2021 (the pivot year) in review

2021, what a year to reflect on. Let’s go!!  

After the shock of 2020 and the pandemic, 2021 was more of the same ups and downs with Covid-19 BUT:

> We got vaccinated in May-June 2021. Thank you science and all the researchers whose years-long effort enabled humanity to identify the structure of the virus and create a vaccine in 1 year. I nearly cried when I heard the news of the vaccine discovery late 2020 and am truly grateful for Singapore securing doses for us.

> Our puppy turned 2 in and she’s the cutest with the stilly hats that she hates for her birthday and Xmas

> We were able to invite 8 guests to celebrate our Epiphany tradition with the king’s cake (galette des rois) at home with our close friends and their kids. The winner is the one who finds the trinket in their slice of almond-based cake and his our king or queen of the day (choosing their partner king or queen). Xmas sparkled with M&S music box Xmas tree that delighted kids (with their biscuits inside).

> I continued training with my personal pilates trainer and she came home when the studio was closed due to the delta variant  

> I started 2021 with a topic dear to my heart: mentoring and started a year-long journey of becoming a better mentor with Asia Institute of Mentoring’s Certified Professional Mentor program. After 3 months of theory and 6 months of practicum, I was proud to graduate in Dec 2021 in a super nice online ceremony with live performance. Such a nice gesture, thank you AIM!

AND embarked on the journey of studying for my AWS Solution Architect certification. It was a hell of a ride and so hard that I’m very grateful for the community and support from AWS She Builds, CloudU program where we felt we were not alone and could ask any question with AWS Solution Architects only 1-click away. To see my tips for studying and revising, read away here.

I proudly obtained my certification on 25 April 2021 and this has served me well… because I was heavily (19 interviews in 16 weeks, it was a learning journey) interviewing since Feb 2021 at Accenture, Google, Microsoft, TikTok, LinkedIn (yes, it was a blessing to have a job in 2020 but my ambition didn’t go away during the pandemic and I was so ready for a bigger challenge in 2021). It started with coffee chats since January and I I nurtured my network to be referred and get the best chances for my interviews.

> I’m proud to report that I landed my dream job as Principal CSAM in the dream Grab team at Microsoft.

This is possibly the biggest change of 2021 because then we hired a helper to take care of our puppy (and us with 3 meals a day at home, if anyone asked again “What are we having for dinner” I would kill someone), and because of that we needed a bigger flat to accommodate a live-in domestic helper.

The helper joined 4 July, I started the new role 21 July and we moved house 1st August, sadly saying goodbye to my beloved Tiong Bahru neighbourhood after 3 years 😔

The Saturday and Sunday are no-screen time: reading books or The New Yorker in the new patio, sipping tea. The balcony is for sunsets with gin & tonic.

> We started the year with some culture 1st Jan 2021 with the Orient Express exhibition (and afternoon tea) and late January completed our Xmas no-screen project with the 5,000-pieces LEGO of the Rocinante space ship. The LEGO mania continued with the Botanical collection, the NYC skyline which now sits on my desk and the Star Wars Royal Guard TIE Interceptor (of course there 2 pieces missing so we’re stuck and can’t assemble the wings yet). We also got into Pandemic, the board game during… the pandemic. After 1 year working from home, I finally quit my kitchen table and invested in a third-hand desk bought for $50 in my neighbourhood (loving it); got a better chair few weeks later.

My robot collection welcomed a new friend: the Donkey Snowglobe The Robot (my Xmas 2021 gift to myself after I saw it in Dec 2020 but didn’t budge my hubby hard enough and it was sold out afterwards).

> We celebrated our 12-year wedding anniversary at Michelin-star restaurant ZEN. Without the border restrictions, we would have travelled somewhere but this year we invested that travel budget in an experience of dining from the ground floor to the upper floor with fantastic wine pairing and service. A magical evening!

> I invested my time and became part of Cloud Seeders’ board. We were thankful to meet in person to ideate on and solidify our strategy for this cloud learning community for women by women. On the same day I received the paper version of my PG Diploma in Business Management. What a positive and energising day!

