AHEAD OF THE GAME
"Offering full-fledged services has allowed Nucleo Consulting to set itself apart in the IT industry"
One can trace Sandra Yeow’s passion for technology to when she was just 12 years old. This was when she received her first computer as a gift from her father. That sparked in her an interest in IT. “Since I was little, I have enjoyed taking things apart and putting them together,” Yeow reminisces. “I enjoyed setting things up, getting my hands dirty and even putting computers together for relatives and friends. That’s what got me started.”
Yeow is the managing director of Nucleo Consulting, an IT firm that provides services mainly to SMEs in Singapore. As a one-stop provider, the company offers various services ranging from the purchasing of equipment to deployment and managing IT outsourcing and even cloud solutions.
It may come as a surprise to some that Yeow doesn’t have a formal background in IT. After graduating from Nanyang Polytechnic in mechatronics engineering, she pursued a degree from Australia’s Curtin University, partly in IT and partly in business. After eight years, She left her first job as an in-house regional IT manager when she realised that she could do a lot more to help the SME market in Singapore. “I enjoy seeing how people can be more efficient and productive with IT, so that drove me to start my own company,” she relates.
As Nucleo’s managing director, Yeow oversees the day-to-day operations of the company, while ensuring that every employee is well taken care of. “I see to it that the staff enjoy what they do,” she shares. “Our guys are also constantly trained, and I also want to be sure that everyone fits in with the corporate culture. It’s a huge responsibility knowing that someone’s livelihood is in your hands.”
Nucleo’s goal from the outset was more than just becoming a trusted and reliable one-stop IT solutions provider for Singapore’s SME market. It also strives to be at the forefront of the industry. “It can be challenging at times, as the IT market is constantly changing and people don’t always know whose advice to listen to,” says Yeow.
But the seven-year-old company has carved a niche by distinguishing itself from its peers through the scope and depth of services and solutions it offers. “We do consulting and provide solutions based on our clients’ business processes,” Yeow asserts. “Others in the industry generally only provide one part or another but don’t offer full-fledged services. Most of the time, they are just people who come in and solve problems in a client’s network but aren’t necessarily capable of offering anything beyond that. For us, we plan and set a client’s IT strategy by focusing on our customer’s needs, which is our key success factor. A lot of small companies don’t have financial capability to have big IT teams, but there are smaller ways to do things, and we can make it more affordable for them to do so.”
Nucleo is also one of the first companies to offer security as a service in partnership with SonicWall, affording cutting-edge security systems that can block ransomware, for instance.
Nucleo’s competitive edge is all the more impressive when one considers that it runs on a very lean team — Yeow oversees fewer than 10 employees, which is a remarkable feat given the company’s achievements. For her, it boils down to ruthless efficiency, focus and productivity. “We don’t actually need a lot of people,” she explains. “A lot of our system is on the cloud. It’s something I spent close to two years putting together, and it’s paying off because it allows everyone to work anywhere. As a result, our staff have a lot of work-life balance and flexibility. I don’t like to put restrictions on them, they can work anywhere in the world as long as it’s office hours.”
Nucleo enjoys a strong customer base and Yeow is adding more to her portfolio through word-of-mouth referrals, which she believes is a clear indication that the business is on the right track. “It’s one of our most successful ways of growing the business,” she says. “We have not done any marketing or advertising, but we have gained customers through referrals, such as when medical software partners refer other medical clients to us.”
Yeow says she has given thought to putting some resources into marketing the company, but the team is hesitant for one reason: the quality of customer service. “We all agree that we need to grow steadily. My guys are worried that if we grow too big, our customer service standards will drop, but I think we should be OK if we are able to systemize everything.
Yeow runs a tight ship with teams that also provide service to customers in Indonesia and Thailand. It is paramount that Nucleo remains based in Singapore as it is one of the most developed nations in the IT sector. The Singapore government is also helping the industry with grants to make it easier for SMEs and companies to become more IT-savvy. Yeow has now sets her sights abroad, particularly in Cambodia and Vietnam where the IT know-how is still relatively weak. Emphasis is placed on IT security in an age of growing threats. “It’s a critical concern because companies have lost significant amounts of money to scams,” she reveals.
In addition to her professional responsibilities, Yeow supports ACRES’ efforts in animal welfare. “They are doing something most people wouldn’t, and I feel they should be recognised for it,” she says. “We sponsor and participate in their gala dinners, which is a great way to create awareness for ACRES among our clients and to let our clients know that here is an organisation that they, too, can help.” Nucleo also adopts green measures by dealing with e-waste properly, recycling whenever possible. “We also help clients clear their IT junk in eco-friendly ways.”
Although a successful entrepreneur in her own right, Yeow remains firmly grounded with her eyes set on her goals. “Determination is something that is very, very important,” she says. “As an entrepreneur, you will be taken out of your comfort zone and you will meet a lot of challenges, but being determined allows you to push through all that.” To give back to society, Yeow will be launching her book Obstinacy Power, in which she shares her strategies on achieving goals and getting a business off the ground based on her six-step strategy. The book marks a milestone in her life and career and she hopes that it will be useful for entrepreneurs and across all fields. “It isn’t a question of what you know,” she adds, “It’s also about what you do, especially in darker moments.”