Catherine Yeow: Having it all
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Group Business Leader of HRnetOne Singapore and Thailand Catherine Yeow has been through her fair share of trials and tribulations when she first began growing her specialisation in the company.
“As a young mother of 3, I was constantly ferrying between countries. Apart from growing my team in Singapore, I had been tasked with setting up offices in Bangkok and Seoul, so there was a lot of travelling involved.”
It was tough having to miss out on a lot of milestones in her children’s lives: birthday parties, graduations, school events and performances. There were also difficulties in expanding into new regions and understanding the professional landscape in these territories.
“But the sacrifices have positive lasting impacts to them. My children have grown up to be independent, forward-thinking young adults. The two business units in Thailand and Korea are doing well, and we are always looking to expand our teams there.”
Q: How do you feel about assuming so many responsibilities at work and at the office?
A: You might find it tough that you’re wearing many hats: you’re a mother, a daughter, a wife, a leader and a subordinate. But I don’t see this as a negative thing. The very fact that I have many responsibilities to fulfil helps me understand that each member in my team is a multi-faceted individual who has his or her own roles in life to fill, his or her own responsibilities, interests and worries. I’m able to empathise with them better.
Q: What have you learnt in your years as a leader?
A: I know women feel pressured to give up on their dreams because of all the other responsibilities that society piles on them in life. However, our understanding that there are certain roles that we have to fill should not discourage but actually empower us. The fact that we have to be so many things and do so many things should serve as proof that we are strong and capable of achieving our dreams. It should give us motivation to look at all that we have accomplished and think, “I’ve managed to do this much. I’m stronger than I thought. I’ve proved that I can do it.” And once women have understood that, they can use this empowerment as strength to realise that there is no need to downsize their dreams.
Q: What advice do you have for women who are looking to further their careers in a leadership role?
You never know where you might end up in life, so take the chances and opportunities that come your way. Talk to the people you meet, as many as you can, and understand their story. Usually the people who greatly impact your life are not your close friends or family, but strangers or acquaintances. There is no harm in reaching out, finding out more, or taking small steps to achieve your dreams.