We relaunched with a bang in June and I proudly facilitated an Introduction to HCD in the Innovation & Digital Transformation curriculum on 8 July 2021. I love this group and community!

> We actually got invited to speak at AWS Online Summit in the Community track and it was an honor to record (as professionally as we could at home, with the assistance of my best half enrolled as sound engineer) our session with my awesome Cloud Seeders partners Shehara and Menglin. I will cherish this moment of collaboration, fun and coming together as a group for a long time. Our Security by Design for developers video was live 18-19 May 2021 and is now on-demand with the deck on AWS Online Summit ASEAN.

> I was super proud to become a silver certified IamRemarkable facilitator by running a workshop with GDG Kuala Lumpur for International women’s day. This program is so good and I’m trying to implement it at Women at Microsoft ERG.

> I grew SheSaysSG Who’s your Momma community to 134 mentees and 58 mentors organically despite organising only 1 online event in April with my awesome friend and mentor Joanna Ludkiewicz for International Women’s Day on Changing role in the midst of a pandemic (check out the summary of the session and links to her useful templates)

> I still managed to go to 2 concerts: Candlelight at Victoria Theatre (movie music) and Chijmes (Queen); and enjoyed this year a virtual Cartoons Underground, the independent Southeast Asia animation festival, organised by the amazing Vicky Chen

> I read 9 issues of The New Yorker despite not travelling until October 2021 (and yes the paper copies from the past 10 years+ made it in the move)

> My podcasts discoveries in 2021 in addition to 2018-2020 discoveries (see previous post in 2018, in 2019 and in 2020 review):

  • The Robot brAIns podcast hosted by Pieter Abbeel, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of California, Berkeley, where he is also the director of the Berkeley Robot Learning Lab and co-director of the Berkeley AI Research lab. He is co-founder and Chief Scientist of Covariant (and discovered in this phenomenal interview on AI Robotics quiet revolution… Computer vision (thanks Deep Learning) + robots)
  • Be Antiracist with Ibrahim X. Kendi (a great complement to his necessary namesake book that I highly recommend everyone to read)
  • The So What by BCG
  • Future of work, now by Salesforce
  • Founded by Women Techmakers
  • Slate Technoloy
  • The disruptive voice by HBS which starts with late Clay Christensen’s voice introducing the podcast (so nice to hear him)
  • The Positive leadership by JP Courtois from Microsoft
  • Behind the tech with Kevin Scott from Microsoft

> Tried few new restaurants:

  • Rebel rebel
  • Clos Pasoh
  • Angie’s oyster bar in their new Tan Boon Liat location
  • Yantra Indian Cuisine
  • Mag’s wine kitchen
  • GAIG Catalonian restaurant
  • CarottSticks and Carvings on Stanley St as an alternative to my go-to Common Man or Free the Robot for socialising now that I am back to the office on Cecil street 2 half-days a week

> With borders remaining mostly closed, 2021 was the year of staycations (amazing Raffles Hotel experience, even during our 2nd stay in the middle of a semi-lockdown when restaurants were closed) until Singapore opened Vaccinated Travel Lanes just on time for my husband’s birthday and with the VTL to Italy being a direct flight to Milan, we went to visit Piedmont during truffle season and visited a house… which we bought on the spot. This long term project materialised after a 2-year lockdown and 2 visits. It was great to go back to the wineries we visited in October and stock up for the new house.

Proud of my professional achievements in 2021 too:

  • Onboarded new Client partner at Hyper Island
  • Experimented new continuous engagement service with a prototyping team
  • Expanded Jardines Group relationship by closing a program with Gammon
  • Left Hyper Island in Q2 on a high after contributing to a successful Jardines LearnFest and documenting the ingredients for a successful Digital Academy setup and iteration. After documenting the amazing 3-year partnership journey on developing their teams to be more innovative, they won the prestigious Brandon Hall – Excellence in Learning Awards HR awards – Gold for best Advanced in Blended Learning
  • Secured speakers for Grabathon 9.0 only 6 weeks after I started at Microsoft
  • Hosted Grab-Microsoft Townhall with CEOs Satya Nadella and Anthony Tan fireside chat
  • I’m the go-to person on anything Grab at Microsoft 4 months in the role (and new to Microsoft)

