Tell me your story, Sarah
Our second story is shared by Sarah Wong who graduated in July 2017 and took time to reflect on her INSEAD experience and beyond. Enjoy!
Could you give us a brief introduction about yourself?
Name: Sarah Wong
Industry: Healthcare Innovation/ Health Tech/ Medical Devices
Role pre-MBA: I was a Business Model Innovation analyst in Medtronic Singapore and India before transiting to a Product Manager at ConnexionsAsia Singapore (a leading insurtech startup in Asia)
Role post-MBA: Account manager at Innovaccer (a health analytics startup on mission to build health care’s #1 data platform) in San Francisco, US
What have been highlights and challenges of your journey so far?
With consulting and project implementation experience in both start-ups and corporate entrepreneurship teams, I work between strategy planning and hands-on project management. I am passionate about health tech and enjoy working across all levels of stakeholders from C-level executives to pilot-project teams to design and implement new solutions that impact healthcare. I’ve always worked in new teams to deliver novel products/solutions and that has been both the biggest highlight and challenge in my journey so far.
Outside of work, I have also co-founded a social enterprise project together with my dad which brought solar lamps to villages in the Riau Indonesian islands.
Did you encounter stereotypical behaviors in your environment while growing up or in your career? If yes, could you elaborate?
I had many work projects in India where I was one of the few and youngest women leading projects in a highly patriarchal working environment. 80–90% of the managers were males in their 40s. There were times where I was not seen as assertive enough and struggled to be heard. I also found out that for one of our projects, my counterpart was not responding to me because he believed that I was too junior in the hierarchy. Despite my initial reservation, I conquered my own fears and worked hard at pushing my projects through. I took extra effort to build rapport by meeting the managers individually and getting to know them better. Eventually I successfully implemented two health care projects which were forecast to bring incremental revenues of US$20M across five years.
What are the skills that you find particularly helpful in mitigating and resolving conflicts? Can you give an example of when and how you used these skills?
1) Find common ground and areas for agreement. In negotiations, we learnt about the Zone of Possible Agreement (ZOPA). This is the overlapping area between the seller’s and buyer’s reservation price. It requires some homework and preparation but I find that having that preparation really helps in keeping me focussed on the range of possibilities instead of the limitations. I get overwhelmed when there are a multitude of issues in a negotiation so this framework helps me to be clearheaded and stay on track in negotiations.
2) Use an interest-based, instead of position-based, negotiation style. By focussing on the interest (which goes beyond the surface) of the other parties instead of the outward position reframes the discussion from a zero-sum game into one about enlarging the pie. It could lead to interesting outcomes that would otherwise not be possible if the negotiation was based on the positions of each party. For example, I enhanced my overall salary package by negotiating on other areas (leave days, relocation allowance, equity etc) and explaining why it would be in their interest to do so.
3) Especially in conflicts where emotions are involved, it is important to validate the other party’s feelings. Paraphrasing what people say and articulating how they feel often helps the other party feel that they are understood. I found that this greatly helps to clarify assumptions and build common understanding which is important to have in order to reach a resolution.
What was the most helpful advice that has ever been given to you?
I was fortunate to have a very nurturing female leader in the early part of my career. She taught me that only I can carve out my career path for myself but there are many people who are willing to guide and help me along the way.
Firstly, she gave me practical advice to constantly communicate my career goals (eg. working overseas) to my manager and not to be ashamed of asking for more, as long as I had good grounds to do so. She also encouraged me to take the initiative to reach out to more senior people whom I wanted to learn from. These informal networking chats have been pivotal to my career growth.
What triggered the move to INSEAD?
I was looking to accelerate my career as I had just made a career transition from medical devices in a multinational company (MNC) to a health tech startup. I was drawn to the entrepreneurial culture that permeates the INSEAD environment and wanted to learn from EIRs, company treks and fellow entrepreneurs amongst the student body. I was also hoping to make a geographical shift through the program and definitely leveraged the exchange program in Kellogg to make connections and understand the health tech ecosystem better. I am now looking forward to start working in the San Francisco Bay Area!
If you had to name one take-away or lesson learnt from INSEAD, what would it be?
I learnt how overlooked asking and receiving feedback is in the process of personal development. Being in such a diverse culture as INSEAD taught me the importance of understanding the view point of others and a good way would be to actively seek out feedback. I personally grew a lot through my interactions with my P1 & P2 study group because everyone took giving feedback very seriously and through that I not only learnt about my blindspots but also areas of strength that I did not know about/had undervalued before. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback regularly and also be ready to give constructive feedback to others!
If you had a chance to have dinner with someone dead or alive, who would that be? What is the one question you would like to ask him/her?
My Christian faith is central to my life so I would like to meet Jesus Christ and ask about his take on life in the 21st century.
What is your definition of success?
Being content yet always striving for better. Having no regrets.