Ying Cong Seah on Setting Goals As a 24-Year-Old CTO

5 Min Read

Ying Cong is one of the three cofounders of Glints — the three of them dropped out together after their freshman year in college (Wharton, Stanford, UC Berkeley).

Glints is a career discovery & career development platform that connects 250,000+ youths to internships and graduate job opportunities at 10,000+ companies across Southeast Asia (Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, & Vietnam). Glints has raised $3 million. They are one of the youngest founders to have raised venture capital in Southeast Asia.

alt Ying Cong Seah (on the right) with his cofounders at Glints

Editor’s Note: I met Ying Cong three years ago in the dining hall when we were both freshman in 2014. YC stood out to me as a super determined, hardworking, and inspiring person. Everything he says is thought-provoking; everything he does is compassionate. Most importantly, he is a giver. He is one of those people who even after you’ve known for a while, you still find out new cool stuff he has done and say, “what?? You did that??”

What you can do today:

1) Start your day off writing down the three most important things for the day.
2) Think about how what you are doing today fit into your life vision.
3) Just like a company doesn't want to overreact to changes, be flexible with your goals but don't get distracted.

What are some of your daily routines?

As the CTO (Chief Technology Officer), my role revolves around product building, solving customer requests, and moving the product roadmap forward.

I start my day off writing down the three most important things for the day, such as the features I want to build and pieces of code I need to review that day.

Then, I will have a daily standup meeting with my team where we talk about the progress we’ve made and the obstacles we ran into the day before, what to work on today, and how those align with the product roadmap. The rest of the day is working through the code and if my team has any problems, they will ask me.

How do you set your daily three most important goals?

I look at the product roadmap.

We break down the bigger vision → annual goals → quarter goals → product roadmap → weekly sprints → daily goals. The bigger picture trickles down into what we do every day and that is how we ensure we are achieving our vision.

How often do annual goals change and how do you adapt?

We know a lot of big companies err on the side of planning too much.

But when we first started, we erred on the side of not planning enough. The premise of a lean startup is that you don't know anything about the market and plans always change. We came into entrepreneurship thinking that since things always change, you shouldn’t plan at all. We didn't have any long term plan or clear idea about where we want to go. We were just iterating on a day to day basis. It started fine, but eventually we realized it's not the best way to be a start-up. You just end up following the whims of the customers that day.

After realizing this, we started implementing processes and thinking. After three years and seeing all the other startups in the internet space, we started to have intuition of where the world is going in terms of internet, SaaS, and software, and how that affects the recruitment market. Based on the macro-trends of the market, we will come up with our product roadmap paired up with the big vision and then trickle down to execution.

So regarding your question of whether you have any changes or when some of our assumptions are proven false, what do you do...

The answer is when we realize that, based on customer interaction and new data, some of our core assumptions are false, we will definitely come together and make changes today to the roadmap. But that happens on the quarterly basis because we don't want to overreact to the small changes that we see, since you never know until you've consolidated enough information.

Every quarter we have a retreat where we come together and we bring new insights that we learned from customers and the feedback we received from pushing new features, which we then consolidate into insights that translate to a new product roadmap for the next quarter.

This brings me back to freshman year... I remember correctly, you had a life plan on your dorm wall, is that something you still have?

It’s actually still the same. I haven't been as religious about reading every day as I should. But I recently restarted the habit of writing down my goals for the year and then refocusing my efforts to make sure that whatever I do today will contribute to that goal eventually.

The only change is that I've reduced the number of goals I have so that I can focus.

Can you share some of your goals?

It starts from the very high level:

what you want to be to the world, what do you want your purpose in life to be. For me, I really want to contribute in terms of my design skills, my product skills and be a bad-ass engineer.

From there it trickles down to how do you want to live your life on a day to day basis. For me it's all about leading a mindful, joyful and disciplined life.

Translating it down further into ten year goals, five year goals, three year goals, and one year goals has proven to be extremely helpful.

What is your high level goal in life?

To use my skills in technology and design to impact a great number of people in the fields of transportation, food, energy and AI. Those are the fundamental areas that affect nearly every human life. If you can make a fundamental improvement in any of these areas, you can potentially affect millions or even billions of people around the world.

So that’s just on the very high level — I hadn't started working realistically to these goals yet.

Editor's Note: Ying Cong has kindly offered to share his life plan and give more advice around goal-setting. Please let us know if you are interested!

Stay tuned for Part 2: Almost shutting down his start-up 3 years after dropping out of Penn


*Header photo courtesy of The Daily Pennsylvanian.

Chuhan Shen

isn't shy about sharing her Sign.al for the world.

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