Get ready to meet Cynthia Yeo, a powerhouse in the tech industry and a dedicated parent to three beautiful children. With over a decade of experience at Microsoft, Cynthia has climbed the corporate ladder while expertly balancing her career and family life. As the leader of the Enterprise Commercial Team in Microsoft Singapore, Cynthia inspires others with her resilient spirit, which she attributes to her strong and resourceful mother. You'll love her candid and honest stories of overcoming personal challenges and her commitment to helping her children flourish through independence and accountability. Cynthia's journey is a true testament to the power of resilience and determination.
To get in touch with Cynthia Yeo, find her on LinkedIn:
And the websites available are:
microsoft.com/en-us/dynamics/crm.aspx (Customer Engagement Solutions)
microsoft.com/en-gb/dynamics/crm-trust-center.aspx (Dynamics CRM Trust Center)
Don’t forget to head over to www.parents.fm to stay up to date with new and previous episodes, join our community of parents in tech, or drop me a line.
Thanks for listening to the Parents in Tech podcast with me, your host, Qin En. We hope you were inspired on how to raise kids and build companies. To catch up on earlier episodes or stay updated with upcoming ones, head over to www. to join our community of parents in tech. There, you can also drop me a question, idea, feedback or suggestion. See you next time!
[00:06] Introduction, today’s guest, Cynthia Yeo
[01:05] Cynthia's Childhood and Parenting Style
[04:40] Challenges of Being a Single Mom
[09:35] Productivity in a Hybrid Work Environment
[13:52] Keeping Up with Technology and Parenting
[16:04] Importance of Self-Care
[18:53] Overcoming Gender Stereotypes
[20:38] Focus on Delivering Value
[21:53] Don't Be Afraid to Ask for Help
Qin En 00:07
Hi, I am Qin En and this is the Parents in Tech Podcast.
In this special collaboration series with Microsoft, I speak with Microsoft leaders on the parent-career connection, how they balance career and family goals and make it all work.
Hi, Cynthia, welcome to the Parents in Tech podcast. Very excited to have you on the show today. And to begin with, could you introduce yourself?
Thank you, Qin En. Very nice to be invited to this session and thank you for the opportunity to be here. So I'm Cynthia. I lead up the enterprise commercial team in Microsoft Singapore, which means, you know, I lead up a team of our account team taking care of our customers in the auto [unclear] companies and telcos in Singapore.
Qin En 00:55
Very exciting. So let's go into a bit of you as a parent. Let's start with your childhood. Tell us a bit about your childhood and how that has shaped your parenting style.
Sure. Well, I was born in a big family, a family of eight children. I'm the youngest in the family. So over, we have two boys and six girls. My father passed away when I was pretty young, I think about 10, over years. And he passed away at a very young age of 50 plus. And I'm born to a family where my mom has to be the one to raise all of us up by herself. And I grew up seeing her being very resourceful, taking on home-based jobs, babysitting, sewing job or whatever. And we all, as young kids, you know, help to chime in, to do whatever that's required to kind of help to support the whole family. Yeah.
So since young, I was pretty independent, you know, given what I see, you know, at a young age and, you know, see the resourcefulness of my mom, you know, being able to kind of support and look at, take care of the whole family by herself. So yeah, that kind of shaped my childhood and also my character, you know, being very independent and very strong, I think in terms of dealing with tough situations. Yeah.
Qin En 02:20
Yeah. That resilience is definitely something that came up from the childhood. And how has that shaped the parenting style?
I think given the background I have, I always think that, hey, you know, giving a good foundation to my family, my kids, is really, really key. You know, enabling them, having a good foundation, enabling them to then flourish from there, to be able to think independently, to act independently and also to make decisions based on, you know, the choice available and then being responsible and accountable for that. So I think, really enabling them to make decisions and take accountability for what they do and decide on. Yeah.
Qin En 02:59
Yeah. Responsibility, accountability, I think those are things that are so important. Maybe can you give an example of how that came up in your interactions with your children, right? At the time when you educated, you kind of brought them up to be responsibly accountable. We'd love to hear a story or two around that.
Sure. Okay. So I think in the course of, you know, education, right? Being able to make a choice of what they are going to, which school they're going to go into, which JC, which university, which courses, you know, which path, you know, that they want to take on is certainly a very important decision that they have to, you know, that we help as parents to help them make that decision.
Qin En 03:43
All right. Giving them, helping them to understand, providing them or enabling them to search and think about what is available and therefore enabling them to make their own decisions because ultimately they are the ones who was going through the journey and we don't want to be blamed for whatever decisions that we make on their behalf. So I think enabling them to think, enabling them to make their own decision is really key so that they can be, I guess, accountable and should a wrong decision be made, they can then take another course of actions based on their own decision. Yeah.
