Bernadette Cho: Chief of Staff Learnings, Leading Entrepreneur First & Saying Yes - E135

· Start-up,Mentorship,Southeast Asia,Australia and New Zealand,Podcast Episodes English

I think how to be successful is to try and solve problems for founders before they become problems. It’s your role, in some ways, be that bridge between the executive team and what’s happening a few layers beneath them or on the ground, so to speak. And help people understand and develop that organisational empathy both ways – what’s tops of leaders’ minds that folks in other parts of the organisation might not know about; what’s top of mind for people who are just starting their career with you and build a long lasting and successful career where they are, that’s really important for leaders to hear.- Bernadette Cho

Bernadette is the General Manager at Entrepreneur First (EF) Singapore, the world’s leading talent investor, helping the most impactful people build startups from scratch. Before EF, Bernadette served as the Chief of Staff at Funding Societies and at Grab. She started her career in Australia at the Boston Consulting Group, before moving to Singapore with Linkedin to lead Product Marketing. Bernadette was also the State Director for Australia’s largest youth-run non-profit, where she worked with volunteers under age 25 to fundraise for development projects across APAC.

Jeremy Au: (00:30)
Hi, Bernadette, good to see you on the show.

Bernadette Cho: (00:32)
Thanks so much for having me, Jeremy.

Jeremy Au: (00:34)
Well, I’m excited to share your story because you have a strong experience as an operator and as chief of staff in multiple companies. How would you introduce yourself in your professional journey?

Bernadette Cho: (00:49)
Sure, my name’s Bernadette. At the moment, I am the general manager at Entrepreneur First. We are the world’s leading talent investor which means we’re taking bets on people, rather than ideas or businesses. We’re bringing together CEOs and CTOs to build, what we hope to be, the next set of world class companies right here in Singapore and, like you’ve mentioned previous to this, I’ve served as chief of staff to founders at Funding Societies and at Grab since they’ve been in Singapore. That’s a little bit about my history so far.

Jeremy Au: (01:20)
Awesome. What was it like to be a management consultant, out of university?

Bernadette Cho: (01:33)
I’m sure, Jeremy, you’re a much better management consultant than I was. I actually had an arts degree. I studied political science and French which I then organically parlayed into a career at BCG. I think BCG was a very challenging, but great growth period in my life. I’ve never opened Excel before I got to consulting. I felt consulting was about simply talking to people and helping people through change management. I didn’t realise it would be more models and slides than I anticipated. While I feel like I was a pretty poor consultant, I got a lot out of it in terms of thinking through different types of frameworks and learning different ways to dissect different business problems and most importantly also communicating that change or recommendation in a succinct and persuasive way. Those were the two things I got out of my time at BCG…not sure they got much out of me.

Jeremy Au: (02:25)
I think the story of consultants in the technology world is a very common one. A lot of consultants make that transition into technology, why do you think that is?

Bernadette Cho: (02:41)
I don’t think I can speak for a lot of folks, I can definitely speak for myself – I just really missed being operational. Prior to starting at BCG, I had the privilege of looking after a stake for a national NGO we had in Australia called the Oak Tree Foundation. We would raise money for international development projects, specifically mostly in the Asia Pacific region and I loved that. I loved working on fundraising, I loved working on campaigning and actually seeing things being able to change. I think one of the most challenging experiences I had at BCG was bumping into a client six months later, I said “how’s the change going?” and he said “oh, we’ve actually kind of stopped after you guys left.” And I missed being able to see that change the whole way through and I missed being part of operationalising that change. For me, I wanted to be in a slightly less formal environment as well, so, I think technology was a great match for both of those things – you could see change, things were moving at a very fast pace, and you could, for me, at least, bring more of myself to my role.

Jeremy Au: (03:45)
Yeah. For so many management consultants, they have to unlearn stuff. I’m curious what you felt management consultants should unlearn when they join the operator world?

