I can’t believe it’s 2016.
Last year on this day, we were on a train back to Taipei from Hsinchu, in Taiwan. Lugging a backpack with all the belongings I’d needed, getting ready to finally come back home to Singapore and start my next adventure.
It’s been a tough year emotionally. Mainly because I didn’t keep promises I made to myself. There have been many great opportunities and transitions in 2015, and if I had to give a theme to my life this year, it’d be “The Year I Settled Back In Singapore. For Good.”
It’s strange because I thought that long-term travelling doesn’t really change you. But it did, it made me see that no matter where I was I could be doing what I’d actually wanted to do in Singapore, with abundant opportunity and no stress of having to cover for rent. It’s where my family, my friends, Reuben is. There is no urge for me to leave right now. It’s mostly about analysis-paralysis, my fear of failure and procrastination.
Now is a good time to reflect upon 2015.
January was the month where the magic of our Round-The-World Trip would end. We were so exhausted from travelling and were glad to be able to head home. It was bitter-sweet writing this epic recap of our trip on Medium, looking back on a year of travel around the world. Looking back, I wish I took more time to write about our journey instead of the haphazard manner it was done on Let’s Go Loco, which has since been abandoned.
Despite telling myself that I wouldn’t go on another airplane so soon, I would find myself in Thailand, Philippines, Myanmar, China, Indonesia and Malaysia. The most pleasant of all the trips was in Boracay, Philippines where we celebrated Reuben’s birthday, and in Yangon, where old friends, Celeste, Yiwern and I re-united.
Went back to work part-time at JFDI.Asia. It’s THE accelerator program in Singapore and most possibly the only legit one in South East Asia. I was put to manage the content marketing and PR team and met some lovely people there. It made me see even clearer the inner workings of startups and how the odds are stacked against you even when you get some of the best help in Singapore. Hugh was also my lovely manager who allowed me to continue with our part-time arrangement as I started on Singapore Geek Girls stuff again.
SG Geek Girls talks were resumed and we started with Denisa Kera, an ex-professor of mine who gave a fascinating talk about the maker-community and culture in Asia. She’s been a source of inspiration for me, breaking the stereotype that arts and science are separate entities, when in fact, it’s very much inter-disciplinary.
Link to her talk here: http://www.sggeekgirls.com/the-revival-of-the-mechanical-arts-in-the-maker-movement/
In March, I got an invite to attend an event called Stream Asia. It’s an unconference for the advertising industry in Asia and is organized by WPP. Strange that no matter how I tried to distance myself from the advertising world, I would come back to it.
WPP paid for the 3D2N stay at Club Med in Phuket and I got to meet some very interesting startups, including this company that developed an app for surgeons to practice surgery anytime, anywhere.
Special thanks to Gwen, who made this possible. I had a great time catching up with one of the most important mentors in my life. 🙂
A really busy month.
I finalized on my Xiaomi contract in early April and knew I had to make more effort to organize Geek Girls events while I could. I was really thankful when Anna and the guys at 12 Geeks spoke and co-organized the 2 events respectively.
Anna is a fantastic speaker. Her talk on the myths about the open source community really made me feel hopeful that it would be the perfect entry point for females to find more kindred spirits in the tech industry. I was pleasantly surprised by the number of engineers that attended the session as well! Many of whom had never gone to other tech meetups.
The second session was mostly impromptu. I asked the 12 Geeks men, Fazli and Luther, whether they’d be interested to host an arduino workshop and was really glad to tinker with the rest of the ladies around. One of them was working on a startup idea that would help you automagically feed your pets. An arduino was part of the prototyping phase.
Miraculously, Hugh still sent me to Cebu to meet with the lovely teammates I had there. I had a good time getting to know Crystal, from our content marketing team better. She’s a fantastic writer and inspired me to write for myself again. Here she is below (left) with our other intern, Cui (right).
Myanmar in May. It felt like forever since I saw Yiwern and Celeste together. We used to take a yearly trip, so it felt good to be able to reunite with them in Yangon.
