Design Leader Insights - Felix Lee on Democratizing Mentorship for All Through ADPList

May 24, 2023


Alex Smith: Design leader Insights is brought to you by Fuego UX, a UX design consultancy focused on creating simple and intuitive digital experiences. Hey, Felix, thanks so much for joining the show today.

Felix Lee: Hey, thanks Alex. 

Alex Smith: Of course, yeah. And to get started, can you tell the audience a little bit about your journey before and to ADPList? 

Felix Lee: So I'm Felix and I'm currently here in Singapore, and I'm the co-founder and CEO here at ADPList. Little bit about ADPList for those who have not heard of us, you know, we're on a mission to democratize mentorship for all. And the reason why we do what we do is that, you know, we want to create career inclusivity, but also the access to, for billions of people around the world, to be able to get mentorship and the knowledge that they need to thrive in their career. And you know, believe it or not, a lot of people do not have that access today, due to the circumstances that they are born into, you know, whether it be, you know, socioeconomic status, from gender to race, we really want to, you know, eliminate these biases in societies and create a fair environment for everyone to thrive. It really all started when, you know, it was 2016 actually, when I was still sort of like in high school here in Singapore, you know, I've always been a very curious kid growing up. And so I started my first company, it is called Packdat with my brother. And it is a travel technology company that actually just allows people to plan their itinerary online, and it was eventually acquired by the time I graduated from my high school. It was sort of like my first look into the tech industry. I served in the army for two years. It's one of the, simultaneously one of the best and worst time in my life. So you know, two years in army and when I came out, actually, my thought that, you know, was that, hey, you know, people would go to college, right? People go to university here in Singapore, and I decided that, you know, that really just wasn't a path for me. And so, I joined Gotrade as the first design lead. Think of them like the Robinhood for Southeast Asia. So I joined them. Incredible FinTech company, incredible CEO, I had the best time working with him, you know, just learning a lot of things. Until today, I credit him and the team, there for a lot of things that I do in my workplace, the way I think as well. And so I joined them, you know, for about a year. And obviously, that was during a pandemic. And, you know, I decided to start a side project called the Amazing Design People List. And what happened with Amazing Design People List long and short story. It started growing around the world, not just in Singapore, but it started growing around the world. And it became ADPList as we know of today.

Alex Smith: Yeah, I think some of the questions I have are around education, obviously there's a huge need for this mentorship component. What do you think's changing, or not changing with education that's driving so many people to something like ADPList?

Felix Lee: They're not getting it out of be at a boot camp, a formal university program, or however they're else they're learning? I think, you know, in many ways, we don't see ourselves as a replacement, or a competition to schools or whatnot, or boot camps. I am very much a big supporter of formal education,even though I've not been to the university. But what I think that is really missing is the reality check. Right? I call it a reality check. That almost the skews in reality in that sense.And what I mean is that, you know, there is a disconnect with the traditional education, and, you know, what is required out there in the workforce. You know, the way that we look at that at ADPList is that, you know, when you put someone, you know, in a position where they would be able to meet a person that they aspire to become, has walked the path that they want to take, you know, learning becomes a lot more comfortable, a lot more smoother, but also a lot more relevant and relatable to them. Because, you know, it's almost like personalized learning, but you're not just learning from a case study that, you know, might not be real, you're learning from someone who has been there and done that. And so you could imagine the amount of, you know, mistakes that they could have avoided, or the amount of, you know, advice that could really help them to better navigate their careers and their life is something that we all wish that we had, you know, at some point in so, and so I think that's, that is a very powerful thing that, you know, that we're doing for the world, but also I think that's where the future of education is, which is, you know, moving away from traditional education, but you know, moving into the learning economy where all these things can be shared and really, you know, spread throughout the world. 

Alex Smith: Felix, I'm wondering what's next for the platform? Where's it headed? Is it spreading well beyond design, I imagine? And what are you looking forward to the most? 

Felix Lee: Yeah, of course, today, we are already beyond design. We are in product management, engineering, marketing. You know, my vision for ADPList isn't just going to be, alright, an open source mentorship, you know, community or product itself. But to be a platform, and, and what a platform means is that people will be able to build their lives on top of your platforms to build their businesses on your platform. And so in many ways, if we look at it, like a pyramid ADPList today is, is the foundation, is the base of it. But the future and what we really want where we really want to be is, is the next few things is the next few steps, which is, you know, from this open source platform, you know, businesses are able to come here, you know, whether it be create, co-create, paid contents, or, you know, hire people from the platform, that's one thing. You know, mentors are able to create their own causes, and so on and so forth. And become sort of like, you know, formal mentors themselves, you know, monetize a certain expect, so on and so forth. You know, it is to be able to be the platform where these things can happen.

Alex Smith: Let's switch gears here to something I think you probably have a lot of advice on, which is a lot of new designers entering the field today, what advice do you have for them?

Felix Lee: Being a designer, is about knowing what not to do, and when to do the right things. A lot of people around the world, and I've done this in hard ways as well, you know, driven by pride, by ego, and whatnot. The way that I look at it is that, you know, you have to pick the battles that you want to fight. Right, like, you got to pick the battles that you want to fight. There's a lot of people that you got to deal with when it comes to collaboration. 

Alex Smith: Yeah. 

Felix Lee: So you cannot win all battles. Nor would you want to win all battles. The smartest people that I've worked with has always tried to prove a point, whether it be meetings and presentations or whatnot. You know, if you ask them a question, the chances are, they would seem like they have been preparing to answer that question for a long time. Because they want to show you that they are right. And these are very smart people, by the way that I've worked with. Because curiosity will always trump reaction. Because when you react, you're always always going to go with your logic. You're never going to learn something new, you're never going to learn something new. Because all you're trying to do is to prove what you already know, instead of trying to find what you don't.And so you know, it's a tough lesson 99% of the world's like that. So, my take is that, it is a natural human bias to be like that. But, you know, try your best to not be like that. If you can, in every situation to try to always observe, be curious rather than react to it. You will see a lot of people reacting to it. But you know, you don't have to fight that battle. You don't have to fight that battle. At the end of day the results will prove itself.

Alex Smith: Felix for those maybe not familiar, not on ADPList. Who should join ADPList? And where should they go to find more information?

Felix Lee: Yeah. So if you're looking to grow your career, to find people who you want to relate to, to find a community that you want to belong, and learn and grow together. ADPList is the place for you to be a member.You know, completely free of cost. And if you're a mentor, and someone who wants to contribute back to the community and to the rest of the world, by just you know with your own flexible hours or flexible minutes. You can come to ADPList and join as a mentor. Right? We provide a space for you to do that, we have a community where you can hang out with fellow mentors as well. It is the best place in the world for you to be able to do that share your knowledge and grow as well together with everyone. For anyone who wants to get in touch with me, I'm on LinkedIn, Felix Lee, and I'm also on Twitter as well. @felixleezd. So feel free to find me there and also on ADPList, so feel free to find find me on these channels.

Alex Smith: Yeah, and Felix, it's been such a pleasure to have you on the show. Definitely something that as I mentioned, a lot of our leaders do so it's awesome to finally have a chat with you. Thanks so much for joining.

Felix Lee: Of course. Thank you so much, Alex.