An Interview with
Action Community for Entrepreneurship
Action Community for Entrepreneurship is a national private led organisation that plays a key role in supporting Singapore entrepreneurs and in developing the startup ecosystem.
Tell us about your background, and what are you most passionate about?
I am an engineer by training. I hold a bachelor’s degree in electrical & Electronics Engineering from Nanyang Technological University and an MBA from Alliance Manchester Business School.
I started my first venture providing web-hosting services. In the 20 years of my career in the technology industry, I have the opportunity to work in both the private and public sectors providing technology consulting, IT project management, and have fronted multiple innovation and digital transformation projects as well as structuring investment deals. In the last 7 years, I have been deeply involved in the development of startup ecosystem.
As a technologist, I am most excited about the latest technology trends and in using technology to solve problems and drive transformation. It has always been my wish to create better lives for people and drive better productivity and efficiencies for businesses using technology.
How has your industry been changing in recent years? What are the biggest challenges you think your industry will face in the next 3-5 years?
The greatest technological progress in the recent years are in the areas of AI and robotics. Coupled with the proliferation of smart mobile devices and access to higher bandwidth, the speed of technology adoptions has been on the increase. Recently we also see an unprecedently drive toward digitalisation as more companies are adopting remote working. This is good for tech industry.
However, the industry is also experiencing changes in the business environment, international trade conditions and disruptions to the supply chain. There is an increased trend toward protectionism, and this will affect the tech-ecosystem which thrives on collaboration, open-innovation, and knowledge sharing.
What personality traits make you such an effective or influential leader? In a few words, how would you describe your leadership philosophy?
As I am actively involved in driving innovation programmes, I believe in keeping an open-mind and in continuous learning. The tech industry is a fast moving and fast changing industry; therefore, it is important for leaders in the tech industry to maintain highly motivated and keep abreast of the latest technology development.
I tend to believe that people in the technology sector are highly self-motivated and are willing to learn. As such, I have adopted a more open and mentoring approach when working with my team.
How would others define your communication style? Do you prefer to be close to your employees or maintain a healthy distance, and why?
I am usually quite tasks oriented. I prefer open and direct communication and place more importance in efficiencies and effectiveness when communicating. This is what I have learned from my years of project management experienced. I prefer to maintain a professional relationship with my team members.
Can you describe a time when you had to make a tough decision (e.g. budget cuts, organizational restructuring, market withdrawal, etc.)? What did you do and what was the result?
I think the most difficult decision to make is when I had to terminate a programme due to changes in strategic directions. It is easy to make the decision from a financial and strategic angle. The difficult part is to take care of the emotions of the team members and explain to them the decision as some of the members had invested a lot of effort in the programme and had grown to be emotionally attached to the programme. I took time to explain to the team the rationale of the change, and we managed to reassign the members to new roles.
What does the future hold for your company after the COVID-19 pandemic? How will the “new normal” look like in the next 1-2 years?
Given the challenging economic situation, I would see my organisation playing a critical role in supporting the local startups. The situation is still evolving, and I expect more events will be conducted as hybrid online-and-offline events.
What is your advice to other leaders on how to ‘thrive, not just survive” in the face of economic difficulties and tough business environment?
It is important to be remain optimistic and be agile in adjusting their business models to adapt to changing conditions. While certain industries may be affected, others are enjoying good growth. The recovering will be uneven across industries, so it is also important to plan ahead so that businesses can reap the advantages of the new economy in the next upturn.