A podcast featuring inspiring people about their journey to discovering and living their "WHY" or purpose in life. With your host & producer, Ling Yah, we deep dive into everything from finances to dealing with doubts and setbacks, and how to forge an unconventional career from ground zero! Expect to hear from entrepreneurs, artists, journalists, musicians, Hollywood actresses, VC founders and more. Visit www.sothisismywhy.com for more details!
Ep 25: Chong Chan-Yau (CEO, CarbonCare Innolab & President, Hong Kong Blind Union)
Chong Chan-Yau is the CEO of CarbonCare InnoLab, the President of the Hong Kong Blind Union, former Chairman and current Director of The Board of the Dialogue in the Dark Hong Kong Foundation, former Chairman of and current Board Director of Carbon Care Asia, former Executive Director of Oxfam Hong Kong.
He received awards, including Ten Outstanding Young Persons Award, MBE, China Poverty Alleviation Award, and Honorary Fellowship from the University of Hong Kong.
Chan-Yau grew up in Kowloon City, Hong Kong, and became blind at the age of 6. However, Chan-Yau has never allowed his blindness to hold him back from defying society’s expectations & creating great impact whether it’s in the area of fighting for equal rights for the disabled to combating global poverty and climate change.
In this STIMY episode, we discuss:
1:41: Growing up in a large family of 10 in Kowloon City, Hong Kong
3:49: Going blind at the age of 6
7:37: Studying at the Ebenezer School for the Blind & why it took 1 year for his family to decide to let him go (including learning Braille)
9:28: What it’s like learning Braille
12:03: Being rebellious & defying expectations of what being blind could do as students
16:04: Aspiring to further education & not doing what was expected of blind people then (being telephone operators or fortune-tellers)
20:44: What drove Chan-Yau to constantly prove others wrong, that “our ability is not affected by our blindness”
21:39: Attending regular school & receiving assistance from Sister Moira of the Maryknoll Convent School
25:10: Entering the University of Hong Kong as one of its first blind students
27:07: Petitioning the Governor of Hong Kong to provide more equal rights and opportunities to blind people
30:44: Studying at the London School of Economics
33:35: Becoming the first Hong Kong government administrative officer
34:48: Reason for joining Oxfam and becoming the Director of Fundraising
36:06: How Chan-Yau developed the monthly donor base for Oxfam Hong Kong from 3000 to over 100,000
39:47: Developing Oxfam rice & why rice was the medium chosen
42:07: The development of rights of the blind in Hong Kong
44:48: Founding the Dialogue in the Dark Hong Kong
46:40: How can employers create a more inclusive workplace for the blind?
48:31: Entering the climate change space
Show notes: https://www.sothisismywhy.com/25
Ep 24: Malek Ali - Founder of BFM 89.9 & Fi Life
Malek Ali is a former lawyer turned serial entrepreneur most known for founding BFM 89.9, Malaysia’s only business radio channel, and Fi Life, Malaysia’s first online life insurance service. Malek shares a ton of fascinating insights on what it’s like being an entrepreneur & trust me when I say he hasn’t had it easy! It seems as though every time he starts a business, a financial crisis hits!
