At the frontlines of any successful company, there is a COO. You may not always see them, but they’re there leading the charge and keeping everything in line. For The Luxe Nomad, we have Lee Lian Foo, a woman small in stature but fierce in spirit. Here Lee Lian tells us about leaving the private equity world and leading the luxe nomad life.
Where are you from?
I am from Malaysia and currently based in Singapore, but since I joined The Luxe Nomad, it feels like I have become a real nomad! I’m never in one place longer than three weeks.
What is your professional background?
I graduated with a Master Degree in Electrical & Electronic Engineering from the University of Nottingham in the UK. However, sadly to say, I have never practised as an engineer; instead, I decided to enter the world of finance and investments.
What is your current role?
I am the Chief Operating Officer at The Luxe Nomad, overseeing the operations and financial aspects of the business, and given my experience, also driving the M&A expansion of the group.
How did you go from Private Equity to diving into the start-up world?
It wasn’t planned. After having spent approximately ten years in private equity, I was looking to take a break in my career, travel and do some soul-searching. A friend introduced me to Steph, CEO of The Luxe Nomad, who was looking for someone like-minded to help manage and drive the business.
So, as it turns out, no career break for me, and no rest. But there has been lots of travel, healing sessions and soul-searching on-the-job!
What do you love or find challenging about your role?
Love: The ability to influence change, steer the direction of the company and being at the forefront of building a regional enterprise with a strong brand.
Challenging: Managing growth! Three years ago we had a team of fifteen. Now, we have about 100 team members! Being able to support the growth and having the right infrastructure and systems in place is key.
What advice would you give to someone looking to work in a role similar to yours?
I would say being in a key management position of a growing company, being able to balance the business needs and staff welfare is crucial to building a successful business.
Your team is like your other family, and it is important to ensure everyone in the company feels like they are a real part of our family. Each and every one plays an equally important role in the success of the company. This means it is critical for everyone to understand the company goals, the brand, and to speak in one voice.
Are there any particular women who inspire you and why?
Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook and founder of Leanin.org! I am a strong believer of empowering women in the workplace and an advocate for a more equitable society with more women in leadership roles. Sheryl’s efforts have helped to inspire confidence in more women to seek challenges and rise in the workplace.
What is your favourite travel destination?
Japan! It is a unique country with a mixed bag of everything. It is rich in history, culture, temples, beautiful scenery, modern skyscrapers, technology, amazing food and locals who are extremely polite and genuine. I go to Japan at least once every year, and there’s always something new to discover.
What are three things you can’t travel without?
1) Computer 2) sunglasses 3) my Ferragamo waterproof slip-on shoes
What’s something about yourself that would surprise most people?
That I still go to bed with a baby bolster at my current age!
On a more serious note, though, I would say people would be surprised at how willing I am to take big risks. Some may think I am risk-averse or timid especially considering my small frame, but when they get to know me better, they realise that I am willing to try new things and sometimes take the unconventional route.