Allowing employees to meet their full potential at work by providing a healthy working environment where personal time is respected. The capabilities of women at work are acknowledged and nourished. In this special collaboration with Sleek, I talk to Pauline Sim about how she faces her adversaries at work and at home, how she handles her time, and how the work culture at Sleek enabled her to become a leader.
Pauline Sim worked in the banking industry for 18 years before becoming the head of the FinTech and Partnerships team in Sleek. She is a mother to two boys and a girl, ages thirteen, ten, and nine.
In this episode, she discusses the importance of providing employees with a healthy working environment and allowing them to divide their time between work and life outside work. She also talks about the quality of work they produce, giving the right working hours, and how women in the tech industry make an empathetic leader that encourages the whole team.
To get in touch with Pauline Sim, find on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/paulinesim/
Don’t forget to head over to www.parents.fm to stay up to date with new and previous episodes, join our community of parents in tech or drop me a line.
This podcast series was produced in collaboration with Sleek. Enjoy an immediate SGD $100 off or $500 HKD off any Sleek services with the promo code AF370570
Thanks for listening to the Parents in Tech podcast with me, your host, Qin En. We hope you were inspired on how to raise kids and build companies. To catch up on earlier episodes or stay updated with upcoming ones, head over to www. to join our community of parents in tech. There, you can also drop me a question, idea, feedback or suggestion. See you next time!
- [0:39] Welcoming our guest, Pauline
- [1:07] Pauline introduces herself
- [1:42] Her job prior to joining Sleek
- [2:24] The parenting challenges Pauline faced
- [5:02] How Pauline navigated said challenges
- [6:18] Pauline’s support system
- [7:24] On joining a startup company
- [4:53] Pauline’s considerations before joining Sleek
- [11:02] On leading the Women in FinTech subcommittee and her takeaways
- [15:25] On how Pauline helps her children navigate her children’s growth
- [17:11] About Pauline’s partnership with her husband
- [18:19] How parents in Sleek has supported each other
- [19:54] Pauline being a part of CSR programs
- [22:25] How Pauline manages her time
- [24:30] Pauline’s advice to Parents in Tech
[00:00:00] Qin En: Hi, I am Qin En and this is the Parents in Tech podcast.
[00:00:11] This month, we have a special collaboration series with Sleek, a one-stop-shop for entrepreneurs to start and grow their businesses in Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore and the UK. I speak to four parents in Sleek to find out how they create work-life integration and balance their career ambitions with family aspirations. In this episode, I speak to Pauline, Head of Fintech at Sleek. Pauline is a proud & sometimes bullied mum to 2 boys & 1 girl, aged 13, 10 and 9.
[00:00:39] Hey Pauline, welcome to the Parents in Tech show. Super excited to have you on today and to begin with, could you tell us a bit more about your family?
[00:00:47] Pauline: Yeah. Hi Qin En and, really excited to be here on your podcast. So I have a family of three. My kids are, I have one teenager, 13 years old, and the other two are 10 and nine years old. So [00:01:00] two boys and a girl. Yeah, and it's, it's a very interesting period of their growing up right now.
[00:01:07] Qin En: It is, it is. We'll jump right into that quickly, but, now that you have introduced your family, could you introduce yourself also on the work side of things?
[00:01:15] Pauline: Okay. So, I'm Pauline. I head up the FinTech and partnerships team in Sleek. And at Sleek, we help entrepreneurs to achieve their business ambitions by taking away the non or rather the essential, but, non exciting stuff like corp sec [corporate secretary], accounting, and with my team, it's also, neobank. So, we help companies to set up their business accounts, right after they incorporate their companies.
[00:01:39] And, so that's, that's, me in Sleek. Prior to joining Sleek, I was about, I would say 18 years, in the banking industry, in the bank. Also helping SMEs and, the five years, in the, the last five years in banking before Sleek. I was, actually, as the head of the FinLab, which is the innovation lab that UOB set up together [00:02:00] with IIPL - Infocomm Investments Private Limited.
[00:02:03] Yeah. So, so it's, it's been a super interesting journey from banking and then moving into FinTech, and now in the tech startup myself.