Some highlights of our STIMY episode include:
2:52: His childhood & being asked to decide on which parent to stay with during their divorce at the age of 5;
4:55: Accompanying his father (and later, brother) on their many overseas business trips particularly in France;
7:52: The 1985 recession that crushed the slimming center business chain that his father was running;
8:46: Why Malek initially studied law when his first love was in business;
10:22: Working at Allen & Overy in London, including on a deal that involved the bankruptcy of Canary Wharf;
11:48: Studying for his Harvard MBA & the lessons he drew from that (he was classmates with Sheryl Sandberg!);
15:43: Founding KL Classifieds, his first startup, in 1997 & why that landed him RM300,000 in debt;
16:50: How Malek got out of his debt & ended up working at JobStreet;
21:26: What he learned from his time as Head of Mobile at Maxis, then Yahoo;
23:20: What Sue Decker, then CFO of Yahoo, taught him about the importance of creating good products;
25:29: What pushed Malek to start BFM 89.9, Malaysia’s only business radio channel;
30:50: The challenges he faced in getting investors on board;
34:08: How Malek obtained a dormant frequency for broadcasting BFM 89.9;
36:10: The collapse of Lehman Brothers & BFM 89.9’s struggle to cover relevant content with their threadbare staff;
38:18: Getting sponsors for BFM 89.9 including from Malaysia Airlines;
40:51: Sensitive topics that can’t be discussed on air;
42:12: Listening to customer feedback & how to handle complaints;
43:47: The different interviewees that have come through BFM’s doors & how their attitude informs their character;
45:47: Whether radio will ever be obsolete;
48:41: Why Malek started Fi Life;
50:27: Reading up on the investment portfolios of many other people on Fi Life’s “This Is How I Invest” blog series;
50:56: Impact of COVID-19 on the media space; and
53:18: How listeners can help Malek.
Show notes: https://www.sothisismywhy.com/24
Ep 23: Sarah Chen - Co-Founder of Beyond the Billion & Lean in Malaysia
Sarah Chen is many things but she is above all. a powerful advocate & role model for women empowerment. She is the co-founder of Lean In Malaysia, which boasts over 5,000 women within the network, bringing women back into the workforce, accelerating women into leadership positions. And also sits on multiple boards including 131 & counting, which is a bipartisan effort to fete the unprecedented number of women serving in the House and Senate, to encourage more women to run for office in the United States.
Sarah is also a global investment professional. She previously worked in the corporate venture capital unit of Sime Darby, a $13 billion Asian conglomerate investing in late-stage biotech stageups, and is now the co-founder and managing partner of The Billion Dollar Fund for Women: a global consortium of venture capital funds that have now pledged beyond US$1Bn to be invested into women-founded companies; now known as Beyond The Billion. Specifically, she works with limited partner investors to diversify their portfolio through venture as a returns strategy.
In addition, Sarah was named World Economic Forum Young Global Leader and Forbes 30 Under 30, and has also been featured amongst others on Der Spiegel, the Wall Street Journal and Forbes.
But what is her story?
In this STIMY Episode, we explore:
4:27: Her parent’s parenting style of “dream big, aim high”;
5:43: Becoming a national child TV host for the Golden Kids Club on TV2 RTM (a Malaysian channel) at the age of 9;
8:49: How Sarah’s dad gave her the push she needed to audition for the Golden Kids Club;
10:42: Family dinner conversations that included listening to her dad advise her mom on her career;
14:17: The ping pong competition story;
18:54: How Sarah was told, “Hey as a girl, I think you’re too ambitious”
21:11: Why Sarah did law at King’s College London;
26:27: Why Sarah ended up being the interim director of MRI Network at the age of 21;
30:25: How Sarah ended up working in the corporate venture capital unit of Sime Darby (p/s: by taking initiative & asking for a coffee chat!);
35:41: Appearing on the reality TV Show, The Apartment, with her brother (Chef Brian Cheng);
39:40: Becoming aware of women doing the work, but not getting the recognition for it;
40:40: Of how no matter how good a woman is at her job, “she was not good enough unless she had a ring on her finger”;
50:03: How Sarah met Shelly Porges, who became her co-founder of the Billion Dollar Fund;
52:05: The state of the VC industry in 2017;
1:03:02: The reception they got at the World Bank when the Billion Dollar Fund was launched in October 2018;
1:04:23: Key misconceptions people have about gender diversification in investments;
1:07:58: How they gained public attention on the Billion Dollar Fund’s mission;
1:10:08: The role of Billion Dollar Breakfast events & how the Billion Dollar Fund helps female entrepreneurs;
1:14:12: The difference between an LP (Limited Partner) and a GP (General Partner);
1:17:49: Impact of COVID-19 on the venture capital space;
🎙️Show notes: https://www.sothisismywhy.com/23
Ep 22: Alena Murang - Sarawakian Sape Player, Visual Artist & Heritage Advocate
Alena Ose’ Murang is a Sarawakian sape player singer, teacher, speaker, social entrepreneur, visual artist & heritage advocate. Born in Kuching, Sarawak, to a Kelabit father, Ose Murang and English-Italian mother Valerie Mashman, Alena and her older brother were immersed in their local heritage from young including dance and the local lute instrument, the sape. While Alena has never formally studied music, she answered her calling to be a keeper of stories for her people and in 2016, released her first EP, Flight - a collection of traditional Kenyah & Kelabit songs.
