Four highly accomplished women share their aspirations for bringing about a better future, and what they want to be able to do better themselves.
"From left: Yvon Bock, Anna Haotanto, Ayesha Khanna and Dr Elaine Kim"
Founder and CEO of Hegen nursing products
As a mother of four, Yvon Bock empathises strongly with other mums, and the challenges faced by those trying to juggle breastfeeding and work. It’s this desire to bring about change and create a positive impact for these women that spurred her to create Hegen nursing products, which are designed to be fuss-free, user-friendly and sustainable.
Her company also supports a shelter called Safe Place that helps women with unwanted pregnancies, by conducting workshops and breastfeeding talks. “There are women who suffer in silence, like rape victims, abused wives and those who are pregnant out of wedlock. They are crying out for help, and I’m very proud to be part of their support system,” she says.
What she wants to do even better: To be more resolute and assertive, especially when it comes to product design and brand direction. “As an inventor, I daydream a lot, even though speed to market is very important. I’m a perfectionist, so I always dream about how things can be better and try to incorporate the opinions of people around me. But this bogs me down and I tend to second-guess myself.
“I’ve learnt through painful experience that when I’m indecisive, our ideas may be materialised by other people first. Now, I tell myself it’s okay to make mistakes, and not be too hard on myself. As long as we learn from the mistake, it’s an opportunity for us to improve.”
Chief marketing officer of Gourmet Food Holdings, and founder of women’s financial platform The New Savvy
When Anna Haotanto started The New Savvy financial investment and career platform for women, she faced a good deal of scepticism and indifference. “People said women don’t care about finances – but I disagree. Financial concepts are also full of jargon. I wanted to make them engaging, bite-sized and relevant to women,” she says.
A former private banker, she also realised many women were not managing their money. “Nobody teaches us how to manage money or have healthy money habits. That’s why I started The New Savvy,” she explains.
What she wants to do even better: To improve on how she speaks, so she can convey her ideas effectively and motivate women to take charge of their finances.
“I grew up in Indonesia, so I only learnt English and Mandarin at age 10. People used to make fun of my accent and I was very insecure. I think improving my speech will give me more confidence, and help me get my messages across better.”
A lot of that comes down to overcoming her self-doubts and trusting in her abilities. “I took a public speaking course and on the first day, when I was forced to speak, I was terrible. On the second day, I tried to relax and trust myself, and that actually helped me improve tremendously. So now, I try not to memorise every word. Instead, I just have the main messages in my head and speak from my experience – and from the heart.”
Co-founder and CEO of artificial intelligence solutions firm Addo AI
Mention artificial intelligence and emotionless technology springs to mind. Ayesha Khanna, however, takes a distinctly human-centred approach towards AI and its uses. “I love the human aspects of technology. It should be used to solve problems for people and improve their lives,” she says.
A firm believer in the importance of education – and technology’s role in making it easily accessible – she started a charity called 21C Girls, which has partnered with organisations such as Google and Singapore’s Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) to teach coding to thousands of kids. “I believe that any just society should provide the skills people need to better themselves,” she says.
What she wants to do even better: “Taking time out for myself,” says Khanna. After all, as a mum, an entrepreneur and a working woman, personal time is a luxury.
“There’s a great deal of pleasure in doing something on your own from beginning to end. I’m writing a book. Sometimes, I get into an immersive flow and when I emerge from it, I’m refreshed by that period of deep focus. It’s very meditative and creative.”
It’s important to take micro moments out for yourself. “We worry and feel guilty a lot. Taking time out reminds you that you’re important too, and that will help you be better at home and at work.”
DR ELAINE KIM
Palliative care doctor, and founder of Trehaus School
Dr Elaine Kim isn’t the sort of person who believes in looking back with regrets. Instead, she’d much rather look forward to see how she can make the biggest positive impact on the future.
That’s why she has taken time out from her job as a doctor to focus on Trehaus School, a preschool and childcare centre she co-founded. Its objectives: to improve work-life integration for working parents and raise kids who aren’t just book-smart, but also have empathy, grit and a love for learning.
“It’s very much in my upbringing to think about how to give back and leave a positive legacy for the next generation. I want to raise children who aren’t just thinking ‘What am I going to be when I grow up?’. We want them to be thinking ‘What can I do even now to make the world a better place?’”
What she wants to do even better: to exemplify that philosophy, and walk the talk. And that means taking an honest look at how she can improve herself.
“I’m always looking to try new things, so where I need to grow is in learning restraint. I need to be more selective and have more self-control, to learn to say no more often, and focus on what the real priorities are.”
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