Joyce Huang

Perspective

Category: life (Page 2 of 2)

Society’s Crazy Demands Of Our Generation

Society’s demands on our generation are crazy.

I graduated at age 24, slightly older than my peers because I spent an extra year in university for exchange programs. I’m 28 now, just shy of 2 years to hitting the big 30, but it made me think a lot about what I’m expected to achieve by then.

I’ve always thought of 30 as a definitive milestone in life. This is the age where you are supposed to know what you want to do with your life. By now you are expected to have found a life partner, bought a house, get married, have your first kid, achieved some sort of career milestone, lived out all your crazy adventures such as travelling the world, or exited your startup by selling it for millions.

Maybe it’s because of the pressure from friends that I hang out with, or the people I look up to, but damn, that’s a lot to have accomplish by 30. When I look at what I’ve done, it’s easy to feel dejected. Wtf have I achieved? I haven’t started my own company and I’m definitely not any closer to earning millions. I think a lot of people my age feel the same way.

Nobody told me that I’d only have 6 years before I would be expected to accomplish all these feats. And it’s crazy – this rat race.

I’m trying to focus on the things that I have accomplished. Travelled around the world for a year, found someone who I can live the rest of my life with. Be on track to buy a house. Found work at an exciting startup with big dreams. But it never seems to be enough.

Crazy, right?

Welcome to November

IMG_2279Welcome to November. My plans to have read more this year have gone severely awry. But one of the things that have disappointed me the most is that I’ve failed to read more.

I’ve been making it a point to read more fiction instead of the regular self-help books. I just finished Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. In my head I kept picturing the voices as they were in the movie, but I realised that there were so many details left out from the wonderful book because of time.

Jane Austen had such a clear, critical perspective of life in her days. In Mr. Darcy’s pride, you recognize that money can’t buy everything, particularly, Elizabeth’s respect at the start of the book. It’s only towards the end, when he started acting out of love to help her that they grew fond of each other and won her heart. For Elizabeth, her prejudice against him made her blind to the wrongs that Darcy had had to endure with Mr. Wickham, and in the end it was her own sister that would suffer from her prejudices.

It’s interesting how a story can help you learn lessons.

From Pride and Prejudice, I learnt that a couple has to learn together to become the best versions of themselves. I think it’s naive to say that, “if you love me, you will accept me as I am.” A large part is realising that you are wrong, and wanting to improve.

It might have had a good ending, but it’s also far from a fairy tale. I’ve never seen so much critique in a love story about the effects of money in society and it’s power in determining who we should love. I do feel she’s a romantic at heart, because in the end the love Elizabeth and Darcy had far outdoes the pragmatic kind of love that Charlotte opted for when she decided to settle down with the annoying Mr. Collins.

Jane Austen was an excellent judge of character, reminding us that it’s more important to be a moral character, than a rich one.

It’s a joy to watch people do good work

kopitiam_honglim
Left: Dedicated kopi-uncle who makes the best kopi in Hong Lim Hawker Center

There’s this kopi-uncle working in Hong Lim Hawker Center. Everyday I get kopi from him and it’s pure joy to watch him make coffee.

What sets this uncle apart from the rest of the kopi-uncles is his dedication to making a perfect cup of coffee each time. He douses hot water on the cup, whirls it around and throws it out to make sure it’s clean. Then he goes on to make the best cup of kopi, making sure everything is properly stirred and the coffee is a good brew, even if it might take a little longer than what other stalls require. It’s not hard to see that he’s truly enjoying it as well.

I guess that’s why people don’t mind waiting in line to get their daily fix of coffee. As I sip on my Kopi-C now, it’s a good reminder that no matter what you do, making the best of your craft is an important facet to enjoying what you do. And when it happens, it’s brightens up people’s day and makes them appreciate it – even if it’s just a cup of kopi.

