My Journey to Managing Director

by Agnes Yee


Following the recent announcement about my promotion to Managing Director, Singapore for Space Executive, I have found myself pondering something that has been playing on my mind for quite some time now.

While extremely excited, honoured and proud to have been chosen for this highly prestigious role. The truth is that it does not necessarily feel new to me.

All my life I have played a lot of competitive team sports, and have continually leveraged the skills I’ve learnt on the field to inform my leadership style. This has meant that my progression to senior leadership has seemed somewhat natural, and developing the skills vital to become an effective and successful leader almost organic.

On the other hand, ironically and somewhat sadly, what hasn’t always seemed so natural, is the most elementary thing of all, my position in senior management as a woman.

Fundamentally Female

I’ve been blessed to grow up in an environment, at home and in school, where I’ve been empowered, and constantly told that I can be anything I want. Gender didn’t come into it.

So I’m still always surprised when occasionally throughout my career I am told to be less ‘female’ in how I behave, what I say, how I listen, etc. Remarks like this are usually water off a duck’s back to me, but I can only imagine how demeaning and disparaging they could be for any female leader to be put down, time and time again, for simply being themselves.

We should not feel like we need to act like men. Every person has a male and female side, which they should have the liberty to reveal as and when appropriate. And increasingly a woman’s value in the boardroom and throughout the workforce is becoming more and more valuable and essential when building successful businesses. 

Managing and Directing on and off the Court

It was only until recently, that I realised how being actively involved in competitive team sports during my growing up years, had actually made a huge impact on my leadership style.

Turn up for practice. No matter how you feel in the morning, get up, go to work, be present. Be there with your team members, in the trenches during the arduous days of practice drills not only when making merry.

Let them play. Trust that your players will play out what was taught, and that they know how to apply themselves when a situation changes. Screaming from the side lines might only cause them to choke. Be the coach who directs with reminders of practised strategies. Call for a time-out for a change of play if you need, then let them do their thing.

Winning championships, not just a single game. I believe in the value of every single player on the team. In every organisation, you will have your superstars, and you will have the bench players. Some are better at offense, thriving in the bright lights of glory; and some are better at defense, quietly chugging away to bring the team to victory. And if every single one of them is being validated, that will motivate them to be better at what they do, and collectively go on to win championships.

Of course we will always bring out the pomp and ceremony for the MVP, who is ideally an all-rounder that every team member aspires to be. But we must not forget to celebrate every individual, who has been imperative in making a winning team.

I had not sought to climb the corporate ladder. But being raised during the era of Confucian Singapore, the value of hard work is ingrained in me. I know to be accountable to myself on how my life pans out; and when an opportunity comes about, to choose to be courageous and take the leap.

For those who had been on this road with me, thank you for letting me stay true to myself, on this journey to becoming a Managing Director.

Image source : @basketballsingapore


Agnes holds more than a decade of experience within the executive search industry, specialising in legal & compliance positions spanning diverse industries. Looking for a legal search specialist contact her today to learn more