Since then, Alena has performed at many renowned world music festivals including the SXSW (USA), Colors of Ostrava (Czech Republic), Paris Fashion Week (France), Rudolstadt Festival (Germany), OzAsia Festival (Australia), and Rainforest World Music Festival (Malaysia). She was a youth representative at the UNESCO Youth Forum in Paris, and UNESCO Asia-Pacific for her work in intangible cultural heritage.
Some of the things we talked about include:
3.20: What is was like growing up in Kuching & being immersed in the local culture including visiting villages, studying rituals like basket weaving & hiking
6:08: How at the age of 6, Alena & her cousins began to learn the arang kadang (long dance) & solo Hornbill dance from her aunties, before half of them decided to pick up the sape
7:26: Getting Uncle Mathew Ngau to teach them the sape & why that was such a contentious issue because of their gender
8:46: The difference between the “spirit” & “human” sape
17:45: Identity & heritage
20:13: Her love of art
21:35: Studying fine arts at the Lasalle College of the Arts
22:37: Why Alena’s fine arts teacher did not encourage her to pursue art as a career
23:59: How she ended up on a US tour with the Diplomats of Drum as a sape player
25:58: Her discovery of how the sape could move people
26:31: Why she became a fellow with Teach for Malaysia
28:28: How she started her social enterprise, ART4 Studio (now known as Kanid Studio)
30:35: What led Alena to pursuing world music as a full-time career
31:53: How Alena produced & released her first EP, Flight
33:45: Working with life coaches
35:15: If Alena was ever plagued with imposter syndrom
35:44: When Alena knew that she was doing exactly what she was meant to be doing
36:44: How Alena ended up participating in the Norway Fjord Festival (Scandinavia’s largest traditional music festival) & Paris Fashion Week
38:47: Whether Alena ever felt she had to get out of Malaysia to grow her musical career
41:48: Working with her village elders
43:09: Being a part of the Small Island Big Song Austronesian production
44:53: Why beads are so important to Alena’s indigenous heritage
46:56: How COVID-19 has impacted Alena & her career
49:14: What listeners can do to help Alena & any other world musician
Show notes: https://www.sothisismywhy.com/22
Ep 21: Saw Teong Hin - Director, Producer & Writer [Puteri Gunung Ledang; Hai Ki Xin Lor (You Mean the World to Me)
Saw Teong Hin is an award-winning, Malaysian director, producer and screenwriter for film, TV and theatre and was Louis Vuitton Malaysia’s Generation Next (2003), was Tatler’s 100 People You Must Know In Asia (2006), received the CHT Essence Art Award (2009), was August Man, Men Of The Year (2017) and was Chinese Film Association Malaysia Leading Film Industry Person (2018).
He is best known for his directorial debut of “Puteri Gunung Ledang” (2004) - the first Malaysian submission for the Academy Awards and the first Malaysian film invited to the Venice International Film Festival. And his production company, Real Films, provided production support for Ang Lee’s “Lust: Caution”, produced the Sudirman-tribute musical film, “Hoore! Hoore!” (2012) and the Penang Hokkien film “You Mean The World To Me”(2017).
Born in Georgetown, Penang in 1962, Teong grew up the youngest son of six siblings. He later obtained a scholarship to study double physics and mathematics at the National University of Singapore; the first of his generation to head to university.
However, he never graduated.