From being a romantic to a classical as you grow older

I’m obsessed with School of Life. It’s started by contemporary philosopher, Alain de Botton.  There are three bite-sized videos each week and it’s a super practical YouTube channel, using concepts from Philosophy to help viewers lead better everyday lives. I love that it makes the subject much more accessible to the layman, instead of being shrouded in mystery and with the idea that it’s only for intellectuals.

 

I was re-watching this video about being a Romantic vs a Classical person today and it got me thinking a lot about how we evolve as we get older.

When I was much younger, I thought that many things in life were about following your instinct. We live in a age where it’s all about “following your passion” and “do what you love” or “never settle”, very American concepts that have personally led me into becoming slightly disillusioned about my own achievements in life.

More and more, I’ve found that being a better human being is very much a work-in-progress. It takes courage to accept that you are not perfect, and we all need to take a step back to reflect upon our status anxiety, envy and gradually learn to become a better person, just as we learnt to walk, talk or play sports.

 

The five most important words to winning a client

How

By far, the five most underrated words in winning someone over are “How can I help you?“.

Far too often I’ve experienced cold emails,  calls, face-to-face pitches that start off with a pitch about the company’s products and services, but never asking about the person or organisation’s personal goals. You read all these sales textbooks that teach you to hustle, do objection-handling and how to create the perfect pitch, but they seldom tell you to ask the most important question.

It seems like common sense, but I’ve found that it stems from our own self-interest, to promote our own products than to focus on really bringing value to your clients. “How Can I Help You?” literally allows you to discover your customers needs and injects a personal touch into the brands service.

My favourite book on this is SPIN SELLING (summary of book in linked-pdf), a sales-book based on data that dispels the myth of pressuring people into signing contracts with constant irritating calls for high value sales. I think this should be made an essential reading for all B2B entrepreneurs looking to make their first sale.

I’m a firm believer that if we took more effort in starting the pitch by asking our client, “What are your goals this year?” and “How can I help you achieve those goals”, will not only help us sell more, but create better products.

So.. my dear reader, how can I help you? What are your goals for this year? How can I help you achieve them?

New Beginnings

Happy New Year. It’s 2015.

START

I’m excited about this year. It’s the year where I’m not running away anymore. I’m just going to dive head first into starting my own business, focusing on SG Geek Girls and doing some freelance work on the side.

“Don’t let the person you were hold you back from who you want to be.” I’ve seen this quote a couple of times and it’s been stuck at the back of my head.

For too long I’ve been focusing on what people think about what I do. But it’s never about that, it’s not your job to rate your work. Your job is to keep creating, making, building. I’ve become scared to put something out there under my own name that it’s stalled my work. I hide behind working for someone else because if it fails – it’s not my fault.

Here’s to a new year ahead. Enjoy everyone!

Twenty Four

3 months into graduation, I was panicking.

I remember sitting down at the Arts canteen with two of my friends lamenting about our slim chances of getting employed at a good company with our “tissue-paper” degrees.

Both of my friends had more hope than I did, armed with economics and business degrees, they could at the very least join a bank.

I on the other hand, had on the previous night interviewed for a role at an 4A advertising agency like most of my “Communications and New Media Studies” peers.

They told me my starting salary would be $1,800 if I was hired and that I was expected to work mostly long hours, 14 minimum a day, without overtime pay. I asked my interviewer what I could expect to learn from him, especially since I would be spending so much time working with him. He looked shocked that someone so low down the chain dared to ask.

“Well, (he cleared his throat nervously and continued speaking in a fake american accent) you can learn a lot from me,” he said. He then proceeded to show me how fancy and creative the space was.

Right.

When I walked out through that door I told myself that there was no way I would join an advertising agency to work with a guy whose life goal was to help a telco company (M1, I think it was) change promo ads every week and couldn’t even grow a moustache successfully. No matter how fancy the office.

Now what?

I never considered a job in tech before that, mainly because I hated the way my “Intro to Web Development” teacher was teaching us to use tables instead of CSS to layout our sites (it made me horrified at my own creations). But that night two job openings caught my attention. The first was an opening at Facebook for a Sales Associate, the second, another opening at a local startup called 2359 Media.

