In this special collaboration series with Workato, we talk to parents to find out how they create work- life integration and balance their career ambitions with family aspirations.
In this episode, I speak with Steven, Senior Manager of Business Technology Operations at Workato. Steven is father to three children, ages four, nine, and 13.
Steven shares the importance of coordinating with his wife to come up with routines to manage their work and home duties. He also discussed how Workato offered learning opportunities and technological support to adapt to post-pandemic ways of working.
To get in touch with Steven Hoon, find him on LinkedIn:
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.
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!
[0:45] Introducing the guest, Steven Hoon
[1:18] Explaining his work to his kids
[2:48] Time-blocking culture and growth mindset with Workato
[5:04] Balancing parenting and working life
[6:51] Adjusting to the COVID work from home setup
[8:26] Managing kids’ screen time
[10:13] Enjoying the challenge of balancing routines
[13:30] Integrating with the Workato team
[16:21] Dealing with his biggest problem as a working dad
[17:23] Valuing negotiation at a young age
[19:04] Practicing patience to kids
[20:35] Connect with Steven Hoon
[Qin En 0:00]
Hi, I am Qin En. And this is the Parents in Tech podcast.
This is a special collaboration series with Workato, the leading enterprise automation platform. I speak to parents at Workato to find out how they create work, life integration and balance their career ambitions with family aspirations.
In this episode, I speak with Steven, Senior Manager of Business Technology Operations at Workato. Steven is father to three children, ages four, nine, and 13.
Hey, Steven, welcome to the Parents in Tech show. Really excited to have you on today and to begin with, can you tell us a bit more about your family?
Okay. I have a family of five, including myself. My wife is five years younger than me. I have three kids, right? So they are currently 13, nine and four years old. Boy, boy, girl.
[Qin En 1:08]
Wonderful, nice. That gap is kind of almost an even gap. So that's cool. All right, Steven, I'm gonna ask you, how do you explain what you do at Workato to your children?
Oh, so recently my elder son had also asked me the same thing that, what do you actually do at work? So, yes. Well basically Workato is an integration platform, right? Of all the apps. Well, because they are used to all the apps that they have. Now, we are the integration platform that we link all the apps together to enable the apps, to talk to each other, to transfer data from one to another. So I give him the example of having, because he plays a lot of games.
So I say, you know, imagine you have one account that you can play or transfer your accessories from one account to another account, right? Something like, I think Roblox, they are bringing this game called Roblox. So he can get it. Then he starts to ask, ``What about you? What do you do? So I say, oh, well, I work internally.
Right? I enable the developers, the people on this in the company to do their best, to able to, because I work as a traditionally, it's called IT Manager. But over here we call it Business Technology Operations. So I enable the employees, my colleagues to do their best in the work. Right.
They don't really worry about the lights not functioning. They don't have to worry about their MacBook being down. So that they can do the best.
[Qin En 2:34]
Wonderful. So I'm curious also about the scope of your support. Do you support the locals? Do you support folks across multiple time zones? And if so, how's managing that like?
So this is a global position.
[Qin En 2:47]
When I first joined Workato, we are like [a] hundred plus employees. That is almost, uh, four years ago. And right now we are almost 1000.
[Qin En 2:58]
So at that time it is the time zone is just [the] US and Singapore, right? So it's easier to manage. And as we scale, as we grow, we have to support everyone globally. So if you ask me [about the] time zone, it's almost all the time. But what happens when you work in a global organization, right? There's no, eight to five, your eight to five, if there is something else. So we have to adapt to the situation. And also we, for myself, we use Google Calendar and we book up time that we [are] busy with [on] our own like sleeping time, eating time or family time.
And everyone is, uh, pretty respectful of, uh, the calendaring time. If you break out [a] certain time, they will not force themselves into it. And that's something that I encourage everyone to do. Observe the calendar and for [the] calendar. And my colleagues have broken out [of] their gym time as well during normal working hours. Because this is how we balance our life.
[Qin En 3:59]
Got it. So if I were to look at your calendar, what would I see? What do your blocked out times look like? And what do you do during those blocked out times?
Well, my blockout time is sleeping. Okay. When I sleep around midnight to six, that's how much I sleep.
[Qin En 4:13]
That's not a lot of sleep.
I'm used to having five hours of sleep every day for, for last year.
[Qin En 4:19]
Because I have three kids.
[Qin En 4:22]
Once you have kids, [you] can say goodbye to an eight hour, and I always joke the only time that I can have eight hours of sleep is when I going overseas, when I go to US for one, one or two months, that's when I can really have eight hours of sleep, which is very good.