Qin En 04:17
Yeah. It's something that they truly have to own because it's also their future.
Qin En 04:21
Very interesting. And of course, right, being a mom, Cynthia, it's challenging. So maybe share what did the challenges look like?
Well, I have three kids actually and one boy and two girls and I have been a single mom since my eldest boy is six years old. All right. In addition, he was diagnosed with dyslexia at a very, very young age. We discovered it and he was super hypo as a very young boy. All right. And he's my first child, right?
Qin En 04:53
So it was very, very difficult for us at the time as a family to kind of think about how to support him. And we then decide to delay his primary one and then for us to also seek for solutions as to how to cope with it, with this discovery and what does it mean? How do we find help?
Qin En 05:15
Be it solutions like speech or music therapy or just finding dyslexic class, registering that, you know, it's quite a lot of time required. So I think–
Qin En 05:28
Yeah, I think that is some of my initial challenges when the kids were much younger. Yeah.
Qin En 05:34
Makes sense. And I want to go a bit deeper as Cynthia to perhaps if you can recall back about the time, the emotional journey that you go through. I think there's two levels of it. One it's like you said, all the activities, the things you need to get done, arrange therapy, arrange for classes. But I think a bigger part that perhaps that's not talked about so much is how do you manage your emotions at a point of discovering that mild dyslexia to just the whole challenging process of being a working mom plus figuring all of this out?
Okay, I must admit it is really shocking, daunting. So it is. And then the initial surprise and shock, you know, that's something that immediately then we have to move towards, hey, how do we cope with this? How do we help the child to cope with this? And, you know, thinking of the various solutioning, you know, what does it mean? You know, really, it was a very tough decision as to, you know, what about my two other kids? Would they also have this situation and what help can we provide for them? I think that the struggle, I think not just the initial, but I think throughout that journey in the initial few years, I would say, because you were trying different ways, right? And you were looking for different solutions and you're discovering along the way.
All right. So a decision whether you should drop his, you know, Chinese during his primary school days. Again, it was something that, you know, painfully when you go through that journey of primary one, going through, you know, if you understand the dyslexic part of it is really about the language learning difficulty and Chinese is a big challenge. So you have to make a decision. Do you want your child to learn Chinese? Do you want your child perhaps, if we drop Chinese and focus on other areas, that decision making, you know, that is going to impact for the rest of his life as his parent, is a decision, that tough decision you have to weigh and balance. And there's no right or wrong. It's just a decision based on what you have tried. And I think I recall a time when I was teaching him, [foreign language], you know, spelling in Chinese.
Qin En 07:44
It was so painful. And I cried and I cried just teaching him Chinese. He cried and I cried too. I was like, wow, it's so difficult to just, you know, learn 10 words every week and to cope with that. Yeah.
Qin En 07:58
You know, that's really a story of courage and resilience. And thank you so much for being so honest and candid about this, Cynthia. You know, for other parents that might be hearing this, they might be going through this, they might go through this in the future. What are maybe one or two things that you would say to them?
Yeah, I think now, I think, speak to people who have gone through that. And, you know, go through obviously, all the psychologists, you know, the… to go through and understand where exactly is the issue. With that clarity, then you are able to make a different decisions or seek different helps, whether is it more speech therapy you’re going after or whether more checks to be done so that you can understand where is the real situation and prioritize them so that you can then tackle it one step at a time.
Qin En 08:47
Don't think at the beginning, but I think when you understand the situation clearly, then you take steps to solve one thing at a time and then everything will then fall into place. Yeah.
Qin En 08:59
Yeah, that makes sense. And of course, Cynthia, balancing being a mom of three kids and also, of course, building a career in tech is not easy. It is challenging. So what does productivity look like for you?
Okay, I think in my course of career and, you know, kids since young and until now, I think especially in Microsoft, which I really, really appreciate the environment, the culture that enable us, the hybrid environment that enable us to not expect, you know, people to just turn up at office every day, nine to five. All right. We support an environment that enables you to perform at your best at your own time that you can manage around your family, around the world, and the technology and of course enable us to stay connected with our colleagues, you know, with our customers and at the same time, taking care of your family needs. All right.
