- She was among the small percentage of women who started their career in engineering
- Lee Yen Yen started shouldering the responsibility of taking care of her family at the age of 19, after the passing of her father.
Lee Yen Yen, the Executive Director of Vynn Venture Sdn Bhd, is one of the very few women who have ventured and strived in the male-dominated industries. Never had she thought that she would be leading a company nor had she imagined that she would venture into a business that was monopolized by men.
Led by her passion for interior design, Yen Yen co-founded Vynn Venture Sdn Bhd which specializes in renovation and decorative services with her business partner, Chin Kean Ping in 2014. It has been over five years since the inception of Vynn Venture Sdn Bhd and Yen Yen has no regret.
Lee Yen Yen: Between passion and career
Although she has always had an interest in interior design, she did not have the opportunity to pursue it professionally. The 31-year-old Australia graduate was a trained engineer whose first job was a sales engineer in the palm oil industry. The opportunity had given her the exposure in project management which was useful in her new venture. Besides sales engineering, Lee Yen Yen was also in the financial sector. She was in the investment arm where she learnt about finance in business and asset management. It was also the job where she met Kean Ping that drew them to starting the business together.
Determination and perseverance
Determination is one of Yen Yen’s admirable leadership traits. She started shouldering the responsibility of taking care of her family at the age of 19, after the passing of her father. Her father was a very successful businessman and he ran an engineering company in Kelantan, specializing in water treatment. His business span across the whole of Malaysia. He was a very helpful and noble person as he offered his siblings the opportunity to look after the company because siblings are people that he trusted the most.
At the lowest point of life
However, things turned around when her father passed away. Her family was involved in a legal battle over the business that was managed by her late father with her extended family members. It was a challenging phase for her, especially when she needed to be strong for her loved one – her mother. She is the one who always supports the family and never gave up on her children no matter what had happened. With her mother’s never-ending support and encouragement, she continued pursuing her tertiary education. In fact, she was more determined than ever.
I have learnt from a very young age that I need to be responsible for myself, my family and the people who work with me. The responsibility is the strength to my determination and perseverance to complete what I have started.
The turning point
Joining industries that are generally associated with men has also encouraged Yen Yen to strive with perseverance. She was among the small percentage of women who started their career in engineering. She may have the knowledge that qualified her for the job, but yet, she needed to work hard to prove her capability, especially in project management. One important thing that she learnt during her two-year tenure was to command presence. She believed that everyone, regardless of men or women, should have the ability to command presence in the work environment, in order to earn respect.
It is important to create visibility in whatever you do. People will respect you even more and look beyond your role or gender when you are able to create visibility.
She took another bold step in 2012 when she left her comfort zone to join an investment company. Unlike her previous role in the oil palm industry, being in financial investment required her to network with others from various backgrounds. Despite not having the in-depth knowledge in finance nor investment, Yen Yen took the initiative to learn from those who were more experienced and to do her own reading.
Nothing comes easy, especially knowledge. Take the initiative to learn and work hard for it, instead of just hoping for others to help or teach you. If you can learn and unlearn, success is just around the corner.
The beginning of Vynn Venture
Setting up Vynn Venture Sdn Bhd has been one of her most memorable experiences in her career. Since its inception, Yen Yen and her team have worked with multiple clients from various industries.
Each project is different and unique. It has been a meaningful learning curve for me. We have had the chance to work with clients who are in hospitality, education and property development. Hence, we need to be skilful and attentive to their needs and wants. This is where my experience in engineering and finance play an important role. I am able to help our team to see things from different angles to deliver the best experience to our clients.
The next step for Lee Yen Yen
Having been in different industries and positions, Yen Yen looks forward to strive further by delivering innovation and quality services through Vynn Venture Sdn Bhd. She wants to bring it to the next level together with her business partner and her team. Yen Yen who earned an MBA degree in 2017 also hopes that she can contribute to the industry by attracting the younger generations and developing the existing talents through training.
A lot of the young people view this industry as hard work and unsexy. That was the same perception that I had before I joined. But today, I can proudly claim that it is the opposite. There is a lot of hard work, but the reward is definitely fulfilling.
Lee Yen Yen, the Executive Director of Vynn Venture Sdn Bhd, is definitely the living proof that we can strive in roles that we are not socially created for or circumstances that may deter us from moving forward. Going from engineering to interior design and renovation, Lee Yen Yen has indeed shown us that nothing can stop us if we have the determination and perseverance.