So my blockout time is sleeping time, eating time and family time. So family time typically is in afternoons.
[Qin En 4:47]
The moment they come in from school, you have to hound them for homework. Like make them sit down, to have a meal, talk to them, learn about their, their life at school and also dinner time. So my busiest time is when I'm with my family. That's when I, I got work, actually.
[Qin En 5:04]
Got it. I like the part where you're so involved in your day to day life. So in terms of parenting, responsibilities and workload, tell me a bit more about the division between, uh, your wife and yourself.
So my wife's work in the banking industry is hectic and busy. So whenever she's at work, right, she is like a hundred percent have to focus because of numbers. One additional zero means bad things. So whenever she's at work, especially during COVID time, when both of us are working from home. So imagine when she's at work, I have to be semi working and semi not working. Especially when she's on a call or stuff like that. Attend the kids. And the good thing is during her off working hours, she can fully focus on being with the family. Whereas for me, it's on and off, because of our communication. Sometimes I have a message around, I have at 10, a few minutes or few seconds I can turn [it] on and off, but for her, she is focused.
So you can imagine typically when we work from home, whenever she's on a 30 minute slot working time, I can work, but if I need to attend [to] my kids, I have to, I'll be the one to, to stop entering my case. But when she's off work, I can work. So at home we have only one 27-inch monitor. It's reserved for her to use.
I can only use it when she's not working. So whenever she's not working, I'll block my laptop to have another screen. So this works for us, I mean, we, we don't have to be on both at the same time. So, so this [is] how we balance all how we have been balancing our, our work and at the same time, still be looking at their kids.
[Qin En 6:42]
Got it. And, and so I I'm sure the past two years, especially with COVID them being at home a lot more you working at home was challenging. So perhaps what was one or two things that you did that you found, like basically, how do you get them into the routine? How did you manage this situation? One or two lessons that you learned from this work from home study, at home experience as a whole family?
So for myself working in Workato, we, we started this work from home culture before COVID we are a global company. There's no, we don't have to be in the office all the time. So this culture work from home is not a big surprise or it is not a culture shock for us, which is good. Whereas, uh, I have other friends when they work from home, they, they feel that it's not possible. It's hard to manage. So luckily for myself, it is like nothing unusual. Okay, versus when I see my wife working in the banking industry, that there is like office work. When they have to convert into work from home, there is a big change for her, right?
Things don't work. The machines don't work and stuff like that, but they have to adapt all the , their IT Department have to adapt very fast. Okay. So that is, I mean, for myself, I'm lucky, you know, in Workato we adapt this work for work culture early. So for my kids as well, especially in Singapore, when the government has to implement this HBL home based learning right.
It's a big headache. So thank, thank God I have some iPad and YouTube for them. So yes, a lot of people say YouTube is bad, you know, but it brings sanity to a parent's life. I'm not encouraging it, but it is essential.
[Qin En 8:26]
Okay. So with that, I've gotta double click, especially maybe for your younger one, at four years. So how do you manage the relationship with screen time and technology? Because it's almost like a double edged sword, right? There are times, like you mentioned, where you just need it, just so that you can get about with life and do other things, but it also can be an addiction very quickly. Would love to hear your approach towards that, especially for your, youngest one.
So kids actually, they're attention seekers. They need attention. Okay. If you cannot give them attention, they will fall back onto electronic devices. So as much as possible during that time, I broke up time to play with her. She, she likes to play with ribbons and clips. Now the good thing about girls is they like to do all these things. New Polish. So I sacrificed my fingernails. Letting her paint my nails. Letting her use a ribbon to tie my hair, but it is good. Right? It's like almost like therapy. I just lie down there, not moving and she can do whatever she wants onto my nails and hair. But it's only like, for 15 minutes, 30 minutes.
Then I have to switch to another toy for her. That is how I bond with her or she bonds with us then of course, because I got, again, three kids [who] have to switch attention from one another. My two older ones are sons, so they don't play with girl stuff. So there's always a separation between them. We, we do our best to let them play together, but sometimes it doesn't work that way.
So we take those time. I play with the kid for a while for 30 minutes, then I have to do my work. Then my wife takes some break and play with them.