> 2021 continued to be the year of webinars as in-person events were still restricted (no one wants to become a cluster) or the few face-to-face/hybrid ones were socially-distanced and underwhelming as chitchatting & mingling was prohibited. I stayed curious and kept up with industry trends, learnings, podcasts and webinars

21 Jan Forrester and Grab Discuss AI-Driven Customer Experience in Asia with Sprinklr

Rammiz Omar Divisional Vice President Sprinklr, Xiaofeng Wang Senior Analyst Forrester and Elaine Neo Marketing Tech Manager Grab

28 Jan Streamz presented AI Scaling sales readiness with Forrester, Castrol, AWS, Streamz AI (Recording; PDF Decks)

2 Feb: GoJek FirstPrinciples was an AMA session with DoorDash’s Gokul Rajaram and 8 July with Deepak Kumar from Zeta Suite. Learned about Process design John Boyd’s OODA loop

5 Feb Diversity, Equity and Inclusion day on Google Open Source Live

10 Feb Dare to Lead – Brené Brown and Jack Jackson (CEO) Slalom

Thought-provoking conversation between Dr. Brené Brown and Slalom CEO Brad Jackson on daring leadership and how to cultivate courageous, innovative cultures.

  • Vulnerability and innovation
  • Leadership and self awareness
  • Normalising discomfort
  • Straddling tension (Obama interview and the power of paradoxical leadership, 2 things being true at the same time) eg. more discipline, systems to be more innovative (yes, and & improv)

24 Feb The workforces of the future: Brandi Baldwin – Authentic Allyship: Building Your Cultural Competence as a Professional

So good to hear Dr Brandi as always and specifically what the Authentic Allyship seems in DEI: People love to learn, but hate to change.

17 Feb: Lean In helped with 2020 reflection and reboot for 2021

5 March: loved hearing at Guts, Glory & Story about Anuprita’s journey across Microsoft, Apple, Google… after I met her at Google’s DEI day panel late 2019 (Recording)

So many lessons. Eg. on meeting Bill Gates backstage: “don’t be nervous, we’re only human”

  • 5 words with Steve Jobs to get colourful iMacs in India. « Badge on the table » then « approved » and when the calculations for the business case materialised, a 1-word email « Nice »
  • Changing the plot of James Bond to represent Women at HP
  • Working in hardware at Google
  • Men as allies. We can all be allies and we can help each other as we all have a privilege or have something that others don’t have.
  • Networking: read to know the latest news and ask the CEO about that rather than ask about kids, spouse in business setting
  • On micro-aggressions: Lack of knowledge rather than prejudice or racism when people say you speak such good English or you’re so confident, have you studied in the US? Seeing it as curiosity.
  • Prejudice if you’re denied a promotion or opportunity
  • Sales: full of rejection (otherwise you’re not trying enough).
  • Develop a thick skin and remember it’s just a job.
  • Take rejection with pinch of salt. Reflect on it. And day after is another day.

8 March IWD – theBoardlist Presents: Fireside Chat with Kim Scott & Emily Chang (Recording)

16 Mar Women in IT: Google’s IT Career Info Session

1-11 March: AWS was offering another series of great panels for International Women Day with inspirational women and leaders sharing their journey, experience and tips. “Everyone is equal behind the AWS console”

8 March (GDG Perth), 12-13 March and 31 March (GDG WTM North America): GDG was also very good during International Women month

I LOVED Priyanka Vergadia’s Google Cloud for Beginners session. This is the BEST 45min really beginner friendly and demystifies GCP

13 April: HBR organised a great session with Scott Anthony co-author of one of my favorite book of 2021 “Eat, Sleep, Innovate” with Paul Cobban from DBS who spoke to our Hyper Island students and Sr Partner at Innosight, the consultancy founded by the father of Jobs to be done, the late Pr Christensen himself.