Teong Hin’s parents were incredibly understanding and encouraged him to return as after he was kicked out of NUS, but the shame of what had happened meant that he couldn’t do so and moved instead to Kuala Lumpur.
Moving to Kuala Lumpur
Teong Hin started off couch-surfing among his friends, before landing a model gig for Shell.
We then discussed:
- How he ended up as a production assistant to Joe Hasham;
- Learned the ropes as a production assistant before rising to become a producer in 3 months; and
- Set up his own company and made a name for himself in the TV commercial and music video (e.g. KRU “Fanatik”) world.
Puteri Gunung Ledang
What really allowed Teong Hin to enter the public eye was with his directorial debut of “Puteri Gunung Ledang” in 2004. But it was hardly an easy journey.
- How boredom pushed Teong Hin to spend the next 2 years trying to break into the film industry as a director - but failed;
- How he was on the verge of quitting when a phone call with Tiara Jacqueline changed everything;
- Why he changed the direction of the Puteri Gunung Ledang script into that of a love story at 2am;
- The pushback he received for being chosen as the director of one of Malaysia’s largest film productions to date at the time;
- What it was like directing the Puteri Gunung Ledang film;
- His experience at the Venice Film Festival (hint: Johnny Depp & Tom Cruise!);
- Why the success of Puteri Gunung Ledang backfired on him; and
- How Mi Fang (Astro at the time) & a feng shui master changed his fortunes!
You Mean the World To Me (Hai Ki Xin Lor)
In 2009, Teong Hin began writing a semi-autobiography of his life. A script that was written as a tribute to his now-deceased mother.
Teong Hin faced a lot of pushback, with many asking why he would be willing to air his dirty laundry. But Teong Hin persevered and we discussed:
- Why Hai Ki Xin Lor first debuted as a stage performance during the Georgetown Festival;
- The storm that threw everything into chaos on the eve of the performance;
- The reception he received from viewers & also family members;
- What it was like filming the silver screen version of Hai Ki Xin Lor;
- The impact that the film had on moviegoers;
- Whether he would’ve still proceeded to create the film version if his family had been strongly opposed to its production;
- Whether Teong Hin found his “voice” with Hai Ki Xin Lor;
- Whether he would do anything differently.
Other Things We Talked About
- Being the creative director for opening (19 Aug) & closing ceremonies of 2017 Southeast Asian Games
- Impact of COVID on his life and career;
- The challenges of creating a regional film directing career;
- Whether it’s important to move to other locations
Ep 20: Tan Kheng Hua - Singaporean Actress & Producer (Phua Chu Kang, Marco Polo, Crazy Rich Asians)
Tan Kheng Hua is a popular award-winning actress/producer in Singapore and Malaysia. Kheng has appeared on stage, and in TV series and movies that include Phua Chu Kang, The Philanthropist (NBC), The Patriarch (UFA), Serangoon Road (HBO Asia Original Series), Netflix’s Original Series, Marco Polo, and most recently, as “Kerry Chu”, the mother to Constance Wu in in the movie adaptation of Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians. She is currently filming CW’s Kung Fu series.
In this STIMY episode, we dive deep into:
- What it was like growing up in the 1960s in Singapore;
- How Kheng first discovered her love for acting in Indiana University;
- How Kheng balanced her corporate day job with her love of theatre;
- The moment she decided to take a leap of faith & become a full-time actress;
- Her experience as a cast member of Masters of the Sea, Singapore’s first English language movie;
- Some of her fondest memories filming Singapore’s popular sitcom, Phua Chu Kang;
- How they hid Kheng’s 7-month pregnancy while filming Phua Chu Kang!
- At what point Kheng felt secure being a full-time actress;
- Her experience on the set of Crazy Rich Asians;
- The impact of Crazy Rich Asians on her career;
- The reality of going for auditions & working in Hollywood;
- How COVID has affected her life and career;
- What Kheng considers to be a “good” role; and
So much more!
Show notes: https://www.sothisismywhy.com.20