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Women on Top in Tech – Rashna Bhojwani, Head of Strategic Partnerships for Southeast & North Asia at Uber

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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 our interview with Rashna Bhojwani, Head of Strategic Partnerships for Southeast & North Asia at Uber. Rashna started her career in New York City as a mergers & acquisitions lawyer at Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, a leading international law firm and transitioned to the world of tech as part of the global Business Development team at Uber.  In addition to her B.A. from Stanford University where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa and with distinction, she holds a J.D. from Columbia Law School where she was a James Kent Scholar and a member of the Columbia Law ReviewRashna is also a member of the New York Bar.

What makes you do what you do?
After reading so many contracts as a lawyer, I wanted to be a part of the action! I enjoy identifying win-win opportunities for parties to collaborate and the entire transactional process from sourcing to closing. The tech industry is pushing the boundaries on innovation and disrupting the way we think and live, which makes it an exciting space to move the needle.

How did you rise in the industry you are in?
I rose in this industry primarily because I learned to advocate for myself and take ownership of certain work streams. I was able to increase my visibility in this manner because my legal training armed me with a unique selling point that others across the company valued.

Why did you take on this role especially since this is perhaps a stretch or challenge for you (or viewed as one since you are not the usual leadership demographics)?
I’m drawn to challenges! This role was particularly interesting because it allowed me to apply my transactional experience to a specific company’s goals while doing different types of deals (such as taxi, telco, financial services).  It also forced me to think strategically about how to use partnerships to shape our business.

Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industries or did you look for one or how did that work?
Yes, I have a few mentors that I admire within my industry but I believe it is equally important to seek out mentors in different fields.  Learning from cross-disciplinary mentors in finance and law keeps me intellectually curious and enables me to develop a broader strategic view of the world.

How did you make a match if you did, and how did you end up being mentored by him/her?
As I report to the Chief Business Officer at Uber, he has naturally become a mentor and taken concrete steps to increase my visibility across the organisation. I also regularly turn to my counterparts in other markets for guidance on navigating the company at higher levels.  While I found these mentors organically due to our close working relationship, I am fundamentally drawn to those who hold themselves to high standards by forming specific views and staying the course under pressure because they inspire me to hold myself to higher standards as well.

Now as a leader how do you spot, develop, keep, grow and support your talent?
I’ve recently bought into Jeff Bezos’s philosophy.  He hires people who are “right most of the time,” which doesn’t always equate to the smartest or most strategic individuals.  Instead, he focuses on individuals who make the right judgment calls and ultimately get the job done. I find this compelling because it reflects the reality of how business is done.

Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?
I consciously support diversity.  In my current role, I invest in younger women by pushing them to drive deals and build partner relationships.  This stems from a longstanding interest in women’s empowerment. As part of a summer fellowship during my undergrad degree, I started a small low-income women’s bakery collective in the slum area of Mumbai to train women to take ownership of a for-profit business.  While this endeavour was operationally challenging, the grit and drive of these women demonstrated first-hand the power of women to effect change.

What is your take on what it takes to be a great leader in your industry and as a general rule of thumb?
I believe that great leaders have a strong sense of conviction in a specific vision and the charisma and in-depth knowledge to make that vision a reality.

Advice for others?
I have always been intrigued by the word “extraordinary.”  A seemingly complex word is actually just two very simple words put together: “extra” and “ordinary.”  The word’s composition inspired two of my core beliefs:  First, anyone can build upwards from ordinary.  Second, a higher level exists.  In my opinion, the only thing you need to cross from “ordinary” to “extraordinary” is the drive to reach those new heights.  So my advice to others (and particularly to women for whom the bar is often set higher) is to always strive for the extraordinary. Think long-term and stay true to a fundamental set of values that will define your character and ultimately your career.


If you’d like to get in touch with Rashna Bhojwani, please feel free to reach out to her on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rashna-bhojwani-96470a10/

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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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