ELITE WOMEN

IN BUSINESS

2021

Helen Yu

Helen Yu, a partner and consultant to the world’s largest technology companies such as IBM, AT&T, Qualcomm, Microsoft, Vodafone among others, established Tigon Advisory in 2017 as a growth accelerator. Helen is a board advisor for fast growth SaaS companies. She also serves as Vice-Chair and Board Director at the Global Cybersecurity Association. She speaks regularly at conferences including SXSW, TiECon, Global AI and Big Data conference, DMS, and Money2020. She has led multibillion-dollar revenue growth and profitability for pre-IPOs and Fortune 500 enterprises, including Oracle, Adobe, and Marketo. After watching many start-up technology founders rise and fail, Helen wrote the book Ascend Your Startup: Conquer the 5 Disconnects to Accelerate Growth so she could share proven strategies for scaling a business with more people. She has been named a Top 10 Global Influencer in Digital Transformation by IBM, Top 33 Women in Finance by Onalytica, Global Cloud Top 15 Thought Leader, Top 10 Cybersecurity Influencer, and Global Top 10 AI Thought Leader by Thinkers360. When not traveling the world or watching Iron Man, you can find Helen on Twitter @YuHelenYu where she connects with her 33.5K+ followers on diverse topics like AI, Cloud, IoT, Cybersecurity, 5G, Growth, FinTech, and Start-Ups.

We spoke with Helen to find out why she embarked on the entrepreneurial journey, how she deals with challenges, and what keeps her going. She also opened up about overcoming self-doubt and dwells on the importance of making equality a priority. She shows us all that leading with your values and empowering others is a winning game.

Aspioneer (A): Tigon Advisory was launched in 2017. What inspired you to start this company? What is the biggest problem you want to help solve through your service?
Helen Yu (H): “My journey began in my youth. I grew up as the youngest and only girl in a house with nine boys in a small town outside of Beijing, China. Being raised in a culture where males are revered taught me resilience and gave me a strong sense of courage to take on big challenges and not give up. In my career, I first learned to code as a Hyperion consultant and went on to design and implement 400+ financial planning applications working alongside CFOs. Then, I ran an Oracle BI consulting practice post-acquisition with the added pleasure of learning from then Oracle Executive Vice President of Sales Keith Block. Under his tutelage, I learned the nuances of Enterprise Solution Sales at Oracle. I then learned marketing and SAAS at Adobe and successfully led the startup to scale-up challenges at Marketo.

I started Tigon Advisory because I saw many companies – from start-ups to large enterprises – making the same mistakes. I felt there was a better way to scale organizations if they could torch the gaps, thereby growing more swiftly and delivering a better customer experience and company culture, both of which I am very passionate about. Tigon Advisory advises the largest technology companies in the world and drives growth for the fastest growing start-ups. We are the only strategic advisory firm that addresses five essential disconnects: The Product/Market Fit disconnect, the Define-Minimum Repeatability disconnect, the Measurement disconnect, the Customer Voice disconnect, the Process disconnect.”

“My curiosity and learning agility got me where I am today. Had I relied on only what I knew I could do, I never would have climbed the leadership ranks. So, be curious and embrace the joy of being a lifelong learner!”

(A): How do you see the intersection of tech and humanity?
(H): I believe growth comes at the crossroad of tech and humanity. There is where customer loyalty and growth thrive. Technology defeats its purpose if it does not serve the greater good of society and solve real problems. Before organizations embrace any technology, they must embrace humanity as an organization.

The philosophy behind my brand is value exchange with my customers. Staying current with technology trends, providing thought leadership at conferences, creating engaging content in collaboration with fortune companies, or serving as interim CXO at start-ups, I always make sure I understand my customers well, what success means to them and how they measure the success. The same principle applies to partners I work with to ensure joint success.