Bernadette Cho: (03:59)
Absolutely. One of the things I had to unlearn very quickly was you don’t have to put a slide deck together for everything you want to propose. Sometimes, a one-pager is fine. Sometimes, it’s fine to come in with a skeletal plan because the situation is so dynamic that if you tried to plan for every eventuality, you might just miss the boat in terms of how fast your competition could be moving or your analysis paralysis which is you’ve tried to think through too many different scenarios and you’ve just missed the urgency that the environment calls for. That’s definitely one thing I had to unlearn. I think the second thing I really learnt from one of the wonderful sales people I worked with in LinkedIn Australia was the client is always right, the patience she took to explain things to the client was client care at its finest. As opposed to trying to teach someone, she was trying to be on the same team as them and I think that is a slightly different model to what I’d experienced which was there’s a model of strong apprenticeship in consulting and you want to be teaching, but for her, it was so obvious you want to be on the same team and she upsold that account 130% which is so impressive. She took the time, the grit, the patience to do this in a way that she met someone where they were rather than take them somewhere they weren’t ready to be at. I learnt a lot of that spending time with the sales team at Australia.

Jeremy Au: (05:45)
Wow. That’s a good tip for a lot of folks and I totally agree with you that just because it’s a slide, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea either. You transitioned into big tech like LinkedIn and other folks who move into younger tech companies. That’s a bit of a culture shift. What is that culture shift you would articulate for people who are making that transition from big tech?

Bernadette Cho: (06:17)
I felt at LinkedIn, there was a team of us. You were fortunate to learn from world-class colleagues. I looked after product marketing for Asia Pacific, but I was part of a global team, so, learnt from fantastic people who had a wealth more experience than I did in Europe, in North America, and when I moved to Grab, I was their first product marketing hire and it was just me. I think that you shrink down the network that you can draw on. I think that it’s also wonderful, you then have self-learn and self-teach rather than have that expert network that you can draw on which is typically in big tech, people who have done this before and done it better than you that you can really learn from and say “how did you do this”, “how would you think about this problem” and when you’re taking the scale down at the time, you have to become that person and you either have to build external networks to find that guidance or that expert advice or sometimes you just have to build the plane while you fly it, which I think is also really exciting. I think you kind of have less resources, but in some ways, you get to have more authorship as well which I think is a gift.

Jeremy Au: (07:31)
Yeah. What advice would you give to people who crazy role called Chief of Staff because you’ve had it twice at 2 early stage companies.

Bernadette Cho: (07:48)
I think there’s many great Chiefs of Staff out there. I think one of the ways you can think about the role is – are you somebody who enjoys relatively constant firefighting? Are you somebody who’s okay being thrown into lots of different projects without a tonne of context which are typically urgent and important. Do you enjoy that, do you thrive under that type of environment? I have to thank consulting for that because you get thrown into projects, especially as an associate, you don’t have a say on where you’re going and how you’re going, and I think that was, in some ways, helpful preparatory experience for a Chief of Staff role. I think, how to be successful, is to try and solve problems for founders before they become problems. It’s your role, in some ways, be that bridge between the executive team and what’s happening a few layers beneath them or on the ground, so to speak. And help people understand and develop that organisational empathy both ways – what’s tops of leaders’ minds that folks in other parts of the organisation might not know about; what’s top of mind for people who are just starting their career with you and build a long lasting and successful career where they are, that’s really important for leaders to hear. I think having relationships all across the organisation is actually an important enabler to be really successful in that role and being somebody that can be trusted across the organisation.

Jeremy Au: (09:17)
That’s a lot of things to know about yourself. How would someone know if they are ready to be a chief of staff?

