Most goals are attainable – if you remain optimistic.
I grew up in a small village outside of Brighton but spent lots of holidays in Asia (my father is Chinese; my mother is British). I attended a local girls’ school before going onto Oxford university and did pretty much every extracurricular activity going – from music to sport – including lots of hours as a competitive gymnast. It sounds like a lot to deal with at a young age but having all these commitments are what taught me the value of hard work, resilience and discipline. They are philosophies which have stood me in good stead over the years.
There’s value in building something from the ground up.
Throughout my life, I’ve been hugely inspired by my father, who is a lifelong entrepreneur. Believe me when I say his passion and drive for engineering and electronics is second to none – and I’ve watched him build so many businesses from nothing. It’s probably taught me a lot of perseverance and learning something from every experience. My first job out of university was with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, after which I moved into the finance sector in London, Hong Kong and Singapore. While later pursuing an MBA, I worked at a few start-ups including Zalora and Glossier, and then a private equity company backed by the luxury powerhouse LVMH. Today, I’m a partner at Sweet Capital, an early-stage investment fund set up by the founders of the mobile game CandyCrush (King.com).
Preparation is everything.
It’s so important to do your homework and really focus on why you’re passionate about pursuing a specific opportunity. For me, it’s better to think of achievement as lots of small, incremental successful steps that you make over time – along with plenty of setbacks usually – rather than one single watershed moment. Achievement is all about staying the course and not getting distracted or demotivated along the way. Remember, setbacks are par for the course – the only thing that matters is your attitude or reaction to them: will you or won't you get back up and try again?
Work ethic matters.
You have to know how to stick with something and put in the hard work – even if you feel things aren’t going as well as they could be in that particular moment. Turning up on time, honouring your commitments – they’re all part of a good work ethic, and having one is crucial to success. Mistakes and failures are often the quickest way to learn – even if it may not feel like it at the time. That said, it would be helpful if we all had more female role models to learn from and look up to in those moments – including women of colour. Seeing successful people who look like you can only inspire greater ambition across a broader part of the population.
It’s important to ask for help.
Not knowing something is always a good learning opportunity – and you shouldn’t be made to feel afraid to ask from help from those around you, especially if they have more experience than you. Being direct and transparent is important, too: it’s better to address things you’re not sure about head on early rather than allowing a situation to fester over time. Ask as many questions as possible and surround yourself with one or two mentors you really trust. Early on in your career, it’s also useful to think about the skills and experience you’re looking to build in a particular role – and ask for guidance about how you might get there. During my 20s, I built a roster of skills and experiences I knew I would later harness later on.
Speak up if something doesn’t feel right.
In the venture capital industry in the UK, only 13% of investment partners are female. To me, it makes absolutely no sense, and we need more representative decision makers around the table if things are to change. As women, we have to know our voices are just as important as the men, and there’s zero reason we should paid less for doing the same job with the same level of experience or number of contacts. Often, we’re fighting a culture of unconscious bias. If you’re ever in that situation, it’s worth giving that person the benefit of the doubt at first. You never know – they might be able to use the opportunity as a learning experience. Then go from there. We can all play a role in building a culture we want to work in.
Clearly defined roles & responsibilities are important.
Over the years, I’ve found working in an environment where everyone is clear on what their job really entails helps things to run smoothly. When people try to shift responsibility, things get messy. It is why straightforward communication is so crucial. The more companies you work with, I guarantee you’ll learn that micromanaging versus empowering others to do their job is the most effective way to build a team.
You have to make the most of your own story.
CVs may not be relevant a few years down the line, but this advice could apply to a LinkedIn page or something similar. Use straightforward language to describe your past experiences and be specific about the outcomes you were responsible for. It depends on the role, but include numbers and stats where possible. Format everything into a simple layout, and write it in a clear font that’s easy to read. Harvard Business School makes all of their students reformat their CVs when they arrive – it's something worth investigating and you can usually find the template the recommend online.
Work/life balance comes naturally if you love what you do.
Working as an angel investor and venture capital investor often means the lines between your work and personal life can become blurred. That’s not to say that I don’t need proper time off, however I genuinely enjoy what I do and so many people I work with have become close friends – be it fellow investors or entrepreneurs. I’ve always wanted to build a career I was so passionate so it didn’t feel like work, which remains true today.
Finally, remember the destination is just part of the journey.
It’s a cliché but try to enjoy the ride while you’re on it. Too many people are focused on where they’re trying to get to they forget to look around and see what’s on offer in the moment – whether it’s something you could learn from or a person who might prove invaluable in your network. When I was graduating, I was told to spend my early career challenging myself and taking the hardest path possible. That same person said it would be the fastest way to learn and equip myself with a wide roster of skills. Looking back, it’s a philosophy that’s done me well – I’d encourage anyone else to do the same.