[00:02:13] Qin En: Wonderful. It's an incredible journey, but I gotta ask as a mom of three kids. Well, now that they're grown up, I assume that would be slightly easier, please correct me if I'm wrong. But tell me what was the journey like right? To be a mom of three kids and maybe take me back to when they were younger. What were some of the challenges you faced?
[00:02:32] Pauline: Oh yeah, definitely. Actually it's just a different kind of challenge that parents have to step up to at different stages of the kids' lives.
[00:02:40] So I remember when my kids were super young, I would basically be watching the clock and rushing home, you know, at the end of the day. Peak hour traffic and everything, just to be there as soon as possible to spend time with them, you know, cuddle them. And then they would, they would still be needing milk throughout the night.
[00:02:58] So I think in the [00:03:00] early years of my, of my banking. I mean, in the earliest of my motherhood journey, which coincided with my time in banking, I literally lived with like less than four hours of uninterrupted sleep. So I became very, very used to that. And me and my friends, we used to say like, you know, mothers really can, we don't need too much sleep.
[00:03:19] We are, we are so tuned to like sleeping three, four hours. And then we came up to feed the babies. And then after that we go back to sleep. So I think I really only had uninterrupted like six hours after, I dunno, like the wilderness years maybe. Maybe, I don't know. I can't even count because I had my kids in quite close succession.
[00:03:45] So after my first, there was a gap of three, three years. And then after that, my second and third came one year, one after another. So probably after five years or six years, then I could really sleep properly. Yeah.
[00:03:56] Qin En: Got it. Wow.
[00:03:58] Pauline: I'm very used to [00:04:00] optimizing myself in the day and then optimizing my sleep. So, yeah, so that was in the early days. And then, as they grew up, I think it was then the period of always falling sick, you know? Cause kids at a certain toddler age, fall sick quite regularly. And, we just have to cope with things like, bringing them to see the doctor and then, managing who is looking after them, at home.
[00:04:21] Qin En: Yeah.
[00:04:21] Pauline: And thankfully I have great support from my parents, in terms of child[ren] looking after the kids. And then now they're in a stage where they are finding their own identities, that's my teenage son. And then, you know, my, my second and third ones actually getting into the world of YouTube, yeah, YouTube and Roblox.
[00:04:39] So it's, it's also another challenge I would say. I don't think it gets easier to be frank .
[00:04:47] Qin En: Speaking the truth, speaking the truth. A lot to unpack over there, but maybe let me get back to the start where you said that, you know, you had to watch the clock rush off. And then, there's a lot of things, I guess, after work [00:05:00] that you just couldn't be present for.
[00:05:02] How did you manage that? Right? Because there's almost this sense of, that's also probably when you are trying to build up your career, you wanna prove yourself. Yeah. Was there any challenges, any stress around the fact that let's say 5:30, 6, o'clock on the dot you have to leave? And, and yeah, like it's hard for you to do any after work kind of socialization.
[00:05:21] Pauline: Mm. Yeah. So I think that I mean, I always don't think about the stress. Because during school, one of my teachers taught me that stress is perceived. So as I said, I don't perceive the stress, I don't have stress according to her. But so I don't really think about, you know, too much about it. I just feel like that's what I need to do.
[00:05:40] And, I just brought myself every step, step by step, without thinking too much. But I think there's always this overwhelming, mommy’s guilt. And unfortunately, I don't think it applies only to me, probably to every working mom out there. Right. You have this mommy’s guilt of not being able to be there for your [00:06:00] kids all the time.
[00:06:01] And then as you rush home, even every minute counts, even 10 minutes late, you will, you will feel like, oh, 10 minutes less with the kids. I think that's more of the feeling back then.
[00:06:12] Qin En: Yeah, true. That's so true. I think that's, that's that real guilt, that, that is around there. And maybe also talk me through that support system that you had.
[00:06:20] Right. I'm sure, you, it was very hard to do this alone. So what, what was your support system like? And how has that actually changed over the different phases as your children grow up?
