October 18th, 6:00 - 8:00 PM
Open to Durham Women in Tech members and their female guests. Membership is free!
Join Durham Women in Tech, get location, and RSVP via meetup.
Grace Ueng, CEO and Founder of Savvy Growth, shares her passion for channeling fear, embracing failure, and taking targeted action to live a better life. Her talk highlights original research on happiness and failure, in partnership with Harvard Business School, her personal story, and interviews with successful professionals about how they have learned from fear and failure.
Special thanks to event sponsor Ticketmaster for providing food, drinks, and space.
As the founder of a successful business and an alumnus of MIT and Harvard Business School, “failure” isn’t the word that crosses most people’s mind when they think of Grace Ueng. But make no mistake, Grace is an expert on failing.
A classic American-born Chinese overachiever, Grace spent her entire life trying to be successful. As a daughter, student, mother, executive, and entrepreneur, she set nearly unreachably high standards for herself. But in pushing herself to succeed in every endeavor, she learned that it isn’t success that brings happiness; it’s embracing fear and failure. She wished someone would have given her this message years ago, and she knows there are millions of others who can benefit from her sharing it today.
Despite the outward appearance of a highly-accomplished and highly-energetic professional, Grace’s life has been marked by one setback or failure after another. Her most publicized failure was when she learned how to ride a bicycle as an adult, then went plummeting off Sonoma Mountain Road in a horrible cycling accident. She suffered a traumatic brain injury that damaged her short-term memory and left her babbling in Chinese, a language she had forgotten many years prior. It has taken her nearly 20 years to figure out dating success after a failed marriage left her suddenly single with a one-year-old. Her close relationship with her parents has kept her on her toes and provided challenges for a long time as well, with her mother battling serious mental health issues. Along the same lines, Grace’s genetics give her a predisposition to struggle with maintaining her happiness.
Grace is far from alone. Many people struggle to find balance between success and happiness. They unintentionally diminish their quality of life by constantly comparing themselves to others and going after the goals that other people set for them: that job title, exclusive degree, or acceptance in a certain social group. This obsession with success and belonging used to be a problem that plagued adults, but it’s becoming prevalent with young people today as well. The onset of depression has dropped in the past five decades from 30 to 14.5 years old. This attests to why the course on how to be happy is the most popular course at Harvard. When people constantly focus on future goals that will show they are good enough, they always think happiness is on the horizon. Once they do XYZ, then they will be happy; but it doesn’t work that way.
In the years after her accident, Grace pored herself into an intensive literature review of positive psychology. She found that being happy isn’t a “fluffy” topic—it’s rooted in science. She started writing a happiness journal, and she soon found firsthand that happiness is a choice and a state of mind you create for yourself. She developed seven steps to help her refocus her life and reclaim her happiness. This was the birth of Project Peak, Grace’s thought leadership on embracing failure and climbing the ups and downs of life.
As she began sharing her story and these steps through speaking engagements and coaching, she found that it resonated with a wide range of people. Being an Ivy League alumnus and successful executive-turned-entrepreneur, Grace’s background garnered respect from executives and intellectuals. Her life challenges and traumas, combined with her openness and vulnerability resonated with everyone, frequently bringing her audience to tears.
Grace is a recognized expert in the areas of marketing strategy and entrepreneurial growth. She consults for clients that range from start-ups, to scale-ups, to Fortune 1000. Grace has a passion for success and shares this desire with her clients. She is now writing and speaking on Project Peak, Climbing the Mountains of Life: Business and Beyond, in which she espouses her 7 theories that intertwine the tenets of positive psychology with fear, failure, and stories from her life.
Grace founded Savvy Marketing Group in 2013 and rebranded a dozen years later to Savvy Growth, offering management consulting and executive coaching in addition to its core marketing strategy services. The company has had more than 100 projects and dozens of long-term clients, with several achieving successful exits. The founder of one client described Grace as their “secret weapon,” and the president of another called Grace their “corporate therapist.” Grace’s firm also has a China practice, helping companies maneuver opportunities in the world’s second largest marketplace.
After graduating from Harvard Business School, Grace worked for brand leaders at General Mills and Clorox before embracing the tech startup world, where she led product management, business development and marketing. She was a key leader in one IPO and four solid exits, including one to Kevin O’Leary, Mr. Wonderful of Shark Tank.
While at MIT, Grace was elected 3 terms as her class President, spoke at her commencement, and worked summers at Coca-Cola, IBM, and Bain. In her senior year at MIT, Grace was chosen as one of Glamour’s Top 10 College Women. Grace was one of five percent of college seniors accepted into Harvard Business School’s deferred admit program. Upon graduating MIT, she returned to Bain, then left this coveted management consulting firm to take a shot at publishing at Sports Illustrated and Time Asia.
From her journalism days in NYC where she was a freelance writer and started The New Asian Times, Grace has continued to serve as a correspondent for publications including those of City Business Journals and McClatchy. Grace’s writing and speaking topics have included: conquering fear and failure, women in business, entrepreneurial marketing, doing business with China, leadership, entrepreneurship, and balancing a career with parenting.
Grace was named one of Audrey’s Top 8 Asian-American Women of Influence and inspires audiences around the world. She has served as adjunct faculty teaching entrepreneurial marketing at UNC Kenan-Flagler as well as at Fudan in Shanghai in joint venture with MIT Sloan School.
Join Durham Women in Tech, get location, and RSVP via meetup.