So This Is My Why | Issue 2

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Hey STIMYers!

It’s been quite a week, hasn’t it?

The uncertainty over the US election seemed to last for forever as the electoral votes crawled in. But some unexpected heroes did emerge. One of them being MSNBC’s part human calculator, part energizer bunny & khaki-wearing Kornacki (who reportedly didn’t sleep more than 5 hours in the week just to keep viewers up to date on the latest results! And got a shoutout from Chrissy Teigen no less, lol).

That said, the Biden/Harris win is impactful in so many ways, not less because of how this was the first time a female, Black, South Asian woman just broke through the glass ceiling of the highest office in the world.

To which Kamala Harris’s sister, Maya Harris, tweeted:

Maya Harris (Kamala Harris's sister's tweet on Biden/Harris election in 2020)

A sentiment that was very reminiscent of STIMY’s latest guest, Sarah Chen, whose own parents actively encouraged both her and her brother to “dream big, aim high“.

Sarah Chen - global investment professional, Malaysia co-founder of lean in Malaysia, board member of 131, co-founder and managing partner of beyond the billion (Washington DC)

This week’s STIMY guest, Sarah Chen, grew up in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and is currently the:

  • Board member of 131 & Counting, a bipartisan effort to cultivate female lawmakers & encourage women to run for office;
  • Co-Founder of Lean In Malaysia, focused on bringing more women into the workforce & accelerating women up the path to leadership; and
  • Co-Founder of Beyond the Billion, a global consortium of over 80 venture funds that have pledged over US$1 billion in funds to be invested in female-founded companies.

Sarah’s current mission is to empower female founders. A cause fueled in part by an incident that happened when she was 17 and applying for scholarships, where one of the senior leaders of the company commented:

“As a girl, I think you’re too ambitious.”

But did Sarah let that stop her? No!

We discussed many things in her episode, and some highlights included:

  • 5:43: Becoming a national child TV host for the Golden Kids Club on TV2 RTM (a Malaysian channel) at the age of 9;
  • 14:17: The ping pong competition story;
  • 18:54: How Sarah was told, “Hey as a girl, I think you’re too ambitious”;
  • 26:27: Why Sarah ended up being the interim director of MRI Network at the age of 21;
  • 30:25: How Sarah ended up working in the corporate venture capital unit of Sime Darby (p/s: by taking initiative & asking for a coffee chat!);
  • 35:41: Appearing on the reality TV Show, The Apartment, with her brother (Chef Brian Cheng);
  • 39:40: Becoming aware of women doing the work, but not getting the recognition for it;
  • 40:40: Of how no matter how good a woman is at her job, “she was not good enough unless she had a ring on her finger”.
  • 52:05: The state of the VC industry in 2017;
  • 1:03:02: The reception Sarah & Shelly Porges (Sarah’s co-founder) got at the World Bank when the Billion Dollar Fund was launched in October 2018;
  • 1:04:23: Key misconceptions people have about gender diversification in investments;
  • 1:07:58: How they gained public attention for the Billion Dollar Fund’s mission;
  • 1:10:08: The role of Billion Dollar Breakfast events & how the Billion Dollar Fund helps female entrepreneurs; and
  • 1:17:49: Impact of COVID-19 on the venture capital space.

You can listen to Sarah’s episode in full on: STIMY Website, Spotify, Apple Podcast, Stitcher, Listen Notes.​

Looking for past STIMY guests that exemplify women empowerment? Check out:

  • Ep 2: Red Hong Yi – An inspiring, entrepreneurial artist who pivoted from being an architect to a highly sought-after artist who paints without a paintbrush.
  • Ep 4: Sara HoldenHollywood stunt actress & go-getter Midwest girl from Detroit who moved to LA to pursue her dreams of becoming a star despite having no connections, job, or accommodation!
  • Ep 6: Ashley DeanFirst Artist of the Royal Ballet from South Africa, of her journey from dropping out of school to become a professional ballerina to leaning on her faith, family & hard work to join one of the UK’s premier ballet companies.
  • Ep 12: Danielle KettlewellAustralian-Canadian Olympian who was the “chubby” athlete that was never “good enough” but ended up proving all her naysayers wrong by becoming, in her own words, an “unlikely Olympian”.
  • Ep 13: Hillary Yip – An inspiring 15-year-old CEO & Founder of MinorMynas, an educational platform that connects children with each other. A company she founded at the age of 10 despite also facing intense bullying in school. Hillary is a true testament that you can achieve anything you want regardless of age & adversity!

YouTube version of the STIMY interview with Joey Law – former Senior Inspector of the Hong Kong Police Force & Mother to 15-Year-Old Child Entrepreneur, Hillary Yip of Minor Mynas (who was STIMY’s Ep 13 guest!).

Joey shares her perspective as an amazing career woman & mother, including what it was like supervising Hillary as she built her company up from the age of 10.

Favourite Finds of the Week

In 1997, psychologist Dr Arthur Aron conducted a study at Stony Brook University, New York, to accelerate intimacy between two (preferably) total strangers.

