Photo: Tuya Shepel

I learned what it takes to become a cloud billionaire

February 20, 2019 by

Do you know where you’ll be when you’re 100? Thai Lee does. The CEO of tech company SHI has each decade of her life planned out and has been executing her roadmap since she was 17. While it was shocking to hear her describe her extreme long-term planning at the Women in Cloud Summit last month, it’s wasn’t the first time I’d encountered the concept.

Growing up in communist Mongolia, mapping our future according to communist ideas was the expectation. Even at a young age we planned our life and development by quarter, semester, and 5-year chunk. For inspiration, we learned about Russian scientist Ivan Pavlov who made a list of things he wanted to achieve in his life when he was a kid. His plan required him to live until 114. He made it to 86, but still achieved all his goals! (We were told.) This national push for planning at the individual level was meant to emulate the Soviet Union’s five-year plan.

While my life definitely didn’t go according to my childhood plans, I’m happy it didn’t. And with my youth experience in mind, I could appreciate Thai’s 100-year blueprint so much more. It was the first time I had considered the lifetime plan from a capitalist—and not a communist—perspective. Turns out it works for capitalists, too, if they’re dogged enough to stick with it.

Not only is Thai’s follow-through a feat, but the items on her checklist were extremely ambitious. At 60, everything in her life has happened according to plan. She’s a billionaire who owns one of the largest female-owned businesses in the US. Her keynote address on how she built her IT products and services company was spectacular and empowering for us entrepreneurs in the audience. It was refreshing to hear someone so prominent talk about the importance of empowering employees to make independent decisions, valuing all staff equally, and promoting and supporting women in leadership positions.

In addition to Thai, the words of CVP of Microsoft, Gavriella Schuster, also stuck with me. Her advice for young women in technology:

  • Know who you are and be willing to lead with authenticity
  • Be willing to fail, and pick yourself up—put your voice out there over and over again
  • Know what you aspire to, what you stand for, and lead with courage and conviction to make yourself heard

Looking forward to the next year’s summit! In the meantime, I’ll be working on my revised plan.