The Women Shaping Asia's Tomorrow

Written by
Aaron Oh
Published on
March 7, 2024

What did you aspire to be when you were a child? Did you dare to dream to change the world?

This #InternationalWomensDay, Aspire brought together 10 innovators across Asia to share their journeys - from bold childhood dreams to inspiring work at Shopback, 500 Global, Meta, Lightspeed and more.

With childhood aspirations to be doctors, lawyers, archaeologists and more, it was inspiring to see how these leaders are living out their dreams today.

Here are the women shaping Asia's tomorrow, the women who #AspiretoInspire others through the work they do every day.

Pachara [Pinn] Lawjindakul, (Partner at Lightspeed)

“Like every good asian daughter, I aspired to be a doctor. This coveted job was what our typical asian culture would define as success, and was also a path I believed would bring pride to my parents.

Part of my job as a partner at Lightspeed, requires me to seek out talent that will go on a crazy journey with these young founders…. I can also encourage different avenues to explore interests and change career paths and hopefully that's my way of contributing to the future that I aspire for everybody.”

Patricia Setyadjie (Former Senior Business Lead [Group Industries], Glints)

“When I was small, I was always fascinated with movies like Indiana Jones. I was thinking that my career should be in archeology. ⛏️🪨

Unfortunately, my parents thought that being an archeologist would not give me a really bright future in Indonesia. But the spirit of exploration stuck with me - I love to explore, I love to learn. Eventually, that's how I was able to transfer my knowledge and experience throughout different industries through my work at Glints.”

Fern Nannaphat (Country Manager, Shopback)

“When I was a child, I had a few aspirations - teacher, farm owner, a chef. But beyond that I always wanted to explore the world beyond Thailand, where I grew up. 

Back in school, I managed to participate in a cultural exchange program in the United States. This experience broadened my perspectives - exposing me to a whole new culture and pushing me outside my comfort zone. This really changed how I approached and made my decisions in my life - which is how I ended up coming to Singapore in my Lazada days. This eventually led me to where I am now, leading Shopback Singapore.” 

Nadia Devita Oktarini (Director of Business Development, Voxxy Media)

“When I was young, I loved traveling. 🧳 I really love discovering new places and immersing myself in the environment and it still holds true today. 

After growing up,I realised that my joy didn’t just come from traveling, but also by applying stoicism in my life. Having this principle has improved the quality of both my personal and professional life, and it played a huge role in my achievements at Voxxy Media.”

Belinda Lim (Country Manager Singapore, The Sandbox) 

“When I was a child, I aspired to be a cashier. It might sound like an unconventional childhood dream, but both my grandfathers were small business owners and I wanted to be in charge of the cash 🤑. So I always wanted to start my own business. 

I’ve been in Tech since 2014 and tech has always been more male-dominated - having more women in the space and having a community that supports women and their journey is definitely important. And to enable that, bosses, regardless of gender, need to be aware of the issues that females are facing in the workplace and should always give women the benefit of the doubt to let them do what they can do best. 

At Sandbox, we’re quite lucky to have a majority of our country managers in Asia being female. Our co-founder & COO, Sebastien Borget gives us a lot of opportunities to grow in the workplace which comes in the form of building your own brand, getting speaking opportunities and beyond.”

Maria Josefina (Co-Founder, Afia Consulting & Next Chapter Academy)

“As a kid, I was always happy to speak on the microphone. I felt like my voice sounded different on the mic. 🎤 Growing up, I often acted as the master of ceremonies for various school events. That’s why I aspired to have a profession where I could speak on the mic and have my voice heard.

When I reached adulthood, I could see that my voice had that unique quality. I ended up becoming an announcer and professional emcee. I realized that my voice brought positive value to other people. So my aspirations evolved to sharing my skills and voice with even more people. And the impact was amazing.

Women can get to the top of their game by utilizing their voice, harnessing their skills, and maximizing their potential. I am proud of not just my achievements at Afia Consulting and Next Chapter Academy, but empowering people, especially women through my platform.” 

Ee Ling Lim (Executive Director of Market Launch at 500 Global)

“As a young kid, I always aspired to be an art teacher. This is strange because, in my later years, I was never too keen on teaching as a career choice - probably because my mum was a teacher.

So imagine my reaction when I realised I’ve come full circle - At 500 Global, I train founders through our startup programs, and at Smarter Me I’m also teaching programs dedicated to teenage founders for global startup competition.”

Revie Sylviana (Director, Creator Partnerships for SEA and Emerging Markets, Meta)

“As a child, my mom signed me up for so many different courses: ballet dance, balinese dance, and singing. I loved performing. I enjoyed it when I performed on stage. 🩰

While I loved performing, my parents made sure I continued my education. I grew up seeing that people can continuously grow and learn, no matter how old they are. That education, alongside my family background in entrepreneurship made me believe that women can have equal roles as men and support their family, and pushed me to where I am today.”

Jingjin Liu (CEO & Founder, ZaZaZu)

“When I was a little girl, I always wanted to become a lawyer. Why? 

Growing up in Beijing wasn’t easy for me, I was always bullied for being someone who didn’t fit into the typical Asian definition of beauty with my tanned skin. So I always wanted to be in a position of power - to fight for other people, especially other girls who have experienced similar injustice.

Today at ZaZaZu, our work ultimately aims to help women overcome self-limiting beliefs. We empower them by affirming that they can achieve anything and demonstrating that they are capable. Our goal is to help them silence the external noise from friends, parents, bosses, and society so that they can confidently pursue a career and define success on their own terms.” 

Grace Surya (Country Head of Marketing, Alva)

“I aspired to be a news anchor since I was a kid. 🎥👩🏻‍💼 I loved seeing how smart the news anchors are - how they share knowledge about the world to a global audience.

As years went by, I learned more about myself and what news anchors actually do. I realized -  it was not being a news anchor that I wanted, it was the impact that a news anchor can have on people all over the world.

I aspire for the work that I do at Alva to  make an impact in creating a sustainable world for my children and grandchildren.” 

As we reflect on the inspiring journeys of these women who dared to dream and are now shaping Asia's tomorrow, let us continue to #AspiretoInspire. Together, we move the mission forward, empowering more individuals to reach for their aspirations and change the world. Happy International Women's Day!

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About the author
Aaron Oh
is a seasoned content writer specialising in finance, insurance and tech industries. With a writing history at S&P Global, EdgeProp, Indeed, Prudential, and others, Aaron leverages finance knowledge and business insights to help businesses improve productivity and performance.
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