I’ve been lucky enough to start working with Steph on a couple of projects and it is great to see the energy and knowledge she brings to her work.
What’s your story?
I grew up in a small town in Sabah, Malaysia, which had 3 main roads and not much else. After completing university in Australia, I was privileged to join Accenture, working with financial institutions like DBS, ANZ, and CIMB. I had a great 16 year career, working in 8 different countries across 4 continents.
Unfortunately, I burnt out in my 10th year and it took 6 months of personal development and coaching to help me realise where I went wrong. I went back to Accenture, renewed and had another amazing 6 years with them. I realised that my mindset was the only thing that was making a difference in my entire experience.
I made the decision to leave Accenture and start my own women’s leadership coaching company as I wanted to help other women grow their teams and careers without burning out.
What excites you most about your industry?
Coaching provides a safe space for people to work through their fears and insecurities, without the fear of being judged or analysed. For a lot of us, we don’t have someone to talk to who is there as our personal cheerleader and also our accountability partner.
Magic happens when we are able to bounce ideas off a neutral, trusted party, have them listen, question and encourage us when needed. The key is also that they hold us accountable to the actions that we have committed to.
Just as all elite athletes have coaches, I believe every elite leader should have a coach.
What’s your connection to Asia?
I’ve coached women from Australia, Singapore, Indonesia, and Malaysia. What I’ve noticed is that for Asian women, the glass ceiling seems much thicker. As an Asian woman myself, I understand what it takes for an Asian woman to navigate her way through our patriarchal culture and even internal self-beliefs. For the non-Asian expatriate woman leading teams in Asia, having a female Asian coach who has led teams as an expatriate in 4 continents, helps too.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore, because it’s uber efficient, clean, safe and very supportive of business owners.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Feel the fear and do it anyway.
This is a great piece of advice because whenever we want to do something new, something out of our comfort zone, fear is the number 1 emotion that will be coursing through our veins. When I made the decision to quit a steady corporate job and start my own business, I felt a lot of fear as starting a business was the great unknown. However, I remembered this piece of advice and so I felt the fear and did it anyway.
Who inspires you?
Oprah Winfrey is an amazing woman and role model. She came from a very underprivileged background, was abused when she was younger, and she still managed to create her media empire today.
Her ‘never say die’ attitude is something that we can all learn from.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Lea Coligado wrote an article about the amount of sexism she faced as a female student in computer science at Stanford. In the 21st century, we would expect equality of the sexes to be more prevalent, especially at institutions of higher learning. Unfortunately, in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields, it seems like we have not made much progress. When both Lea and a male classmate landed summer internship gigs at Facebook, a mutual friend was initially impressed by the male classmate’s intelligence at being accepted by Facebook. When Lea, said she too was at Facebook, the friend made a comment that he should have applied, implying that if Lea, a woman, could get in, then obviously it wasn’t too hard.
As we try to encourage more young women to enter STEM, we must first ensure that we are encouraging both men and women to recognise each others strengths and contributions regardless of gender. We must level the playing field, or else we will be losing women in the workforce and all that hard work in getting more girls to enter STEM will be for naught.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Nothing. My journey has made me who I am today and I want to use my mistakes to help others. I hope that they can learn from my mistakes, instead of making them.
How do you unwind?
Hanging out with my partner and my friends. Nothing beats good food, good wine, good company and great conversation.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Any beach destination. The sea has always been a soothing influence on me.
Everyone in business should read this book:
Think and Grow Rich by Napolean Hill. This book introduced to me the power of the mind and how beliefs impact our actions.
His book is one of my inspirations for my upcoming book “ Effective Leadership for Women: Building High Performance Teams“. In my book, I teach women how to “activate” their leadership, by first working through their self-limiting beliefs and replacing them with enabling ones.
Shameless plug for your business:
I specialise in coaching women leaders who want to accelerate their career or their own business, without becoming overwhelmed . I’ve distilled my 16 years of leadership experiences into a 5-step leadership framework. Through a 12-session coaching programme, I help women leaders adopt my leadership framework. Over 3 – 6 months, they will learn to build teams that consistently overdeliver. I will even coach them through the implementation process, if they desire.
How can people connect with you?
Email: [email protected]
LinkedIn: Steph Chu
This interview was part of the Callum Connect’s column found on The Asian Entrepreneur:
Callum Laing has started, built, bought and sold half a dozen businesses in a range of industries across two continents. He is the owner of Fitness-Buffet a company delivering employee wellness solutions in 11 countries and he is also the CEO of Entrevo Asia, a company that runs 40 week Growth Accelerator programs.
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