[00:06:31] Pauline: Yeah, so I'm very, very blessed to have my parents who are very energetic, looking after my kids. But I think in society you still have certain perceived roles.
[00:06:42] There is a certain perceived role of a mom, which is the cause of the mommy’s guilt. So no matter how great support you have personally and individually, you know, you, you always wanna rise up to a certain level of giving in the family. Which at this stage of my life, I feel like some of it is unfair,[00:07:00] and not called for, but, I think maybe I can share later, but at this stage, yeah.
[00:07:05] I mean, I'm just very blessed to have such great support, you know, from my parents who are willing and able to look after my kids, while we are at work. Yeah.
[00:07:16] Qin En: Yeah. I think that's super important, right? Having the help and support from the family so that when you're at work, you are able to focus.
[00:07:24] Okay. Let's dial a bit, back to also where you are currently in your role. Right? So as you moved away from the banking, kind of sector, even FinTech to join a startup, what were some of the considerations for that move?
[00:07:39] Pauline: So interestingly I was coming to, what probably people are calling the midpoint of your career. Also called middle age... so I, I never call it a crisis. I always think it's the middle age fire. Because it's that part of the journey in your career that brings you to think about how far you have come [00:08:00] and how you want to end the race. So somebody ever told me that, okay, you know, how do you want to finish your marathon?
[00:08:06] Consider this point and make the most of it, at this stage of your marathon, if you wanna make a move. So that's when I really thought about what I want, my experience in FinLab kind of showed me that I really love working with the agile team, you know, building a team. And, kind of like trying to achieve goals that we have not done before, stuff that we have not done before.
[00:08:31] So I realized that one of the key things that I really enjoy was building. So when the opportunity came along in Sleek, you know, in the form of building the FinTech business, I felt like it was in line with how I would like to move in my career for the second half. At least the direction is where I went, which is why I made this bold and unusual move, I would say.
[00:08:53] Qin En: That's wonderful. And, as you joined a place like Sleek, I'm sure a big part of your [00:09:00] considerations was what would culture be like? Are there other parent employees, or is it mostly, non-parents? Talk to me about some of those considerations you had.
[00:09:09] And also what you felt after you, now that you have joined the firm, how would you describe the culture? I would say specific to, to parents.
[00:09:17] Pauline: Yeah, I think, yeah, definitely culture is one of the largest considerations. And also I, I ask anybody that wants to join from a bank, you know, coming to a FinTech company, the same things right.
[00:09:29] So, I was just not sure how the pace would be, and also how things are being done. And I think, when I joined, it is validated that the pace is very fast. It's very intense, things that need to happen or can happen by the next day. Should happen by the next day, it shouldn't be taking one week.
[00:09:51] So, that's the level of intensity and agility that we have. And in terms of decision making it is also very fast, very often [00:10:00] because of how flat we are, you know, the decision lies with just a, maybe 2 persons, or 3 persons, right. And therefore we can move quickly. I would say that some people, I mean, some misconceptions are like, oh, tech startups work very late.
[00:10:16] But to be honest, I haven't really come across a tech startup that's working like 18 hours a day or, or something like that. Right. I mean, in Sleek, we are actually very balanced. So, when we work, it's very intense. But off work, we try not to bother one another. And, and I think it's a certain respect for the personal time that each of us have.
[00:10:37] So that's something I've come to appreciate in Sleek, and you know, it's not how much time you spend it's really about the output that you produce during the hours that you are supposed to be working. Yeah. That's the culture bit, I would say.
[00:11:02] Yeah, exactly. Show face. Got it. Got it. Okay. Okay. That's wonderful. And also Pauline, I notice also outside of work, you're quite actively engaged, right? So for example, in the Singapore Fintech Association, you are also leading a team over there. Tell me a bit more about the involvement in that.
[00:11:20] Pauline: Okay. That was an interesting one because I was in the first elected Exco of Singapore Fintech Association a couple of years back. And, and then, because I think there were just two women in the whole Exco. So, either me or my fellow Exco member, to lead the women in FinTech subcommittee.
