VOICES: Multipotentialite Who Built Her Own Global MBA Experience
Emily had some recent big changes in her life — she quit her job in early 2020 and moved to Singapore amidst the beginning of a global pandemic. She shares with us her inner thoughts and experiences so far, and what ultimately led her to pursue her own version of a fruitful life.
In this present moment, how are you doing? Have you experienced any changes in your mental health as a recent expat experiencing the effects of COVID-19 abroad?
In the present moment, I'm good. Ask me that question three months ago and I'd say things were different because I was going through some troubles. I didn't have a job because I quit, my travel plans were in tatters, and I had too much time to be in my own head. The worst part was my self-doubt and questioning my worth at times.
It took some time, but I pushed myself to structure my days, exercise in the morning, and volunteer to write for Singapore Women's Network. I became a contributor and got to exercise my creative muscle, which made me very, very happy. I also started scheduling 1:1s with friends back home and reaching out to like-minded people through online communities and virtual chats. Working on all these exciting projects pulled me out of a dark cloud. That really helped with my mental health and I got myself out of a rough patch.
How has your career evolved? What are you doing now?
My first job was in the travel industry. I hated it since all I did was call hotels and properties to get them to list with us. I had negotiated my first job to receive a salary of $48K and later found out my cohort got paid $45K.
Realizing business development was not the space for me, I decided to quit because I was unhappy and was jobless for a couple of months. I wanted to get into a tech company, so I networked my way in and found a role at Google. After a few years in the tech space, most recently at a Series B startup, I am now a community and growth lead at a digital media company based in Singapore.
Tell us more about how you ended up at your current job and your recent move to Singapore. How did you come about that decision?
Singapore does a great job opening up innovation and actively funds programs for startups to thrive. There are a lot of opportunities here to grow quickly and scale. I can always take back my tech salary when I go back to SF. What I cannot get back is my time and opportunity to live and work abroad. I did not plan to stay in Singapore long term, but when COVID hit, I made the firm decision to live and work here. I hustled and networked my way into a job that fortunately sponsors me, and I am grateful I was able to stay.
What influenced your decision to not pursue a conventional MBA degree? What are some things you've learned so far during this MBA?
Paying close to $100K for an MBA doesn’t sit well in my stomach at the moment. I view this experience as me building my own global MBA. While the general sentiment is that MBAs will still be well-regarded, I believe they may not hold their weight as much as they did in the past since the access to online education and sharing of resources is getting easier; plus, in tech, there’s a larger focus on what you’ve built and applied. I do think that MBAs are good for those who want to go the executive route, which is not for me. If I worked at a company that would cover a large portion of my MBA, only then would I reconsider.
I’ve definitely been pushed out of my comfort zone here in Singapore by navigating the nuances of work culture. In the US, I had to have a stronger, bolder voice as an Asian American woman to get my point across and to be respected among my older male peers in B2B software. In Singapore, it sometimes feels like I am too “American” or straightforward to a point where it makes others uncomfortable. That was a surprise to me – I am trying to find a good balance now. I recognize that I am the expat coming into this country, so I must understand how to fit in and adapt accordingly.
How are you adjusting to the daily living expenses in Singapore on your current salary?
The shift in money income was hard to swallow, but I know money can be made up later as this global experience increases my human capital. This was a sacrifice I was willing to make. The living expenses in SG are significantly lower than in San Francisco. I can find $4 meals here, and I chose to live in government housing so my rent is cheaper. It’s quite the change, but I am happy.
To me, this is an investment in myself. I used to be able to easily tuck away my current salary as savings and then have more money to invest and travel, etc. I still find that I have money to save after my expenses, which I plan on wiring back into my US accounts or sending it to my parents.
What are your money goals and what motivates you?
I want to build passive income channels where I don’t have to work a 9-5 job. There’s no numerical end goal of how much I want to make – the end goal is comfort, pure comfort and having options, being able to take care of my parents, and sleep easily. I want to try my arm at an incubator in Asia one day or perhaps start my own business.
If you could turn back time, would you have made the big decision to relocate and change careers when you did? Did you appreciate or realize anything new?
There is nothing I would change about my past and making the big decision to come here. It wasn't easy, but when I landed at Singapore for the first time, I knew I made the right decision.
Life during COVID-19 made me realize how important it is to develop strong and great friendships; many of my friends (though they are physically back home) have kept me sane as I am here by myself in Singapore. As a community builder, I recognize the importance of others reaching out and vice versa. It made me rethink the kind of person I want to be in 5-10 years, as well as the community I want to grow and nurture.
What does community building mean to you within your personal and professional spheres, including within the tech industry?
It really represents me. As someone who dubs herself as a “multipotentialite,” I love working on various projects at once that keep me interested and excited. Community building does just that–I get to meet new people all the time, build programs from the ground up, be a connector within the space, and be forward-facing. It requires a lot of energy, but that’s something I have enough of. At my last job, I got to plan community events, lead hackathons, get user feedback on our products, run trade show booths, and more. It was a lot, but I loved it.
Young Money Plans: Emily's focus on community-building in her personal and professional life is something we especially emphasize and resonate with as part of our team values. It can be especially helpful in these times to check in with your loved ones and have multiple projects and interests to pass the time.
Do you foresee moving back to the US or going back to your old job in the near future? How do you think employers will perceive your international experience?
I’m not looking for other opportunities at the moment but will consider a rotational program that I will create myself, which will include traveling to other Asia countries and working in remote work offices to explore their tech scene. I will move back to Silicon Valley or Los Angeles in 1-2 years, but who knows? Maybe my adventure here in Singapore will last 4-5 years.
Re-entering the tech industry in the US won’t be too difficult. My network there is still strong and I just have to be able to connect my international experience. My previous boss and coworker offered me jobs whenever I came back. More and more, companies are becoming globalized and need help expanding into different markets, partnering with overseas companies, etc. I feel like my skill set is developing for that space.
Young Money Plans: We love Emily's go-getter and growth mindset that takes her internationally; it's not easy to make that jump. We look forward to her future endeavors and prospects.