Yolanda Lee is the Co-Founder of Uncommon (Iterative Winter 2022), a Singapore-based private network for female leaders. Uncommon redefines professional development for female leaders through a powerful and trusted network of peers, group coaching, tailored masterclasses, 1:1 connections virtually and in person.
What has been the most surprising thing for you about being a founder?
How hard it can be to let go.
It's so instrumental in growing a business to let go of certain areas and trust other people to do a far better job than you can. I never had a problem with this when building companies from the ground up for other people but I was so attached to the outcomes with Uncommon that it was harder to get used to.
What was the highlight of your Iterative experience?
There are so many! It was incredible to be part of a highly-driven community of founders. Lots of lols - I liked the vulnerability and honesty in the community because you can't really build trust and solve the actual problems without it.
What is one thing that you would tell to your 10 year old self?
It's actually really cool to be different.
What's the craziest thing that has happened to you in your job?
Well, I got taken to jail when I was MD of a Rocket Internet startup in Ghana. I was only held for hours on a totally made up charge after getting into an argument with a taxi driver (I will forever haggle prices hahaha) It was hectic at the time but it definitely taught me the power of relationships.
Where did the idea of your company come from?
I worked at 3 unicorn scale ups and was often the only female leader at the table. I was asked all the time to give back: mentor younger women, give a talk, speak on a panel but I was panelled out. It was actually really hard to find a way to connect with women who were in the same boat as me and understood the uniquely female challenges I sometimes faced. I started Uncommon as a dinner series for us to write the playbook for female leadership and it evolved from there.
If you could be an animal, what would you be? Why?
An ocelot. I once tried to free one from a waterpark in Trinidad and Tobago and I just thought that it was my spirit animal - precise, chilled but you probably don't want to mess with it.
What was your dream occupation growing up?
I don't know if I grew up with dreams outside of what I thought was expected of me. I won a national poetry contest in Canada when I was 12 and they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I answered a brain surgeon or Prime Minister. I don't think I even understood what those jobs entailed. WRONG: I should have said Instagram Poet.
If you had a superpower, what would it be and why?
I think I am great at creating safe spaces which means that people tell me their secrets pretty easily. Following that line of thinking, my superpower would go one step further and intercept someone's deepest anxiety with calm (something I try to do for myself!)