It’s our first That Mama of the new year, and this week we’re chatting with the lovely Vijayah Sigamani — the multi-tasking mama to her eleven year old son, and Director of private security firm, Royal Security Management Services. We chat with her about working in a male dominated industry, staying organised amid the busy-ness of family life, as well as her love of a good holiday!
Please tell us a little bit more about your work… how did you become the Director of a private security firm?
The firm is my father’s business. When I graduated from University, he asked me to join the company as he wasn’t in good health. When I first joined he appointed me the Product Development Manager. During this time I was able to prove to him I was capable of managing the business, after which he appointed me as Director.
How do you find working in a traditionally male dominated industry? How do you deal with challenges as they arise?
Initially it wasn’t a glamorous job and today it still isn’t. We’ve had many problems with manpower, and there are very few ladies in the industry, as it’s mostly run by ex-policeman and ex-army officers. Slowly I’ve managed to find ways to solve existing problems, and to market the same services in new and exciting ways to capture our clients’ attention. I loved marketing when I was doing my Bachelor Degree, so I’ve tried many different marketing strategies. When you do things differently people stop to look at you. We still have challenges every day, but I’ve learned to be creative and think differently all the time to find the best solutions.
As a full-time working mama… how do you save time? What are your organizational tips and tricks?
I plan and schedule everything (here here!). Having a well organised timetable and good time management skills is very important. You can do a lot in 24 hours if you’ve got a schedule and a plan. I do not get distracted easily, and use the word “focus” as my key word. I make it a point in the office that “distractions destroy productivity” so as a team we aim to achieve results together.
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 worked throughout my pregnancy. In the beginning I found it especially tough getting up and coming to work with morning sickness, as I was in the habit of coming to work earlier than the rest of the team! I returned to work exactly one month after my caesarean, as I was much needed in the office. When you have to work you just get on with it… and as the business was my first baby, much care and concern was needed.
How has having kids changed the way you define work?
Sometimes I just have to stop work and go home when it’s time to pick up my son. Before kids I could work late every night and head home when I was finished, but now I just have to stop when it’s needed. After having my son, the thought of him expecting me and the thought of not wanting to disappoint him was always there.
Do you have any tips for aspiring “mamapreneurs” and other working mamas in Singapore?
As women, we are born multi-taskers… we’re able to get things right if we manage ourselves first. Being an entrepreneur is not an 8-to-5 job, it’s 24/7. Being disciplined and having good time management skills are key factors for working mamas.
I wish I had more time for…
My books! I love reading and wish I had the simple luxury of having the time to read my books.
I always feel saner after….
A good overseas holiday!
Favourite activity with the kids in Singapore?
Swimming and shopping for PC games with my son.
Favourite kid-friendly restaurant in Singapore?
I don’t have any particular restaurants which I always go to… I love trying out different restaurants, and tend to head towards Sentosa when I’m dining with my family.
Favourite family-friendly holiday spot in Asia?
I don’t have any favourites, as I love travelling with my son to any new place! I make it a point to travel twice every year, but if I had to choose a place that I return to often with my son it would be Bintan. It’s a great place for mamas, as they have ample activities for the kids!
Activity that I do not love to do but do it anyway because my kids love it…
I started playing at time zone when my son was younger because he loves playing there! He especially loves riding the bikes even though his legs doesn’t reach the pedals. He used to practice bike riding with his father and after he passed on, I took over the role. I can’t stand the noise of games arcades but have gotten used to it.
Favourite restaurant for a mama’s night out?
There are some happening restaurants in Sentosa close to the beach. I love going to Mambo Beach Club and Tanjong Beach Club, as they look classy and provide a vacation-like getaway from the hustle and bustle of Singapore.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received as a parent?
To spend quality time with my son, instead of spending a lot of time at work, as advised by my mum.
Give us your essential new mama advice that might never occur to other women.
I lost my husband when my son was 4 years old, and I told him that from that day onwards it was just the two of us, that daddy was no longer with us. From that day, I have been both the mum and the dad to him. I make sure he doesn’t lack anything and he doesn’t miss his father. I’m able to provide what both parents provide and shower him with two parent’s love. It’s tough at times but as a woman you just have to do everything!
As a mama I wish I were better at…
Creating an interest for school in my son! He is just too playful and doesn’t understand the importance of his studies.
My most humbling mama moment was…
When my son had a bad fall while he was playing and when my helper called me I took it very lightly. I spoke to my son and he said he was fine, but later I found out he had been crying terribly and was scared I would scold him and that is the reason he said he was fine. My sister, who happened to come by at that time, brought him to the clinic. I felt I could have been a better mum and understood him better, and felt very bad for the incident.
I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about….
My son! I think about if I have been too strict or harsh with him the previous night, especially about his studies. Or I think about work… if there’s a demanding task to be done the next day.
Bedtime is always smoother when…
I read a good motivational story or inspirational quote.
Even when my child has a family of his/her own, I’ll still…
Hug and say I love him and call him baby.
One thing I won’t sacrifice as a mama is…
The time I promised to be with my son and the promises I make to him, I feel keeping my word is very important.
My favourite moment of the day is…
When I’ve had a hard day at work and I step into my house and my son asks me, “how was your day?”
These gorgeous photos of Vijayah and her family are courtesy of the fabulously talented Gunilla Lindgren of Sugarlight Photography.