career transitioner/ restarter
Co-Founder & President, DocDoc
(In her 40's)
Her story (as shared by her nominator)
Grace started her career at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point where she graduated with honors and overcame tough challenges such as rappelling from a helicopter and parachuting from planes. Later she became a military intelligence officer which resulted in a posting to the Pentagon as a Captain.
Following her military career, Grace embarked on her corporate journey at Fortune 500 companies including Bristol-Squibb-Myers and Medtronic, where she was Managing Director for ASEAN and responsible for guiding their expansion into these markets.
Her inspiration to launch DocDoc with her husband, Cole Sirucek, was driven by their own deeply personal experience with their infant daughter. Through that episode, she became a strong believer that patients need to be empowered with information to make the best healthcare decisions. DocDoc’s value proposition is to match patients to the right doctors based on the patient’s unique medical condition and the doctor’s unique expertise and track record.
With 19 years of working experience from the military, then to the corporate world in Fortune 500 healthcare companies, and now in her own private entrepreneurial startup, Grace has demonstrated a unique tenacity to tackle and overcome seemingly insurmountable odds every step of the way.
Grace deserves to be on this list, because she is a role model in the way she defies societal expectations. Her actions follow her morales and, most importantly, what she believes in. I have learned from her that life can open many opportunities-- if we just look at our surroundings carefully.
In her words:
I started my career as a United States Army Officer after graduating with honours from the United States Military Academy at West Point. Coming from humble beginnings and as a second daughter of Asian immigrants, many may perceive that becoming a West Point graduate and female officer especially in a male-dominated field may have been my greatest achievement. However, after completing my five year service as a Captain at the Pentagon, I embarked on new challenges in the private healthcare sector where I spent nearly 10 years leading large-scale teams for Fortune 500 companies such as Bristol-Myers Squibb and Medtronic. I diligently worked my way up the corporate ladder to become the Managing Director of Medtronic for 10 countries in Asia, headquartered in Singapore.
Whilst having a grand title, a lucrative corporate package, and an affiliation with a financially successful global company, there remained a restlessness - the corporate role did not seem to meaningfully fulfill the personal mission statement that I had created in my early 20’s - “to be a leader of character and make a significant and positive impact in my society.”
Soon thereafter, I co-founded my startup, DocDoc, the world’s first patient intelligence company, empowering patients to make data informed decisions in their doctor discovery process. The work we have been doing is tackling the greatest pain points in healthcare head on. By providing greater transparency about the health system to patients, DocDoc is able to meaningfully save 25% - 45% of medical costs which plague families, companies and countries plus also engages patients throughout their healthcare journey, supporting them to have the right medical care the first time around. Currently, we employ more than 70 employees across Jakarta, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Manilla, Ho Chi Minh City, San Francisco and New York. Besides being one of the highest funded healthtech companies in the region, we have established Asia’s largest and most comprehensive doctor network, and our mission has been recognised by the likes of World Economic Forum, The Milken Institute, United Nations, Nasdaq, and NYSE.
What I consider the greatest achievement is our on-the-ground impact - helping patients on a day-to-day basis. Our Net Promoter Score, which is a measure of customer satisfaction, is 88 on a scale of 100, whereas the general average of the insurance industry ranges from 12-16. We hear firsthand from our patients who share their surprise that with DocDoc, they are finally able to make intelligent decisions for themselves and for their loved ones. Over the years, my team and I have been resilient in our pursuit to transform healthcare. By ultimately focusing on a greater purpose, I am confident that we are on a meaningful mission to make a significant and positive impact in our global society.
Biggest challenge thus far
Fresh out of graduate school, I had the honour of meeting ‘Four Star’ General Wesley K. Clark. He was a hero of mine with a reputation for being an exceptional leader, and I was a leadership junky keen to be molded by the best. What he shared surprised me. His advice: “Why wait to make a significant dent in the universe in your own way? Go be an entrepreneur now."
While enticing, I decided to continue on the corporate track after completing a Fulbright Fellowship in Singapore as I was convinced that there was a lot more to learn before I would be ready to run my own shop. But that someday, I would be ready to become an entrepreneur. At 40 years of age after a decade in various corporate roles in “blue chip” companies, I finally made the leap to entrepreneurship. Better late than never I thought.
There are a lot of hard things that come with being a first time entrepreneur but the single hardest one was overcoming the well intentioned “advice of my inner circle.” My whole life has been filled with moments when others had told me my pursuits were impossible, but it only made me more curious to try. My inner circle had always been a rock of support. That rock cracked when I told them I was becoming an entrepreneur. Or better yet, they all thought that a rock hit me in the head. This time seemed different because I was not young anymore and I did not seem to have the runway to take greater risks. At the prime of my professional years, I took a paycut, taking in only a quarter of my last drawn salary. That was the most obvious change. Whilst in big corporate, I had departments of colleagues who reported to me - support was readily available whenever needed. When starting a company from nothing, a major mindset shift needed to occur as I had to literally do everything - even take out the trash or else it festered in the office for days! In addition, carrying a new business card with a company name that had no brand legacy was challenging to hire amazing talent and to fundraise with just an idea and no track record.
What added an extra layer of complexity was that my infant daughter, who was born healthy and nearly at the same time of my company’s launch, was diagnosed with a rare liver condition and needed a life saving liver transplant within months after birth. My world had turned upside down and whilst running a startup, I needed to deal with making life and death decisions about my newborn.
Surprisingly, basic questions about the procedure cost, how many times the head surgeon had done a liver transplant, and how his other patients were doing were met with significant resistance. Despite several attempts, my husband Cole and I were not able to collect the information we needed to understand if the team that had made the initial diagnosis was the right team to perform the procedure.
Fortunately, we found one of the pioneers in pediatric live liver transplants, who had done thousands of liver transplants across the globe and cost 60% less than the initial, less experienced team. It was a revelation to find out that price and quality were not correlated in healthcare due to the lack of transparency. When Cole was recovering after donating a piece of his liver to our daughter, it became clear what DocDoc needed to be - to empower patients to make data informed decisions and not simply depend on luck in their doctor discovery process.
This was a pivotal moment in my life. The real pain point that I faced as a parent inspired me to create a solution that upends the status quo in healthcare and transforms the healthcare experience of the everyday patient.
As for the naysayers who said that transitioning from corporate to being an entrepreneur at 40 would be impossible, I would say that my experience is a testament that it is not true. It is one thing to be hazed by upperclassmen at West Point. It is another to have your parents, close friends and mentors ALL tell you that you are making a mistake and will likely fail. Years later, I would come to appreciate that their advice - while well intentioned - was limited by their fear of failure and not by mine. For me, living a quiet life of silent desperation in a gilded cage was not an acceptable outcome. Better to have tried and failed than to never have tried at all.
what judges say
Major career transitions : military to pharma to entrepreneur. Customer empathy. Weathered child’s health crisis while starting business.
Started up one of the highest funded healthtech companies in Asia