[00:11:39] So I led the women in FinTech subcommittee. I must say back then, it was actually a genre that was relatively new to me. And I actually took time to understand what it means to stand for women, in the working world. And I would, I would say over the years, I came to see some of the nuances and some of [00:12:00] the, the challenges that women in leadership positions face.
[00:12:03] And, and right now I'm a strong advocate for women to step up to leadership and for, for support for these women, to be better understood. And, also to be better accepted, I would say. Yeah.
[00:12:17] Qin En: Wonderful. So what does it mean for women to be supported and to step up? What was your takeaways?
[00:12:24] Pauline: Yeah, I talked about the traditional roles that, you know, generally society expects, right? I mean.
[00:12:29] Qin En: Yes.
[00:12:30] Pauline: And you need to be, to support your family well, and at work. You know, whatever roles you are in, you are supposed to also of course deliver as a, I mean, as a person working and having responsibilities, everybody wants to deliver, but I think the balance, it's very much, overweight for our women to have to, you know, balance all these roles.
[00:12:53] Qin En: Yeah.
[00:12:54] Pauline: And it's, it's actually quite uneven, between the men and the women, in terms of their roles at home. So I think [00:13:00] men also have it hard to be fair because it's a very different kind of expectation. And I don't think it has to be that way. But so far society still is instilling these kinds of messages. You can see in the children's books.
[00:13:12] Right? Oh, how do you know your mommy loves you? Oh, my mommy sews. My mommy cooks. My mommy bathes me. But does it really show love? I mean, what if I don't do all of this doesn't mean I don't love my kids, no right? So, I think there's something very wrong in terms of how we perceive parenting should be.
[00:13:30] And then for women at work, I think one of the challenges is more for women ourselves too, to believe that we can step up and we can do it. A lot of women do not even want to because they just feel like I'm supposed to be with my family. I'm supposed to prioritize my family and my kids. But there could be an opportunity for them to step up and they did not want to go there or push themselves there.
[00:13:53] Qin En: Yeah.
[00:13:53] Pauline: And that's one side. And on the other side, I think because of this, because the majority of the [00:14:00] leadership in many companies are men. So the men dominate what being a good leader means or what being a, you know, a great employee or great management person means. Right. But that's not correct.
[00:14:13] Right. Because men and women are different, and how we lead and how we show what we can do is different. I think women bring a certain emotional, I would say vulnerability and also a certain empathy, to the table. And actually that's something very valuable in today's working culture, right? I mean, with all the talk on, you know, quiet quitting, great resignation, everything.
[00:14:36] This empathy is actually very critical, but I think people are not realizing it, because we are still the minority. So our brand of leadership is not as appreciated. And sometimes, women leaders are often misunderstood to be weak or to be too emotional. Why do you probably, is that why you are so emotional?
[00:14:55] Like, why do you take it so personally? You are not being [00:15:00] objective. Actually, I don't think those are very objective statements in the first place, because the perception is largely dominated by men. So that's what I mean. I mean, that's just another aspect of, one of the challenges that we have to overcome.
[00:15:14] Qin En: Yeah. Definitely. I think it's incredible that you have gone through this before. And now you are finding the platform to benefit others also. Right? One thing I wanna also find out it's, helping your kids navigate the transition from childhood to adolescents, to teenagers.
[00:15:33] Maybe let's start off first with the challenges you face. And then let's talk about what are some things that you have learned you have tried and sort of worked.
[00:15:42] Pauline: You're talking about my teenager, right?
[00:15:44] Qin En: Yes, I am. I am.
[00:15:46] Pauline: Oh, I unfortunately don't have all the answers, but I'm actually learning still. Because he, he only, he abruptly became a teenager last late last year, and it was a shock to me.
[00:15:59] I had to [00:16:00] adjust, as well. And, right now I think it's just about me being there for him. Even if it's just alongside him. And, I have to really let go and let him do his thing. Let him discover, let him have his own voice. And not be too intrusive. So I try not to say like, "oh, you should". You know, I think it's better to be available for him at any time he wants to speak.
[00:16:25] And for him to feel comfortable telling me anything and everything, even if it's something that shocks my system, I need to just be there, because that's where the bond is built. And, I think it's a matter of you know, then holding out until he kind of, it's a bit more mature and trust me a little more.
