Senior Financial Services Director with Prudential, Mentor, Wife, Mother, Daughter.
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has led to many upheavals in routine, forcing all of us to relook how we live, work and play. At AKINN, we have gone back to the drawing board to assess how our designs can remain relevant and focused - always for the customer - and adapt to this new normal.
Fresh challenges, pleasant surprises, creative workarounds. We’ve been reminded that it’s the little things that make us feel more confident - the simple joys and power of getting up and getting dressed.
How has your life changed since the COVID-19 pandemic hit?
I think my lifestyle has changed a lot since I shop and eat out a lot less. I shopped online for various needs from food, grocery, household items to furniture. I did not enjoy the experiences. I’m not an online shopper, that’s something I’ve realised.
I now enjoy taking my time to enjoy breakfast in the morning. I used to always be in a rush to finish all my targets for the day since I am deeply committed to my work. I now spend much more time with my immediate family, especially my daughter. It almost feels as if I’m catching up for lost time having committed so much of my time to my career.
Being at home presents more opportunities for me to be alone with my thoughts, making me more reflective about my role as a mother, wife, mentor and daughter. I feel that I have many areas for improvement, and it’s difficult to balance all these different roles, but I try to do my best every day to focus and take action on the priorities scheduled.
What are 3 things you have learnt since adjusting to this new normal?
First, I have learnt to listen to my body. I actually had a health scare, and I used to struggle with something as simple drinking enough water each day. Incidentally, the stay-home period was a good opportunity for me to make new healthier habits. I have also learnt to pay closer attention to my hunger signals, I try to eat only when I’m hungry, so I’ve actually been eating less.
Second, I have learnt how to enjoy my time at home. I used to be the type of person who thought that a day spent at home was a ‘wasted’ day. How wrong I was! My ideas on productivity have changed since I have learnt to enjoy my home as a place both for work and play.
Third, I have learnt to go digital with my work. I am now proficient at conducting zoom meetings and hosting webinars. It was a tough learning curve and I was initially very nervous and easily flustered. Now I’ve overcome it with some practice and it’s really convenient. I am encouraged my colleagues and friends to be comfortable with video meetings and conferencing.
Why do you continue to get ready & dress up?
Honestly, it is a habit of mine that I have cultivated for years. Right after I wake up and brush my teeth, I go about choosing my outfit for the day. Dressing up makes me feel ready for any opportunity that presents for the day. Before the pandemic, going for business meetings and seeing people meant that opportunities were always on the horizon.
Being well-dressed or groomed was something I did to make sure that I felt confident to make a good impression on whoever I interacted with for the day. So now, even when I don’t meet half as many people in person, I just enjoy getting that boost of confidence to start my day.
What are some of the little things that bring you joy now?
This may sound funny but I have rediscovered my love for the Potong, especially the red bean flavour. It’s delicious and there’s an element of nostalgia that I really savour. Recently my family has been rediscovering old-school snacks that we forgot about. Wasabi peas, prawn crackers and cuttlefish, they really tap into my memory of simpler times.
I also enjoy the plants around my house so much more than I typically would. A bird built its nest in the plants outside my toilet, this gave me a reason to smile every morning as I peeped over. The nest is vacant real estate now but it was something I really felt excited about at the time.
How has your choice of deciding what to wear daily changed?
One big difference is that I no longer need to wear makeup, I only complete my skincare routine and I’m happy with the minimum wear of a lip colour. I don’t wear so much jewellery the way I used to before the pandemic outbreak. Actually I have one major exception to that rule: I go all-out on earrings since they are actually visible on zoom and I think they really spruce up my appearance on camera.
As for my clothes, since I have always opted for simple classic work-wear I am comfortable in, there’s not much of a difference. One thing that I have missed doing every day is putting together a full outfit including a purse and a matching pair of shoes.
What is the biggest hurdle in maintaining client relationships at this time and how do you overcome it?
As you know, I am in a people business, mentoring and coaching people in their career as financial service consultants . We are constantly meeting and engaging clients planning and executing their plans to help them achieve their financial dream goals and objective.
One major hurdle was being unable to meet face to face for planning, career coaching and to host the lifestyle and networking events for our clients. It’s difficult to reconstruct without being in physical contact, but we’ve managed to achieve something similar in a digital space.
My team has conducted webinars and even exercise classes for our ourselves and clients to participate in. I attended and conducted many zoom training classes for both my professional business and even in my social outreach activities.
We even reached out to our SME clients and friends by participating in my company’s collaboration with SkillsFuture Singapore to help SMEs ensure that their employees keep up with the changing times by upgrading themselves. This is a great way to help the small and business enterprises what are the lifeblood of Singapore economy.
Finally, I have also managed to maintain a personal touch by being emotionally available for my clients and co-workers during this period. It’s a difficult time for many of us, sometimes people just need a listening ear, I do my best to be a kind listener. To me empathy is really very important and we need listen with our heart.
How do you keep your team motivated at this time?
I host my weekly meetings on Zoom, and I do my best to bring positive ideas and stories that will keep people going. I reach out to the members of my team regularly. Since phase two, I have brought some of them out for lunch just to encourage them, and to ensure that they are in a good mental headspace. In an attempt to be responsible amidst the pandemic, I have brought them out one-on-one. I am planning for us to have a meal as a group when it is safe to do so. I have delivered food to them during this period, just so they know that I care for them.
What are the moments or stories that brought you happiness, hope and encouragement, even during this time of uncertainty?
I mentioned earlier that the bird nest in my house made me feel so hopeful despite the bleak economic outlook. Watching the eggs hatch and the baby birds growing up, flying off, it really made me realise that life will go on despite all the unpredictability.
My friends and family have been so kind to deliver food to my house. I felt a deep sense of comfort knowing that these are relationships that I can count on no matter how ambiguous or tumultuous the future may be. Sometimes, knowing that you’re not alone is enough to instil you with enough optimism to face the odds.
Finally, I found a deep sense of fulfilment as I was making my contribution to the social outreach programme I partnered 5 years ago for young adults. ‘Soaring’ aims to inspire and help people discover their purpose in life. Knowing that I’m doing my best to make a difference and to bring about a positive change helps me feel anchored and purposeful even amidst uncertainty.