Bernadette Cho: (09:27)
I don’t know if anyone’s ready to be a chief of staff because many of the Chief of Staff I’ve spoken to, I don’t think anyone’s said I want this, I’m ready for this. I think it was typically a kind of a circumstantial “I want to do more to help the organisation, what can I do” and then, either the role got created or the role emerged. One of the things you can think about is what do you most enjoy doing? Are you someone who really loves to see projects end to end and that’s also why I transitioned out of Chief of Staff because that’s something that’s really important to me which is I really love to see a project through to its completion. If you really enjoy project based work, if you enjoy being in an influencing, but not decision making role, I think it’s something people can and should consider. I think it’s wonderful for your growth, it gives you exposure to a whole bunch of issues, challenges, perspectives, you might not otherwise see at that point in your career. I used to say it’s so much fun being the least important person in the room where decisions are being made and that’s how I really thought about the role.

Jeremy Au: (10:44)
There’s always a big collaboration dynamic between the chief of staff versus the more functional arms of the business in terms of leadership. What’s the best way for a Chief of Staff to succeed in that horizontal collaboration with other leaders because it can get quite prickly, step on each other’s toes, it’s also a temporary assignment, not a full one. How do you recommend a chief of staff to think about that?

Bernadette Cho: (11:17)
I’ve run into challenges there. I don’t know many chiefs of staff who managed to damp through the fire completely unscathed. I think trying to offer what you believe is a fair and balanced view, to seek to understand why something hasn’t been operationalised or achieved in the way that the business had hoped it would. I think starting with the spirit of enquiry is really important. Really understanding what are the roadblocks, to what extent could we have overcome these with either additional resources, if we had worked together better, if we had approached it in a different way, if we start on the wrong trajectory. It’s really tempting in a high pressure situation to say where can we lay blame. If you can step back from that and say what’s the fundamental problem we need to be solving, who can be instrumental in solving this problem and how can we convince them that this is something that they can and should want to solve together and understand why it hasn’t been solved in that way rather than trying to get to the point of who is to blame for this, how do you start as far away from that as possible, actually.

Jeremy Au: (13:03)
When you think about that, there could be a lot of debate about what’s best for the company and a lot of that is coloured by the prisms or what you’re dealing with, prior experience, professional experience. How should that communication happen? Is that like a whiteboarding session, is it going for a walk, is it drinks, how does that happen from your perspective?

Bernadette Cho: (13:27)
I love what you’ve suggested because I think all of them are equally valuable methods. I think you have to tailor your approach to the person you’re speaking to and I don’t think it’s just a chief of staff thing. I think this is very relevant no matter what role you’re in, to try to understand and serve your counterpart in the best way possible. That might mean putting yourself in a situation you may not prefer…my preferred method is to typically just a coffee with somebody, but I know some like to drink, so, as and when Singapore reopens and we’re able to do these things, how can you be flexible and feel authentic to what you’re looking to achieve as well

Jeremy Au: (14:10)
One of the interesting things is that for chief of staff, they’ve got to figure out how to build that trust horizontally with their peers who are great professionals in their own right. So, how should chief of

staff manage that fluctuating role in the eyes of the team and the founder?

Bernadette Cho: (14:50)
I think it depends on how the founder sets up the chief of staff role. Some will set it up as this person is here as an enabler to support our team and so you’re in the room, but you’re never part of decision making, but you’re fortunate to be an observer, maybe an influencer. There are other founders who will set up the chief of staff to be somebody who gets a seat at the table. I think people talk about positional influence or positional authority, that does fluctuate, but it’s a good conversation for you to have with your founder – what is the role you’d like me to play, how can I best support you. I guess it depends on the stages of growth within the business where the chief of staff themself is at and where the founder is at in terms of what they need to be successful in the role.

Jeremy Au: (15:40)
Let’s talk about this. There are founders out there who are dreaming of bringing in a chief of staff. How should founders be setting up this chief of staff for success?