There are some truly magnificent temples across Myanmar, possibly the most elaborate in the world. You can tell Myanmar’s a sleeping dragon, but a lot’s to come in the next 20 years. I’m glad I saw it before the rest of the world did.
And just like that, I started my full-time job in Xiaomi and within the next week, I flew to Beijing to start my 3 month stint learning from the Mi Community team and employee #9, Da Li, who pain-stakingly created the vibrant community that Xiaomi has in China. Perhaps I’ll write what I’ve learnt from him later, when I’ve the time to organize my thoughts.
June come and went in a frenzy as I struggled to get used to work in Xiaomi. I’m grateful that the company allowed me to return home once a month to continue with SG Geek Girls activities. I’m even more grateful for Laura, our fantastic Android App Coach, who had a great session with the ladies who attended and taught them how to create a temperature monitoring app. I was really proud of them.
My birthday month was extra special because of a spontaneous trip to 海坨山, or Sea Dolphin Mountain, somewhere in the outskirts of Yanqing County. I signed up on a whim with my Beijing colleagues and to my surprise, found myself totally awed by the views on the mountain. We trekked in rain but were rewarded with a sea of clouds, colorful tents and an unbelievable sunset. One of the best I’ve seen in my life.
At SG Geek Girls, we had the pleasure of hosting Cindy Lin, another maker. Her talk blew my mine with it’s inter-disciplinarian perspective on the maker culture and spirit.
Cindy’s made art with snail poo, created her personal lubricants, and created a community of tinkerers, enthusiasts and amateurs in Singapore creating a space of transient food fancy and bacteria economies. Her networks and experiments in Indonesia and Shenzhen gave a great overview of the maker movement across Asia.
Make sure you check out her super interesting talk:
I attended my first Xiaomi product launch event in August. It was so well executed and the love from the fans in China was overwhelming. They were crowding all over the community team post-drinks and had such a genuine interest to get to know us. It’s nice to feel appreciated.
I really missed home on National Day. Which I spent in the Singapore embassy, with other cool Singaporeans in Beijing!
I don’t really remember much about September, except that I appeared in that month’s issue of Cosmo. And wore a $2000 dress. It was a funny experience, but so unlike me. I don’t think I’d do it again. Just not much of a power poser.
In early October, I felt I finally got what I came for when I was given the chance to sit in Lei Jun’s lecture of Xiaomi’s vision and the company’s history. His passion for life, technology and his humble, honest outlook makes me believe that the world doesn’t need to be filled with entrepreneurs who are dicks like Donald Trump. He talked a lot about the importance of community building in this session with many examples, and made me feel even more hopeful that Xiaomi’s not a company that only pays lip service to it’s customers.
Somehow, Reuben and I also got featured in this Channel News Asia short about our one year travel. Another first for me. A Singaporean couple emailed us after this, telling us they’re also on their trip! Amazing.
My first Xiaomi Global product launch was in KL, Malaysia. Really liked working with the bigger team and was amazing how it came together!
For Reuben’s birthday, I surprised him with a trip to Boracay, Philippines. It didn’t disappoint with its white powder sandy beaches and cliff diving. Was a good way to test out the Yi Action Cam too!
By now I was feeling immensely guilty for not having planned a SG Geek Girls event for long enough. So I did, with my long-time friend Tan Liren, who shed some important light on the importance of design innovation in Healthcare. Liren’s amazing at her job as UX lead at Alexandra Healthcare (based in Khoo Teck Phuat Hospital), giving some great real world examples of how simple design changes can make big differences in our habits.
I hit a few work milestones in December, throwing an oversubscribed party, proving that the intangible work we do leads to sales. It’s heartening to see that hardwork pay off. I’m going into 2016 more confident of my abilities and maintaining the “do-the-right-thing” attitude that Lei Jun has set for all Xiaomi employees.
A perfect way to end the year was meeting with Sandra, a travelmate we met in Argentina, Chile and now in Singapore! Her friend, Flo, is doing her 6 month trip across the world now too. It just feels like it’s all come full circle. Slightly surreal too to have brought her for Tau Huay and Char Kway Teow in a hawker center.
Thanks for letting me settle down, 2015.
2016, I’m ready for you. Bring it on.