For those who have embraced the start-up life, they would know how challenging and hectic it can be. Every day is chaotic and oftentimes there is little semblance of order. Navigating the blurriness of it all is perhaps what inspire most hustlers. The same can be said for Coco He, hoolah’s very own Director of Operations!
This International Women’s Day, hoolah Singapore is concluding our week-long inspirational female figure feature with Coco. Having worked in various MNCs in the past decades, the final story of the four-part series sees Coco’s ambition and desire to challenge herself in the startup scene.
Sng Ler Jun: How would you describe what you do to someone you are meeting for the first time?
Coco He: Well, I tell people that I am working for a very cool fintech startup which is a lifestyle enabler that enhances consumer affordability as well as promoting shopping responsibly.
Ler Jun: What was your background and how long has it been since you joined hoolah?
Coco: I’d like to say that I have a common background in corporate organisations, like most people. I graduated from a local engineering school at Nanyang Technology University (NTU). Then, I started my first job as an engineer in a huge multinational corporation (MNC). Two years later, I went to business school for further studies and got my MBA degree. Thereafter, I moved to the business sector, focusing on commercial operations, enterprise sales, and supply chain management. I have always been working in MNCs, until I joined hoolah.
It’s been 200 days since I joined hoolah.
Ler Jun: Speaking about your background and your career, you’ve had a quite a varied career from working at Apple, Microsoft and even Seagate. How do you think these experiences reflect the way you are now, today?
Coco: I spent 10 years with those big MNCs and have gotten very diverse exposure in different sectors. When I look back, I think it has become a learning and exploration journey of sorts. I’ve realised one thing that has never changed throughout the decade: that is, I’m always keen to take on new challenges.
Ler Jun: Having worked for various MNCs, why did you decide to make the jump to a local fintech startup?
Coco: After working in various MNCs for over 10 years, I have gotten to learn a lot about myself. MNCs provide plenty of work-life balance but I am in my 30s, and that’s not the lifestyle I want to have right now. I still want to do something more meaningful and make more impact. So that’s the reason why I started to look for opportunities in the startup sector. hoolah has been the right fit, and every day’s exciting here.
Ler Jun: What’s a typical working day at hoolah like?
Coco: My work starts from 9am and I’m focused on my planning how my whole day would look like. I weigh tasks on their urgency, and I decide what to do based on the priority. From 10am onwards, I have plenty of meetings. Sometimes, these meetings last the whole day. Actually, 80% of my time is spent on virtual meetings with stakeholders, managers, peers and my team.
My role is focused on new market expansion support while driving the operational excellence across the existing markets!
Ler Jun: You’re always learning!
Coco: Yeah. As a a leader, I want to enable people to succeed, help them navigate through the chaos, and make people’s lives easier.
Ler Jun: What advice would you give younger women who are looking to embrace the hectic culture of a startup life?
Coco: Firstly, I think chaos is normal. They have got to embrace that. Embrace the unstructured things, the messiness, the unknown. Challenges pop up daily, they have got to be ready for that. Mentally, they have got to be ready. If everything’s somehow structured, I’m not convinced that’s how a start-up ought to be.
Secondly, you have got to see chaos a breeding pool of opportunities. You have got to make certain things work. I don’t get that challenge in an MNC.
From a career development perspective, it is important for young women to consider things in the long run too. Not all startups can offer good bonus or benefit packages, but they can offer exposures that make you grow and help develop your career.
Ler Jun: How do you think being a female leader has shaped you as a person?
Coco: I love this question. I don’t see myself as a leader. For myself, I have never thought I was born to be a leader. In my life, I have also not put being a leader as my life goal. So, I don’t consider myself as a “leader-leader”. As a woman, I am always striving to be caring, be more patient, or to help others. I have learned to become even more pro-active in the workplace and to step up whenever necessary. I guess these traits pivot me to perform better.
Ler Jun: What does International Women’s Day mean to you?
Coco: I think it’s a day for us to show our appreciation to the one of the very amazing genders: women! In fact, it reminds me that no matter what gender you are, where you come from, we ought to respect one another. It’s a timely reminder!
Ler Jun: What taboos related to the theme of women you wished were broken?
Coco: I disagree when people use gender to define what you should or should not do. This goes out to women, men, and other genders too. Humans evolve, and I think our mentality should change too! That kind of thinking is very out of fashion.
Ler Jun: Which women are you inspired by in your local community, or globe?
Coco: To be honest, I don’t have a particular figure in my mind. I do admire Michelle Obama. I am also inspired by my ex-female boss, my ex female colleagues, and my peers in my current company; they have shown me that every single person has an element of leadership in them.
Ler Jun: What are the women themes that still need greater awareness?
Coco: Women can do many things. Our age should not define what we can do and what we ought to do. In fact, I think women are beautiful regardless of all ages!
All images courtesy of Coco He.
This story is Part Four of four stories (featuring Coco He, the Director of Operation of hoolah) on the exceptional female figures in Singapore. In light of International Women’s Day, we tip hats to the everyday women who are narrating their own chapter of female inclusivity and empowerment in their own lives and in the 21st century.
Here’s wishing all ladies a Happy International Women’s Day!