10 Things Techsailor Taught Me


In the spirit of our 5th anniversary on “10-10-10”, I decided to throw in one more “Ten” – 10 things that Techsailor has value-added to my life

1. Chinese

The least expected yet the most dramatic self-improvement I made was being able to get my Chinese up to speed to communicate with our colleagues in China. OK, I won’t be rattling Li Bai’s poems anytime soon but at least I can write a decent requirement document in Chinese and type at a pretty rapid speed.  Of course, Google Translate and Pera-perakun were indispensible.

2. Financial accounting

Prior to Techsailor, my knowledge of financial accounting is probably equivalent to my understanding of Latin – the figures look familiar yet I can’t make heads nor tails out of it. Fast forward 3 years, I can now have a proper conversation with our accountant on depreciation, accruals, journal entries and other terms that were Latin in the previous incarnation. Heck, at least my understanding of “Credit” and “Debit” is no longer confined to the plastic cards that sits in my wallet.

3. Effective meetings

It’s amazing how with proper focus, a 2 hour meeting can be condensed to 45 mins. Of course, shutting people up from crapping, pull them back when they lose focus is part of the inglorious necessities, but hey, at least I get my coffee break!

4. Prioritizing

To most people, prioritizing is like keeping fit. Everyone knows it is good for health, but few bother practicing. Todo lists are good, but priority list gives you focus. Do yourself a favor. When you start the day, don’t only list out the todos – attach a priority number to it. It only takes 10 minutes max. Trust me, it’s worth your 10 minutes. It took me 3 years to realize that.

5.  Better time estimation

If prioritizing is number one for effective time management, then effective time estimation is probably number two. Once you get comfortable with a priority list, start attaching an estimated time to complete for each to do. The time estimation gives me a feasibility check on how much I can complete in a day. The moment the total duration exceeds 10 hours, I know I am kidding myself unless I am on 5 cups of coffee that day.

6. Becoming more comfortable speaking on stage

Public speaking was never my cup of tea. I never thought I had the charisma to pull it off. But after rounds and round of presenting to prospective investors who were looking at every opportunity to tear you apart, I find myself actually having fun on stage whenever I am doing a non-investment presentation. In fact, I think I am getting pretty good at it. Just need to kick away all the sentence fillers and I am well on my way to becoming a good public speaker.

7. Information architecture

Over the years, I noticed that I kind of get pretty good at doing slide presentations. But the interesting thing is, it wasn’t my ability to create presentation slides that improved. On the contrary, my slide count went down, layouts got simpler, they had less fanciful animations. I believe what got better was the way i organized information. They are more consistent and thematic, so they can communicate more with less. A simple concise slide takes longer to prepare than a congested one. I got our previous Managing Director Junde to thank for this book recommendation.

8. Saying ‘no’ to clients

Not all clients are equal. Some really think like partners. Others just want to take you for a ride. But this was really tough. It wasn’t easy turning down clients even though they were dragging payments, making unreasonable demands, or want us to do something that is simply outside out field of work. But standing firm to your principles is probably what makes many companies great. It took me 3 years to say my first ‘no’. The rest… is history

9. Knowing what I want in life

When you spend 10-16 hours a day working for 3 years, you would probably wake up every morning and ask if this is something you really wanted in life. If you are not sure, may I suggest you do up a life list – basically listing out what you really want to do during your short stint on earth. If you are in need of inspiration, do check out our Creative Director, Ling’s excellent life list. Inspiration will probably follow soon.

10. Ability to smell farce

We have all met someone like this along the way – the dude with a (self-proclaimed) illustrious list of past achievements, the guy who claims his connections ranges from high-flying CEOs to royalties or the “humble” scholar who admitted he got his PhD while boozing 4 days a week. Well, to be fair, most of the time, these people are genuinely OK to hang out with, just that they exaggerated their achievements in the spur of enthusiasm (or they could be just plain delusional). But when they try pass off their exaggeration as credibility to doing business, that’s when my farce antennas go up.

Over the years, we seemed to have picked up an uncanny ability to smell bullsh*t. We even got specialized terms for these people and we learnt to laugh it off. Now, if only we can isolate these people off business, they would give our stand-up comedians a serious run for their money 😉

Our deepest fear

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking,
so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine as children do.
It’s not just in some of us; it is in everyone.
And as we let our own lights shine,
we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear,
our presence automatically liberates others.

– Quote from Coach Carter (movie), adapted from Marianne Williamson’s A Return to Love

If your church buddies don’t understand what you do…. rejoice!

I chanced upon this interesting article:

“Now here’s a litmus test that will tell you if you’re in the right kind of business.” We were standing in the lobby of his church and someone was playing music in another room somewhere.

I said, “If you walk in that room and give one of your church buddies the elevator speech for your business, and they immediately understand it… you’re in the wrong business. If you’re starting a solo online biz, the only way you have a chance is if it’s a niche within a niche.