An experiment that went viral in a Modern Love podcast episode.

The Premise: Verbally complete a set of 36 increasingly intimate questions, from “If you could invite anyone in the world to dinner, who would it be?” to “Of all the people in your family, whose death would you find most disturbing? Why?“, before ending with the couple staring into each other’s eyes for 4 minutes straight.

The Results: Polarising, ranging from couples who did the 36 questions & ended up getting married to each other, to ones where it didn’t quite work out.

Thoughts: A very interesting experiment & not one that has to be strictly romantic (maybe minus the eye staring 😅)!

At the very least, it gives you a chance to learn about another person in a way that you might not necessarily have!

If you’re on an awkward outing, bust these questions out.

If you haven’t heard of this sassy New Yorker, Stephanie Johnson aka Tattletales of Tanqueray, then are you in for a treat!

First off – what is Humans of New York?: An epic photography project launched by Brandon Stanton in November 2010. Every day, Brandon walks the streets of New York, stops complete strangers, and asks them for their photo & story, which are then uploaded onto Humans of New York. Its Instagram account now boasts 11 million followers.

Stephanie Johnson aka Tanqueray: A sassy, former burlesque dancer from New York (with a stage name of “Tanqueray”), who became one of Brandon’s most viral exports in 2020. Her story unfolds over 32 magnificent posts complete with pictures. It was originally meant to be released as a podcast but Stephanie had a terrible fall so Brandon decided to share her story over 32 posts while simultaneously running a GoFundMe page for Stephanie’s living expenses & long-term care. Within days, they raised $2.6 million!!

Thoughts: Stephanie’s story is so wild, it’s almost unreal. And I don’t think I can ever look at chocolate milk (🥛) & hotdogs (🌭) in the same way. I won’t spoil it for you, so just head over & give it a read! 😎

Emily Heyward: Co-founder & Chief Marketing Officer at Red Antler: a renowned brand company for startups & new ventures like Casper, Allbirds, Prose & Brandless. She was named the “Most Important Entrepreneur of the Decade” in 2019 & Top Female Founder in 2018 by Inc Magazine.

Why listen: learn how a branding expert approaches brand storytelling using real-life examples that include Soulcycle, Apple, Nike & Airbnb.

Most Interesting Takeaway:

  • When identifying your target audience, you need to have direct, deeper, qualitative consumer insight. The best method is by way of one-on-one phone calls so that you can really listen & understand what they’re saying and what’s behind what is being said. To find these people, leverage on your existing network and if you can’t, then hire a professional recruiter. The latter is more precise because there is unconscious bias even in your own network (hmm, which friend should I speak to?) as opposed to speaking to “friends of friends of friends”.
  • The Why Test: When thinking about a brand idea, ask “why not?” E.g. with Airbnb, they weren’t solving the problem of finding a cheaper place to stay than a hotel, but that people didn’t want to stay at a generic hotel. Why not? Because they didn’t want to feel like a tourist. Why not? To have a meaningful experience & feel connected. Repeat the “why not” question as many times as you need & stop only when you end with fear of death. Because ultimately what motivates all of our behaviour is a sense of our own mortality. If you stop the process too early, your conclusion might be too surface-level or self-serving

Thoughts: I’ve always found it interesting to think about how people come up with their brand concepts & the way all of their creative decisions revolve around it, so I really enjoyed this episode!

Emily also discussed other things like how branding isn’t about consistency (Soulcycle’s entire brand is full of contradictions, e.g. it’s very costly despite holding itself out as inclusive space, adopts a kumbaya/spiritual approach v making its clients go through intense, hardcore workouts. But the brands we love most do weave in surprises so all that talk about staying consistent? Don’t take it too seriously. 😉

What is it:

At the 50th reunion of Harvard Business School’s Class of 1963, the class members jotted down their advice on a wide range of matters including on careers, business, leadership, wealth, marriage & family, growing older, charity & spirituality, happiness & success and more.

Favorite Takeaways:

  • Happiness & Success: Goals should be (i) in writing; (ii) measurable; and (iii) dated, so you have a time frame to measure accomplishment – Artie Buerk
  • Family: Children pay most attention to what you say with your feet, rather than your mouth – Henry A. Gilbert
  • Life Lessons: Success is a journey – not a race. Prepare well, retain good practices & make a habit of effective strategies: Do not be content to be average. Take well-analyzed risks. Be skilled in political strategy – Jose M. Faustino

Upcoming STIMY Guests

  • Chong Chan Yau: Blind since the age of 6, Chan Yau is many things – Chairman of Carbon Care Asia, President of the Hong Kong Blind Union, Executive Director of Oxfam Hong Kong & Chairman of the Dialogue in the Dark Hong Kong. He is a true testament to how disabilities do not hamper your ability to achieve the highest levels of success!

Enjoyed this newsletter or have a comment? Email sothisismywhy(at)gmail.com 

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Until next week!

Ling Yah