Vicki Lau – Meet the Mentor

Published June 29, 2020

Vicki stems from the world of VFX, film and VR. As a mentor, she aims to be the same pivotal figure that her mentors were in the beginning of her career. Read more about the role she plays as a mentor today, how she got into the world of VR and her favourite parts of being a mentor.

Vicki Lau – Meet the Mentor

“Mentors play a pivotal role in propelling careers forward”

Hey Vicki! Welcome to our ‘Meet the Mentor’ series! Thanks for joining us on MentorCruise! Why did you decide to become a mentor?

When I was first starting out in my career, I’ve had one or two personal mentors, who not only served as wise counsel, but also lent me their ears whenever I needed a second opinion on things. I decided to become a mentor because I know, from experience, the pivotal role mentors play in speeding up learning curves when it comes to propelling your career forward. A few of my supervisors at work also served as surrogate mentors and I can definitely say that anyone would benefit tremendously from having such figures in their career trajectory.

What is your background?

Originally from Singapore but having lived most of my adult life in the United States, I would say that my background, in every sense of the word, is uniquely diverse. I studied computer programming and had a hand in the arts as well - from 3D modelling to animation, compositing and video production. Given my unique experiences in both the arts and sciences, I would say that my background can be quite useful when it comes to working in the field of visual effects (VFX) and virtual reality (VR). Thus far, I’ve worked in the field of VFX for about 7 years and spent about 4 of those years dealing with VR.

How did you first get into tech (VR)?

I first got started in visual effects as a natural progression from my interest in video-editing. As far as virtual reality goes, that was entirely by accident. I was working at a tech startup in San Francisco at the time when a VR startup from Los Angeles reached out to me and wanted me to work on some of their VR content. I did not have any experience in the area but when I had accepted the offer and tried it out, it just so happened that my VFX skills as well as understanding of computer programming were pretty useful in VR too.

Did you ever have a strong mentor in your life? How did they help?

I had one or two mentors during the earlier years of my career who mainly served as a sounding board for ideas and discussion on all sorts of situations (not just career-related). Ultimately, the usefulness of mentors is their ability to offer a second opinion or different perspective on things. It then rests upon you to either heed their advice and take action on it or decide to go your own way. Either way, getting a second opinion or hearing different takes on the same issue can be enlightening in more ways than one.

“I love to contribute to a person’s development”

How do you usually set up mentorships? How and how much do you communicate?

If there is anything I really like doing, it’s making progress and moving communications forward to the next step or milestone - be it via emails, phone calls, texts, etc. Having mentored a few startup founders or aspiring entrepreneurs at one or two startup conferences and events in San Francisco, I find that most of these individuals are simply looking for a different opinion or take on how to solve a problem.

As such, how I would set up a mentorship would entail communications on an as-needed basis, where it would be on the onus of the mentee to be proactive and reach out should they require additional help on certain issues. That being said, for any and all tasks or milestones that would be assigned by myself as a mentor, I would actually reach out to the mentee, most likely once a week, to check in and see where or how their progress is going. From my experience, I do know that some mentees may be shy, so I don’t mind taking the initiative to reach out once a week to ensure they are still making progress on their tasks.

What are you getting out of being a mentor?

Honestly, I like helping people. Yes, that may sound totally cliché but it’s true. As someone who has volunteered to vet resumes and portfolio work from UCLA students, helped out guests at film festivals and spent some time walking the dogs at animal shelters, I find that if I could help make someone’s day by unburdening them from seemingly unsolvable issues, that would put some pep in my step. The fact is I love being a contributor - whether it’s to an industry, cause or even to a person’s personal and career development. It’s especially exhilarating to hear my past mentees or students turn around to thank me for helping them get into the film school of their dreams or managerial job at a tech company.

What’s your best advice for new mentors out there?

Be selective of your mentees just as they would be selective of you. I am sure some new mentors would simply want to get everyone or anyone willing to spend the effort and time to sign up for a mentorship. However, I would caution against picking up too many mentees at a time - which is why I set a strict limit for myself as well. It may be tempting to simply be an open buffet for budding mentees but unless you can handle the workload (or that’s your style of mentorship), it is important to remember that you are investing your time into them as much as they are into you. For me, when I accept a mentee, I want them to know that they were chosen and that I will be investing my time, energy and brain power into their careers and more importantly, into their lives.

“It’s crucial to be able to adapt quickly”

What is the most crucial skill to learn for people entering the tech (VR) industry?

With the ever-changing times and the way technology rapidly shifts from season to season, the most crucial skill to learn when entering the tech - more specifically VR - industry is the ability to adapt quickly. Given VR is still very much in its developmental phases (albeit, it’s somewhat more stabilized now), being able to adapt your skills and yourself to new updates to software and hardware are key to entering and staying in the industry. What you know today, may be rendered completely useless by the next update or product launch - that’s how drastic some changes in tech and VR could get.

Who is your ideal mentee?

The ideal mentee is someone who would definitely put in the work to achieve their goals or assigned mentor tasks. I’ve had a few followers of mine who simply want a mentorship in order for the mentor to put in all the work and effort for them (in other words, they want things handed to them on a silver platter, for a very low cost or for free). It does not work that way; the real world does not work that way either. An ideal mentee thus, is someone who is willing to expend the effort through my guidance as well as assume full responsibility for their actions and outcomes. In other words, the mentee should also be wise enough to know that, yes, even if you invest in a mentor, there is no one that can give you a 100% guarantee that through their mentorship, you will hit all your personal goals without failure. Mentors can guide you there but ultimately, you determine the outcome and the results may vary depending on many internal and external factors. When I first started out as a mentee, I too assumed full responsibility for my actions and know that nothing is 100% guaranteed - and that there will always be risk involved; that is what I am looking for in a mentee.

Of course, some gratitude would be nice. Mentors are humans too! ;)

And to wrap things up, where can we find out more about you and your work?

You can find me on Google (yes, I am Googleable, lol), but in all seriousness, here are some links to my bio and work:

Official Site: https://www.lauvicki.com/

IMDb (VFX, VR credits): https://www.imdb.com/name/nm5130924/

YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/vickicup

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/vickicup/

Latest VFX Class Online: https://bit.ly/InvizFXSpecial