Management Consultant I Coach I Author
(In her 50's)
Her story (as shared by her nominator)
When Ms Kim Underhill fled an abusive marriage 26 years ago, she was left homeless with her two young children in tow and a Secondary 3 leaving certificate. It was the lowest point in her life. Instead of wallowing in self-doubt and pity, Ms Underhill, now 57, found work as a secretary and managed to move her family into a small one-room flat in Yishun. Determined to succeed, she attended night school for six years and earned a degree in business administration and marketing. It meant having to juggle raising two primary school kids, work and studying at night. Armed with a degree and private sector experience, she clinched a series of senior management roles in multinational companies. She also earned a master’s degree in industrial and organisational psychology.
Ms Underhill, who became President of Daughters Of Tomorrow (DOT), a charity organization empowering women from low-income families find jobs since 2014, says that she wanted to offer these women the same helping hand that she received when she was in a similar, desperate position. Now retired from her full-time job in the private sector, she focuses on working with DOT on a volunteer basis. They aim to help women who are often overlooked, like single mothers, secure accessible and sustainable livelihood opportunities. The unique thing about Kim is that all her successes in life never got to her head. Her feet is firmly grounded and she has a genuinely joyful and positive disposition despite all the hard times she went through. She is a great role model that one can truly emerge stronger and remain humble having overcome all odds in life.
In her words:
Raised two children single handedly while working full time and attended 6 years of night school. They are both successful adults today. Had a 25 years career from a secretary to running multimillion dollars MNC organisations before semi retiring at 53. Today, besides my consultancy and coaching work, I spend most time with my non profit work for Daughters of Tomorrow and Singapore Business and Professional Women’s Association helping women from low-income to mid-level executives. I also run Sewing Mums a social enterprise helping mothers with chronic illness, giving them sewing projects to earn a living from home. I am proud that after retirement I was able to transition and right size from living a high kying lifestyle to moving from private to HDB flexi home, gave up my car and enjoying our public transport.
Biggest challenge thus far
Biggest challenge was also my lowest point in life when I had to escape from my physically abusive husband, took my young children (then 4 and 8) returned to Singapore with pretty much clothes on our backs. We basically started from ground zero. Fast forward 25 years, we overcame all challenges of being a single-parent family with little or no money to becoming a happy and successful family obtaining all the 5Cs and more. I am now a grandmother to two lovely girls (4 & 6). Also when I first retired and making the transition, it took me a year to discover the unknown and occasionally uncertainty of who I really want to be or what to do. Today I’m very pleased that I transitioned and am doing absolutely what I love.
what judges say
Her journey – lots of hardship but yet she overcame them! Amazing woman who overcome situational and professional obstacles to succeed and now supporting other women to do the same while raising 2 children. And now a happy grandma!