“I could do that,” I thought to myself.

Thinking that since I was a “people person” who had successfully sold photography workshop packages to unsuspecting parents before, I applied for both – determined to get any other role than follow the sad fate of maiming my existence by getting into the ad industry.  (Little did I know that there was no way I would be able to escape from the ad industry.)

I got through to both of the final interviews of the Facebook interview where I had to simulate a pitch to sell Facebook Ads to an advertising agency. Naturally, I was trained by university to whip out  my PPT slides and go straight into hard selling Facebook Ads. Little did I know that that just wasn’t the way to sell (at least not for high-value products).

I didn’t get it and was a tiny bit disappointed, but 2359 took a risk with me and as soon as I graduated, I had a job. 9 months later into my sales role, I was pitching and closing deals with brands like Laurier, big 4A  ad agencies, Capitaland, government agencies and so on. I learnt that you never begin a sales meeting with powerpoint slides, but instead ask like a normal human being, “how can I help you?”. I realised why Facebook didn’t hire me. I was a complete noob.

9 months later, at a beginner’s programming workshop for girls, I decided to start Singapore Geek Girls together with a friend I met on Twitter. She later introduced me to a job at Microsoft.

2 years later, I was managing the startup community at Microsoft BizSpark in Singapore, organising events where I invited prominent VCs, CEOs and in general worked with many inspiring people in the startup industry. With an awesome team at SGGG, we also started a series of events to teach women to design, code and start their own company. We had over 1000 people attend our events in the last 3 years.

It was amazing. But I had to take a break and travel. I was tired, so I here I am, writing this note of reminder to myself of everything I’ve learnt in the last 3 years. It is all I wish I knew at 24.

1. I don’t know shit 

There is a Chinese saying that goes, “If you think you know everything, you don’t know anything. If you think you don’t know anything, at least you know something.”

When I first graduated, I felt like people owed it to me to employ me and give me a high salary, “But I’ve worked so hard for this!,” I felt like waving my tissue paper degree to their faces. It was only when I started working that I realised how little I knew about building a business and how to effectively contribute to a company. What is my value proposition? I started to ask myself. I was humbled by the opportunities I got to learn from my experiences at 2359 Media and Microsoft. There is so much I still do not know. And I rejoice at that, because not knowing makes me want to learn.

2. You learn much more about what you know and don’t know when you join a startup 

When you join a startup, you can’t afford to “stick to your job description”. Everyone has to contribute and there is little space to hide behind your laptop screen and pretend that you are contributing by surfing on Facebook and YouTube. At my first job I was networking like mad, learning to convert leads to actual sales, prepping sales decks, learning about marketing the business and I even had to project manage the deals after they were closed because we didn’t have enough project managers at the time. It was tiring but I learnt so much.

In life you can choose the easy way and learn a little, or the harder way and learn a lot. It’s about getting out of your comfort zone and you will never be ready for it, but you can choose to just do it anyway.

3. You learn even more about what you don’t know when you start something of your own.

Starting Singapore Geek Girls is more or less a trial and error process for me. At first I was doing it by myself. And then I realised I couldn’t do it by myself. Then I realised how I could get support from volunteers. Then I got volunteers and teachers. Then we started giving classes and it just rolled out piece by piece by itself. I became a pro at getting sponsorships because I was also learning to sponsor events at Microsoft. I learnt about pricing and that people who don’t pay probably aren’t serious about wanting to learn about something. I also learnt that you learn even more about what you don’t know when you start something of your own. And that’s an important revelation because if you do start something, it will probably be at something you like.

4. Everything’s going to be alright.

Now that I’m 2 months away from going back home. I find myself slightly nervous and worried. Kinda like how I felt like when I first graduated. But the most important lesson I’ve learnt is that everything’s going to be alright. No matter what choices I make, I just have to have an open mind, learn as much as I can while I’m young and just keep hustling.

I hope if you’re 24 and at the start of your career, this helps you too!

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