Dorothy Yiu is a co-founder of Singapore-based startup EngageRocket, an employee feedback and analytics software creating greater workplaces.
What’s your story?
I come from a business family, both my parents have run businesses all their lives so starting a business was always a very real option for me. Thankfully, I met a great work partner very early in my career. My co-founder and I were previously the regional management for a US-based HR consulting firm. We spent 5 years managing the regional business together and found that we share very similar values and have complementary skill sets. So in early 2016, we decided to leave consulting and start EngageRocket to solve similar Human Resources problems, but with real-time data and technology.
What excites you most about your industry?
There is a rising awareness among HR on using data to back decisions and improve business performance. The entire HR function is elevating to be a more strategic one, and part of the catalyst for this trend is the education around collecting, analysing and applying the right type of people analytics. For years the discipline of people analytics was considered a niche, good to have but not a must have part of the HR industry. Other functions like marketing and sales have long been providing evidence-based information and the great news is that HR is finally catching up. In fact, some advanced companies today like Google, Facebook, Amazon, and PayPal have already set up an entire department dedicated to people analytics.
What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born in Hong Kong to entrepreneurial parents. In 1994, my father expanded his business to Singapore and brought our family over when I was 7 years old. Since then, I’ve called Singapore my home.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
It’s hard to point to a favourite. Asia is so diverse and every city has its own unique culture and business nuances. For example, I enjoy the relationship-based aspect of doing business in Indonesia as much as I enjoy the courtesy demonstrated in Japan and the friendliness seen in The Philippines. Nonetheless, if I was to pick one, it has got to be Singapore. For its ease of starting a business, the vibrant startup scene, government’s ample support (and foresight!) and most of all, its cosmopolitan landscape.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Feel the fear and do it anyway. Everyone fails and like Roosevelt’s “man in the arena”, the credit belongs to those who strive to do the deeds for a worthy cause and if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly! This advice has encouraged me throughout my entrepreneurship journey and continues to serve me well.
Who inspires you?
I am inspired by individuals who have the courage to be authentic, have clarity on their true north, have a thirst for knowledge and are generous in sharing that knowledge.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Last year, 20 top corporate lawyers in the US were pitted against an AI software to review non-disclosure agreements. The AI achieved a 94% accuracy rate while the lawyers only managed an accuracy of 85%. What is more astounding is that the lawyers took more than 90 mins to complete the task while the AI took a mere 26 seconds! I’m in awe of technology’s relentless march forward and the disruption it brings.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
For the most part, I wouldn’t do anything differently because I have a deep appreciation for my experiences so far and gratitude for the work I do and the people who surround me. Having said that, I do wish to have learnt earlier on how to say “No” without guilt, on having inner peace without external validation and the pleasure of enjoying Bordeaux wine!
How do you unwind?
A glass (or two) of Bordeaux usually does the trick.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Bali. I advocate it so much so that I have a ready list of recommendations in my iPhone to copy and paste to anyone who hasn’t visited Bali! It has so much to offer – from the beaches in Seminyak to the luxurious clifftop resorts in Uluwatu to cultural yoga escapes in Ubud or Canggu – it has something for everyone. I love it so much that I held my wedding in Bali last year and without much convincing required to have my husband agree to the choice of venue!
Everyone in business should read this book:
On entrepreneurship, ‘Hard Things about Hard Things’ by Ben Horowitz.
On negotiation, ‘Never Split The Difference’ by Chris Voss.
On leadership, ‘True North’ by Bill George.
Shameless plug for your business:
EngageRocket is a people analytics software that provides companies with a data-driven, evidence-based approach to solve business problems like reducing attrition, increasing productivity and improving performance. We collect and analyse employee feedback in real-time and provide insights and recommendations to leaders so that they can ensure that their employees belong, grow and perform with the company. Check us out at www.engagerocket.co!
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’.