in touch with Daphne Ng, please feel free to reach out to her on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/daphne-ng-%E9%BB%84%E7%91%9E%E7%8E%B2/

To learn more about JEDTrade, please click here.

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Callum Connects

Jace Koh, Founder of U Ventures

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Jace Koh believes cash flow is the lifeblood of your business. Understanding it will enhance your ability to run and manage your business.

What’s your story?
My name is Jace Koh and I am the Founder of U Ventures. I’ve always been inclined towards investment and entrepreneurship. I’ve played a hand in starting businesses across these industries – professional services, cloud integration, software and music. I believe that succeeding in business is tough, but that’s what makes the rewards even sweeter.

What excites you most about your industry?
Everything excites me. These are my beliefs:

  • Why is accounting important?
    The accounting department is the heart. Cash flow is like blood stream, it pumps blood to various parts of the body like cash flow is pumped to various departments and/or functions in a business. It is vital to the life and death of the business.
  • Is accounting boring?
    Accountants are artists too. They paint the numbers the way they want them to be.
  • What makes a good accountant?
    A good accountant can tell you a story about the business by looking at the numbers.
  • Why is budgeting and projection important?
    Accountants are like fortune tellers, they can predict the numbers and if you wish to understand your business and make informed decisions, feel free to speak to our friendly consultants to secure a meeting.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and raised in Singapore, and here’s where I want to be.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore is my favourite city. We have great legal systems in place, good security and people with integrity. Most importantly, we have a government that fosters a good environment for doing business. I recently went for a cultural exchange programme in Hong Kong to learn more about their startups. I found out that the Hong Kong government generally only supports local business owners in terms of grants. They’ve recently been more lenient and changed the eligibility to include all businesses that have at least 50% local shareholding. But comparing that to Singapore, the government only requires a 30% local shareholding to obtain government support. In the early days of starting a business, all the support you can get is precious. It’s great that we have a government that understands that.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
The best time ever to plant a tree was 10 years ago as the tree would have grown so big to provide you with shelter and all. When is the next best time to plant a tree? It is today. Because in 10 years time, the tree would have grown big enough to provide you shelter and all.

Who inspires you?
Jack Ma. His journey to success is one of the most inspiring as it proves that with determination and great foresight, even the poorest can turn their lives around. I personally relate to his story a lot, and this is my favourite quote from him, “If you don’t give up, you still have a chance. Giving up is the greatest failure.”

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I’ve faced multiple rejections throughout my business journey, and recently came across a fact on Jack Ma about how he was once rejected for 32 different jobs. It resonated very deeply and taught me the importance of tenacity, especially during tough times.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Nothing. I live a life with no regrets. Everything I do, regardless of whether it is right or wrong, happy or sad, and regardless of outcome, it’s a lesson with something to take away.

How do you unwind?
I love to pamper myself through retail therapy and going for spas. I also make a conscious effort to take time off work to have a break outside to unwind as well as to uncloud my mind. This moment of reflection from time to time helps me see more clearly on how I can improve myself.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Taiwan! Good food with no language barriers and the people are great!

Everyone in business should read this book:
I don’t really read books. Mostly, I learn from my daily life and interactions with hundreds of other business owners. To me, people tell the most interesting stories.

Shameless plug for your business:
We’re not just corporate secretaries, we’re “business doctors.”
U Ventures is a Xero certified advisory firm that goes beyond traditional accounting services to provide solutions for your business. You can reach us on our website: http://uventures.com.sg/

How can people connect with you?
Converse to connect. You can reach me via email at [email protected] or alternatively, on LinkedIn here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jacekoh/

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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