Bernadette Cho: (16:16)
One, I don’t think I got it right 100% of the time and not even close to that. The second thing is be really clear about what you want your scope to be and ask the founder, the founder should also be really clear about what they want the scope to be, and understandably, that will change and evolve in a fast growing startup and what I do think is if there’s a fundamental mismatch between what someone is hoping to learn from the role and especially where the founder needs support and enablement, it will be, by definition, not a great partnership. I think it’s really important to understand what the founder is looking for. Are they looking for somebody to help them turbocharge their admin? Are they looking for somebody to help them run a new line of business? Are they looking for someone to firefight across a number of projects as and when they arise and these are all very different roles. Chief of Staff has become an umbrella term that isn’t very descriptive anymore. You don’t know what you’re signing up to when you become a chief of staff, but I think if people had more explicit conversations because sometimes your KPIs can be quite unclear and it’s not that the founder’s success is your success, in many ways, it might not be at all. Be really explicit about what you’re hoping to get out of the role from a founder’s perspective and a chief of staff perspective and how do you know if you’ve knocked it out of the park, what are the KPIs or the OKRs you want to set for this individual to help them be successful as well and help yourself be successful as a founder. All founders have so much to manage. Another person who’s not as direction-ful as you’d like them to be, is not something that’s going to make your life better.

Jeremy Au: (18:11)
Who should a founder pick to be a chief of staff? Are there any attributes to say that this is a better chief of staff?

Bernadette Cho: (18:25)
I think it really depends on the type of chief of staff you want, so whether you want a firefighter, whether you want a launcher, whether you want someone to own a function as well as juggle the excess that might be on your plate as a founder. I don’t think there’s an ideal personality or experience or set of experiences. I often think that if I were a founder, which I’ve never been, but I would love somebody who would speak truth to power, I would love somebody who would say. I’m not sure you’re going in the right direction. I often think of actually Leo McGarry from The West Wing. I don’t know if you watched The West Wing, Jeremy, but he was the chief of staff to President Bartlett and they would have raging disagreements. But Leo was a steadfast, comforting presence to Bartlett. He drove an agenda, he drove a staff incredibly well, but was never afraid to actually say no, you’ve crossed the line, so, to me, he’s always been the role model of what a chief of staff should look like. But it’s also a bit different. It’s a political context, but absolutely, I think should I ever be fortunate enough to be a founder, I’d look for a Leo McGarry.

Jeremy Au: (19:32)
What’s the career trajectory for a chief of staff? What does that look like internally, what to expect that externally.

Bernadette Cho: (19:52)
Yeah, like I said, I had a small chief of staff. My group of friends and I think we have all actually gone in very different directions. So I think one of the best parts of the role is I’ve been really grateful for my experiences as chief of staff. I think it really accelerates your exposure in a business and so you get to understand what types of work, what types of disciplines you’re most interested in, and what are the things you’d love to retain from the role and what are the some of the things you’d like to move on from? And so I think just to give us a short set of examples. I think one of them now has actually gone on to start their own business in a consulting space. One of them has gone on from the private sectors to the public sector. I see some chiefs of staff go on to become business unit owners. I guess similar to what I’ve done, so maybe not a business unit, but I’ve moved to EF to look after the team here in Singapore. There are also some, I think, to be honest, at LinkedIn, if I remember correctly, who just continued to be stellar individual contributors. I think it depends on really what you’ve learned about yourself during that time in the role. Do you like leading teams? Do you love being a superstar individual contributor? Do you like leading through influence? Do you like leading through being able to make decisions. How much disagree and commit do you enjoy having someone set the agenda and for you to go away and operationalize that beautifully? I think there’s just so many different paths, and I think it’s very much up to the individual to chart that course themselves.

Jeremy Au: (21:23)
What are top three things that someone going to the chief of staff role will learn at the end of the experience?

