Having a newborn during quarantine, imposing a sleep training system for the kids and overcoming work slumps. In this episode on Parents in Tech, I speak with Yao Hong on parenting during quarantine.
Yao Hong Ch’ng is the Head of Engineering at January Capital. Previously, Yao Hong was one of the early employees at StashAway where he built the company’s flagship product from day zero. He managed product engineering launching in five different regions over four years and headed the business intelligence and data engineering efforts.
When asked about the one key lesson he learned as a parent in tech, Yao Hong Ch’ng emphasises the art of letting go, especially on the things we can’t control. There are no perfect parents in the world and not everything goes according to plan.
To get in touch with Yao Hong Ch’ng, find him on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/yaohongchng/
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!
[1:03] Introducing today’s guest, Yao Hong Ch’ng
[1:16] The struggles of travelling with kids
[7:15] Setting clear boundaries between work and personal life
[8:58] Preschool hunting
[12:19] Yao Hong’s parenting styles
[16:49] Having a sleep schedule
[21:00] If Yao Hong will write a book about his kids
[22:40] One thing he would’ve changed differently
[25:49] Connect with Yao Hong Ch’ng
Qin En 00:01
Hi, I am Qin En and this is the Parents in Tech Podcast.
Welcome to Season Two, where we interview dads who are technology company leaders based in Southeast Asia. After hearing from moms in Season One, now it's time to speak to dads who are raising kids while thriving in their careers. Let's find out the stories, challenges, and advice they have for us.
In this episode, we speak to Yao Hong, Head of Engineering in Data at January Capital. Previously, Yao Hong was one of the early employees at StashAway where he built the company’s flagship product since day zero. He managed product engineering launching in five different regions over four years and headed the business intelligence and data engineering efforts. Yao Hong is a father to a son, age 2.
Qin En 01:03
Hey, Yao Hong! Welcome to the Parents in Tech show. Thank you for joining us today. To begin with, can you tell us a bit more about your family?
Yao Hong 01:11
Hi. I have a two-year-old son. And then, yeah, my wife. So, three of us.
Qin En 1:16
Beautiful. And, just before we recorded this, you were sharing about how you guys, took a holiday to Melbourne. Tell me, was that your first trip since COVID, since you had your son?
Yao Hong 1:26
Yeah, so I mean it’s uh, the baby, right? At first we wanted, probably, Sentosa? Right? And, then, it’s the first time we were flying and right before they charge air tickets for children right before it. And then, I was pretty challenging for first-time travel, right? And, yeah, quite a lot of logistics: to plan for a lot of things, to pack a lot of… unknowns, I would say. So, I guess, I could use a little piece of advice.
Qin En 1:53
Absolutely! I’m actually going to Sydney this September with the very same mindset that you have in mind. Go before two years old because that’s when we need to get a [full] (inaudible) ticket for them.
Okay, so, let’s start step-by-step with the flight first. How was the flight with a two-year-old that, from what I hear, can’t sit still [and] likes to run around?
Yao Hong 2:10
Unfortunately, when we were flying there, he has a bit of a stomach issue and then we'd already packed extra diapers, but we almost ran out. So, that was like one diaper left, very stressed. And then he kept having issues like [stomach ache] (inaudible) and ended up having to run to the toilet. [I mean, that flight was seven hours.] It wasn't very pleasant, I would say.
But, we had to plan in some logistics line, only particular flight. We didn't go alone. We had in-laws and my mom traveling with us. So, we brought her and Diane to watch, just to help. So, we had to strategically [put] up the seat to make sure that we were always together, right? (inaudible) you can put together, right? And then, there’s the [booking], so you justsay you are booking for the two of you, and then, in the vesel you have to agree which one would have the role of trying to make sure that, hopefully, no one takes a seat beside you, that you can actually use it for the child.
And, we also brought a car seat, right? One of those like regulatory-approved [car seats] that you can put inside the plane, so it’s okay. Before I left, I asked my colleagues and friends who have traveled before, and then they just let them do whatever you let them do at home, right? Snacks, juice, TV…
Qin En 3:15
Everything to keep them occupied, right?
Yao Hong 3:18
Exactly. We had a lot of books and those activity books where you could actually interact with toys or so, like small toys which she kept dropping and…
Qin En 3:29
Okay. So, holiday without the little one and holiday with the little one, what were some of the big changes that you guys had to take into account when it came to holiday planning?