“If you tell them, ‘My business sells RS232 interfaces for computers made between 1995 and 2000 and we enable software communication with Unix blah blah blah’ they’ll have no idea what you just said. That’s probably a good niche.

“Or if you tell them, ‘I do property tax negotiations for landlords who’ve failed to file form GL632 and are in violation of the Underhill Act of 1964’ their eyes will glaze over because they don’t get it. That’s probably also good business to be in.

“You want to choose some teeny tiny hill and be the #1 king of that hill in the whole world.”

Now I really had a good laugh cause for the longest time, nobody in my church really understood what I was doing when I say “online customer engagement”, “customer communities” and “social media marketing(!!)”  (not that it’s anything new –  having “computational biology” as a college major gave me a fair share of glazed looks).

While I agree that niche markets are the way for businesses to win (don’t forget even Facebook started from just targeting ivy league colleges),  I would put a caveat to this though. It’s one thing to have  niche no one really know exists but it’s another thing NOT being able to explain what you do in terms simple enough for a 12th-grader to understand – especially when you’re trying to raise money for investment! The ability to simplify your business in words is an art that all business development, sales and marketers should master, no matter how complicated your business model may be.

But otherwise, I would take it as a compliment the next time a church member doesn’t understand what I really do.

Article source: perrymarshal.com

How to be AA – Presenting to Attract Attention

A simple presentation I did on creating contents that is attention grabbing and stick for the FCBC Youthnet 144 Re-encounter retreat. Please note that some of the slide transitions may not show on Slideshare. The only way would be to download the original .pptx file (download option only available for Slideshare members. Sign up free)

See you later, never goodbye

In my younger days, whenever I attended a camp with some new people, a home street address was probably the only means of staying in contact. When we shook hands and say goodbye, there’s this real conviction that you might really never see the person again.

Thankfully, things have changed since then. Working in different countries, I meet new people all the time and whenever the time is up, there’s no hint of when I would ever bump into them. Except that I no longer prefer “goodbye” to bid farewell; “see you later” is a more apt choice.

Online tools makes it easier and easier for us to stay connected. If you have read the previous post, the continuation of the story was that Shamir (my ex-housemate), met up with Pearl (our ex-neighbour in Philadelphia who relocated to Singapore) for dinner. If Pearl finding me on LinkedIn wasn’t serendipitous enough, discovering that Shamir’s workplace was  just diagonally across Pearl’s building added more the the list of bizarre coincidences.

My point is, with the new digital age, we never really have to say goodbye. If a relationship is valuable, there’s definitely opportunity to reconnect – somehow. After all, as with all good friends, you know it’s a matter of time before you say “Hello” again.


Social networks and “chance encounters”

I am sure you have heard those stories of how people were so close yet so far, romantic stories of how guy and girl meet each other in the streets, longing to see each other again but didn’t know they were actually staying in the same apartment block. Stories of how long-lost friends never realizing that they were working in the same office block, always missing each other by mere seconds….

Surely with the invention of Facebook or something closer to home like Wholivesnearyou.com would have killed  stories of serendipity like that. Well, I guess i was wrong. Recently, I received a message on LinkedIn from my ex-neighbour in Philadelphia. Truth be told, LinkedIn was the last place on earth I would expect to be contacted by a long-lost friend.

What’s even more interesting is, she has relocated to Singapore and has been working here for the past 8 months! She found me because one of my ex-housemates added her on LinkedIn. Sure, Singapore is a considerably small country, but had my (ex)-neighbor not found me on LinkedIn, it’s still highly possible that I may never bump into her by chance for the next 30 years.

Online social networking has really changed the way to trace back old friends, often in pretty dramatic ways. Guess that’s why we’re still in business 🙂

turn left turn right movie
anyone finds this movie familiar?

Rethinking Christmas

What is Christmas all about? Gifts, queues, shopping and more queues?

I was briefly sharing with my colleagues on Techsailor Tuesday on how most of the current Christmas “traditions” actually originate from pagan roots.

As I was wondering how to wrap up the sobering presentation on why then does Christmas matter, I chanced upon this excellent clip

Indeed, Christmas is about giving and sharing, just like how Christ did. That’s the spirit of Christmas.

P.S: do also check out the cool sequels.

Techsailor in the Straits Times

Techsailor was privileged to be featured in the most-read newspaper in Singapore. Strangely, I was one of the last few to read the article as I was in KL. Smses started pouring in. Thanks guys for all the well wishes 🙂

To be honest, the one in the limelight should have been Rex, the founder of the company. It just so happened that he’s away in our Guangzhou office during the time of the interview so I had to stand in.

Here’s to the real heroes of the Techsailor management team – Rex, Leon, An & Ling. This would not have been possible without you.

If you’re unable to see the article above, you may read the online version at AsiaOne.