Can you tell us a little about yourself and your career?
I’m 31 years old, married and the proud mama of two young kids (3-year-old girl and 5-year-old boy). I am self-employed as the Executive Director at Hooked Technologies Singapore, a super-cool company specialising in Augmented Reality technology. We offer 360-degree digital campaigns that allow customers to totally step into another world – for example they can be standing in a Singapore mall, but look at a screen and see themselves in a snowy winter wonderland, or beam down Santa Claus as a hologram for them to dance with!
Can you talk us through your career pre- and post-babies? How did you get back into the swing of things after having children?
I graduated with a BCS Computer Science degree and an MBA, and started working with a multi-national pharmaceutical company followed by a local publication house in Singapore. Our first child was born in 2009 and that’s when I decided to start something of my own so I could work with flexibility and my own pace with the baby. And that’s when my company came into being!
Our second child was born in 2011, and it became difficult to commit at home as well as at work. I took a bit of a break to spend more time with my newborn until she was ready to go to preschool at 18 months. Kids have always been my first priority and I could not imagine leaving two babies at home and going back to work full-time, but in my free time, I would still do what I could to stay busy without compromising on quality time with my kids.
Though I wasn’t doing much professionally during these years, I became an active blogger and went back to school in the evenings for training courses (thanks to my husband, who has been so supportive in taking care of the kids after work!). I would do my assignments while carrying the baby or feeding them, or even while putting them in bed. I would make use of any free time the most productive way I could.
Before kids, I was also doing photography as a hobby and even now you’ll find me with DSLR in one hand and one of the kids in the other. My photo “Souls” was actually recognised in the 54th Singapore International Photographic Awards!
I have also volunteered with a local grassroots organisation (People’s Association – River Valley Neighbourhood Committee) for the past five years or so. During Singapore’s 49th Birthday celebrations, I was awarded for my services over the years. I am still a part of it and try to commit as much time as possible. It’s a great way to be a part of local community and give back to it!
How do you balance work and motherhood?
Now that our older son is 5 years old and the kids both go to preschool from 9am to 4pm, I can commit to work during these hours. But because they are still young and unpredictable, I still have to keep flexibility at work. Luckily, with the nature of work we do, unless we have meetings we can easily do things from home. I have a business partner who is also a mother herself and both of us try to manage things when one is not available.
After the kids are fast asleep, I get back to my leftover work!
How do you save time? What are your organisational tips and tricks?
I always tell people that you have to take time out if you want to do something. There is nothing that keeps you busy ALL the time. You can make use of your free time according to your priorities in life. It’s just that human beings tend to get lazy at times and especially for mums, it’s such a tiring job that sometimes there isn’t much energy to spare!
I’m lucky to have my own business that allows flexibility, but at the same time I’ll often end up working in the middle of the night or on weekends.
How do you find being a woman working in tech in Singapore?
Both my business partner and I come from an Information Technology as well as Marketing background, so we thoroughly enjoy our work as it provides the best mix of both. Augmented Reality (AR) is really an exciting tool and we feel proud being one of the few providers of it in Singapore.
As far as tech in Singapore is concerned, it’s a highly competitive market and in my opinion is equally challenging for both men and women. However, as you may have rightly guessed, the IT sector is still perceived to be dominated by men. Frankly, being a women in an IT sector is as tough as being a female entrepreneur. In my opinion, if you work hard, are smart and ready to take any sort of challenges, you will be successful irrespective of gender.
There is one challenge above all though: you’re a mum, too, so managing work-life balance is altogether another job which you have to do! No challenges, no excitement! It’s neither easy nor impossible.
Do you have any tips for aspiring “mamapreneurs” and other working mamas in Singapore?
Even if you can spare a few hours of your time in doing what you want to do, that is enough. You just need a little bit of commitment, perseverance and patience as everything takes time. Start small and with what you can manage, and gradually expand. Do what you like to do and what you think you could do best. Everyone is afraid of failure, but don’t be! Frankly, failures are inevitable unless you are very lucky. There is no right or wrong way, think of what works best for you. Being a mama and having one’s own business is one of the biggest blessings as you may achieve close to a perfect work-life balance eventually.
Above all, don’t try to be a super mum or workaholic, as everyone needs some time off. Be in charge of what you do rather than the other way round. That helps your productivity, too.
Favourite activity with your kids in Singapore?
We love playdates! Kids are happy with their friends while you are around and it is a good timeout for mums, too. We often go to indoor play gyms, swim playdates, playdates at home and sometimes even to Universal Studios Singapore.
Favourite kid-friendly restaurants in Singapore?
We like going to Boomarang Bistro and Epicurious by the river, and Kaffir & Lime at Paragon. Food for Thought at Botanical Gardens and Seb’s Bistro at The Rochester House are ideal for families as well.
Favourite family-friendly holiday spot in Asia?
In Asia, I would say Hong Kong and Japan, as my kids love theme parks like Disneyland, Universal Studios and Legoland. Otherwise, they are happy even if you take them to the beaches or islands. Kids are usually happy if they are well fed and well entertained, whatever or wherever it is.
Do you have any tips for keeping the romance alive in your relationship?
Haha! Go for a date night out. You might be tied up throughout the day but it is always good to have a chat with your partner at night. You have to take time out, for each other, from the hustle and bustle of life.
Favourite date night restaurants?
We are not very adventurous when it comes to restaurants, but we do like Shiraz at Clarke Quay. We love the Persian cuisine they serve.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received as a parent?
Family always comes first! Everything else is secondary.
As a mama I wish I were better at…
Dealing with kids’ illnesses — even the simple flu or a cough stress me out!
My most humbling mama moment was…
When I gave birth to our first baby. It was a life-changing and defining moment for me. I was so happy to be a new mum. Touch wood, ever since it has been an amazing journey!
My favourite moment of the day is…
My morning hug and cuddle with kids as they are usually most happy and fresh in the mornings, if they have had a good night’s sleep. Besides, I feel proud and my internal happiness is beyond words whenever I see I can make them happy. I literally live for such moments!
I always feel saner after…
I have given my best during the day.
I wish I had more time for…
Sports, as I love playing golf and until now I have not been able to commit to it for long. It used to be an everyday activity for me.
Bedtime is always smoother when…
Kids are happy and they have had a good day and playtime/storytime before it. Also, they are very happy when they know mum is around and not going anywhere!
Thanks so much Sameen, and thank you to the ever fabulous Gunilla from SugarLight Photography for taking these fantastic pictures of Sameen and her gorgeous littlies!