Meta moment when reading Hit refresh at night and Eat, sleep, innovate in the morning and seeing one referencing the other 😊

Our friends at GDG continued their Saturday morning leadership series with

16 Jan Christian McCarrick, Facebook shared Lessons Learned in 20 Years of Engineering Leadership (recording)

re:Work Google manager feedback survey: https://rework.withgoogle.com/guides/managers-give-feedback-to-managers/steps/try-googles-manager-feedback-survey/ and https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Xhos_gEauxXtUyPQ2V3qrUciu7yudCAZVtHCLVlPJe4/edit

The entire re:Work Google Project Aristotle “What makes a team effective at Google?” is a fantastic resource

20 Feb: Chris Haag, Salesforce spoke about Managing High and Low Performers (recording)

20 March: they had Prasad Setty, Google (Vice President of People Operations) talk about Working Better Together (recording)

3 April: they invited Construction Architects to talk about their transition to Tech Architects (recording)

17 April: they invited Bruce Wang (Netflix) back to talk this time about Engineer Career Paths: Are You Climbing Ladders or Scaling Walls? (recording)

These sessions are gold and now that my 2021 rule is no-screen until 12pm during weekends on my patio, I make a point to catch the recordings (always a good use of my time and so lovely to see the crew Julius, Weiyuan and Jia Xin who work so hard to make this happen and liven up the community

19 May Asia Institute of Mentoring hosted Sudhir Sharma on Get Breakthrough Performance with OKR (Objectives & Key Results) – the Google way. I love how pragmatic his session was 😊 Main learning: OKRs shouldn’t cascade but align. Google re:work blog on OKRs

And 13 July Mukul Deva and Georgette Tan Adamapoulos discussed Thrive on Change with Clarity and Confidence in Leading in the age of Disruption | Leadership Series (Recording)

17 June: Salesforce Education Summit and Salesforce Live: Asia were amazing with A Discussion About the Future of Education with Yuval, the author of Sapiens, A Conversation with Former First Lady Michelle Obama and Seth Godin on The Future of Marketing in a Digital-First World and Sephora’s Amrita Balaji: How to Humanise your Marketing by Creating Personalised Moments that Matter

They had Cheryl Goh – Group VP of Marketing and Sustainability, Grab in their Success From Anywhere on 20 May and showcased the Grab merchants onboarding journey + behind the scene backend Salesforce modules and their FY launch 10 Feb Live from the Fullerton Bay – Lantern in Singapore with their CEO Marc Benioff Keynote where they announced Hyperforce, their “OS for growth” (Recording).

In the LearnUpon Learning Impact digital series, on 26 Jan Salesforce Heather Conklin emphasised the importance of internal marketing (incl. celebrate successes), community management as a differentiator and multiplier (mentors, mentees), own product team (engineers and content) (Recording and slides).

And 12 Jan, in Datorama – Growth is Critical in Today’s Marketing Landscape, the team presented the results of their survey with data integration, Lack of real time insights as top challenges and People more in touch with data (director and below) are less confident than executive (Recording and Shareable link).

Microsoft did some interesting webinars and now that I’m an insider, it’s interesting to see that it is not just vain words but the reality of the culture.

19 May Meet Microsoft Customer Success (Recording)

25-27 May Microsoft Build. Lindsay-Rae McIntyre and Kenji Yoshino on “Covering”, Satya Nadella’s keynote highlighting “Tech intensity”: “There won’t be tech companies, non-tech companies have been hiring developers at higher rate than tech companies.” Hey hey, little did I know that 2 months later I would literally apply these topics in my day-to-day work.

21 June: Microsoft did amazing events on Juneteenth Microsoft inclusion journey – The case for diversity & inclusion: Human, business, and geopolitical

Conversation with Prof. Kimberlé Crenshaw from Include 17 March 2021 (Recording)  

22 June AIA Singapore Drives Digital Transformation with Java on Azure (Recording)

15 July Inspire – Microsoft Asia Pacific Partner Community Session: #WinningTogether in APAC

SG Innovate continued to inspire with webinars on

28 Jan Scaling Innovations: Corporate and Start-up Collaboration (Recording)

8 Mar International Women Day – Leading together in STEM (Recording)

26 Mar How to Futureproof Your Careers: Deep Tech Edition (Recording)

12 July What Lies Beyond: AI and Data Transformations