For providing tech-fueled opportunity to underprivileged youth and working moms
Regine Chan became one of the youngest people from Singapore to work for both Google and McKinsey & Co., plus served a stint at Daimler Mercedes-Benz. Those opportunities ignited her passion to “create a positive and lasting impact on the entrepreneurship scene through the projects that I lead.”
As co-founder of Generation Z, a nongovernmental organization that drives social mobility and financial inclusion across Asia, Chan helps underprivileged youth make professional connections with startups and STEM companies. “To date, we have directly enabled 30-plus low-income and underprivileged students to secure meaningful employment in partner organizations in marketing, software engineering, sales, finance and research-related roles,” she says.
Her influence didn’t stop there. She’s also working to erase gender inequality and youth unemployment as vice curator and project leader of the Global Shapers Community. Backed by the World Economic Forum, the network is powering social impact initiatives including Project Womenpower, a benchmarking report and policy paper that supports working moms by highlighting policy and cultural concerns affecting women in the workplace and proposing recommendations to level the playing field.
Her achievements have garnered attention. Chan is the only Singaporean to earn The Mars Generation 24 Under 24 Leaders in STEAM and Space Award, and she’s picked up invitations to speak at tech conferences across Asia Pacific.
Now an operations analyst at private equity firm General Atlantic, Chan credits her project leadership skills for accelerating innovation—and changing lives.
“With young people becoming increasingly conscious about the impact they are having on the world and the desire to change the status quo, project management tools are growing in relevance in how we build, scale and deliver on these projects for good,” she says.
Q&A: Regine Chan on working with startups, embracing empathy and the appeal of Sheryl Sandberg
What project most influenced you personally?
Startup Autobahn, a corporate accelerator program. During my time at Daimler Mercedes-Benz, I led the project in Southeast Asia for IT infrastructure, working across commercial, sales and marketing, and finance, to drive innovation within the organization. The end result was a huge success: We brought in 20-plus high-potential startups across various batches to build powerful solutions for use cases internally and with our partners.
Startup Autobahn was very special to me, because I’m extremely passionate about supporting and growing the regional and global startup ecosystem. I believe startups and technology are huge enablers of social mobility and meaningful employment. The fact that so many of the startups in our program managed to find their first international customer and scale their presence was especially gratifying.
What’s the most influential project you’ve worked on?
I was part of the team that founded Google Launchpad’s and Google Play’s Indie Games Accelerator, the first-ever game-focused accelerator in the region. The project selects top indie game startups from emerging markets that are looking to supercharge their growth and offers a comprehensive gaming curriculum and mentorship from mobile gaming experts from Fruit Ninja, Angry Birds and more. So far, over 50 startups have graduated from the project, and a few of them have released wildly successful games.
What’s the one must-have skill to succeed in The Project Economy?
Empathy. With the lines between life and work blurred due to the nature of remote work during COVID-19, having the ability to think and empathize from the standpoint of your project team members is more important than ever. Being able to understand the development of every individual you’re working with, their strengths and ambitions, and how this project can add value to their journey in meaningful ways is what I have seen in the best project managers.
What’s the biggest challenge facing young project leaders right now?
Amid remote work and social distancing, many young project leaders like myself find it hard to establish a strong connection with others—which would typically have been easy over a cup of coffee or lunch. And it results in miscommunication or a lack of buy-in or team spirit. My advice would be to go out of the way and strive toward building these relationships with conscious effort. This could be through calls, texts or instant messages that are not only work-related, but also show care and concern about the person’s life, happiness and interests.
What’s one way managing projects will change over the next decade?
Shift toward more strategic, critical thinking and stakeholder management, and less manual and repetitive processes. With more technologies automating typical project management processes—such as tracking and monitoring data using dashboards—most project management work will orientate toward people, including business case and cross-functional stakeholder alignment.
What famous person would you want on your project team?
Sheryl Sandberg. She’s a master operator and executor. Her strategic leadership, ability to set up powerful and diverse teams, and to deliver on ambitious goals has brought companies that everyone knows today—like Facebook and Google—to new heights from humble beginnings.
We asked the Future 50: What are you listening to—and recommending—right now?
The Venture Podcast by McKinsey & Co. is a great podcast about startups, innovation, entrepreneurship, venture building and scaling businesses in Asia, which I helped build during my time with the firm. (Shameless plug). —Regine Chan
Advice to My (Even) Younger Self
We asked the Future 50: What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to your younger self?
Read more. Books teach you so much about principles, histories, people and more, all of which are knowledge that will positively impact how you manage projects. —Regine Chan