Bernadette Cho: (21:32)
I always think the role is so different across different places, so I guess I can talk about maybe top three things I’ve learned. One of the things I’ve learned definitely is how much I like being surrounded by people who are just pushing themselves and others around them to heights that were previously unimaginable. I think working with founders, and I think I’ve managed to scale a little bit of that at EF, because now I work with so many more founders at the same time, is just such an incredible experience. These people are pioneers, they’re innovators. They are saying yes to everybody who said no to them before, and I think that’s such an incredible place to be. I feel like learning, one of the things I’ve learnt is working with people who are 10X better than you will make you better. It will make it very challenging for you, but it will also, really, fundamentally improve you as a professional and hopefully as a person as well. I think another thing I’ve learnt is perspective, actually. Whatever is on my plate is a fraction of whatever is on a founders plate, and so always trying to take a zoomed out view, which is whatever you might be stressed about. Whatever you might find unpleasant or frustrating is a fraction of the challenge that they go through every day and so trying to zoom out, but also trying to step into other people’s shoes, I think is another soft skill or perspective that I’ve learnt. I’m still working on it and I think the last part is thinking about what makes you effective and how do you measure that when you don’t necessarily have very clearly defined goals because your goal roughly as a chief of staff, is to make your founder successful. Now your founder could have been successful with or without you, and so that’s hard to measure, and I think actually, one of the things I learnt was I actually struggle a little bit with that. I don’t enjoy being in roles where I can’t measure my impact, I can’t measure my outcomes very clearly, and so from that perspective I don’t know if that’s the kind of learning you were looking for, but that’s something that I learned at least for myself, is very important in whatever I was going to pursue next.

Jeremy Au: (23:39)
Amazing. Looking at the next chapter here, what has been a time that you have personally been brave?

Bernadette Cho: (23:47)
I think looking back it seems brave/reckless now, but I moved to Singapore when I was 23 to take on a role that I had very little business taking on. I looked after product marketing for APAC for LinkedIn’s Talent Solutions business and I was so fortunate and so grateful that LinkedIn took that bet on me. I was in a new country in a new function and in a brand new role that I’d never had exposure to and they gave me the chance to bet on myself and I think I wasn’t as scared as I should have been back then, but it was such a steep learning curve, and I think. Someone once told me like you try and change one of these things you maybe change your job, you maybe change your location, and I came over and I changed both of those by myself. My then fiancé, now husband, had gone to the US for business school and I was alone in a new country trying to figure out a new job and a new function that I’ve never really had exposure to, and I’m really glad I did it. It’s changed our lives, much for the better. I've had exposure to. I think the incredible rise of Southeast Asian tech at the same time, I wish I’d been a bit more circumspect at the time and realized what a big life change that was. But I think sometimes bravery is diving head first and being incredibly, maybe, naively optimistic about what your outcomes could be.

Jeremy Au: (25:12)
Wow. What a story. You got so many folks moving to Southeast Asia because Southeast Asia is such a permeable region that really has very low barriers to coming in, in terms of immigration, in terms of capital, in terms of networks. It’s kind of this weird melting pot of east and west. What advice do you have for people who decide to make that move to Southeast Asia?

Bernadette Cho: (25:40)
Oh, I would absolutely encourage them to do it. I think there is so much still latent emerging rocket ship growth here that there is almost something at every stage for people. I think if you want to be a scaler, you can. If you want to be a builder, you can. One of the things that I feel I’ve never done enough of is be hyperlocal and really deeply understand how different the problems in different geographies could be. When I first moved to Singapore, I don’t think I ever thought Singapore was indicative of the region. I think Singapore is not indicative of anywhere. It’s an incredible place that maybe just is by itself, but I think really learning the nuances of different geographies even within different geographies. Different preferences in major cities versus regional cities versus rural cities and really understanding your customer, is something that I think you can never do enough of in this region because there’s so much complexity. There’s historical complexity. There’s cultural complexity. There’s geographical complexity, and it’s rich, it’s nuanced.

Jeremy Au: (26:50)
When they move geographies; moving to Southeast Asia, what would you advise them to do in their first three months to make sure it’s a lasting move? You and I have seen a lot of people make a move and it falls apart to some extent, for others, it’s a smooth transition. What would you say is that difference?