Yao Hong 3:43
I packed very light. I usually travel only (inaudible) for a week. I have a suitcase (inaudible) is a big one. We even lock of, uhm, some machine (inaudible). Yeah. And he had a diaper—oh diapers you don’t need [to] bring so many. (inaudible) some things you can buy, so that perishables, so that you can buy this, especially in Australia it’s cheap, right?(inaudible). So, no need to bring too many diapers. I said, don’t bring extra, but on my case, but here I am! (inaudible).
Qin En 4:08
Definitely, definitely. I'm sure it was a little stressful when you were going through the supplies on the flight.
Yao Hong 4:13
Right, yeah. And then, what else, we had extra clothes with us on the plane in case of accidents, which can happen, right? Poop and puke or whatever, so…
Qin En 4:24
What advice, other than packing all of those things, that you give to parents who are thinking about traveling with their little one? Okay.
Yao Hong 4:33
I mean, that's enough. We were (Inaudible) not sure whether she could take the food there so, nutrition-wise, I think when you’re on a holiday, it will just shut down, you won’t think so much (inaudible).
Qin En 4:46
Yeah. Just enjoy the time that you have over there.
Yao Hong 4:49
Qin En 4:50
So, I'm sure this break of the two plus years of no travel definitely must've been a great relief, but let's maybe dial back a bit to when your first son was born, right? And, that was during COVID. Just was curious to find out when you first became a dad, what was something that was more challenging than you expected?
Yao Hong 5:08
Well, I probably underestimate the amount of effort having someone young and you’re learning how to take care of.(inaudible)Like how, you’re looking at their (inaudible) face is being like a baby where before you would just say that “(inaudible quote)” obviously it's not true, as you all know. And then, planning and teaching. And then, COVID was a lot moredifficult considering the lockdown people couldn’t visit family. For family to come over, special arrangements had to be made. (inaudible) to be made. So, trying to balance this whole (inaudible) issue (inaudible).
Qin En 5:46
Yeah, yeah. So, I guess of all the things that you have to do as a parent to a newborn: changing diapers, cooking, feeding, cleaning. Which was the one that you enjoyed the least?
Yao Hong 5:58
Enjoyed the least… I guess the thing, I mean, waking up at midnight. But, I mean, we all went to arms on the bed (inaudible). We did not do DNR, so, it's okay… finding the balance work, right? Oh, and also because it was COVID, so we couldn’t do any separation between home and work right.So, we can work in the day and the baby is home, and crying asking for a lot of things (inaudible). So, it's kind of have to learn how to balance that kind of situation (inaudible). I assume you’re also still working at home, right?
Qin En 6:33
Yes, yes, yes. So, I'm curious during working hours, how do you set those boundaries and also free from distractions from the little one?
Yao Hong 6:42
Nowadays, in the morning, he’d go to preschool, and then, in the afternoon we’d help out… (inaudible). But, usually, we have meetings in the late evening when it’s bed time.
Qin En 7:00
Yeah, but do you find that the environment that you're in is supportive people understand when I enter background as people yelling, probably making noise?
Yao Hong 7:09
I think it’s okay. I think okay. I think most people are used to it, since everybody’s set in the same situation.
Qin En 7:15
Hmm, got it, got it, got it, got it. And really, even you think about the ways to kind of create those boundaries a bit clearer, what do you find has worked for you to make sure that, you know, when you're at work you're at work or when you're with a family you're fully present with them?
Yao Hong 7:29
Having very hard stop on time, let’s say, and that only works if you have a very supportive line of work.(inaudible). Well, usually people say 6, 6:30, you know. We'll knock off a bit earlier. And then, you'll come back on maybe a bit later at night, or you started the idea that give and take. (inaudible) I know since I'm on at will, especially at (inaudible).
Qin En 7:51
Hmm. And we'll say one of the criteria when you were looking for your current role or you kind of like stumble onto it, was it an intentional?
Yao Hong 7:59
I think I got a growing company, things just happen. A lot of people are parents. So obviously we all have the same issues. Some of them have even worse issues. And, I would say, yeah, and everyone has been very understanding and flexible . That's the key.
Qin En 8:14
Got it, got it, got it. And, for yourself, if it’s all right, I guess if you're in a leadership role, when you manage with the team members, how do you also encourage them to create these work-life boundaries even if they’re not parents, right? Do you encourage them to kind of also do the hard stop? Like you mentioned?
