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Women on Top in Tech – Sue McLean, Of Counsel at Morrison & Foerster.

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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 Sue McLean, Of Counsel of Morrison & Foerster. Sue McLean is an Of Counsel lawyer in the London office of international law firm Morrison and Foerster. Sue is a member of the firm’s Technology Transactions Group and Global Sourcing Group and leads the firm’s FinTech practice in London. Sue has over 16 years of experience advising clients on their strategic technology deals and business models, including outsourcing, technology infrastructure and digital transformation projects, cloud computing, e-/m-commerce, and social media. Sue’s clients range from emerging companies to large multi-nationals and she advises across many business sectors, but with particular experience in financial services.

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What makes you do what you do?

I’m fascinated by new technology and love the fact that the law is always playing catch-up. It means that I’m always learning. If I think back 10 years ago, we were dealing with the emergence of cloud and social media. Five years ago – the internet of things, robotics. Today its blockchain, VR/AR, AI. There’s also a huge variety in my work. In the same week, I can be working on a multi-million pound deal for a bank that is outsourcing its IT and network infrastructure, advising a FinTech on the terms of use and privacy policy for its new app, and advising a technology company on the legal implications of rolling out its new business model across Europe.

How did you rise in the industry you are in?

I worked very hard to provide a great service to my colleagues and clients so that I became a go-to person for the most challenging and complex technology projects. As a tech lawyer, clients want a deal-maker, someone who understands their commercial drivers and works well with the business. So building good relationships with the technical and business teams, as well as the in-house legal team is vital.  Remaining curious and keeping up-to-date with new technology is also essential so that you can advise clients of the legal implications of their new tech projects and business offerings. As with any sector, you also need to build your network, both internal networks and external networks so that you build your reputation as a trusted advisor.

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)?

At university or law school I certainly didn’t expect to become a lawyer specializing in technology projects. After all, STEM subjects were not my favorite subjects at school and my experience with technology was purely as a consumer, which was pretty limited. Those were the days before the Internet and smartphones. After spending time with a commercial law firm during university I knew that I wanted to work in business law, but I still wasn’t exactly sure what type of law I would end up specializing in. However, during my two-year training contract, I spent time working on a major IT outsourcing project plus various e-commerce projects and I found the sector and the work really exciting. That was the late ‘90s and the pace of technology change was huge.

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 had various mentors over the years. Technology law is still pretty male dominated at the senior levels, so most of my mentors have been men. In terms of finding them it was organic – they tended to be colleagues or ex-colleagues. My female mentors have tended to be women outside of technology law and again it’s been more organic, than deliberate. However, there are many women in technology that I consider role models. Women who really led the way like Stephanie Shirley – just an incredible woman in terms of the scale of what she achieved in business, the adversity she has dealt with during her life and her generosity and humility. But also lots of other women in tech that are less well known – women creating and leading tech businesses, helping drive diversity in their organizations, giving back.

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

We have a very talented group of junior lawyers here at MoFo. I feel very strongly that to keep talented people motivated, you need to give them responsibility early on and harness their natural enthusiasm – get them involved in business development, invite their views, encourage them to take initiative and make them feel invested in the business. We greatly benefit from their energy and their new ideas. I also encourage my junior colleagues to take charge of their careers right from the beginning, focus on what they want to achieve, highlight their successes, and look for mentors and sponsors. It’s also important to create open communication – provide them with regular constructive feedback (and seek feedback from them).

Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?

I am a passionate champion and advocate for women in law and in technology. Women make up more than half of lawyers entering the profession, but we are still seeing very small percentages at the most senior levels. In technology, the challenge is even greater. Not enough women are entering the sector, but there are also challenges in retaining women in the sector and progressing women to management positions. It’s absolutely clear that we need to get more girls and young women studying STEM subjects and considering technology as a career. That means starting early with school age children (and, importantly, their parents and teachers); breaking down stereotypes, highlighting role models and raising awareness of the diversity of roles available in the sector. I’m very pleased to support organizations like the Stemettes who are doing a terrific job encouraging girls and young women to get involved with technology.

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

For me, a great leader is someone that loves what they do and instills confidence, inspires and brings the best out in their team. Someone that has high ‘emotional intelligence’, is open-minded and invites the views of others while being able to be decisive and make difficult decisions. Given the fact that technology is continuously evolving, you also need to be love learning and be adaptable to change.

Advice for others?

I’m a big fan of Facebook’s mantra “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” It may be a stereotype, but I think women can have a tendency to over-think things and avoid taking risks, which can hold us back. Sometimes we need to push ourselves outside our natural comfort zone. Take that stretch assignment, apply for that job, agree to speak at that event. That’s why I loved this year’s International Women’s Day theme; “Be Bold for Change”.


To learn more about Morrison & Foerster, please see https://www.mofo.com.

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.

Callum Connects

Agnes Yee, Legal & Compliance Recruiter of Space Executive

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Agnes Yee started Space Executive in Singapore, which is a hub for businesses in some of the world’s fastest growing economies.

What’s your story?
After graduation, I joined a design media company as a Business Development Executive, during the era when ‘reading a magazine online’ was unheard of. I believe that laid the foundation for being unfazed by rejections.

I fell into recruitment pre-GFC and rode the highs and lows in the early years. A decade later, I decided to set up my own recruitment company, partly because I could. I’m acutely aware of the face that being an Asian female in Singapore is sometimes a privilege, and that many women in the world are living a very different existence.
Thereafter, we joined Space Executive as part of a merger. I am currently the Partner of Space Executive, a recruitment company focused specialist disciplines, including Legal, Finance, Digital, Sales and Marketing and Change. We also run Space Ventures, a venture capital business, which invests in seed and pre-series A businesses.