[00:16:45] Yeah. But it is a hard line to balance because you also need to still enforce certain values and certain discipline, so that they will not go too astray. Yeah. So it's a it's.
[00:16:57] Qin En: Yeah. Makes sense.
[00:16:58] Pauline: It's a balancing act every day. There's [00:17:00] no like, 12 steps or three, you know, three, three tips kind of thing. You just have to assess that. Cause every kid is different. Yeah.
[00:17:08] Qin En: So now Pauline, now, coming back to the workplace, would love to hear in terms of, what are some of the, the ways right that you have interacted you’ve felt supported, or parents within Sleek have supported each other?
[00:17:20] I think that's something that I'm always curious about. Anything that surprised you since, since you joined or anything that you found quite enjoyable and pleasant.
[00:17:29] Pauline: Mm. Actually, I feel being a parent it's also invisible, it's like an unspoken thing, right? I mean, the moment, you know, somebody has kids, you, you kind of know that you have been through a similar journey.
[00:17:41] So, I would say that there is a certain understanding of one another. When we, when we, know who our. And, whenever there is a need to, to be engaged or committed, for the family, I think there is an understanding of what needs to be done. At the same time, I actually have one or two colleagues that [00:18:00] have, kids that have grown up.
[00:18:01] And I, I, am actually looking to learn. So, there is one of my colleagues, who's the Singapore country head. He has kids grown up, you know, and doing well. And I'm like, can you just tell me your secret? Because the tiger mom in me comes out like, Hey, I wanna know how to make my kids interested to study. So they were, you know, like focus and then they will do well in life.
[00:18:23] So there is that sharing that we have sometimes in casual meetups. Yeah.
[00:18:30] Qin En: That's so cool. That's so fun. I think that it's nice to have this kind of support community within the company. And that's something that, I think it's, it's super valuable for, for parents, right? Especially as you think about it. Now, Pauline, I also know that you take part in a few of the CSR programs.
[00:18:47] You do active volunteering. First, I wanna hear a bit more about that then I wanna hear how do you balance all of that, right? You are a mom, you are an executive, you are a leader [00:19:00] at the FinTech Association and of course you have your volunteering at CSR. So let's come to the first question, like tell us a bit more about what are some of the activities, experiences, and initiatives that you are involved in.
[00:19:11] I mean, for, I mean, Sleek does run the CSR activities. And, the last one was, where we were working with, I would say, I'm trying to put it in the correct way. I would say the, the, basically the disabled, and, and they needed help in terms of setting up or learning how to run that business.
[00:19:30] Pauline: So, so, my team and I volunteered for that. Because I think it is basically just doing what we can and giving back. There is this notion that, you know, whichever business you are in, your success is also partly, derived from the people that have used your services and the society, right?
[00:19:52] You wouldn't grow as a business unless people have taken your services. And now that we have grown, I think it's good to give back to [00:20:00] the people that help you to succeed as a company. So that's, that's, I think it's meaningful. And, the process of, you know, us putting together some slides shared with them.
[00:20:10] Okay, this is, these are the tools that you can use to create your marketing content, to post on social media. You know, these are the considerations when you decide how you want to price your product. So, me and my interns, actually, my interns did quite a lot of research and, you know, we put together the slides and then we shared with Rainbow Center and the participants. And we, and hopefully this will help not just the few families that we spoke to, but also, more families in time to come that go through that Center and wants to do a small business so that they can be self-sustaining. I mean, they can have an income for themselves and can look after themselves.
[00:20:47] So I think that's, that's, that's very meaningful. I mean, we are basically equipping them to fish. Yeah, yeah.
[00:20:54] Qin En: Yes. Yeah, I think that that's very powerful because it's not just about giving the one off help, but it's [00:21:00] also about figuring out what are ways to make this work, in the, in the long run.
[00:21:04] Okay. So now onto the next part, which is you have an incredible set of responsibilities and commitments and places where you devote yourself to. Tell me a bit more about how time management, energy management looks like for you.