Bernadette Cho: (27:12)
That’s a great question, Jeremy. I would say in a non COVID constrained environment I would encourage people and I’m sure lots of people move here to travel. It’s maybe some trite advice. One of my happiest months in Singapore was when I set myself a challenge to say yes to everything that month. So it was yes to dancing at a colleague’s wedding. Yes to going to a music festival that I’m not cool enough to go to because my friends wanted to go and I think that was one of the happiest and most fulfilling months that I’ve had because I think it forces you to experience life in ways that you might otherwise shy away from and I think building that community is really important, especially as you mentioned, Singapore can be somewhat transient. People come and people go and there’s people who call it home for a long time and for a for a less long time as well. So I think finding different ways to engage with different parts of your life, even the ones that make you uncomfortable or maybe less sure of yourself, I think is important. I think the second thing I would say is something you alluded to earlier in the podcast, which I think deliberately about the things you want to unlearn, relearn, or just learn. There is a different way potentially of doing business in Singapore compared to Indonesia compared to Vietnam and compared to potentially wherever you’ve come in from and there are things about you that you want to hold onto and there are things about you in order to thrive here that you will need to learn or potentially even unlearn and think deliberately about those and how you can be somebody who brings the best of where you’ve come from and where you’re going, together.

Jeremy Au: (28:50)
There’s also the emotional side of transitions which is the homesickness and so on and so forth. How do you think people should be regulating the aspect of new culture or homesickness?

Bernadette Cho: (29:14)
I still struggle with that. I think I haven't been to my home, Australia, in almost coming on two years by the time we hit December. That is difficult and I think sometimes it is important to just ride those ups and downs. It's OK to have a bad day. It's absolutely fine to be home sick and one thing I’ve found is reaching out to your friends at home and saying I really miss home and I really miss all of you and, thankfully, we can just hop on a zoom or a Skype now and it can help you feel a little bit better. I think, don’t be afraid to reach out and say, actually, I love my new life here. I’m not at all complaining about that. But there’s obviously elements that I wish I could change. There’s elements where I wish I could hop on a plane and see my loved ones as well, and I think talking about it quite openly is also really positive. I think sometimes people feel the need to bottle it up and say my new life or the life I’ve chosen here is 100% what I wanted and I've got no regrets and I think it's probably quite untrue for most people and not to say you have lasting or deep regret, but they’ll be down days and that’s okay. It’s okay to acknowledge those, seek some love from those who love you and who you love and forge on.

Jeremy Au: (30:30)
Do you ever feel that there is a dynamic where am I going to sink roots here for the next five years, ten years, fifty years which changes how you build your network and relationships and career today. How should people be thinking about their time horizon in Southeast Asia?

Bernadette Cho: (31:21)
That’s a million dollar question that’s often a hot topic in my home, with my friends here that have transplanted from somewhere else like we have. I wish I had an answer for that. I think everybody is going to take their own approach and there will be a point in time where you either feel the pull of Singapore or you feel the pull of your previous home or you feel the pull of adventure and I think it’s just about making sure that you’re actively conscious of that as opposed to letting life happen to you which is I got promoted, so I’ll stay or oh, I miss four seasons. Are those compelling enough reasons for you? Either the promotion or missing cold weather. You can kind of be a little bit jokey about it, but I think for people to really think about what is it that’s going to help them live a life that they’ll be proud of and fulfilled by and that typically encompasses a little bit more than your career. It typically encompasses a community of people you love and who loves you and some people are really fortunate and find that in Singapore. I think we’ve been really fortunate to find really wonderful folks that we’ve had the chance to build friendships, build relationships with here through serendipity and it’s not through lack of effort from people to build roots in Singapore. I think everybody just has a different experience. Everybody has a different path that they walk on and different preferences in their life. I don’t think there’s a right way to think about when and if you should explore or adventure elsewhere, or whether it’s time to kind of put roots down here.

Jeremy Au: (33:00)
How would you recommend people find that and process that decision around setting roots?