[Qin En 10:00]
Yeah, so I think the question I have, Steven, it sounds like, yeah, there's a lot of code switching for you, especially, let's say in the middle of the day afternoon, taking time off your kids, then getting back to work and then perhaps going back and forth a few more times. Do you face any challenges with that? Like I know there are some people who would like to keep things almost clean and simple, right? Like nine to five, just work. And then after five, no work family, clearly that doesn't work for you. But I'm curious as to do, was that a challenge or was, is that something you actually enjoy having these I would say different breakups.
I enjoy that. I enjoy that. Maybe. Because in the IT industry, we have to multitask all the time. Right, we have to compartmentalize, I call it compartmentalizing. Whenever I'm doing something. I compartmentalize it, you know, switching from one mode to another mode. So lucky for me, I don't have that problem.
And also I don't have that luxury to [say],, Oh this is my working hour, one hour, no.. Doesn't work that way. Especially in a family with three kids. How can that be?
[Qin En 10:58]
Got it. So in terms of, you know, also drawing those boundaries and making sure you set aside that time, were there any challenges with that where at times when let's say in the afternoon, there are urgent things to settle because, or like you mentioned your roads, there's, there's quite a lot of there often fires to put out. How do you kind of try to protect that time? How do you work with your team members to make sure that you are able to take that time off? No matter what happens.
Well, whenever this urgent critical item that I, we need to address, if my wife is not able to help, right there is iPad time. iPad time. You put [it] over there. They'll, they'll not move. They'll sit out there. They'll be safe. You'll not move for minutes. So we try to restrict that to at any point of time is 30 minutes then have rest, right? So, so during this 30 minutes of breeze, we have to quickly, or I have to quickly do what I need to do to come up with a presentation slide, to, to address a problem.
So this is a 30 minute block that is essential and very valuable for us to solve our problem that we have.
[Qin En 12:02]
Got it. And, and if I'm doing my math correctly, Steven, you joined Workato about four years ago, which is also, I guess, when you welcome your daughter into the world, like tell me, where were you in your stage of family life as a parent when you joined Workato?
So when I joined Workato, my daughter was born in February 2018. Okay. I, I joined in October 2018.
[Qin En 12:25]
Okay. Got it.
So, so this story, at that time, I was unemployed. I was a grab driver. I Grab, Uber driver, doing some things here and there. Right then after the birth of my daughter, my wife started to tell me, Hey, look right, having an unstable salary is not booking up. So we'll find a job. It's not that I didn't want to find a job at that time, I'm thinking of what I should do. So I have eight years of IT experience, eight years of business analysis, analyze, analyst experience. So I was thinking, should I go into business management or should I go into IT?
And I decided to go back into IT because of my love for technology, and I started to look into cloud technology and that's where I come. I stumbled across Workato as an integration platform. And it resonated with me because I used to do integration early in my first two years of work. So I joined Workato at that time, my son is nine years old, four years old and less than one years old.
[Qin En 13:24]
The pushing factor is to have [a] salary, monthly salary.
[Qin En 13:30]
Makes sense. But I think one part that he probably gave up is also that flexibility. So when you joined, did you feel like there were any challenges or, or what was the process [of] getting integrated with [the] Workato team?
So Workato is a young company at that time, right? And especially in the Singapore office, all my colleagues, they are twenties. They're talking about [a] beach house, boy-girl relationship where I'm a father with kids. They're talking about getting HDB . So these are interesting talks that I have with my colleagues.
And also I'm able to share my past experience with them. And they also shared the new jargons. And one of the, the first challenges that I have since, uh, joining Workato is how to use a Membook . So I come from a windows environment, uh, using Membooks is totally different. The track bears using fingering methods, two finger, three finger methods and all swiping here and there.
My, the first question that I ask is who, who is the mouse? So, so my colleagues laugh and say we don't use mouse, mouse in with Membooks. So I took me a while, like two weeks to learn how to use a Membook. Luckily I have, uh, patient colleagues, they're able to teach this old man how to use a Membook properly and never went back.
So if you ask me, so do you prefer Windows or Membook. The answer is Membook.
[Qin En 14:52]
Got it. Okay. So it sounds like part of the journey of course, is a steep learning curve. Right? The question I have for you, Steven, is how do you think about keeping up with all the changes that's happening, all the developments while being a dad to three kids while continuing to do your day to day work at Workato itself, do you find that keeping up with things, staying up to things is a challenge and how, what, where are your information sources?
The good thing is I have, uh, knowledgeable colleagues. So I tap on their knowledge and experience. Don't feel shy, asking questions, having a crowdsource though, like crowdsource synergy, right, with crowdsource information with crowdsource queries. And you'll be surprised at how fast we can learn from each other.