Yao Hong 8:30
I mean, I said very clear, after a certain time I will not check the Slack and I don't have notifications on my phone. You can only reach me when it's a real emergency or on WhatsApp or Telegram, just call me… which thankfully hasn't happened. Everybody was also respectful, and in order, they also has that expectation that I will not message you in the middle of the night so, it's a very good balance, I would say.
Qin En 8:58
Wonderful. Wonderful. Okay. Earlier, you mentioned about preschool. Talk to me a bit more about that selection process, hunting for the preschool. Was that stressful? Was that challenging or was it relatively smooth for you, guys? We’re planning to send next year, when my daughter turns three? Yeah, so pre-nursery, yeah.
Yao Hong 9:18
I see. Yeah, well, we did look at a few, obviously, distance as its main criteria. We don’t want it to be far away and relative to the social level (inaudible) optimize the traveling time. Then, we also looked at, not really curriculum, because at this stage it (inaudible) doesn’t really matter so much than social interaction; playing and doing things more than a home does.
When he's with the grandparents or we've asked, especially she’s much older, (inaudible) we don't really know how to properly educate in a sense, right? I mean, you can read books, you can research something online , but leave it to professionals have activities that can encourage creativity or curiosity, right? So, those are the things that matter to us a lot more, more than… “Okay, by three years old, you must be able to know (inaudible) or Chinese (inaudible). Okay, so where can play more outdoor play, more fun stuff and social interaction. (Inaudible), although (inaudible) children that much, right? So, you'll be aware in the beginning, whether that's an entice to (inaudible). So, that’s interestin to see.
Qin En 10:23
Got it, got it. Okay. So, how did you end up picking the preschool? ‘Cause there's so many options out there at very different price points, from something that costs hundreds of dollars up to like 3 to 4,000.
Yao Hong 10:34
Oh, so… of course, distance. And if you don’t mind the distance, we go by cost, whether they want to overpay for it. And of course, (inaudible) itself, like when you google or go online, you can find sometimes, right? Now, like, oh, this is cool. It’s very good from the other schools. (Inaudible) just education.
And of course, there are a lot of virtual tours. Now, they don't allow you to visit, right? So, we'll do a lot of virtual tours we talk to friends and family, especially from friends with children and different business, and you hear about (inaudible).
Qin En 11:06
Yeah. Well, okay. So, I still didn't know that you can go into visit, right? I knew that that was the case last year, ‘cause the COVID and everything, but even to now? So. (Inaudible). Wow. So, how did the first day happened? ‘Cause I know in the past, like, you know, the parents can follow along for the first day, that will be the separation anxiety and all yeah. Talk me through that process.
Yao Hong 11:26
It wasn't just an (inaudible). Yeah, and I will do (inaudible) the child if I was in charge of dropping off the gate. I think his mom was also paranoid (inaudible) for me. So, yeah, it's just boring there. Hanging out and just being around with some water play. I think bubbles came into play and it was okay. Bubbles that’s the best distraction. Okay, say goodbye. Goodbye! (inaudible).
Qin En 11:59
But, it sounded like that was pretty smooth. That was not like yelling, shouting…
Yao Hong 12:03
Not so much drama, actually, but I can imagine for either children with a lot more separation anxiety.
Qin En 12:10
Yeah, yeah, yeah, definitely. You got it off easy, but I think that's definitely a good thing.
Yao Hong 12:16
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it's not sort of child dependent on it, depends…
Qin En 12:19
True, true. Got it, got it. So, I guess on that topic, right, also on the idea of parenting, what is perhaps one area that you are curious about and you have been trying to find out a bit more, trying to do a bit more research and ask around?
Yao Hong 12:32
I think now, as we enter the so-called “terrific two’s” (inaudible), where (inaudible) is being shown, independence is being shot down. They’re a bit more curious on how you actually discipline where you don’t create more drama. So you kind of remember whether your own parents or their parents, or anybody's scorlded you, right? Different people have different styles of parenting. And then now it's like, okay, two years old: what can you do? How do you educate? Now, my son, the latest thing he did to me was he struck my plants at the house. And I only have one stock left. So I try talking, I try eating, I try scolding. It didn’t work, right? So I’m like, how do you even manage this.
