Sometimes, being a woman brings in a more human touch when navigating through challenging security issues. This sensitivity to customer concerns is exactly what has helped Agnes Ng achieve success as a female entrepreneur in the Singapore payment industry. In this edition of our podcast, Agnes explains that despite a lack of women taking technology courses as part of their education in Singapore, she believes that more doors will be opened to women in technology as part of the government’s initiative to stay ahead as a global city.
How did you get started in the technology or payments industry and what led you to that career choice?
Agnes Ng: I did not choose to be in the payment industry as, previously, I was in the human resources profession. This was an accidental career. I started work at Visa International, now known as Visa Worldwide Private Limited. From day one, there was never a dull moment at Visa management. For 21 years, I managed programs like card design, card vendor, education and awareness, PCI DSS and third-party agent. And whilst at Visa, I received awards for excellence in training, encompassing innovation in card design and security awareness. Currently, as a partner and director at Sovereign Secure, my interest in technology and payment continues to grow. I enjoy overseeing all operations, technology processes, and evaluating them according to established goals.
Who has been your biggest role model in helping to shape your career path?
Agnes Ng: I would give credit to my husband, K.W. Yang, who is a biometric specialist. He inspires me because he has exceptional determination and passion in his own career. Yet he motivates me when I took the first leap of faith as an entrepreneur in incorporating Sovereign Secure in Singapore.
What is your proudest accomplishment in your career to date?
Agnes Ng: During COVID-19, statistics revealed that more than 28,000 business entities have shut down in Singapore, despite our government’s best effort to support business. And despite COVID-19, 2020 has been the most successful year to date for Sovereign Secure. I was able to increase revenue for my company by more than double from the previous years. I'm truly grateful to my assisting clients for supporting us even during this pandemic.
Now we'll get into some questions about women in technology specifically. Do you notice a lack of women in technology? And if so, why do you think that is the case?
Agnes Ng: Firstly, there's a lack of women taking technology as an education in Singapore. Their preferred education would be human resources, public relations, or even business administration. There are also perceptions of technology involving long hours and being male dominated. Finally, balancing motherhood and having a career in technology has always presented a challenge to most women.
In your experience, does being a woman in your profession come with confidence challenges that you have to overcome, for instance, doubting your own ability? And how do you overcome it?
Agnes Ng: I'm an extrovert and my strength lies in networking and developing business relationship with my clients. Sometimes, being a woman brings in a more human touch when navigating through challenging security issues. And being sensitive to customer concerns is pretty important to me and it helps me to build my business and a strong clientele for Sovereign Secure. Though there are ups and down, I believe it is important that as a company, we stay focused on helping our customers. It also helps to have a strong support team internally, so that when I need advice, I do reach out to my colleagues and business partners who're always ready to lend a listening ear.
Many women in the tech industry have felt that their gender has affected the way that they are perceived or treated. Have you ever been in a situation like that, and how did you handle it?
Agnes Ng: I have heard of women not getting promoted into senior technology roles, but I was fortunate not to have been in such a situation. In fact, whilst at Visa, I was promoted from a managerial role to a director, and now currently at Sovereign Secure, I was a senior director and then I became a partner.
What do you see or hope to see as the future for women in technology roles or in the payments industry specifically?
Agnes Ng: Our Singapore government has an ambitious smart nation initiative to harness technology to stay ahead as a global city and to improve livelihood. With that move, we will see doors being opened to women in technology and the payment industry. I was very happy when I was given this opportunity to represent Asia Pacific. Thank you very much.
Were you given any advice during your career that has stuck with you? As a result, do you have a personal mantra or a quote that you live by?
Agnes Ng: During my career, I had many mentors who helped me. And the advice they always gave me was to keep on learning, which I continue to take very seriously. To me, continuous learning is a necessary part in acquiring critical thinking skills and discovering new ways in solving problems. I have seen many of my friends who have lost their jobs or struggled during COVID-19. My favorite quote in a song is by Kelly Clarkson, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger." And my personal mantra is “the secret of getting ahead is getting started”. And that's how I started Sovereign Secure in Singapore and I've never looked back.
That’s a great response. What advice would you impart to other women about how to succeed in the payments industry or in any technology-based field in general? Is there anything you wish you had known?
Agnes Ng: My advice to women is to develop resilience in high-pressure environments, and to adapt oneself to the rapid technological changes we are witnessing today. Aspiring women should not just limit their knowledge to just their job roles, but rather learn to read widely and expand their knowledge base in various aspects of the payment industry. And mostly, never be afraid to take on newer challenges. In retrospect, I now wish I had developed my entrepreneurial spirits earlier and started Sovereign Secure when I was younger.