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7 Questions with Pauline Phoon

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Jonno White

7 Questions with Pauline Phoon

Name: Pauline Phoon

Current title: Founder

Current organisation: SOOS OIO LLP and COMEBACK PTE LTD

Pauline Phoon is the founder of COMEBACK PTE LTD and SOOS OIO LLP, both are social enterprises.

SOOS OIO LLP seeks to develop youth holistically through communities in our fast-evolving world. While SOOS OIO is gaining momentum in building communities among the gamers, the need for a deeper program for youths who have lost life balance in games became apparent. Deeply concerned about this rising trend, COMEBACK is conceptualised with the support of friends and partners, including gamers who caught her heart and passion.

Pauline Phoon has been in the forefront of youth culture from a decade ago in Monsoon Productions Pte Ltd and Soulmanna Live Pte Ltd by first introducing the YouTube wave from the States into Asia Pacific, working with first generation Asian American YouTubers like David Choi, Ryan Higa, Wong Fu Productions, etc.

Changes are inevitable and they come on us like swift waves. We might be swept off the surfboard at some point, but we can always get back up and try again. The key is to ride these waves and enjoy the surf.

Pauline co-authored an ebook titled “Understanding Games and Gamers” with Ruth Lim that is available for free download.

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1. What have you found most challenging as a Christian school leader?

One of the most challenging parts of leading the next generation is to contextualise Biblical truths and values so that they can understand and apply in the fast changing environment. This process takes a lot of patience and an almost brutal honesty in sieving out culture that is becoming irrelevant and the solid truths and values that is life giving. The constant learning and having to keep myself humble that I do not know a lot of things is critical, which means I am in a constant learning and giving mode.

2. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?

I will do a quick planning of things I need to do in the day and clear urgent matters when I start work which usually takes about an hour or so. I will then jump online to our team meeting where we will update one another and end off praying and seeking God. The rest of the day will be meetings, events and/or working on things that need to be done.

3. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?

My actions need to be aligned to my words. Inspirational speeches and pep talks can only superficially motivate others, but it is walking alongside in action that makes the greatest impact. As James 2:17 says, "Faith without works is dead", and even though I do not need to do everything, walking alongside and ploughing together with the team in faith to believe in things unseen or yet to be.

4. What's one book apart from the Bible that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?

It is not one book for me but the story of King David. The many episodes and seasons of his life that I related with and learnt from in the different challenges and phases I experienced.

For example, how David regarded his "riff-raff army" with much honour and respect even before they won battles, and eventually the greatest army ever with many mighty men is definitely one that inspires me. It does not matter the background of a person, when God calls and a good leader, they can rise up to such potential.

The other lesson learnt is the power of forgiveness in submission to God's sovereignty. David's ability to forgive Saul on many occasions and extending mercy and grace taught me to do the same when it is hard. With many various relationships at different levels in leadership, this is so important to keep motivated and sane.

5. How do you find and keep great Christian teachers?

We do not have the role of teachers in my organisations but coaches and clinical psychologists/counsellors. They are involved in some form of educating and equipping young people, instead of subjects, it is social and emotional skills and values.

I have never posted job vacancies looking to hire anyone. Somehow the timing has been that whenever we need someone, a suitable person with vision and passion aligned to what we do will cross our paths. As we talk deeper and sense a synergy in their personal and our organisational goals, we will invite them to come on board.

I do not work on keeping great team members. I work to keep a good working culture and environment, with a clear vision and goals. If their personal goals are aligned to the organisation's, and the culture is helping them grow, they will generally stay.

6. What's most important as a Christian school leader for developing a culture of wellbeing in your staff and students?

Praying together and for one another regularly is key. When we genuinely pray for one another and also for the organisation's goals, the stillness spent with God helps to align everyone to God both personal and corporate level.

7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a Christian school leader so far?

In 2020, even though covid has caused many activities to stop, we actually converted to online talks and workshops very effectively, reaching out to more schools and parents than we did before. I believe the key behind this smooth transition is our prayer time and the preparation God was doing within each of us. Instead of struggling with the format change, we welcomed it. This change made us more productive, going beyond our KPIs set in 2019.