S06E08: Yolanda Lee, Founder & CEO of Uncommon, Singapore

It was just a dinner that I started with, not necessarily with the intention of turning it into a business, but really starting to plant the seeds of that community and understand the needs of women like me. So it happened very organically through that process of me orienting towards the things that really matter to me.

yolanda lee

Today’s episode is with Yolanda Lee who is the founder and CEO of Uncommon, a private network for female leaders headquartered in Singapore. 

Yolanda founded Uncommon through her passion for technology and her experience as a woman in leadership.

yolanda lee uncommon singapore private club for women leaders
Yolanda talks about Uncommon as a form of informal continuous education that enables women
to share experiences and learn from each other.

Think of it as a women’s circle paired with an executive coach to help you overcome work-based concerns and challenges. She says,” We use behavioral science and coaching to really help female leaders get ahead, help clarify their goals, and do so together with a really supportive community as well.”

Born and raised in Toronto, Canada, Yolanda ended up in Singapore as she was helping to set up tech companies that she was working for. 

Yolanda says that being a woman in leadership roles in fast-growing tech companies was great but it came to a point where “ all of a sudden all the women disappear and it’s incredibly lonely.” 

She had so many questions that her peers couldn’t answer. “And I started Uncommon organically out of a need. I felt as a female leader I wanted to connect with women who are really in that same boat and write the playbook for how we get ahead and what it actually means to get ahead.” 

Education, to her, is the ultimate equalizer. Quoting her own family as examples, she spoke about her grandmother who was from Trinidad and Tobago, and had 11 children by the age of 16 but was never able to read or write. Her own mother had more opportunities growing up in Canada. And she considers herself privileged to have attended good schools in Toronto, the best that her parents could give her.

We have a massive drop off in women around director level in a country like Singapore for instance. You have a pretty even split entry level in professional roles. And so somewhere along that goal we have a huge dropout in in female leadership. A big part of what I wanted to do was create a space where you could kind of embrace this imperfection, but you could also learn consistently and learn together. 

Yolanda bootstrapped and launched Uncommon in December 2020 and today, it has hundreds of members from different fields and backgrounds with a growing waiting list. 

On their website, Uncommon calls itself “a new women’s social club in Singapore that offers a multi-purpose home base for getting things done. A radical space where women can unite on shared, messy experiences.”

Membership is by application and women who are accepted are matched into a core group – an inner circle of 8 female leaders who serve as an advisory board – and meet with a certified executive coach. They can then tap into community-wide masterclasses, iconic speaker series, and curated, networking opportunities.

I think sometimes it can feel like development can feel so individual and, and isolating, and you’re trying to achieve your goals alone.But I wanted to create something that could let you kind of try something. Maybe it didn’t work but come back to the drawing board each month and continue to build that muscle. 

Prior to founding Uncommon, Yolanda worked across 10 countries in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific building tech unicorns such as Uber, Deliveroo and Rocket Internet. 

She led the international consumer partnerships team across the Asia Pacific and the Middle East at Deliveroo, and built Deliveroo’s corporate solutions offering as the Head for Business. Before joining Deliveroo in Singapore, she also held leadership positions at Uber and Rocket Internet.

Throughout her experiences in building cross-cultural teams and companies, she built up her passion for people development, lifelong learning and diversity and inclusion. 

Yolanda’s proud moments include “building an international career, choosing my own career path and version of success and launching a startup.” 

On a personal note, she is inspired by her mom and Rihanna. Her favourite books include Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy and Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo.

Connect with her: 
@heyuncommon on Instagram
@thisisuncommon on Linkedin 

If you have enjoyed today’s episode, please review and subscribe to the podcast on your favourite podcast app. Or share this episode with a friend.

Today’s episode is sponsored by Redbox Studio.

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