This person can, can learn a little bit here, a little bit there. Then we can pull our resources together and, and come up with a solution. Okay. So, so that is what I've been doing, you know, crowdsourcing, my even contributing, contributing, whatever, you know, just contributing to feel shy. So the culture in, in, in the team, this very open culture, we talk about everything and anything, and we learn so fast. And how I keep up also is my love for technology as well. So doing something that you love will make things easy, right? We, we don't have [to] forcing ourselves to wake up every day, 5:00 AM just to start working right. Or force myself to, to do certain things. So this helps in driving me for work.
[Qin En 16:21]
Got it. That's wonderful. Now, maybe thinking back as the past 13 years of being a father in tech, a dad in tech, what would you say is one of the biggest challenges that dads in tech face.
Biggest challenge as a dad is time management, right? So if you're single, your life is real. You can focus eight hours working nonstop, but once you are a parent, right, you have to compartmentalize your life. You have to segregate your life. You, you don't bring problems back to your family. You have to, to, I keep on using the word compartmentalize. So that is the challenge. Also, multitasking is also important. That's the biggest challenge.
[Qin En 17:05 ]
If you're able to do that, I think, you know, anyone can succeed.
[Qin En 17:09]
Yes, definitely. And this is a fun question I like to ask. Let's say that you can write a book for your children, just share all your experiences or whatever you wanna say to them. What would be in that book?
So I would say two things, is knowing what you want early. So I will tell my kid, please know what you want early. And negotiate the shit out of it because negotiation skill is very important in life. Negotiate anything if [you want] to negotiate anything and everything.
So you come out both as a winner and negotiation should not be a, they should not be a loser at any point of time. Both sides need to be winners, then you'll be the good stuff.
[Qin En 17:54]
Okay. I sense that passion at the fire, which is amazing. Maybe tell me what was one of the stories when you had to negotiate and you felt like you walked away with an even outcome.
Okay. Other than salary, other than salary, getting this job, right? Initially I also didn't think [about] whether I could make it. Because it is a new industry. It is. Top technology is very new, four years ago, it was very new. So I have to kind of like convince myself and also convince my hiring manager, right. Why I am suited for this job. And also I negotiated with myself. So sometimes negotiation is not just with, you have to be with, with, uh, yourself. What is the whole thing that can happen? Right? I should do my best, give my best in this position. At least I don't walk away regretful. Like regretting thinking, oh, I should have done this or should have done that. So I've negotiated with myself that I give my best. And the worst thing that can happen is I'll look for another job.
[Qin En 18:54]
Got it. Well, I think that's good, but clearly that has worked well for you. The need to look for another job hasn't arrived. And I think that's Testament to, to that resilience and grit that you have.
Such an enjoyable conversation today, Steven, and you shared so many nuggets of wisdom, but if I might push you to just share one last lesson you have learned as a parent in tech, what would that be?
Oh, Be patient.
[Qin En 19:18]
Okay. Tell, tell us more.
Be patient with kids. They will definitely make a long mistake and they'll get on your nerves every time. Especially when they're at this age. Like my elder son 13, he gets on my nerves every day. The moment he comes home, he'll be playing on his phone. Then I'll start to yell at him and he'll start to yell. It is a holiday, you know, I, I have my rights. Right to play so I have to be patient, have to hold myself back, take one step back and understand where they're coming from. Right? Why are these things, things that they are, you know, they're saying things, and as long as we are being patient with them, you woke. No hook out fine. And they'll start to regret [it] there.
Certain things that they say and learn from a mistake. So be patient with the kids. Because the moment you lose patience, they will learn from you as well to be impatient which is, uh, not good in life.
[Qin En 20:17]
True. True. They learn the best by seeing how we act, not just how we say.
[Qin En 20:22]
That's a good way to do it. Well, Steven, thank you so much for joining us today on the Parents in Tech show, such a joy speaking with you and really appreciating your candid sharing. If some of our audience would like to connect with you, how can they best do so?
I have a LinkedIn profile. We are [a] startup company or technology company. We use LinkedIn. You can contact me through my link with Steven Hoon. There's not much Steven Hoon in the world. There's only one in Singapore.
[Qin En 20:48]
So, wonderful. We will include your LinkedIn provider show notes. Once again, such a joy speaking with you today, Steven. Thank you for joining us.
Okay. Thank you.
[Qin En 21:01]
Thanks for listening to the Parents In Tech podcast. With me, your host, Qin En. We hope you were inspired 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. See you next time.