I had the pleasure of interviewing Cherie Tan, Founder and CEO of Mogul Tech International (www.mogultechinternational.com) and Pathway (www.pathway.app). She has built and launched projects for some of the largest companies in Singapore and worldwide, and now she’s on her way to launching her own edtech startup, Pathway. Prior to Mogul Tech International, Cherie helped entrepreneurs craft beautiful products as a frontend developer and designer, leveraging on a set of design skills she has built since the age of 14.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I started freelancing very early on as a web designer, specifically in frontend development and graphic design. As a young, precocious Asian girl at the age of 14, I chose to dedicate my time and energy to doing what I enjoyed most: building beautiful virtual things that I and my virtual network of friends could appreciate.
Though I wasn’t a college drop-out and successfully earned a second-upper honors degree in chemical engineering at Newcastle University, UK, the early freelance career had took me down the route of setting up my software development and design firm and tackling interesting and challenging projects from all around the world.
Why did you found your company?
Two key reasons. The first, and probably more practical reason is that I felt a pressing need to incorporate the company and scale operations as I was no longer able to handle the great number of requests that were pouring in. The second reason stems from my own experience working remotely and earning an income to sustain living expenses, which even included being able to travel to some of the most beautiful places in the world.
I started a freelancing career early in life, and so I was able to see how any person can be trained to manage remote work much more efficiently and effectively than we think. I strongly believe in the efficacy and effectiveness of working from home, and started to see just how absolutely beneficial it could be for parents who have to work from home.
So this second reason of founding Mogul Tech International was largely grounded on the belief that anyone and everyone can make a healthy living and sustainable income by working from home.
In a sense, I want Mogul Tech International to be a bright beacon of hope for many who are unable to leave home and family, reminding them that they are empowered and they have the ability to achieve a comfortable living standard and success in their careers.
After two years of crafting and launching some of the most amazing and elegant products for our clients at Mogul Tech International, I’ve also decided it was the right time for me to build and launch a product that is a culmination of my experiences and personal beliefs in lifelong learning.
Growing up, I hardly turned to the textbooks I was given in school as the only means of education. I constantly explored online resources and courses, joined classes and forums, and learned from mentors I’ve come to have immense respect for. These learning journeys, these pathways I took, ought to have a place to be represented. A place where people can learn from others the materials and resources they’ve turned to, outside of school, which helped get them to where they are today.
In the last quarter of 2018, I will be launching an edtech platform, Pathway (www.pathway.app), with a mission of empowering every person in the world to become relevant, adaptable, global citizens.
What is it about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
I try to think of a disruptive technology, business or work as something that goes completely against the norm that many people are still unwilling to embrace. In my position, it was the choice to run Mogul Tech International with a fully remote and distributed team.
Our brilliant designers are based in the beautiful city of London and the vibrant Yogyakarta, Indonesia, while our highly accomplished developers reside in the sunny coasts of California and Australia.
Although building a remote team might seem like it means plucking out a few good developers from here and some designers from there, that’s rarely how it is done (sustainably) and it barely scratches the surface of what a truly remote team looks like at work (and when not at work).
Leading a remote team requires an immense amount of patience and time, whether it be to address frictions that very often occur between team members (through direct messaging on Slack!), and leading talent development programs, such as supplementing their learning with learning materials and online courses. To be able to collaborate on UXUI project sprints, for example, would require a lot of coordination and cooperation between the team members to pull through due to the differences in timezone and daily life.
In that, I believe how we run our team is challenging and disrupting the norms and standards of the traditional office-bound jobs. Yes, I cannot deny that developing a team culture and building a successful, collaborative remote team is incredibly difficult and time-consuming, but it is rewarding. I have seen it pay off for our clients, our team members, and myself.
That said, we must be reminded that nothing comes easy. Change definitely does not come easy. It is easier to fall into the comfortable mindset of not wanting to change something we are familiar with or are used to. However, the rewards of embracing change and a growth mindset are insanely valuable for any company who wants to remain relevant in the next decade.
We all need a little help along the journey — who have been some of your mentors?
My parents were the greatest mentors when it comes to giving advice that helped speed up my development of important soft-skills early on in life. While my mother helped me in developing a empathetic, strong-willed and resilient character who never knows when to give up, my father, who is a businessman and entrepreneur until today, taught me how to sell and how to negotiate effectively. I couldn’t be the person I am today without their help and guidance, through the spoken and unspoken words, direct and indirect actions that they have given.
Another mentor who happens to be one of my dearest friends has helped me see what “having a balance in life” truly meant. For most of us, we have somehow been led to believe that a balanced life means spending equal amounts of time at work and doing the things that we like and enjoy most. My dear friend has helped form a strong understanding that in having a balanced life, one can be working all day and all night, or spending all day and all night just focused on doing the things he loves, so long as he or she is at peace, healthy, and if lucky, joyful. That we do not always need to experience the best or the most vibrant and fun times to be happy, and that having peace in one’s heart is the experience of true happiness and balance.
How are you going to shake things up next?
My insatiable curiosity has led me to the world of blockchain and its incredible benefits that it will bring to our world. As the technology matures, so will the core products which are built on it. I will be heavily involved in this next leap in technology in the coming months.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey?
“Never sell your ability to form your own opinions and make your own stand for gossip, hype, media, or what we think stands in front of us.”
Media feeds us what we want to see and hear; Hype is something we choose to believe in to feel the sensation of excitement. It is not that we should avoid feeling excitement or avoid media completely. We should never stop asking ourselves first, and trusting our own judgements and instincts before believing what we see or hear.
“Start with the end in mind. If you don’t see an end, start anyway.”
This advice was given to me when I was something like thirteen, before the school marathon started. I was not the most athletic in class, but upon being caught sighing while changing into my running shoes, my coach walked over and said these words. I believe he was a Sherlock Holmes fan (“If convenient, come. If inconvenient, come anyway”), but the words said in that moment helped pushed me through the last mile, which for me, was the toughest to push through. Today, this phrase still rings in my head whenever I feel like I don’t have the strength to keep up with my entrepreneurial journey. The power of imagination and our minds is unthinkable. We can actually push ourselves to great heights if we simply choose to believe in our vision.
“It’s okay with lose battles to win the war.”
This advice was from one of my favorite books — 33 War Strategies, which I would recommend people from all walks of life to peruse. In life, some battles are won and some battles are lost. But as long as we stay on track with our goal to win the war, we’ll never be lost. This applies to business and entrepreneurial journeys, and the ones who make it to the end always agree.
What’s a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking?
It’s a close call between 33 War Strategies by Robert Greene and The Obstacle Is The Way by Ryan Holiday! Both offer terrific advice and guides to navigating the tougher, choppier waters we are all bound to sail through at different points in our lives.
I received the book The Obstacle Is The Way as a Christmas gift a while ago, while I was navigating through a tougher period of time in my life. Not all challenges in life are healthy challenges that you should always take on, but the book goes on to build a framework in your mind that helps you to be able to better assess and analyze these obstacles which you will inevitably experience in life. It guides you to being able to manage yourself better, eventually turn your trials into triumphs.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂
I am intrigued by Priscilla Chan and the brilliant work she does quietly, determinedly, and behind the scenes. I like to think that we would have an interesting conversation over breakfast, about her story, her journey, her thoughts on education and how technology can marry well (or not) with it.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
I am the most active on LinkedIn and Twitter. Both my handles are @cherietanjy. Drop me a note or send me a question — I look forward to getting to know you!
Originally published at medium.com