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No one can accuse Leesa Soulodre – a pioneer, mentor, super-connector, investor and educator—of not believing in the power of possibility, imagination, and vision. As a serial in/entrepreneur, Leesa has worked for more than two decades on the cutting edge of innovation, technology and strategy consulting and has advised more than 400 multinationals and their start-ups in 19 sectors across the world. Yet, a few years ago, Leesa felt an entrepreneurial curiosity—a need to reimagine ‘possible’—that she thought could best be satisfied not by a career move, but by the rigors and perspective offered by a global EMBA program.
Three years after she completed the program, Leesa reflects on how TRIUM equipped her with the confidence, tools, global perspective, and network of peers to expand her portfolio career, and face the challenges in her industries head on.
What first attracted you to TRIUM and what were you most looking forward to/hoping to achieve?
I had a high tech startup itch to scratch and had access to funding that could only be channeled via a University. I thought the MBA capstone process would better serve its incubation than a PhD Program. I chose TRIUM based on feedback from the alumni, the rankings of the London School of Economics, NYU Stern and HEC, and the structure of the program.
What was the most rewarding aspects of the program?
The professors had the capacity to challenge the way you think and armed you with the tools to imagine “possible”. Also invaluable were the opportunities in each region to meet key opinion leaders who provided an opportunity to immerse you in different trading cultures and/or industry experiences.
I also worked alongside an incredible international network of diverse, smart, capable, warm and compassionate human beings. It takes all types of people to create the future: thinkers and doers, logical pragmatists, innovators and intuitive visionaries, experts and generalists and bright lights that thrive on transformation rather than incremental change. It was a great privilege to join leading scientists, professors, experts, entrepreneurs, corporates and investors from all over the world in my TRIUM cohort to both collaborate and co-create.
As one of the 2014 Class Representatives, and more recently as the leader of the TRIUM Women’s Group, I have had the opportunity to develop warm and supportive relationships with my TRIUM classmates and with colleagues across all years of our alumni. I am constantly impressed by our alumni’s willingness to share, co-create and to deliver value to each other within the TRIUM Community.
How has your experience with TRIUM added value to your career?
By leveraging TRIUM as a platform, I have been able to capitalize on its many opportunities.
As an entrepreneur you are only ever as good as your team and your counsel. Throughout the years, I have leveraged the know-how of several of my professors to deliver value to my portfolio companies through devil’s advocacy, either on an ad hoc basis or via invitation to join one of our Advisory Boards.
Additionally, the program has opened doors for new career opportunities. Through the TRIUM network, I have been connected to new Board and Investment opportunities.
My engagement in the futures conference series, Masters and Robots (POL) and SingularityU Warsaw was thanks to my fellow Capstone partners’ introduction. My Board Advisory roles with mobile social gaming company, Miaki-GoGames (UAE) and predictive Healthcare Robot as a Service company, Hinounou (China) are a direct result of my TRIUM Alumni experiences.
TRIUM is ranked in the top 4 EMBA’s for distance travelled, so being conscious of my carbon footprint and the value of my time, it’s also great to see I had an ROI on the journey. It was on a flight on my way to my London TRIUM module, where I was blessed to sit next to Marianne Winslett, Professor Emirata of Computer Science of the University of Illinois and (former) Director of the Advanced Digital Sciences Centre of Singapore. We hashed out use cases for their inventions over the hours on the flight, and on my return to Singapore, I later joined their team as a pro bono innovation mentor. We have since commercialized several of these inventions. Today I serve as Director of the Singapore entity and as Innovation Director of Inspirit IoT Inc. Our vision is to be a global leader in sensor technologies. In less than 12 months the Company boasts a compelling IP portfolio, is now a Technology Partner of Intel, IBM and Amazon Web Services, and was recently accepted into the Siemens Frontier Programme for Robotics.
The industries of technology, innovation, investing are constantly changing, due to the global economy and world events. How has TRIUM prepared you for these shifts, broadened your understanding of these industries, and given you tools/education and/or confidence to meet these challenges head on?
Contrary to popular beliefs about entrepreneurship, I would argue that the classroom time has been invaluable to being able to effectively navigate and adapt in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous environment in which we now operate. A number of influential lecturers in TRIUM’s academic curriculum provided me with these tools. Thanks to these, my skills strengthened as an expert critical thinker. It reinforced my ability to analyze a topic at lightning speed, distil it into its core parts, apply the relevant models and emerge with critical insights. A foundation on corporate finance, competitive strategy and the political economy has also provided some key discipline insights that I may ordinarily have delegated. It has certainly given me the confidence to meet the challenges head on.
Mentoring is a passion of yours. What is your go-to piece of professional wisdom you pass on to mentees? What would you say to someone considering embarking on the TRIUM journey?
To mentees, I often say: “Learn to say ‘no’.” Throughout your career you will frequently be presented with a myriad of opportunities. I’ve found it is important to remember that only a few of these opportunities will turn out to be profitable. Finding new opportunities is typically not the challenge, finding the ‘right’ opportunities is!
To help ascertain whether an opportunity is worth pursuing, I ask myself three questions:
To prospective TRIUM students, I would remind them of the three questions above, and tell them to keep in mind that TRIUM is a program. It is not a single university and it is not a start-up accelerator. It is a global platform and a toolkit. To succeed and have the most enriching experience, you must have an open mind, look for opportunities, embrace inclusion and diversity, and be willing to do the work.
You say your purpose is to “Make a Difference.” How has TRIUM reinforced this goal and given you the new tools/value/approach/mindset to do so?
TRIUM’s globally responsible leadership class inspired me to further develop new tools for the financial markets for responsible investment. The first ESG fund in Malaysia, new ESG intelligence tools for the financial Data Providers, and my engagements with GMI Ratings, and the Korean Robo-advisory company, Who’s Good, are a direct result of this.
Inspired by my Capstone project and my corporate context, I also launched DiversityDirectory Asia Pacific, a not for profit initiative with some friends to move the needle on Diversity at Board Level in the region.
My class also walked a mile as globally responsible leaders in society, contributing to the Hand in Hand Village Uplift program, revitalizing a rural community in Kalliyanoor Village, Tamil Nadu, India.
How would you describe your TRIUM experience in three words?
Epic | Enthralling | Empowering |