Qin En 12:43
Wow. Now, more curious on how do you actually discipline? Where you don't want to create boys drama. I mean ‘cause I have so memory of it (inaudible). So, you kind of remember whether your own parents or their parents, or anybody's scored at you, right? Different people have different styles of parenting. And then now, it's like, okay. So, what can you do?
Yao Hong 13:05
Educate. I mean, now my son did (inaudible). Nowadays, I have one stop left? So, I try talking, I try eating. I try scolding, even what, right? It's still I'm like, how do you even manage this? Yeah.
Qin En 12:23
Yeah. That's something of discipline. I think, especially I (inaudible) already when he stopped to fight it. That's a challenge because you can raise your voice, but I still feel like you don't really understand at this stage. Even sometimes, when you smacked on the butt, but I also feel like it doesn't really work. So, I'm curious, have you gotten any insight at all? Like… I used to kind of experimenting and figuring it out.
Yao Hong 13:42
I figured that when I react more, even more so, you know, like I said no, and I ran after him and then they see you with a cheeky smile and then he said, haha.
Qin En 14:01
Oh, wow. So, the solution is to give a non-response, right? So you don't stimulate him.
Yao Hong 14:06
Yeah. I try to be, I try not to be a sportsman. Now, also at night, I think we get more difficult than day, right? I'm not sure if it’s something or you have that, but we used to (inaudible) see them running all around and very curious. I mean, it's a good thing that they're curious, but you want to also meet the bedtime, right?
So, how do you encourage him on time without playing too much? And then I tell you that story when he (inaudible) that he came out and he comes out with (inaudible). I mean, what does he does I can tell you a story (inaudible). Well, for example now, he’s in a train phase, right?
Please share some, please.
He would run out, open the door himself and then, look around for his books and toys. Why is (inaudible)?
Qin En 14:50
Probably, his Dad is doing too. No problem.
Yao Hong 15:01
So, he goes looking for his toys (inaudible) and then, he wants more milk, he gets more milk then he decides he doesn’t want to drink. . And then, when we turn out the lights he’s screaming. So, when he’s with mama, he wants papa. When he’s with papa, he wants mama. But before then, I knew he wants more mother. So, (inaudible) I was like what? (Inaudible) new environments. And of course, there was a lot more difficulty going on, more difficult also.
So, we had a lot of things that you have to be firm about, right? But, why, for example is the latest one, that either you go to sleep yourself in the bed or I go shower. So, I leave the room and I shower Or I stay in bed, with you. (Inaudible), independence, like you can choose. Anyways, it’s my situation.
Qin En 15:54
True, true, true. I like that. I like that not ordering or commanding them, but giving them the false sense of choice. But, yeah…
Yao Hong 16:02
Yeah. You want [me] to brush your teeth or you brush them yourself? But, brush (inaudible) medications the best one that was like (inaudible). This is competitive by nature (inaudible). So, (inaudible) that he can lose or whatever. And, I guess, yeah, they kind of wants…
Qin En 16:32
Aww, that’s wonderful. I, I love that, right? The idea that you're going to drink it, if not, then you are one (inaudible).
Yao Hong 16:39
So, I think it depends on your daughter as well. If she’s the fussy type, I don’t think this would work well.
Qin En 16:49
True, true, true. So, it sounds so, so y'all hope that you and your wife tried to create some form of schedule around for your son, right? How does that schedule look like? Do you try to adhere to a certain sleep time and how close these are adhered to?
Yao Hong 17:03
Right, so you sometimes you train (inaudible) very early on. So, this is my months and months, almost all (inaudible) the time, barring the next (inaudible) splits and all that. Most of the time, (inaudible). Nowadays, the time is between 7 and 8, depending on how much (inaudible)my wife is objective-oriented about it.
Qin En 17:39
That’s fine, yeah, yeah.
Yao Hong 17:41
So, for now, this is about seven plus (inaudible)…
Qin En 17:45
Oh, nice. So, good for 12 hours.
Yao Hong 17:48
(Inaudible) 12 hours, right? Then now, we've dropped down to one day (inaudible) which is something that was struggling with (inaudible) loss and then sometimes the struggle with information. And then on weekends, when we are home, he wants to please, or the next can be long and be short (inaudible). And all day we tried to him for around the (inaudible).
