Lily Hong is the co-founder of Cyberdyne Tech Exchange (CTX), a digital assets exchange based in Singapore. Lily is a graduate of Stanford University with a degree in computer science. In 2002, Lily co-founded Beijing Infotel Communications, which became one of the top five mobile device sellers in China. Five years later, she established AER Networks which provides system integration, database operations and network security services. In 2008, Lily founded Beijing Zeepson Technology, an IoT and security industry service provider, of which Tencent is the largest corporate shareholder. We sat down with Lily to learn about her career in technology and what advice she would give to young professionals who aspire to work in the financial and technology industry.
How did you become involved in the technology industry?
I have always been curious about technology since I was a child. When most of peers would play with dolls, I was the proverbial "weird" kid who preferred to make electric fans, install motors for bicycles and take apart small home appliances. My youth was spent in the study and exploration of science and technologies which impacted the world instead of indulging in fashion trends, celebrity gossips and romance novels. Inspired by my experiences at Stanford University, I returned to China upon graduation to start my own business. I was very blessed because China was then at the cusp of exploding technology growth cycles, which I rode by founding three successive companies in the fields of mobile phones, data operation and network security, and Internet of Things solutions.
As a "techno-preneur," I am excited by the infinite social and market potential that comes with the advent of mobile Internet of Things, big data, artificial intelligence, digitalization of the human society, and distributed database. Since the blockchain technology took root in China in 2013, I started to pay attention to the tokenization of traditional assets, cryptocurrencies, and the ICO mania and security tokens. I became convinced that digitalization of the economy can have a huge impact on existing fundraising models, as long as the technology is done in collaboration with the legitimate market participants and regulators. I am a certified professional racer. And as a racer, I learnt that regardless of how good your driving skills are, how talented a racer you are, you still need to respect the rules! Otherwise, you will endanger the lives of others and even your own. I believe that we need to bring the same awareness to the emerging token economy and the related field of digital assets. How to structure compliant digital assets transactions are now serious discussions within fintech. My partners and I established Cyberdyne Tech Exchange in Singapore to provide institutional investors a platform to issue and trade digital assets in a transparent and compliant manner; the digital assets on our platform can be tracked, transacted efficiently with reduced costs, and backed by real world assets. In short, we are creating a bridge between the worlds of finance and technology.
Why did you choose to pursue a career in technology?
I have always felt that technology chose me to pursue a career in technology. I have a deep love and awe for science and technology, always believe that science and technology helped drove human development. My experiences at Stanford deepened my respect for those who engage in fundamental research of science and technology. Without their passion and persistence at fundamental research, there would be no technology breakthrough. Pioneering women scientists, such as Marie Curie and Tu Youyou (a Chinese chemist and educator who discovered artemisinin and dihydroartemisinin used to treat malaria) were my inspirations. It has always been my desire that my tech entrepreneurial ventures could also contribute to technological innovation and value.
Throughout your career, what challenges have you been presented with that you've had to overcome?
As an entrepreneur in the field of science and technology, time is especially precious to me and a great challenge. Continuous learning is indispensable to keeping pace with the rapidly evolving field of science and technology. I need to maintain a strong learning ability and a diverse knowledge. But as the founder of a technology company, I must constantly juggle between managing the business and other obligations while making time to learn new things. I am very precise in the use of my time and try my best not to waste time.
How has being a woman in technology impacted your career?
I think women pursuing a career in the technology industry are very lucky group of professionals. Technology, especially its underlying logic, changes the way we look at many things. As a woman, I feel that my education and training in technology enable me to clearly grasp the key issues, focus more on the details, and quickly decide the actionable steps. I seldom tangle but always proceed steadily, no matter the challenges ahead. Even if I don't succeed, I don't have regrets but will start over. I attribute this attitude to working in the technology industry.
What advice would you give to young women who aspire to be in the technology industry?
First of all, I think women should recognize their unique advantages in the field of science and technology, be proud of themselves, and strive to develop their strengths, rather than always try to focus on their shortcomings. Second, I will advise them to travel more and learn more about other fields such as the arts, cuisine etc. We cannot have a big-picture view without venturing outside our silos. Learn to appreciate beauty and ideas outside of technology A diverse global outlook and proper values can help one better understand technology and its application, and also help us have a longer and happier path in science and technology!