Scholar Spotlight - Jessica Lauw

Laidlaw Scholar, Jessica Lauw, on nurturing the next wave of female STEM leaders through innovative community initiatives.
Scholar Spotlight - Jessica Lauw
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Jessica Lauw, a Laidlaw Scholar at Oxford University's Saïd Business School, on transforming early-stage visions into reality and championing the next generation of female STEM leaders.

I love helping early-stage founders flesh out their vision into reality, and I've done this for over eight years, mainly through my career as a brand designer. In 2018, I joined a tech start-up and experienced the gender gap in tech first-hand, which led me to get involved in Generation Girl, a movement that aims to grow the next generation of female leaders in STEM. During that time, I discovered a genuine joy in building communities and the privilege of seeing people grow in their roles.

In 2022, these passions turned into a project called Eden (short for Education for Entrepreneurs), where we helped 70+ young people learn more about purpose-driven entrepreneurship. I figured that attending a business school would broaden my perspective, and thus applied to the Oxford MBA and the Laidlaw Scholarship because of their commitment to a long-term, impact-driven view in business.

One of Generation Girl’s first events in 2018, in collaboration with GOJEK – Indonesia’s largest tech company.

What is the biggest life challenge you have overcome and what did you learn from it?

In 2020, the day COVID-19 hit Indonesia was the same day I quit my corporate job and embarked on building my own brand consultation team full-time. In addition, my grandmother, who was partially disabled, needed a particular caregiver, and the responsibility came to me. That season, I learned to be scrappy, do whatever it took to deliver high-quality work for my clients, lead and nurture my young team without stretching them thin (I could only afford junior creatives back then), and care for my grandmother, all at the same time.

Entrepreneurship and life are messy, and what we make of those formless beginnings is really up to our creativity, which is our superpower! Mistakes are bound to be made in such a busy and chaotic time, which taught me how to put my pride down, communicate my challenges, and apologize when needed.

What is the most useful/impactful piece of advice you have been given in your life?

Before I left for Oxford, my best friend wrote this to me:

Be genuine in your relationships! Don’t think too much about what you can get out of it, but love people with all your heart.”

As cheesy as it sounds, she’s right! I might not be able to attend every networking event or party, and I may forever struggle with small talk, but I can at least treat the people in front of me sincerely, without any agenda. This has helped me connect authentically with many strangers who have since become real friends.

Conversely, what is the WORST piece of advice you have been given?

This is a hard question – I don’t think I can recall any; it’s probably bad enough that it does not even register in my mind! Haha. Jokes aside, I’ve been told way too many times that I’m not qualified to take different leadership roles because I spent the majority of my career as a creative… Oh well. I guess there’s a first time to everything. So I did it anyway! ;)

What are your top 3 leadership tips?

  1. Clarity. Learn how to articulate your needs and constructive feedback clearly, keep things simple and straightforward, and don’t let emotions cloud your communication. Most people are likely not (yet) trained in mind reading, so save them from the pain of guessing your direction!

  2. (Ob)serve. The best leaders I’ve worked with are the ones with a wide-angle view of the group as a whole, yet notice and take attentive action for individuals – to serve them – proactively. They took every chance to support and raise you, and they know you well because they are genuinely invested in your personal growth.

  3. Enjoy and have fun! Things will only be as enjoyable as you make them. So don’t miss savouring the now; the struggle, the fight, the process, the achievement, the fun, all of it!! It’s a real pleasure to work with someone who is present, passionate about what they are doing, knows how to have a good laugh, and tackles challenges in a lighthearted manner!

What does it mean for you to be a Laidlaw Scholar?

Being a Laidlaw Scholar means becoming part of a community that not only cares about doing good but takes concrete action about it. It also means open doors: The scholarship brought me to one of the best universities in the world and connected me with some of the brightest yet warmest people I'm honoured to call friends and colleagues!

Which leaders inspire you the most and why?

My Dad. All those sage advice and 'Leadership 101' are easy to recite when things are going in your favour. But, when things get tough, and you lose the business you had built for decades, these are the things which uncover the true quality of our leadership.

I don't know how other leaders live their lives behind closed doors, but I've watched how my dad is generous to those who are unkind to him. He is not perfect and may never be featured in Forbes 30 under 30, but he is an earnest learner who champions those who work for him. I’m proud of how he chooses to do the right things when it's uneasy!

Matriculating to Mansfield College, University of Oxford.

Describe a scene from the future you are striving to create.

A community of men and women alike, with the determination and perseverance to roll up their sleeves, creatively solve pressing challenges in the world together – be it inequality, health, work, or lifestyle and mindset changes – and see it through.

I recently had an interesting conversation with my college advisor (shout out to Jimmy Jia! – surprisingly a founder himself) who said: "Entrepreneurship is a mindset to innovatively crack a problem, whether in your life, within a corporation, or in your own venture. You can turn your life into an entrepreneurial project just as much as you can start a venture.”

Imagine what we could achieve collectively if every person in the world had that same mindset!


Quick-fire Questions

📺 Currently binging: 

I barely touch Netflix these days, but when I do, I try to sneak some minutes of David Attenborough’s  Our Planet – it’s sooo beautiful! 

 

📚 My top book recommendation: Ways of Seeing by John Berger

🎶 My anthem: Give It To The WaterStormzy; More than everythingSondae; Twenty-Four – Jonathan Ogden

🎵 Podcast obsession: The Handlebar Podcast

🌈 Something that made me feel joy recently:

Cooking for some of my favourite people in Oxford!


 

Jessica Lauw is a Laidlaw Scholar at Oxford University's Saïd Business School. You can find Jessica on LinkedIn. The Laidlaw Women's Business Education Scholarship aims to help build a pipeline of future women leaders through access to best-in-class education, resources and global networks by providing full and half scholarships to women who would not otherwise be in a position to reap the benefits of attending an outstanding school. 

🔦 Discover more Scholar Spotlights: 

⚡️ Patrícia Gonçalves, a Laidlaw Scholar at Oxford University's Saïd Business School, on navigating the crossroads of public and private sectors and championing a sustainable, equitable future.

⚡️ Lucy Nyamaah, a Laidlaw Scholar at Oxford University's Saïd Business School, on pushing past gender norms and envisioning a female-led future in the Energy sector.

⚡️ Juliana Ruseva, a Laidlaw Scholar at London Business School, on volunteering, helping women break the glass ceiling and tackling issues step by step.

⚡️ Adebusola Adegbuyi, a Laidlaw Scholar at Saïd Business School, on facing challenges with optimism and empowering young women to begin careers in technology.

⚡️ Aya Hammad, a University of York Laidlaw Scholar, on understanding the origins of cancer, promoting equality in healthcare, and learning to be adaptable.

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