Fei Yao: Accessible Business School for the Workforce
Hi everyone, Spiffy here, your one and only interplanetary journalist reporting from Planet Earth. I’m thrilled to be in Singapore to hear from Fei Yao, an entrepreneur working to make the world a better place by providing accessible business education, through her startup NewCampus. Are you ready to be enlightened?
Spiffy: Welcome Fei! It’s so great to have you. Tell me about NewCampus and the main challenges you’re addressing.
Fei: Thanks so much for having me, Spiffy. Well, with climate change, automation, shifting economies of influence — the world is going through a lot of change and complexity. To navigate these changes, I believe we need better businesses and better people who are equipped to lead with foresight, empathy, and agility. On top of that, I believe that the model for higher education is broken. All of our learning happens in four years at the start of your career, even though the most in-demand roles didn't exist 10 years ago. NewCampus is building a business school for working learners, starting with management training. We envision a world where learning integrates into your lifestyle and enables your career.
Spiffy: I see! Can you tell me more? Specifically what motivated you to embark on online business education?
Fei: My background was in engineering but I ended up starting my career in consulting and I quickly realized it was not for me. Figuring out what to do next was tough. I was priced out of an MBA and I also lacked the network, skills, and confidence to make a move into emerging industries I was interested in. I ended up starting up a company, which enabled me to build the same skills and networks in a practical way. NewCampus focuses on deconstructing the business school experience and repackaging it into doses that are more affordable and relevant for today's workforce. I am motivated to ensure that our businesses are as inclusive as they are innovative, and people feel enabled to pursue meaningful careers in the future of work.
A NewCampus learner attending a live class. (Photo courtesy of Fei Yao)
Spiffy: How do you think this will help create a more equitable world?
Fei: Well, Spiffy, we want to create opportunity through accessible education. We focus on areas that have been neglected by traditional education, including exposure, leadership skills, and networking. We hear from business leaders and employers about the soft skills gap. By digging deeper into the profiles of individuals who are further along the leadership capability spectrum, we see a correlation with socioeconomic upbringing (especially early career). Someone who grows up having dinner table talks about the economy is going to be stronger with managing first-time client meetings than the person who did not. We believe leadership skills and exposure to more people and ideas is the greatest tool to supercharge careers and equip businesses with diverse leaders.
Spiffy: What about a recent milestone, do you have any you can talk about?
Fei: We recently worked with the Economic Development Board of Singapore which had identified education as a key area to innovate and create new jobs emerging from COVID-19. Our goal was to identify learning gaps that small and medium enterprises faced with their employees and explore the skills needed for their businesses to succeed. This work brought together business leaders from Fortune 500 companies and the Ministry of Education, to better align education outcomes with industry needs and to support it with meaningful capital.
Spiffy: I believe that we can learn a lot from failure. What about you? Can you share about an experience when you faced failure and didn't give up? What did you learn?
Fei: As an entrepreneur, you are going to be wrong more times than you are right. Failure is nothing more than an opportunity to pivot your strategy. NewCampus started off as an online-to-offline hybrid model. We believed in the power of gathering people to encourage peer-to-peer learning and we invested our resources into building more conducive physical campuses. When the pandemic hit, our entire value proposition was impacted and we lost a lot of early customers. We took a bet to build a virtual campus experience for a post-pandemic world and we found that it opened our campus to more people who were now ready to gather again, but online.
Spiffy: Well done! What a pivot! Do you have anything else you’ve learned recently that you’d like to add?
Fei: My personal goal since 2020 was to really improve my personal fitness and health. I used to easily give up if I skipped a day of gym or healthy eating, but I've since decided to be more forgiving and focus on long-term change. This is also a mindset I've adopted in many areas of company building. A lot of tech companies are pressured to grow fast or risk dying, but I think this encourages people to give up on experiments too quickly. I think more focus on the longer-term goals will help people develop grit and not feel as discouraged by setbacks.
Spiffy: Thanks so much for taking the time to introduce us to NewCampus! It’s been an honor.
Fei Yao is the cofounder of NewCampus, which delivers modern business education via membership to online classes led by global business leaders. She believes in creating opportunities through accessible education and is passionate about improving the future of business through inclusive leadership. Originally from Australia, she now resides in the sunny hub of Singapore. In a past life, she worked on water innovation in Cambodia with Engineers Without Borders and was a consultant at Accenture. (Nominated by Pathway Ventures)