(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.)
Yuying is the co-founder and CEO of Ideal Workspace, which designed and produces the Altizen smart standing desk, designed to improve an individual’s health and productivity at work. She started as a capital markets corporate lawyer in Baker McKenzie in Hong Kong and subsequently became a Vice-President of Orange Valley Healthcare. She is also a proud mother of two (with another on the way).
She graduated with an MBA from INSEAD Business School and an LLB from King’s College London. She is the incoming chairperson for the Young Entrepreneurs’ Network, Singapore Chapter.
What makes you do what you do?
It started from my personal experience with back pain. I started working as a lawyer in Hong Kong and was typically working long hours (10-15 hours days). During that period of time, I suffered from lower back pain and was unable to focus on work. After I gave birth to my first child, my back pain became worse. I realized at that point that it is important to take proper care of myself at work since we spend at least 8 hours of our daily life there. I started experimenting with how one can achieve productivity and flow in the workplace. In that process, I became passionate about building a better workplace by integrating technology and ergonomics and decided it will be my life’s mission.
How did you rise in the industry you are in?
I started in the industry from being an outsider. I went through many trials and errors and eventually learned to engage in the industry in two ways. The first way was a direct engagement with the corporate real estate sector – I learned from how the industry players interact and work together, and how the entire supply chain was structured. The second way was to build and polish my skills as an entrepreneur. In both ways, I found that the best way to learn is to draw on experience from mentors and at the same time, take a lead in each industry’s network to meet, discuss challenges and share best practices.
Why did you take on this role/start this startup especially since this is perhaps a stretch or challenge for you?
I come from a family of entrepreneurs and were inspired by what my parents have done in the past. The excitement of being an entrepreneur is to build something new while at the same time, cultivating the grit and perseverance to deal with hard knocks. To me, the most important thing is to do whatever is necessary to make your customers happy. Customer-centricity is an important part of any company and I have experienced it first hand myself when in the initial part of setting up my company, I meet with customers to install their desks and gathered feedback.
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 do not have a specific mentor per se. However, what I find valuable is to learn different things from different people with various skill sets. The important point I want to emphasize is that we have to be constantly learning from others and at the same time, apply critical thinking to understand what can be applied and what cannot be applied to what we are doing.
Now as a leader how do you spot, develop, keep, grow and support your talent?
Here are the three qualities in each candidate which I seek out to spot, develop and grow in my talent: their ability to learn, their ability to grow and their ethical standards. First, I make it clear to them at the outset that my interest is in their career growth. I clarify to them this is not just altruism. We are a fast-growing startup – if they do not grow quickly in their career, they would not be able to work in an environment that changes as quickly as ours, and they would not be able to scale in it. And I act on it to make sure of that – we hold regular 1 on 1s where we discuss their career objectives, how they plan to reach there, the types of books they read and the events they attend.
Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?
I fall outside of the typical vector, so yes I strongly support diversity. Diversity means fair opportunities for women like myself and my daughters, minority races and people of different abilities.
What is your take on what it takes to be a great leader in your industry and as a general rule of thumb?
To be a great leader and to get anywhere in life, I believe the following are essential: question the norm, build effective communication skills and look sideways to see what is happening in industries other than your own.
In this age of disruption, the most pertinent challenges come from adjacent industries and technologies.
Advice for others?
Be an exponential version of yourself. To do this, understand what drives you and what you want to work towards, discard the other 80% of items that occupies your time and your mind. Prep yourself with rocket fuel to be the best version of yourself. This means mental and emotional toughness, a healthy body and mind, and learn how to keep your energy in flow.
To learn more about Altizen (Ideal Workspace), please visit https://www.altizen.com