Bernadette Cho: (33:19)
I've typically seen people work through it, actually mostly from a family lens, which is either their folks are getting a little bit older and it might be time to celebrate their twilight years with them, or I've seen folks move for their children to say I had a wonderful experience at X school. I'd love my child to have that as well. I’ve also seen people choose to stay because they’re so grateful for everything they’ve experienced in Singapore. Whether it’s things like personal safety for women in particular or just the ease of doing business and building something phenomenal from this little island, how business friendly it can be. How open to entrepreneurs and how much the government in particular leans in to support innovation, and I think ultimately maybe underlying all of those is what’s most fundamentally important to that person at that point in their life, which is, I think we all have a quiet, maybe silent stack rank of priorities. I think many people care about many of the same things, whether it's their family, their loved ones, their community, their career. Being able to plan and save for a wonderful retirement. But all of these have a silent stack rank or an unconscious stack rank in our minds. And I think when it starts to bubble up and become conscious and one or two of those items, maybe start to pull away from the others. I think that’s typically when people take action one way or another.

Jeremy Au: (34:46)
You also mentioned serendipity. What does that mean for you?

Bernadette Cho: (34:51)
I think, for me, it’s often right place, right time. So for example there are friends you meet through work, but you might work at a particular place from X to Y years and somebody who you could have been really great friends with comes in, in year Z when you’ve moved on and I think that’s the serendipity part which I think is something that we don't control and we can't control. When people say, oh, I've struggled to build community, we often underestimate how luck plays a huge part in that. Or I've struggled to achieve XYZ, and I think there's merit in talking about the role of luck, not just only in building community, but in people's careers. In their professional journeys, the people they’ve managed to meet who were at that place at that time or who weren’t. And I think that sometimes we don’t reflect on that role in what we’ve done. I think we often think of things, maybe primarily as a meritocracy either way.

Jeremy Au: (35:50)
Amazing. Are there any ways to increase serendipity, from your perspective?

Bernadette Cho: (36:03)
I think. I personally think about it and I suspect EF also thinks about it in this way, which is really about liquidity of opportunities, so it’s about the liquidity from an EF perspective, we want to bring together cohorts of enough people that you could build a company with. We want to. It’s so hard. I think, Jeremy, you’ll probably have personal experience with this as an actual personal founder and that it’s hard to find a co-founder, and so we at EF look to build cohorts where you could find a handful of people you could co-found with that we have handpicked and selected for you through rigorous interviews, and we looked through thousands of candidates’ profiles every cohort. That’s the number of applications we get, and so we worked really hard to create those serendipitous moments. I think in your personal life, like I mentioned, that my month, and I should probably do it again, my month of saying yes to everything. That was an extremely serendipitous month because I was exposed to so many different environments, experiences that I would typically have said no to or tried to avoid or found excuses not to do and I think sometimes it’s really about expanding your comfort zone in ways that will make you feel uncertain and uncomfortable.

Jeremy Au: (37:14)
Thank you so much, Bernadette. Wrapping up here, I’ll love to paraphrase the three big themes that I got from this. The first was an amazing journey alongside you about what you’ve learnt from your professional journey, especially from the chief of staff role and you had so much great actionable thoughtful advice for both the founders and chief of staff which is how to build influence, how to have that seat at the table, how to have that positional authority, but also on the converse side, what is the clarity of scope, what outcomes are you trying to drive for and what are the future progression paths for someone who has a chief of staff role. The second part I really enjoyed was the part around culture change and someone who is moving countries, moving geographies, and some great advice about what it means in the context of Southeast Asia, both the upside, but in terms of self-regulation and the context of family. Lastly, thank you so much, throughout the conversation, it felt like the big theme of what you said was really the phrase serendipity about meeting the right person, making the right call, having the right conversation, saying yes and it turning out to be the right thing, and I thank you so much for coming on the show.

Bernadette Cho: (38:30)
Thanks so much for having me, Jeremy, I really enjoyed the chat with you