During her early 30s, Kelly Yu was an engineer working an average nine-to- five job to provide for her family. After 10 years of being an engineer, Yu started to feel stagnant in her position and had no sense of security in her job as retrenchments were frequent in the industry. Not only was it a male-dominated industry, Yu found that the job was not rewarding — in almost every sense.
With a newborn child and being affected by the collapse of Lehman Brothers, Yu was in the difficult situation of needing to provide for her family while trying to manage her debts. Despite that, Yu was determined to be successful and was not going to let anything get in her way. She took a risk and left the engineering world.
“I want to give the best to my family and children. I believe that is every mother’s wish and responsibility. I wanted a job that was not only financially rewarding but would also give me the time to be with my family,” says Yu.
This risk led her to her greatest reward.
Today, Yu is proud to say that she has achieved success. As an executive group division director for ERA Realty, Yu is a role model and inspiration not just to her two children, but also to her team of real estate agents.
Her achievements include being awarded Top New Rookie at ERA when she was fresh to the job. “I was surprised when I got this award, because I was not always the top achiever every month for that year. I realised that it was my consistency in my monthly sales that added up and won me this achievement,” recalls Yu.
Fuelled by the need to dig herself and her family out of debt following the Lehman Brothers collapse, Yu was a woman on a mission. Shortly after, in 2012, her hard work once again paid off as she achieved second highest sales in ERA in 2012.
“I was already a mother then and I had to juggle my responsibilities of being a mother, a wife and a real estate agent. The reward you get from being a real estate agent is directly proportional to the hard work and patience you put into your work,” says Yu.
She is also thankful for the support her family has provided her as she manoeuvred through the difficult period. “I remember I had to work past midnight a lot and I am so grateful to my parents for being there to help me take care of my young kids while I work,” Yu shares.
Although Yu is now in a good place, she still faces several challenges in the real estate industry. She recalls how her father was hesitant about her career switch as she was not a particularly sociable person, owing to her introverted nature. But due to her job, she has managed to come out of her shell and found her voice.
“Some of my male colleagues would think that I am a man in a woman’s body, this has sometimes intimidated them. Not everyone is able to accept my straight-forward behaviour,” she says. Luckily, her clients seem to appreciate her strong personality, as they seem to have more reassurance when a strong figure is handling their property transaction.
As a woman in the real estate industry, Yu has heard some people attribute her success to her beauty and charm and not to her hard work. However, she believes that overall, this career gives women a fair opportunity to build a career. “In this industry, it honestly does not matter who you are. This role [as a property agent] is age- and gender-agnostic. Your success is determined by the amount of effort you are willing to put in,” says Yu.
As a team leader, Yu makes it a point to be generous with sharing her knowledge and experience. One of her mantras to live by is: “When you share, you will learn more.”
“I like to see my teammates having breakthroughs in their personal life and career. Their success means a lot to me! I always want my team to come out of their comfort zone, because I believe that only by doing so, can they achieve greater success,” she adds.
To fellow real estate agents, Yu advises: “You will meet a lot of people in this career and when you want to give advice or recommendations to them, you have to put yourself in the clients’ shoes. Money is not everything. Be honest and work according to their best interest.”
“I believe in karma. If you treat others well, they will treat you well too,” she adds.
Today, after more than 10 years in the industry, Yu still has a very hands-on approach towards her job and continues to be at the frontline, doing sales and setting examples for her team of agents to follow. “As a leader, you not only need to plan your work, you also need to be at the frontline to lead your team. The property market changes every year and you need to focus on selling the right products according to your clients’ needs. Only by experiencing it yourself, are you able to advise and guide your team together, so that everyone wins together,” says Yu.
Looking forward, Yu is ready to take on whatever comes her way. “I hope for constant improvement in everything I do in my life. I’m thankful for what is given to me and I will aim to seize any opportunity that comes my way,” she says.