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Grace Ho is the chief commercial officer at the Singapore Post. She holds an MBA from the University of New South Wales’s Australian Graduate School of Management, where she majored in marketing and finance. She grew up in Singapore during the sixties, at the time the former British colony gained its independence, and has a bachelor of science degree in microbiology and biochemistry from the National University of Singapore.
1. Who are your business influences?
I have been fortunate to be mentored by several established business professionals throughout my career and many of them were also my previous managers. These include corporate vice-presidents at Microsoft and Motorola, and board members who are also part of my YPO-WPO network.
Over the years, I have consciously built a network, of friends and confidantes, that is internal and external to the organisation I work at. This combination of people has served as a great sounding board, role models and influencers in my personal and professional life.
2. How did you choose where to study for your MBA?
Doing a full-time MBA in Australia outside of my home country of Singapore sharpened my skills in cross-group collaboration with people from different cultures and backgrounds. This experience has been extremely valuable in my global and regional jobs where I constantly need to work with customers and teams from different countries. Also, AGSM deliberately balances the profile of their MBA students so that the class has a healthy diversity of gender, cultures etc, contributing to a very enriching learning experience.
3. What is your favourite memory of business school?
I was fortunate to have a close group of friends at business school, and this group comprised of Australians, an Egyptian, a Norwegian and Asians. We came together as a result of random grouping during our year-one course work.
Perhaps our diversity was our strongest bond, for we stuck together during the full two-year programme, therefore my favourite memories are times of our study groups and coursework together. Depending on the weather in Sydney, we could be studying outdoors in the sunshine on the campus, or at Bondi beach and even at my Australian classmate’s home during winter.
4. What were the gender dynamics like?
At AGSM, there was a conscious effort to create diversity in our learning environment. During my MBA term, there were fewer women in the class, and I was often the only female, albeit Asian female, in workgroups. In hindsight, this provided tremendous learning opportunities — I developed the confidence to speak my mind. I was able to sharpen my active listening skills and most of all developed the skill to synthesise and summarise salient points during discussions.
5. What is the best piece of advice given to you by a teacher?
“Focus your energy on the right things. If you want it bad enough, you will make it happen.”
6. What has been your most important business lesson?
It is not uncommon to be the only Asian female in the boardroom. The key has been to always stay true to who I am, and not lose my authenticity. My strong value system serves to anchor deeply the basis of my decision making. My experience provides me the acumen to take calculated risks and my personality empowers me to be open to differing viewpoints and ideas.
7. What would you do if you were dean of a business school for a day?
I would rally the staff and students to commit to community work for the less fortunate. The experience can be energising, enriching and enlightening. It would also raise awareness of how our small actions can make a huge difference to communities and would uncover strengths and interests among our teams. Above all, it would allow people to experience the power of giving.
8. What advice would you give to women graduating from business school this year?
Continue to build a strong internal and external network of friends, peers and mentors.
9. How do you deal with male-dominated environments?
Collaborate to drive agreed outcomes, be authentic in who I am, respect boundaries and express my opinions and ideas.
10. Who would be your ideal professor?
I would love to have had the opportunity to learn from the late Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s founding prime minister, who passed away earlier this year. In my view, Mr Lee is a rare leader who had the courage to achieve what he believed in, and the passion and drive to push on no matter what the challenges were. Above all, he was a person anchored on strong values of integrity, equality, including for women, and democracy.