What excites you most about your industry?
On a daily basis, we’re influencing how one spends a third of their day. It is interesting how the Internet has transformed the industry, and I’m excited to see how we can harness technology to bring us to the next phase of this business.

The VC is an extension of applying our skills and experience in reading people. We very much invest in the people as much as the idea. Being a native Singaporean, it’s been exhilarating watching Southeast Asia becoming a hotbed of ideas; and young entrepreneurs simply daring to dream.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I’m a born and bred Singaporean. I love that I speak both English and Mandarin, grew up playing with Indian friends and eating Malay food.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore for the low barriers of entry to set up a business, but has to be China (and Hong Kong) for their hunger and constant innovation.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
青春不要留白 which translates to ‘Don’t waste your youth.’

Who inspires you?
Anyone who has gone against the grain.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
It wasn’t recent but reading the article on https://waitbutwhy.com/2015/12/the-tail-end.html never fails to blow my mind how little time we have left. Charting our lives in weeks, and realising I only have enough time left to enjoy 60 Christmas turkeys, read 300 books (all if I’m lucky); and mostly, I’m left with the last 5% of the time that I spend in-person with my parents.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I’m cognisant that every decision I made in life has brought me to where I am today, and I wouldn’t change one thing. But I’d really like to have had more time to travel.

How do you unwind?
Exercise and wine.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Trekking any mountain in Asia. It brings us back to the most basic. To overcome elements of nature and our own mind.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Start with Why, Simon Sinek

Shameless plug for your business:
Space Executive started in Singapore, a hub for businesses in some of the world’s fastest growing economies. We assist organisations in accessing a targeted and specialised, and often times transient talent pool.

Out of Singapore, we have recruited across 14 countries; and have embarked on our global expansion plans with offices in Hong Kong and London this year, and US, Japan and Europe in the following years.

Space Ventures provides funding, management and financial guidance to young businesses with original ideas. We have invested in peer to peer lending platforms, credit scoring, social media education, and other start-ups spanning diverse industries. We are always interested in hearing more about new ideas.

How can people connect with you?
https://www.linkedin.com/in/agnesyee/

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

Chrystie Dao-Szabo, Founder of iPayMy

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Chrystie Dao-Szabo founded iPaymy for Business – a secure and easy to use
platform enabling SMEs to pay rent, salaries, invoices, and even corporate tax using the credit cards they already have in their wallet today.

What’s your story?
I’m Chrystie Dao-Szabo, and I’ve worked as an international banker for over 22 years. During that time, I travelled through Asia, Australia and Europe, and everywhere I saw how my clients struggled with managing their finances and keeping cash around.

I wanted to use my experience to help them, but I also knew the solution they needed didn’t exist yet. This pushed me to give up on my secure career, and instead look into the innovative world of FinTech for an answer.

This is how I founded iPaymy – at its launch, a platform to help consumers pay their monthly expenses using their credit cards. We’ve grown a lot since, and today, iPaymy for Business is a platform that allows business owners to use their credit cards to pay for rent, salaries, invoices and taxes, freeing up their cash for business-critical operations.

What excites you most about your industry?
What excites me most about FinTech is it’s culture of constant disruption, thanks to cool and innovative products and services coming out every day.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born in Vietnam, grew up in Australia and worked in Asia, Europe and Australia. Being raised by traditional Vietnamese parents meant that deep down I was still an Asian at heart, so I have a strong connection with the region.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore of course. It’s easy to do business, English is the main language, and the infrastructures like public transportation are great. Also, the government supports local innovation in multiple ways, like giving grants for SMEs and FinTechs.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Keep giving, and one day you will receive.

Who inspires you?
My parents. My father had a successful business in Vietnam just before the fall of Saigon in 1975. After the war, my father was sent to a re-education camp for three years, which meant my mum had to bring up two young kids – a 3-year-old, me and my 4-year old brother on her own.

In 1980, we all fled Vietnam on a boat and arrived in Sydney, Australia via refugee camps in Indonesia and Singapore. There, my parents had to start over with nothing to their names and only AUD 50 given to them by the Australian government.
They went on to build several businesses in Australia!

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
The number of young and smart people who have carved out successful careers by founding their own startups (or joining really cool ones). When I was starting out my career, doing any of these was not a viable option; it was either working for an accounting firm, an insurance company or a bank.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
If I were starting out my career now, I would choose the path of joining a startup as you get to learn so much about running a business and how to assemble a winning team.

How do you unwind?
I like travelling to a beach or a resort destination and just relaxing by the pool or beach. I also like to unwind after work with a glass of champagne or wine, and a bowl of truffle fries.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Thailand. I love the people and the spicy Thai food.

Everyone in business should read this book:
The E-Myth. It’s a book series that dismantles common myths about entrepreneurship in different industries.

Shameless plug for your business:
With iPaymy for Business, SMEs can pay rent, salaries, invoices, and even corporate tax using the credit cards they already have in their wallet today. SMEs love iPaymy because it works like a credit card, but pays like cash.

iPaymy’s secure and easy to use platform reliably delivers payments to vendors while freeing up cash and providing access to interest free credit. Forget the delays and aggravations that come with traditional SME financing options. Schedule recurring payments, manage invoices, set payment reminders, and monitor payment status all from one dashboard.

It’s never been easier for SMEs to meet monthly payment obligations while keeping cash available to fuel growth, bridge receivable gaps, and make immediate investment in the supplies, services, and expertise needed to drive a growing business forward.

How can people connect with you?
You can find me on LinkedIn or contact me by email.
My LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/chrystiedaoszabo/
My email: [email protected]

Twitter handle?
https://twitter.com/ceedeees

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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