Older Sister . Daughter . Partner . Proud Asian . Proud Lesbian . Co-founder and COO of Prout and Qurrent .
When I was a baby, I won an award for having the loudest laughter. I like to think that this is still my best feature, perhaps second to my eyeliner.
Cally emanates joy all around and if you’ve met her, you’d vouch that she definitely still is the reigning champion for having the loudest laughter. She is the Co-founder and COO of Prout and Qurrent, platforms which aim to provide a safe space and support for LGBTQ+ people.
So what is her life story?
Cally joined the media industry back in 2013 as a writer for various publications while dabbling in other areas such as PR, social media and marketing. However, she soon found herself in a rut.
“The more I wrote, the less I knew, and the less certain I was of everything. I wanted to change things, but I couldn’t if I was stuck behind the desk.”
And so she started adventuring around the world to seek for answers, dipping into fascinating countries such as Cambodia.
“And then I turned my attention to things that inevitably take precedence when one’s party days are over: Companionship. Connections. Commitments.
To Cally, being a lesbian is much more than a physical and emotional attraction to women. “It is an affirmation of the values that I practice as an individual, e.g. mutual respect, openness, fluidity,” she says.
Prout was borne at a time when everything had aligned to show me what the LGBTQ+ community lacked.
Cally started her route on developing Prout when she uncovered the social issues that LGBTQ+ people faced in their social lives. Many in the LGBTQ+ community face prejudice which reduces their sexuality to a sexual act or lifestyle, and she wanted to change this mindset.
Prout became a one-stop portal for the community to access resources, events, and connect with each other without the obligation to have sex. We want to hook you up to each other without hooking up.
Since then, she’s been taking the lead for many key parts of Prout and has successfully made it a name that the LGBTQ+ community holds dearly. Cally’s story of stepping up to resolve a social dilemma she cares is very heartening and inspires one to take action to make change where you want to see change.
Cally also fondly recounts her interaction with a very shy and petite lady while manning the Prout’s booth during this year’s Pink Dot.
“She confided that she was a long-time subscriber of our Qurrent channel and it was really significant for her as she was still in the closet and could not socialise through traditional channels. It was then that I understood the significance and role of the Qurrent channel: that it served many who cannot readily be prout (proud and out), and we need to keep it going.“
While she’s a successful female leader who has made her mark in the world, she is also an everyday human being such as you and me who also plays many other roles in her life that may not have received as much spotlight.
Other than being the co-founder and COO of Prout and Qurrent, what other roles or titles do you hold dearly in your life that you would like to share with us?
Cally: Some of the roles that come to mind: oldest sister, daughter of a traditional family from Hong Kong, proud Asian, proud lesbian, proud partner with my better (and very incredible) half, and unapologetic bibliophile. I may not be an ideal role model (and I acknowledge that I come from a position of privilege) but at least I am creating a role. I am also passionate about research in fields related to harm reduction and digital humanities.
“You cannot really control what life throws at you, but you can control how loud you laugh at it.”
She also adds that she identifies as a maverick, someone who follows their own independent-thinking even if it collides with the masses. To Cally, being a female leader means pushing boundaries and breaking the glass ceiling. She highlights the importance of being a role model to the younger generation to encourage them to take on leadership roles as changemakers.
“When a woman leads, it makes a difference because she makes a difference. The future is female.”
How do you think women, in general, can thrive in their lives, especially with the very common traditional mindset that society has regarding us being confined in certain career paths that are deemed ‘more suitable’ for women?
Cally: I think “traditional” is a term we perpetuate to give an illusion of coherency or stability in our lives (not being specific to any culture here). I don’t think that there are career paths more suitable for women or men as we are in the 21st century, and individuals are becoming increasingly educated and capable enough to do anything they want. In fact, we should just reinvent career paths that fulfill all our quirks and potential.
I think that is what makes us leaders in whatever we choose to do.
Cally also excitedly brings our attention to Ursula Burns when we ask who pops into her mind when she thinks of the term “woman leader”
Cally: She is the first African-American woman to head a Fortune 500 company, Xerox, and she was raised by a single mother on the lower east side of Manhattan. When she took over Xerox, she advocated change because she knew that it was time.
My favourite power-woman saying from her: “Where you are is not who you are”.
Cally is a passionate and spirited soul who has, like her own role model Ursula Burns, took a step to make change for what she believed in. We hope that her story will inspire you to be whoever you want, because there’s no limit to your potential regardless of where you are in life.