Oh Tepmongkol-Wheaton on overcoming prejudice and discrimination

Tune into our podcast here with Oh Tepmongkol-Wheaton.

Oh is one of Forbes’s next 1000 honoree and is the CEO and co-founder of Ohzone (a 3D fashion tech startup that has been awarded Top Fashion Tech 2021 by Retail Tech Insights.)

Oh’s initial goal was to create a social shopping experience as if you were all in the same place at the same time. Oh places a lot of emphasis on inclusivity and the importance of embracing family values.

As a woman and an ethnic minority, she has often spoken about the attitudes and perspectives she has encountered along her journey in numerous work environments. Oh explains how it is possible to go above and beyond the expectations of others and prove them wrong:

  • She wanted to show how women invent; in a largely male-dominated field, which technology and fashion predominantly is, she wanted to show how women can achieve in the same way that men can.
  • Through creativity: Oh has a unique perspective on creativity. She purports that creativity is how you solve a problem based on experience. As an under-represented minority with a unique background, she is able to bring the experience of how she survives and even how she succeeds. She then uses her inventiveness to solve a problem and innovate for the future.

An example of the prejudice and discrimination that Oh has confronted as a woman and an ethnic minority:

Between 1989-1996, Oh worked at Hewlett-Packard, the computer hardware company. She describes how her boss approached her when she first started as a research and development engineer. He expressed his gratitude for hiring Oh to work at Hewlett-Packard because she ticked two boxes as a company employee: she was a woman and an under-represented minority in the company. He explained that he usually needed to hire two people, but that because of her, he only needed to hire one. This was only the beginning of Oh’s discrimination throughout her life. Despite the abhorrent workplace discrimination displayed at HP, Oh made it her goal to prove people wrong and express what women and minorities can achieve in society, and now more precisely in fashion.

Why should hard work pay off?

Oh describes how hard work has aided her throughout her life with a powerful anecdote. After failing her college entrance exam in Thailand, Oh relocated to the United States. She grafted in almost every aspect of school life, but most specifically in mathematics, despite having very little know-how of the American school system. Through a lot of hard work and dedication, everything seemed to fall into place. Oh needed a breath of fresh air, and mathematics provided it. In the face of prejudice and discrimination, Oh returns back to maths. She says that in times of hardship and difficulty, one must find an activity that feeds your ego and something that you know you through hard work, you can do well in. 

With the use of your technology, do you see this platform taking over traditional fashion shows? 

The whole premise of Ohzone is to become more inclusive and accessible. Oh’s use of 3D technology is designed to make fashion more inclusive; she wants her technology to include people who have been left behind or who have been unable to be a part of traditional fashion shows. She feels that her technology is democratising virtual fashion for the better. This demonstrates Oh’s commitment to allowing small and/or medium-sized fashion brands to participate in the next wave of fashion.

The fashion industry is exclusive, or rather focuses on exclusivity. Through this new form of fashion, it will open a whole new world for people who haven’t yet been able to experience it. Oh divulges that it is finally time to hear different voices from a younger generation! 

What is one piece of advice you would give to the younger generation?

Apply yourself; failing to try is the first step toward failure. It’s fine to fail, but failing to try is unacceptable. You must strive to succeed in life!

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