2022 WiFA Spotlight Series: Today we would like to introduce Karen So, General Counsel, OSL, who shares with WiFA her experience with overcoming bias, how she supports female talent, what gives her hope every day, and much more
Tell us about your background and the journey to your current position and organization.
I am a lawyer by training, and I moved from corporate finance private practice into the inhouse legal department of an investment bank not long after qualification. Having spent over 14 years as legal counsel to the private wealth management business, I was offered an opportunity to move into the digital finance space. I was very comfortable with my job at the time, but I thought to myself that maybe this would be a good chance for me to learn something new before I retire, and more importantly, be part of the evolution of the fast-growing digital asset industry. So I stepped out of my comfort zone and entered this new male-dominated world. I started with a senior compliance role at a global crypto derivatives exchange, recently joined OSL, as their General Counsel.
Describe a challenging or difficult time during your career where you overcame bias.
Returning to work after my first maternity leave was challenging. Having been out of the office for four months and out of touch with my colleagues and work matters, I went back lacking confidence and felt inadequate and incompetent. I felt that I was labelled as a mother, so naturally, there were people who assumed that my priority was family, and that I had no career aspirations.
I never thought motherhood and career was an “either/or”. I was determined to overcome the bias. I became more disciplined in terms of time allocation between work and family. When I was working, I worked harder to catch up on what I had missed, to rebuild relationships with my key clients/stakeholders, and on my development as a trusted senior adviser to the business. I was fortunate that I had work-life flexibility at my workplace, and was able to juggle effectively between work and family.
Please provide an example where you have promoted/supported female talent.
I am a founding member of the Digital Women Leadership Network, a member-owned community created about a year ago by a group of women leaders. Our vision is to shape the future of digital finance by supporting other female professionals in the field, giving access to aspiring women who wish to enter into leadership roles in the industry, as well as providing education, mentorship and sponsorship to women to equip them to start on an equal footing as men when pursuing a career in digital finance.
What gets you out of bed every day, either professionally or personally? What gives you hope?
Other than my boys who will come and wake me up, the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead gets me out of bed every day and I am quite excited. Being a Christian, I find hope in God, knowing that He will give me strength to get through anything. No matter how bad the day may turn out, there’s often a silver lining: I just have to look carefully, and I will find blessings around me, whether it’s a call from a friend out of the blue, beautiful weather, being able to get a taxi when I’m running super late, or a big hug from my boys.