So and multiple, you know, in this environment, you know, given there is a very clear KPI, very performance driven, very performance driven company, but very clear, very good clarity in terms of your performance indicators, you know, having important and clear dashboards to help you make decisions and track as to where you are and a, you know, performance management system where managers are, you know, very learned to coach, to care and to support, you know, the needs of our employees and very clear monthly connects that we have, we are able to set up with our team and enable us to bring our very best to work every day and be wherever you are, you know. So I think that's the environment in Microsoft with the culture as well as the environment and the tech and the people to support the work that we can do and bring our very best to work every day. Yeah.
Qin En 10:54
Definitely. And I think of course, hybrid remote working seems a lot more normal given COVID that happened a couple of years back, but even before COVID when I would say in person was the norm, remote working was still at least broadly in the general industries, not quite a thing. Like tell me a bit more how it looked like for you. Was there ever challenges around that or was it already an environment that supported hybrid work?
I think COVID accelerated. In fact, all of us were locked out of office, you know, the only challenge is like, hey, you know, you don't get to come back to meet with your team during that time. You have to make an extra effort to check in with your staff. I think that, you know, and also physical wellbeing, being not associated with people and we are human beings, a natural, you know, we psychologically like to be associated with people, to meet with people, to speak, you know, face to face.
When COVID come, obviously it locks all of us down totally, but it was great, you know, to have the technology to enable us to still, you know, kind of monitor and track, you know, the wellbeing, you know, through our technology, like VIVA, looking at how people are actually, are they overworked? And if they’re overwork or where there are over too many meetings, you know, that we are able to set out specific times, you know, automatically prompt our people to set aside time to focus on their own wellbeing, to focus on their own family. So even if you don't, you know, set aside time, the technology enable us to do that so that we don't overwork.
In fact, the VIVA itself enable us to see how our people are collaborating, you know, when we were off office, how people are even spending more time than usual, even into late hours. It's almost like, you know, there is blur between work and personal life. It's like always on all the time. So the technology basically, VIVA, enable us to kind of mentally check in, make sure you set aside time for yourself, and so that we can continue to support the wellbeing of our employees.
Qin En 13:07
Absolutely. It's so nice that you guys even have the tools to kind of build it. And I think now I believe it's also available for your clients. So to be able to use those tools, build those tools and really create an environment that's supportive and collaborative, that's really interesting. Maybe kind of building on that topic, Cynthia, tech changes very fast. I understand that you've been with Microsoft for more than a decade. And what that means is that you always have to keep yourself updated, keep yourself up to speed. Perhaps that's, you know, going to events, learning, reading, that comes on top of your existing workload, right? And then of course you are a parent on top of all of that. So let's talk a bit about how you manage keeping yourself current, keeping yourself up to date in such a fast moving industry, while at the same time balancing your commitments as a parent.
Right. So I think, first of all, I think subscribing to various, you know, newsletter in the area of interest, be it, you know, the latest tech, be it in the various industries that we are responsible for. That is key, right? The information will start coming in, you know, because you subscribe to it. The other key area is, you know, in Microsoft, we enable learning at any point, any time. All right. Be it on your desktop that you can, you know, have all the mandatory learning. We have mandatory learning that you have to fulfill every month and for the whole year. And also additional recommended training that we enable our staff to do it anytime, at any point in their life, all right, in a whole year.
In addition to that, we can make it then mobile, you know. So if you are, you know, waiting for your kids to finish their [education] and you're picking them up, and in between, you have time, you can then complete the course and on your mobile at any, wherever you are. So I think that really helps us. And also the trending, the latest technology, our colleagues in any part of the world, whatever they are learning, it's also being kind of showcased to you and, you know, it kind of prompts you to also learn about things that you may not have planned for, but, you know, but if it's trending, you know, what, why are those trending?
And you kind of prompt you to find out more and to learn more as well. In addition to that, I think in Microsoft, we also set up a Friday, you know, once a month, every Friday for our staff to just focus on learning and obviously a curated set of learning every month that we will share and encourage our staff to kind of all learn at their own time, anywhere outside of office. It could be on a beach or on a holiday, anywhere you like. So I think that's the kind of environment that we empower our employees to learn at their own pace, at their own time, in, anywhere, in any device that they are comfortable with as well.
Qin En 15:55
Got it, got it. And it's so nice to have that kind of nurturing collaborative environment that really invests in the people and really supports you to kind of achieve that. I guess that's also kind of one of the reasons why you have stayed at Microsoft for this long, right?
Qin En 16:10
So I'm sure in your role, you also act as a mentor, whether formally or informally to parents at Microsoft. I'm curious what are some of the challenges that you observed that they face and also the advice that you give to counsel them around what you see in your team or even beyond?
