Standing Among Giants At The ZICO ASEAN 40 Under 40 Program

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It has been said that “if you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.”

Well, recently, I was definitely in the right room – where I was left awestruck being amidst some truly incredible, talented and smart individuals doing amazing things all over Southeast Asia!

We were part of the inaugural cohort of the ZICO ASEAN 40 Under 40 – a flagship program by ASEAN Advisory, the consulting arm of ZICO. The program paid tribute to 40 trailblazers under the age of 40 in, or from, Southeast Asia who are driving positive change and creating impact in this region. Each honoree is addressing a trend or challenge in the ASEAN countries through our work.

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L-R: Richard Yim, Winston Toh, Ada Chirapaisarnkul, Danial Hakim, and I. Photo credit: ZICO

You know that feeling you get where you meet someone and start asking yourself, “What am I doing with my life?” Yeah, that’s how I felt when I met some of these truly exemplary people (picture above, L-R):

  • Richard Yim – who co-founded Demine Robotics to develop better robots that more effectively remove land mines; starting in Cambodia where he was born, which unfortunately also holds the distinction of being one of the most heavily land-mined countries in the world with an estimated 4 to 6 million land mines in the country.
  • Winston Toh – a bright young man who helped bring to life the ASEAN Advisory 40 Under 40 Program; with whom I’ve also enjoyed scintillating conversations on economies of the future and its impact to modern society.
  • Ada Chirapaisarnkul – who, among many other achievements, is the founder of the Thai Young Philanthropist Network (TYPN), which today sees 2,700 young leaders working to strengthen civil society in Thailand through youth entrepreneurship training for students and teachers as well as business consultation and capacity building support for to over 100 social-purpose organisations.
  • Danial Hakim – a young grassroots leader who balances his time between his full-time job and championing the issues and concerns of his community.

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Pictured in the middle here and highly deserving of a shout out is Van Ngoc Ta, chief lawyer of the Hanoi-based Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation, which is involved in anti-trafficking work. Van has personally helped hundreds of victims of forced labor and sex trafficking, working closely with authorities. He’s a real-life superhero: when I met him for dinner the evening before the awards event, he was on the phone in the midst of coordinating a case. I can’t speak highly enough of the great work that he is doing.

I also met many other amazing fellow honorees – including a dear colleague Warren Tseng, formerly the General Manager for Uber in Singapore.

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Making a point to a compatriot about the new government in Malaysia. Photo credit: ZICO

It was inspiring to meet them all to hear their stories as well as perspectives. It truly augurs well for ASEAN’s future potential as a political, economic, and sociocultural bloc. I am truly humbled and very grateful to have been included as one of these great luminaries.

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Looking at the other names and their achievements – I am truly humbled to be included.

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