After attending an open house at a trade school in her home country, Singapore, Ruishan Chow found the motivation to move to Canada. Chow left her home in pursuit of a better life for her mother and her, and to explore the world. She left without any comforts of friends, family or familiarity and got an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering. With no money, Chow had to work hard throughout college to pay off her tuition fees. She said she received support from professors, internships and her new friends who she bonded with during difficult times.

The Road to Leadership

Q: How do you stay motivated? A: I tell myself that I only have one life to live, and life is short. I strive to live my best life every day and let go of what doesn’t serve me. And to know that it is not always about me. I consider it to be a privilege to have lived in developed countries like Singapore, Canada, and the USA. It is only right that I wake up every day to seek my purpose and hone the gift I have, then give it away. Q: What sacrifices have you had to make to be an entrepreneur? A: TV time has turned into books, videos, movies and documentaries that are related to my work, leadership and cultural exploration. Q: What is your favorite piece of advice that you’ve received and you’d like to pass along? A: Always be kind, consistent and persistent. Strive to do the right things and do them right.

How to Handle Chaos

Q: Have you ever experienced an economic spiral while being a leader (C-suite, director, manager, spouse)? If yes, what happened? If not, how have past downturns affected your career?
A: I was still in college when the 2008-2009 recession crisis hit. I didn’t manage to go back to the same employer for my internship and was very worried because those internships paid for my school. I didn’t give up, but I kept applying for jobs and trying until I found one. While it wasn’t the ideal job that I wanted at that time, I learned so many new things and learned what I liked and disliked.

Q: When dealing with a ‘disaster’ (for lack of a better term), how was your emotional state? What kinds of feelings were you feeling?
A: Anxiety and nervousness, as I thought my world was collapsing right in front of me, and there is no hope. But, there is always hope and light at the end of the tunnel!

Q: How long do you think it took for you to be mentally prepared to take on such an instance?
A: At the beginning, it would take a couple of weeks, or even months, to get out of that negative mental state. But with practice, we become stronger, and sometimes it only takes self-awareness and a few hours to start doing something that makes us feel good again.

Q: Please describe what it was like working with your team to solve the problem. What were some challenges you faced having multiple hands stirring the pot? What were some things you were grateful for?

A: It is never easy working in a team, especially with new team members because everyone is different. The mistake most of us make is wanting another person to act and think exactly like us. That said, that defeats the whole purpose of working in a team because we need diversity as a strength to face challenges and blind spots each of us has.

Most common challenges were personalities and different agendas. Once we tried to come together to get everyone to think from ‘’me” to “we,” things started to get better and you saw brilliant minds and hands at work.

I’m grateful to have been born in a multicultural country where I was used to working in teams of diverse cultures. I’m also grateful for the tolerance my previous teammates have exhibited so as to try to understand my point of view. There are really good people out there!

Q: Overall, from overcoming such an obstacle, what would you say was the best and worst thing that came from it?
A: Growing myself and learning more about my own strengths and weaknesses.Q: Would you say that the experience made you a better leader? Why or why not?
A: Yes. Everyone has the potential to be a better leader everyday. The experience helped me grow not only as a person, but also I learned to connect better with everyone, which is a crucial trait of good leadership.

Q: Would you say the experience made you a more confident leader? Why or why not?
A: Yes. I learned how to set boundaries for myself and others.

Q: Right now, the country is dealing with some hard, economic times. What would you say to leaders that are handling this for the first time? How would you advise them NOT to handle it?
A: I would advise leaders to think of themselves less; don’t finger point, and come together to think and act on solutions.

Inside the Leader

Q: What is your idea of perfect happiness? A: A peaceful life with a ranch while doing work that matters to me the most. Q: What do you consider your greatest achievement? A: I left the comfort of my own home to start my own life in North America! Q: What is your most treasured possession? A: My health and working mind!

In the Works

Q: Is there anything that you’re currently working on that you’d like to promote?

A: I work in the workforce development division at the community college level. I’d love to do more connections, workshops, and events for students and companies so that they can engage with each other.

Final Thoughts

Q: What would you tell your teenage self about facing the uncertainty and challenge of our current situation?
A: This too shall pass, and never let a crisis go to waste. Capitalize on it either by learning something new, or by doing something different about your life.

Follow Ruishan Here:

You can email Ruishan Chow to learn more about her work in the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office, and as the San Diego-Imperial Counties Regional Director. You can also connect with her via LinkedIn


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Cydney Melton

Cydney Melton

News & Media Assistant

Cydney Melton is a fourth year journalism major at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, but is originally from Cardiff, California. Although she has not spent much time around race cars, she has spent a lot of time riding motorcycles in the desert, on the back of her dad’s Harley and just recently got her own motorcycle license. Cydney is a big advocate for women empowerment and encouraging women in male-dominated industries. She will be working as the News and Media Assistant, highlighting the progress and power of the Athena women as they claim their spot in the racing world.