Right. I think very often we get consumed by work. And when we get consumed by work, we forgot to take time off. And there is never a good time to take time off. So I always, you know, remind our people that you need to set aside time to take care of yourself, all right? To set aside time for your own holiday, for your family, for yourself, just to keep, you know, your sanity. So that's one thing, all right? And the other thing is also, you know, being at work, you work so hard, you spend all your… most of your hours, waking hours in the course of your work. Always think about also how, you know, you want to make sure your hard work, your earnings, it's also, you know, making it work for you, you know, by trusting or working with external party who are expert in this area, be it, you know, if you're comfortable with stock who are experts in the area or you are making investment in housing, you know, so everybody has their own choice.
So as much as you are coping internally, you want to make sure that you are also financially taken care of, you know, so you need to make money work for you, for your hard work. I think that's, you know, the kind of, you know, mental and financial journey that I kind of remind our people that you have to kind of think along that and surround yourself with experts beyond you because you are expert in whatever you are doing best, but, you know, you need to look, have, you need to be surrounded by experts who, they can help you in that journey as well.
Qin En 18:01
That's awesome. That's awesome. And of course, Cynthia, being a mom, a woman in tech, I'm sure you have seen your fair share of stereotypes and status quo’s about, you know, what the role of women in tech, moms in tech should be. What's perhaps one that you have observed and of course you reject or you disagree with?
All right. I remember a stint where I was posted to Vietnam and I clearly remember when I was in a customer meeting, first time meeting the CXO and he commented that, hey, I hardly see, in fact, this is my first time seeing a woman, you know, taking a senior leadership position in Microsoft yet. All right. So that I kind of take it as, you know, a challenge or a compliment. All right. Good. You haven't seen, you know, so I think how can we work together? I'm not sure what you have experienced in the past, but how can we then work together with my team of people, understand your challenges and make a difference for you and impact for your organization?
Although it is a straight away kind of, hey, you know, what is a woman doing there taking a leadership? Are you sure you can do? That kind of mentality. What kind of… I actually, not so reject, not that I reject it, but I kind of take it as a challenge. I say, huh, you have not seen it. I'm not sure, you know, but, you know, I know the value. I strongly believe I can make a difference for you if we can work together and our company can help you, you know, drive that transformation to where you can be.
So I think, you know, giving that opportunity and sharing that value proposition with the person who actually made that kind of remark and making an impact and a change, I think would kind of be an achievement, you know, to prove to the person who made that remark and to prove to yourself and the team, you know, it really doesn't matter whether what agenda you are, you are here to help your customer, you provide a value proposition and to drive an impact outcome for them, with them.
So I think, you know, reject some of those notions. I kind of shunned it away, but really making an impact, you know, aligning to what is most important for them and focus on that, you know, is how I would think about it.
Qin En 20:28
That's really awesome. And I like it, right? Like it doesn't matter what gender you are, like you're there to deliver value, you're there to get the job done. And so really, those things shouldn't matter. And I'm glad how that really turned into fuel, into inspiration for you. And not only that, right? You spread that among, with your team, with your colleagues. So really, really admirable for that. This has been a really insightful conversation, Cynthia. To kind of wrap up our time today, what is perhaps one lesson you have learned as a parent in tech?
Well, I think you really have to learn how to compartmentalize, you know, your role at home and your role at work, all right? And focus in whatever you're doing at that point in time. If you are with your kids, you know, you try to focus, you know, or, you know, not checking your emails on your mobile and really focus on them. I spend the time with them. And when you're at work, you totally, you know, focus yourself. And also, I think surround yourself with experts, you know, as a mom, you know, you can't be, you know, as a woman and as a mom, we try to be good at everything, but it's impossible. So don't try to be everything, everywhere and focus in what you're good at. And don't be afraid to ask for help and support.
Qin En 21:47
I really like that. Especially the last part, don't be afraid to ask for help, right? As everyone has gone through very similar experiences. And of course, while each of our challenges are unique, I think there's really no shame around that. And we can do a lot more to support each other. Well, thank you so much for taking this time to share with us. And I really appreciate your candid sharing and yeah, really excited for our audience to hear this episode.
Thank you for inviting me. A pleasure to be here. Thank you so much.
Qin En 22:15
Thanks, Qin En.
Qin En 22:22
Thanks for listening to the Parents in Tech podcast with me, your host, Qin En. We hope you were inspired on how to raise kids and build companies. To catch up on earlier episodes or stay updated with upcoming ones, head over to www.parents.fm to join our community of Parents in Tech. There, you can also drop me a question, idea, feedback or suggestion. Once again, the website is www.parents.fm.
That's all for this episode, folks. See you next time.