Devi Sahny, Founder & CEO of Ascend Now

Ascend Now was founded to bridge the gap between academic and psychological support, helping students discover themselves.

What’s your story?
I am the founder of an education company called Ascend Now. Working with elementary, middle, and high school students, Ascend Now adopts a holistic pedagogical approach. We focus, first and foremost, on helping students discover their personal strengths, learning styles, interests, and passions. We then help students excel academically and to explore different career paths. To that end, we create interactive, personalized curricula for every single student.

What excites you most about your industry?
What really inspires me about the education industry is the breadth of knowledge upon which we can draw. We have access to so many texts, speeches, current events, etc. Learning never ends. We have a motto at Ascend Now: “we promise to be eternal learners.” Each student signs this contract at the beginning of his or her time with us. The impact this promise has had on many students’ lives is enormous.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and brought up in Antwerp, Belgium. I spent seven years in the United States, first as a college student and then on Wall Street. As a child, I visited Asia with my family often.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Hard to say. We travel often and it is always exciting to learn about cultures. If I had to choose, I’d say Singapore, Shanghai, Jakarta or Yangon. That narrows it down.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Focus, don’t get distracted. The other piece of advice is from Dan Gross’s “How to Win” talk. He said that when you meet someone new, ask questions that you really want to know the answer to. Too often we ask questions that are part of social conformities when in reality we want to know something else.

Who inspires you?
Jack Ma, because he is just so gifted with relating. My father, because he is my role model. Nichiren Buddhism, because it is a special community. Ascend Now students, because they fulfill our purpose as a team (though they make communal holidays turn into normal weekdays!) Young people who decide to leave corporate roles to pursue their own visions. My team, because they are always thinking on how to realize our vision. In short: “People that believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.”

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Convey’s “The 7 Habits of Effective People” – in particular, habit 1 on proactive vs. reactive people. Super obvious and yet conveyed so precisely.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Focus on understanding myself as opposed to getting tempted to pursue X career. Knowing yourself is really the best knowledge you can have.

How do you unwind?
Running followed by a short swim and steam. Or playing a game of pick-up basketball. Can’t really beat that. I have a 5-hour reading rule per week. I dabble between reading stoic or metaphisycs philosophy (Epictetus or Nietzsche are my favourite), biographies of people I admire and psychological education research.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
I’m not great at relaxing. Probably the Belmond Hotel in Yangon or a silent meditation center in Bali (with no telephone access).

Everyone in business should read this book:
Rework – Jason Fried

Shameless plug for your business:
Beautiful results stem from a strong mindset. This is why we are here. We help create, develop, and strengthen student mindsets. We believe that empowering students who seek to know themselves is the best way to create opportunity in their lives and globally. Come talk to us.

How can people connect with you?
We’d love to hear from you. Please email us at

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started,
built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

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Download free copies of his books here:

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