Name: Nancy Poon Lue
Job / Title: Co-Founder and COO
Company: Advanced Education Research & Development Fund
Industry: Education & venture capital.
Q: From your perspective, what are the most important trends that will take place in your industry in the next 10 years?
Nancy: Innovations in technology will provide learners many more opportunities for a personalized, adaptive, and global education. Increasingly, students will be able to learn at their own pace based on adaptive learning algorithms that supports a teacher's instruction. Opportunities will no longer be entirely limited by geography. Technology can enable students to learn from the best teachers as well as collaborate with peers from around the world. Other important trends include increased focus on social emotional learning, executive functions, and early childhood education.
Q: What have been the hallmarks of your success?
Nancy: I have never been afraid to reach out to a potential mentor and am very diligent in following up. Whether it is a keynote speaker at an industry conference, a well-known executive, or someone I read about in an article, I would email the person directly to ask for an informational interview. I always thoroughly prepared for the meetings to make good use of their time, followed up with a thank you note, and an occasional update at least once a year. You will be surprised how willing people are to help if you are persistent enough. Over the years, many of these contacts have offered valuable career advice, job leads, invitations to speak at conferences, and other unique opportunities I would have never otherwise known about.
Q: How have you grown your professional network?
Nancy: It's really about the quality, not the quantity, of relationships. To cultivate a strong network, you need to not only meet new people, but you need to nurture your relationship with existing ones. That means keeping in touch regularly and being helpful to others even if they don't ask. Organizations such as The CLUB have been great for meeting people I might not otherwise come across in my own industry. I also really enjoy serving on non-profit boards and have significantly expanded my network through volunteering with a number of organizations because everyone had a common interest, commitment, and cadence for seeing each other.
Q: What role has mentorship played in your career?
Nancy: I have been so blessed to have an incredible group of mentors, truly a personal board of advisors, who have always had my best interest in mind. Nearly every job I have gotten a major career advancement has been thanks to one of them making an introduction or recommendation. Whenever I am wrestling with a tough decisions, whether in a current role or about future opportunities, I ask my mentors for their advice. They often even present new options that I had not even considered. I share a brief update with each of them at least once a quarter. I have come to realize that these informal check-ins, whether by email, phone, or in person, also serve as an accountability mechanism for myself.
Q: What are the hallmark traits of a great leader that you have observed in your career?
Nancy: A great leader listens carefully to different perspectives, considers recommendations from her team and/or advisors, but ultimately is able to arrive at her own decision with confidence even if it doesn't make everyone happy. She also knows that it is more important to be right at the end of the meeting rather than the beginning of the meeting.
Q: What advice would you give to someone looking to grow in her career while making time for her family?
Nancy: Your time is your most precious commodity so you have to work smarter, not just harder, to make time for your family. You have to be extremely efficient with your time. It means relentless prioritization since anytime you add something for work you have to ask yourself what you can cut to balance out the time. Reducing commute time (for everything in your life) and conducting meetings via video conference instead of traveling will give some breathing space. Dedicate specific time on your weekly calendar to have 1:1 check ins with every member of your family the same way you do for everyone on your team at work.
Q: Tell us something about yourself that is a fun fact.
Nancy: I was the coxswain of my college varsity crew team. I started competing just as rowing became a NCAA Division 1 sport for women. I had actually entered the sport as one of the only female coxswains on the men's crew team. Those years on the water were probably some of the best leadership training I have ever had.