[00:21:18] Pauline: Yeah. So I, people have asked me before, how do you manage? And, I, I simply don't manage, I don't really manage it.
[00:21:25] That's the truth. I mean, I think I'm blessed with having a lot of energy. I mean, so I think all of us, we, we, we have certain inherent strengths and, you know, certain gifts, right. And it is about discovering who you are and what motivates you, what makes you wake up, jump out a bit in the day and sleep at night.
[00:21:46] For me, you know, the things that I put myself to are the things that I do enjoy, because I don't believe in, you know spending, wasting time if it's not of meaning to you. [00:22:00] So, I found myself in certain things and places, and I derive meaning from those activities. And because there’s meaning, it's not a chore, it's not so difficult and I don't find myself having to manage it.
[00:22:13] But at the same time, I also recognize that I do have quite a lot of energy to give, so, so I'm happy to expand the energy this way. Yeah, but the downside of it could be an over extension of myself. So, I think, you know, as I age and as I grow older, I also wanna be a little more deliberate and focused in terms of where I put my time and energy and, you know, there was this story about the glass balls and the rubber balls.
[00:22:43] Right. I'm actually, you know, dropping some of them, or rather I'm actually converting some of what I think are glass balls into rubber balls, and letting them drop. If it breaks, it breaks. I mean, I think we have to kind of like focus and prioritize, you [00:23:00] know, as the days go, because time is precious and, and, you know, it's really about.
[00:23:04] Yeah, I'm making the most that's meaningful to you. Yeah. So I don't really have an absolutely model answer.
[00:23:11] Qin En: That's alright. That's that's the real, that's the realness of it, right? Thank you for being candid there.
[00:23:16] Pauline: Yeah, no. There's no secret there. Yeah.
[00:23:19] Qin En: Yeah. This has been a really interesting conversation, Pauline, to kind of wrap up our time today. If there's one piece of advice you would give parents in tech.
[00:23:27] Pauline: Mm-hmm.
[00:23:27] Qin En: What would it be?
[00:23:29] Pauline: Mm, I would say, see the journey, being in the tech ecosystem, as something that is also going to be helping you to grow as a parent. So it's actually quite synergistic because our kids are growing up in a, in the same space right. And whatever we are doing, creating, building in the tech space is gonna be the world that they're gonna inhabit. It is good. And actually it ties in, you are building a world for them, in a sense. And it's something that, because there's so much changes, you know, in the [00:24:00] industry every day, it's changing very fast.
[00:24:02] So we get to be part of that change and we get to witness what's coming - all the new technologies that's coming. You know, we are there and I think it helps us to also be able to link to our kids’ world. Well, the world that they're growing up in now, like all the YouTube-ing, all the, metaverse stuff that they're in.
[00:24:20] Right. So, so for me, I welcome it. I mean, I tried playing Roblox before. I wasn't good at it. But I just wanted to be part of that role. But actually, if you think about it, my role at work and that world is not too far apart. So, I see this as an interesting journey, and synergistic. Yeah. And that's how I'm embracing it. Yeah.
[00:24:41] Qin En: Wonderful. I love how involved, how hands on you are in this process.
[00:24:45] Pauline: I only played Roblox once, I gave up.
[00:24:48] Qin En: It's, that's better to me, I haven't ever tried. Cool. Well, Pauline, thank you so much for joining me today on this show.
[00:24:56] Pauline: It's my pleasure.
[00:25:01] Pauline: Ah, they can find me easily on LinkedIn. So, just search for Pauline Sim. Yeah. And, I'm happy to connect with the parents and support one another, share more stories.
[00:25:11] Qin En: Sounds good. Well, once again, thank you so much for taking time off and we'll see you around.
[00:25:16] Pauline: Thank you. Thanks again.
[00:25:21] Qin En: Thanks for listening to the Parents in Tech podcast with me, your hosts Qin En. We hope you were inspired on how to raise kids and build companies. To catch up on earlier episodes or stay updated with upcoming ones, head over to www.parents.fm to join our community of Parents in Tech. There, you can also drop me a question, idea, feedback or suggestion once again, the website it's www.parents.fm that's all for this episode, folks.