Fei Yao

Fei Yao

Co-Founder of NewCampus

I’m the founder of an edtech startup NewCampus

Tell us about the venture/ business/ initiative you have started...

We’re a lifelong learning school for professionals excited by change. We host daily classes in co-working spaces around the world after-hours. Instructors are global entrepreneurs live-streamed into small group classes. Our curriculum focuses on topics that prepare people for a changing world including emerging technologies, trending industries and digital skills. Our mission is to prepare people for a changing world.

What is your definition of success? What advice would you give to your younger self about "success"?

They say ‘the more you know, the more you don’t know’ and I feel this way about success. My younger self thought success was about about doing well within boundaries of what I knew – doing well in school, ticking all the boxes, applying for good programs. It took me a long time to figure out that there isn’t actually a rule book for jobs and the best ones out there were usually creative expressions of people who wanted to push themselves.

What challenges have you encountered on your journey and how have you overcome them? Is this a common challenge in your industry? How can we tackle it?

Female entrepreneurs are particularly susceptible to imposter syndrome. Women need to see more diversity in leaders, beyond female representation but cognitive diversity too. Women who will support and mentor, and share goals and challenges with them, and truly feel relatable beyond just gender.

Have you ever experienced imposter syndrome? If so, are there any examples you can give and tips you can share with other women on how to overcome it?

Timely question :) See above. But yes – constantly. Like many other industries, I am building a company in industries traditionally built by men, and usually much older men in more established markets – education and technology. It’s easy to feel like you don’t have a place in the room – especially when you are starting out and don’t have much to back you yet. But it’s important to stick to your strengths, carve out a niche and focus on your unique insight. I may not have had the 30 years in education, nor the Silicon Valley experience behind me, but I do know what people my age in this part of the world are looking for, and I started from there.

Are there women you look up to? Who are they and why are they inspirational to you?

There are many inspiring people who have worked hard to push for progress in different areas of business, science, arts etc. The stories I find most relatable are those pushing boundaries at the cross roads of different minority groups: the glass ceiling and the bamboo ceiling. These women do exist, but you don’t hear about them enough.

What are your thoughts on work-life balance? Do you apply any techniques to achieve work-life balance?

I find the concept of work-life balance a little too simple. Do we mean balance day to day? Week to week? Or over the course of a career? I think it’s important to assess (and regularly reassess) your current goals and priorities, and tip the scales into the direction of what needs attention right now. Sometimes it’ll mean you need to focus more on work, sometimes it’ll mean friends or family, or sometimes it’ll mean health and rest. And that’s okay. That being said, I think it’s important for companies to proactively implement policies that are inclusive of these dynamic situations.

How did you know it was the right time to start your own venture/ initiative? How would you advise someone who is just starting out with a project outside of their regular 9-5 job?

There’ll never be a “right time”. For me it was very calculated: it was giving myself a set personal runway to experiment as I wanted to try out a few things at the same time. I wasn’t sure exactly what I was starting up, nor where I wanted to be to do this, so I made sure to save up at least 12 months of expenses for me to have time to figure things out. I treated it as an educational expense. For people who are looking to start out with a project outside of their regular 9-5 – I would advise to hold on to your 9-5 for as long as possible. You might need to give up your social life for a while, but on any given week you probably have 30-40 hours to work on your side project and look for positive indicators before you give up your stream of income. There are few things more mentally taxing than worrying about a project not going anywhere, and no money at the same time. When it starts feeling right, take the plunge! Worst case, you can always find another job for a while and try again. It doesn’t have to be a one time thing.

What have you learned about leadership, entrepreneurship and mentoring others?

A mentor of mine used to say, entrepreneurship is hard, but it doesn’t have to be lonely. Find your people. They’re out there! But it just takes a little bit of work to find them. If you’re an introvert and not much of a networker – put yourself into situations where you can organically form relationships. It might mean online communities or attending some group workshops.

What mistakes do you see people make when they first start their own venture/ intiative/ business and what advice would you give to women so that they can avoid making these mistakes?

A little contradictory but two underrated pieces of advice.. 1) The internet is a goldmine. Learn from the mistakes of others, and do your homework online. 2) What you read online is not necessarily the only way to do something. Talk to people, and get creative. There is no rule book in entrepreneurship – which is challenging for many people who have gone thru a traditional school to job route to embrace as we have been taught to learn the rules and pass a test.

Are there any resources/ books you would like to recommend for the women who read your #AspiringWomen article?

I’ve recently been reading AI Superpowers by Kai Fu Lee. It’s not necessarily a book about women or female entrepreneurship – but it’s a stark reminder that 1) the world is changing and 2) there are different ways to do things than what has worked in the last few decades.

Is there anything else you would like to share with other women on their journey to success?

Work hard, be creative and have fun. Pay it forward, in the smallest doses, wherever you can.

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Share your experience or nominate an aspiring woman you know!

Share your experience or nominate an aspiring woman you know!