After 11 years, I get into a corporate working environment again.
I left my last corporate job on 9 January 2011 and started my journey to set up a regional office for a Korean company and subsequently started my own company in 2018. Life is made up of choices, and depending on our circumstances in life, we make different choices in different phases of our life.
Regional Director for a Korean Company
When I left my corporate job, I got an opportunity as a Project Manager to run a Singapore-based project for a Korean company. Within months of running as the project manager, I helped the company prepare a tender response for a Global Bank for a project in APAC. We successfully won the project, and the company decided to start a regional office in Singapore to run this programme with the bank. Subsequently, we managed to help another USA-based company run their APAC programme to install a business-intelligent system for a world-renowned brand.
During this time, our team collaborated and developed a facial recognition system that’s performing well in the various operational environments both in Singapore and overseas. The key goes beyond technology, and it got to do with putting humans into the formula to work out the best approach. This helps us to secure projects with both local and foreign government agencies.
Co-Founder for my company
Then in 2018, my business partner and I decided to try something for ourselves. We feel that we could do something together, and it is now or never. Thus, we left our position in the Korean company and started Pseudoscops. The initial consideration is to embark on facial recognition projects since we are well versed in this. In addition, we have been providing consultancy for the government ministry for the last few years. Thus we like to leverage this.
However, we eventually got a project to develop a full suite customised ERP for a famous Singapore brand, Lim Chee Guan. This started our journey on Digital Transformation, which includes customised software development and consultancy. Again, we are putting humans first and streamlining the process instead of throwing technology right from the start.
Our product enables companies to jump onto eCommerce within hours, putting considerations such as logistics and inventory management to ease the real pain of selling online. But unfortunately, partly due to the pandemic and the business approach in Singapore, things do not take off.
To generate revenue, I need to take other approaches such as providing project management training, conducting lessons for my consulting partner in SMU, and joining a consultancy team to advise Government Linked Companies.
Then comes a time when an opportunity knocks, and something triggered me to reconsider this journey. Entrepreneurship brings me much flexibility, opportunities, and picking up many abilities. However, this also drains my savings. I pity myself for being unable to better provide for my family, especially when I am a sandwiched generation that needs to face the rising cost of getting things and providing for my parents.
You can read more about my decision in this article 3 years 10 months — The period that I tried and decided to call a Halt.
Suppose you are at a similar crossroads as me a few months back. I like to share some of my feelings when I switch back to corporate life. I started my job a week ago, and I am still making adjustments. The main differences are in the mindset and knowing that I am no longer in charge.
- I am no longer in charge — I am just one of the players in this big organisation, and I am no longer the boss. Many people are holding senior positions above in a vast organisational structure.
- Teamwork still stands — I need my staff’s support to complete projects and deliver them to the customers. Similarly, we need to be part of the team that gets together to provide the result in our respective fields for the company.
- My ownership of the time becomes lesser — When I am running my business, the customer prioritises my time. Besides that, I am free to do my stuff wherever I like, and I can choose to jog under the afternoon Sun and continue my things. Now, there are stipulated timing when I need to be in office. Of course, there are times when I might be running on the ground, but I will have lesser control of this component.
- “Power Play” is beyond me — As long as there are people, there will be human issues, aka Office Politics. It might not be from within the team but from people of another group within the big organisation. We have a total headcount of 6 people for my company, including the bosses. There are limited people to play such “games”, and we depend on each other to do our things. However, in a big organisation, things will be beyond my control.
- Our experiences help — The experiences and network that I get throughout my entrepreneurship journey will not be wasted. Yes, I am only one of the workers, but I can also contribute based on what I have been through. It could provide a different perspective, allow cross-pollination of ideas, and mitigate the downside of group thinking. Even when I am not in the sales function, I continue to share what my company is doing with my contacts, which might help to bring in potential business for my company.
- Our perspectives are different — As a business owner, I cannot solely focus on my work area. I need to look at different areas and see how other aspects can contribute to company growth. I see things from the perspective of the entire organisation. Such perspective will help the organisation when we act and conduct as we own the company. I am already working in this realm when I was in the corporate 11 years ago and working for the Korean company.
- Burdens of the paycheque — I remembered that we need to ensure that we have sufficient money in the bank to pay for our expenses and salary for the staff each month. When there are revenues, business owners are the last to get paid. Our monthly paycheque is secured as long as we do our job diligently as salaried workers. I do not need to think about if I have the money to pay my staff. The consideration is now much simpler and more focused. This is not an excuse to put the guards down and wait for the payday monthly.
- Our role does not have a definitive cut — As business owners, we can’t leave the company and expect a clean cut. The “entanglement” of a business owner is much more complex than the typical worker. When I am transiting to my current role, I might need to handle calls and queries from prospective clients and direct them to the correct person to pick that up. We need to allow for more buffer to cross over properly and enable our company to sink into this change.
While my colleague is getting used to me, I am working on adjusting myself to this change. What’s similar is that I am working on charting the path that I want to approach for the company in the area of Continuous Improvement. So, yes, I am no longer waiting for someone to tell me what to do, and I follow. Instead, I need to be proactive in determining what I need to do and discuss this with my bosses to seek their opinions and support.
This is an exciting yet challenging field where immediate massive impact does not happen overnight. In the current context where many want to see instant results, I will need to work on balancing these to seek a fundamental change before reaching a tipping point where Continuous Improvement becomes part of the organisation’s DNA.
I wish you luck if you are working on a similar transition as me, and wish me luck too!