Want to be a millionaire? Do sai kang.

I thought that I would be freer now that I am done with my Web Development Immersive (WDI) course. Boy oh boy how wrong am I. My team and I are still continuing to work on our final project. Cos that’s for an actual client who’s a social enterprise. And we think it’s quite a meaningful project. And have also been working on a number of freelance projects on the side. So pretty much still busy as a bee.

Speaking of bees, I was at a Young NTUC event that was held at the honestbee’s office a few weeks ago. The event talked about the disruption and opportunities that technological change will bring to Singapore.


Desmond Choo talking about disruption and new opportunities. Image from Young NTUC

Desmond Choo, who is the director of NTUC’s Youth Development Unit, told the participants that the pace of technological change and disruption is increasing. The pace of change is no longer incremental, but exponential.

What sort of disruption will such technological change bring? Desmond used the example of public buses. In the past, it required three people to operate the bus: the driver, the person to collect the money and the bus inspectors. The along came technology and we no longer need the person to collect money. And with technology, we also don’t need as many bus inspectors.

So with technology, the number of jobs that comes with operating a bus has dropped by close to one-third. But the job of the bus driver is safe, right? Wrong. Very soon, we could well have driverless buses plying the roads.

Does this mean the end of jobs? Not necessarily. Desmond pointed out that as jobs are destroyed by technology, technology also creates new jobs. For instance, a survey by the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA), some 53,000 jobs will be created within the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector over the next three years.

The challenge is how to help those whose jobs have been affected by technology transition to the new jobs that have been created. Desmond told the participants that that is a challenge that NTUC and IDA are working closely on to overcome.

And the two organisations sure have their work cut out for them. Before the whole event started, a few of us had the chance to speak with two of the three founders of honestbee. Jonathan is the VP for engineering and Isaac is the VP for talent.

Isaac, VP of Talent, and Jonathan, VP of Engineering talking to Desmond. Photo from Young NTUC

Isaac, VP of Talent, and Jonathan, VP of Engineering talking to Desmond. Photo from Young NTUC

Isaac mentioned that as much as honestbee wants to expand their engineering team in Singapore, they have difficulty finding the right people. Not only must these people have the right skill sets, they need to also have the right cultural fit. This is especially important for a very young start-up (honestbee is only 13-months old).

So what’s the right cultural fit?

According to Isaac, they are looking for people who have the drive, take ownership, and is humble. While skills are important, it is more important that the person is able to learn and is curious. They must feel passionate for what the team is doing. They must willing to go through the emotional rollercoaster together with the team to build the company.

Expanding on the point about being humble, Jonathan related his own story of his internship in Silicon Valley. When he was there, he did fairly low level work (aka sai kang warrior). But that allowed him to interact with different people across different functions. This allowed him to learn about the different aspects of starting and running a business.

I think this is in stark contrast to the story of the intern who didn’t want to do “low-level” work. I am sure Jonathan’s willingness to do whatever work that’s assigned to him, coupled with his pro-activeness to make the most of any opportunities that goes his way, are the factors that allowed him to be the co-founder of a startup that already has US$15 million in Series A funding.

So. Folks. If you want to be a millionaire… or rather, the co-founder of a multi-million dollar startup, start by doing sai kang.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s