ASHLEY SUE LYN
Articulate, confident, bright and ambitious, Ashley has accomplished a great deal in all of her 27-young years. Her most recent start-up venture, a social innovation firm, specialises in productivity consultancy and her role is to help individuals and organisations maximise overall productivity, efficiency and capacity. As a self-proclaimed “typical millennial”, Ashley has had three different jobs in three years. During her time in the workforce, she realised that many young professionals were, and still are, being under utilised. “I feel that our productivity limit isn’t being challenged. When we’re at work, we’re only thinking of getting paid to do certain specified tasks. But what are we actually doing to develop ourselves professionally and personally? I wanted to create a structure to inspire people to try new things – to add value to what they do, all within their own individual capacity.” she explained. She also observed that business-as-usual activities tend to take up too much time, that employees barely have time left for special projects that are vital for professional growth. “It’s the same in your personal life. Without special projects, how can you develop yourself as an individual outside the workplace? So that’s where my start-up comes in – I want to inspire more people to be more productive and to also find their flow, or reason for being so to speak.”
The biggest challenge Ashley faced initially with her start-up, was her age. Bigger companies questioned her credibility and experience. “I can only prove myself to them through my enthusiasm and passion. I think that my credibility also comes from wearing multiple hats, and through the productivity modules I have established. I have the same number of hours as anyone else, so if I can optimise my time, you can too!” she exclaimed. So, what does productivity really mean anyway? “It’s such a buzzword. It depends on each individual’s benchmark of productivity. When and where are you at your most productive? The challenge is inspiring people to figure that out for themselves.”
Besides working on her start-up business, Ashley is also extensively involved in various activist projects. “As an athlete, top student and active member of several societies in school and university, I’ve always been a very hands-on person. I thought my productive days were behind me once I started working, but I find that there are still so many ways to contribute to society, especially in achieving global sustainable development goals. There are 17 in total, set by the United Nations (amongst which include reduced inequalities, gender equality, economic growth and quality education), and I definitely can’t do it on my own. I need to inspire more people to achieve this global goal, together. Having productivity modules in place will help pave the path for us.” In her efforts to improve productivity, she has teamed up with Lean In (of which she is now the president of), a women’s empowerment platform, as well as Axiata Foundation, which invests in cultivating future leaders, start-ups and large-scale companies. In addition, Ashley is also a member of Mensa, a high IQ society. “Meeting people from these platforms encourages me to find new ways to collaborate and optimise our resources. For me, it’s always important to see how everything fits into the bigger picture. When people can’t see the significance of their contributions, they end up feeling demoralised and leave. That’s why we need greater awareness to show our younger generation that they’re all a part of something bigger than themselves, and their efforts can play a part in changing the course of the future.”
With so many roles and responsibilities on her plate, time management is crucial. “On a typical day, I do a lot of development-related activities. That involves attending meetings, brainstorming for solutions, attending events, networking, and finding new ways to optimise existing resources. I’ve also just recently taken up coding! It’s instrumental in the third level of my start-up – tech (the first two being product and service). Every day, I strive to find new experiences, new learning curves, and I always appreciate a good challenge. I will be taking my MBA in August this year, so 2018 will be a year of learning for me. To create output for organisations I’m involved in, I need to expand my knowledge, so I can put it to good use.” she affirmed.
On achieving gender equality, Ashley feels that society needs to eliminate gender biases at both a conscious and subconscious level. Gender neutral behaviours can be trained over time, and we each have to do our part to make it happen. “For example, instead of using absolutes of “him” or “her”, I make the effort to be inclusive by saying “he/she” or “she/he”. Women should also learn not to expect help from men, or restrict themselves to conventional roles of submission and frail femininity. Men on the other hand need to stop assuming that women need their help without question, but offer help courteously instead. We all need to play our part if gender equality is to become a mainstay in our generations to come.”
At the moment, Ashley is working with an organisational behavioural psychologist and conversational intelligence coach to build a structure that Human Resource departments can work with. “We’re assessing an effective solution for the influx of millennials who are exploring more flexible working arrangements. We want to educate companies to help them understand that the younger generation has various aspirations, from exploring social enterprises and NGOs to going abroad for new experiences. The tech start-up has to be able to pilot a program that charts productivity over a period of time, say six months, where young professionals will be given the opportunity to get into a personal development project of their choice. The old school approach of clocking in at 9am and clocking out at 5pm doesn’t apply to millennials anymore. The ultimate goal is for companies to understand their own employees and support them in their endeavours to reach their, and the companies’ optimal potential.” At the same time, she’s also collaborating with Korean and local NGOs to develop a mechanism to measure sustainable development goals within NGOs through scoreboards and efficient management of resources. She hopes to reach these goals by 2030, and to eventually mentor managers at all walks of life.
What keeps Ashley going is her fierce determination to see things through from start to finish, and her unquenchable thirst for knowledge. “I want to know something of everything, while exploring everything about something that I’m good at. It’s a form of sophisticated simplicity – I want to be able to achieve flow in all that I do, and be more present in the process, rather than being overwhelmed by the end goal. That being said, I do believe in the importance of balance. Everything should always be done in moderation.”