(Women on Top in Tech is a series of Women Founders, CEOs & Leaders in technology. It aims to amplify and bring to the fore diversity in leadership in technology.)
I am talking to Anna Gong, CEO of Perx Technologies, a leading mobile customer engagement and loyalty software company headquartered in Singapore. Anna was born in China and grew up in the U.S., and has been in the tech industry for nearly 20 years. She has worked at large and startup companies before taking over the leadership of Perx in November 2014.
How did you rise in the industry you are in?
With pure perseverance and an undying passion for success. All because of the fear of letting my parents’ big sacrifice go in vain. They came to the U.S. with $500 and 2 young kids (my sister and me). They sacrificed their careers as established academic and healthcare professionals. I wanted them to be proud and while growing up in the U.S. where it’s full of dreams and hopes. I took on many challenges and tried many things to prove that I can achieve success and greatness but not without hardship, obstacles, and major discrimination challenges.
From the day I graduated from college, I started my career in the tech industry. I have never once let a mostly male-dominated industry discourage me. I also did not let rejection of opportunities discourage me either. I optimistically persevered and even acted like one of the boys to fit in and disguised my femininity at times. I was not afraid to face challenges, push backs and lean into difficult situations. I always knew if I didn’t take those chances, the opportunity would pass me by.
Why did you take on this role/start this startup especially since this is perhaps a stretch or challenge for you? (or viewed as one since you are not the usual leadership demographics.)
I wouldn’t say I wasn’t the usual leadership demographic. There are more and more tech companies being led by females, but it still has ways to go to be on the same level playing field as men.
I was actually recruited into this role by the board and I took it since I knew the mobile technology was a hot area to get into and it was a great business model. However, when I came in, I discovered that this company needed a whole new face lift, an entire shift in the way we did business to ensure we could achieve sustainable and repeatable success.
I therefore “refounded” the company and developed a whole new culture, technology platform, business and service model. You now see a different Perx. Perx 2.0.
Now as a leader how do you spot, develop, keep, grow and support your talent?
This is one of the more common challenges with companies of all sizes. It has to start from the foundational ingredients such as core values and culture. Then it’s leadership and how well you instill and practice ownership, accountability but yet still make it a fun, creative and challenging environment.
Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?
I now unconsciously support it. I believe in and embrace diversity but at the end of the day, I aim to hire the best person for the role and not the best gender.
What is your take on what it takes to be a great leader in your industry and as a general rule of thumb?
I’m not sure if there’s any single handbook that teaches you to be a great leader but there are things that I believe in and practice. You have to have great vision, strong purpose, and core values that the company can buy into, support, and love by. Focus focus focus and be transparent. Lead from the front line and lead with compassion and empathy.
Advice for others?
Don’t be afraid to fail and seek advice from your community. You cannot do this alone and being a CEO is a lonely job. Find one or a few mentors. This is absolutely essential to our success and our sanity.
To learn more about Perx, please see http://www.getperx.com.
Are you a startup looking for investment? Come join me at Expert Dojo’s “Q4 Investor Festival – Where Startups Meet Investors” in Santa Monica, from October 24 to 28. Details at http://expertdojo.com/events/biggest-startup-pitch-event-usa-5-days-focus-get-startup-funded-investor-festival/.
For information about the first ever “Latinx in Tech Edition”, please see http://www.kaporcenter.org/event/startup-weekend-oakland-latinx-tech-edition/.