(A): Behind every success, there are strings of failures and rejections attached to it. A can-do attitude is all one needs. What kept you motivated?
(H): “I was raised by my grandmother. Being the only girl and the youngest, grandma always made sure I grew up strong. I broke down when grandma passed away. Grandma’s last words to me were: “Stay special, make the world proud, and spread my ashes to a tall mountain.” That’s why I set out on a mission to climb Mt. Everest base camp and carried her ashes there. I applied lessons learned through my climbing experience to my life’s work and broke through many challenges like rejections and being stereotyped for being a female leader. I was sent to “Women Unlimited” by Adobe in 2011. I left Adobe right after I graduated from the program. I volunteered to go back to the group to share my experience and was rejected and was told that I was “unfit” by the group leader in Chicago. “Unfit” is sometimes code for trailblazers. I decided to mentor and coach other “unfit” female leaders since then and take the pride in seeing their success over the years.”

(A): How do you look at yourself as a leader? What are the skills you think you possess that make you an effective leader? What is your way of dealing with challenges as a leader?
(H): “I have been a giver my entire life and thrive to be a servant leader. My learning agility and grit helped me on my entrepreneurial journey. As a leader, I invest time in mentoring and coaching others on my team. Learning how to manage up is an uphill battle for many female leaders. Our tendency to focus on the team sometimes compromises our focus on self-development. When I face challenges as a leader, I focus on understanding why the challenge exists, the root cause of the challenge, what it takes to overcome the challenge, and then work to solve the challenge. I sometimes reach out to others who have faced similar challenges to seek advice. The journey to overcome challenges and learning how to prevent them from happening encourages me the most.”

(A): What is, from your perspective, the biggest challenges for women in leadership roles? What strategies do you think can help women achieve a more prominent role in their organizations?
(H): “Confidence. We “own” our leadership journey. I’ve seen some women, however, feel imposter syndrome because they might have a skill gap or because they’ve never tackled a challenge before, yet this is how we grow. I started my career as an accountant and financial analyst. My curiosity and learning agility got me where I am today. Had I relied on only what I knew I could do, I never would have climbed the leadership ranks. So, be curious and embrace the joy of being a lifelong learner!

The world needs strong female role models and the many traits we bring innately to the table: nurturing, resilient mindset, dependability, and good listening skill. Here are constructive changes that would improve women becoming leaders: 1) Women believing in themselves, recognizing their value to the organization, and building their negotiation skills so they ask for what they want (i.e. that next job in their career journey, promotion, special projects), 2) Women supporting women, 3) Educating men to be allies to women in the workforce, 4) Building inclusive workplace cultures where men and women may safely share ideas, provide and receive critical feedback, and work together without labels or unconscious bias.”

(A): What are your current goals? What are you doing to ensure you continue to grow and develop as a leader?
(H): “My career aspiration is to become a CEO at a Tech company and serve as Board Director for Tech companies.

Being a multiplier and bring greater success to others has always been my personal goal. Success is measured by how much positive impact you make on others. I started to write my eulogy a couple of years ago. I reflect from time to time and remind myself about the legacy I’d like to leave behind: passion, curiosity, and grit. I believe it is important to always embrace your setbacks, learn from mistakes and never give up. I also plan on continuing to share predictions on future-proofing topics. For example, I contributed a prediction on the Internet of Things, AI, and Digital Transformation for Thinkers360, been a guest on the Move the Deal podcast in front of a live audience of 500+, contributed chapters to books, Forbes article, IDC research, Techment Healthcare research. I write blogs and articles and have been published on RiskMinds, ClickZ, LinkedIn, IBM, Microsoft and Medium. Lastly, Social responsibility and strengthening the tech ecosystem through community and collaboration is extremely important to me. Every year on my birthday, I volunteer my time to make a difference. In 2019, that meant donating my time to speaking at 1871, a tech startup accelerator in the heart of Chicago. I celebrated being another year older by leading a hands-on workshop for tech founders.”

(A): Finally, how do you unplug from work?
(H): “I enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking, kayaking, skiing, and traveling to see the world. My favorite books are Shoe Dog, Good Strategy Bad Strategy, and The Five Temptations of a CEO. My favorite film is Iron Man. Pepper and Tony Stark are my favorite characters. That’s why I named my podcast CXO Spice Talk.”

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