Qin En 18:12
Hmm, okay, okay. Yup, yup. That makes sense. Wow okay. I think you, guys, have the discipline that my wife and I don't have it which is going through practice (inaudible). ‘Cause sometimes, it’s inconvenient for you, right?
Yao Hong 18:29
Yeah, so for us, now let’s say we rolled around a scheduler like one of us has to go out (inaudible) Kayla (inaudible) you’d rather be in bed by 7:10, 7, 7:10, or sometimes (inaudible) 10 minutes or a lot like half an hour, ahlf an hour. You just distract them by (inaudible).
Qin En 18:53
Got it. Now, I'm curious, right? Because for you being a parent, and you and your wife being a parent, it's tiring, it's challenging, and work us over. And there are always good days and bad days. So, how did you get yourself out of these work slumps of bad days and try not to bring it back to your family or your son?
Yao Hong 19:11
That's why the (inaudible) very (inaudible). We tell ourselves 100% (inaudible) so, you don’t get an email (inaudible) of course, or messages. We will make these things work. But, usually if you think about it in the greater scheme of things, it's not that important.
Qin En 19:38
Correct. Correct. And you can always do it the next day, right?
Yao Hong 19:41
Yeah. You can do it the next day when the house is not burning down? Oh, it's lucky (inaudible) not in a situation where that's very high stress at work and (inaudible). I mean, if I was in earlier days, then I would say that it would’ve been possible to do that or you have to have a lot of discipline where… I mean, if I had to put myself in (inaudible) to deliver them, maybe (inaudible) 'cause you really do have (inaudible) in my face of lifestyle.
Qin En 20:18
Yup, yup, yup. I think the different seasons, right, and different times you've got to adjust and different priorities, so…
Yao Hong 20:24
Correct, correct. Yeah, yeah. So, now, (inaudible), right?
Qin En 20:28
Yes, yes, yes. And, I think that awareness and knowing when to shift, that's often the hard part, right? Because, sometimes you just get so used to doing things a certain way that changing (inaudible) can become difficult.
Yao Hong 20:38
I guess I don't (inaudible) at this. (Yeah. Yeah. True.) And you measuring, oh, you do a English and model, right? (Inaudible) You look back at yourself at decision life. What will you regret the most if you didn't look? Yeah. They're not going to be great and (inaudible).
Qin En 21:00
Very true, very true. Yeah. So, I guess also on that note, right? Thinking about what do you want to be saved at the end of your life, right? Interesting thought exercise. If let's say you were going to write a book for your children, that's going to consolidate everything that you know, everything that you want them to learn, what's going to be in that book?
Yao Hong 21:19
I actually kind of have something like that already. A project I’m not sure when to finish (inaudible) just parts that have happened until now and lessons, right? It all started even before he was born. So that was one that was a letter from my unborn son and all those kind of stuff, ‘cause I do journaling all once in a while.
So, I guess the lessons that you want to be passed on: what is important (inaudible) and what you want to not regret is one thing. And not so much if I want you to (inaudible), because sometimes things are a bit out of control and these are the out of control that you don’t want to make sure that you are not wasting your opportunities in life, right?
Thinking about ways is very important (inaudible) ‘cause that's the way I used to think about, okay, well, I want to (inaudible). I want to get this kind of funding. I want to get (inaudible), I want to do this. I want to invest in this, I need a lot of money. Everything is equilibrium. When you put in something, something has to be (inaudible). And what do you sacrifice?
I think for me, most of these (inaudible) for my exercise which is not a good exercise. Yeah, time for myself maybe, time for us as a couple, but it's always (inaudible), but we still try to make this work, right, by spending time together, yeah. Everything is a balance.
Qin En 22:40
Got it. It is. It is. And I guess, and also in the journaling process, I'm sure that's a healthy bit of reflection that's involved. If I had to ask you, what's perhaps one thing you would do differently, looking back at the past two years, what's that one thing?
Yao Hong 22:57
I think I need to be more disciplined in finding time for exercise. So, like, I’m still struggling with that, like when is the good time. So, if I really want to, I will definitely have to wake up very early. That's the only time to (inaudible) as possible. But, practically speaking, how many people can wake up at 5AM? Yeah. So, that's one thing that… I wish I could do better.
Qin En 23:26
Definitely. I think, I mean, that's the challenge, right? Because also a lot of your schedule, you lose a lot of autonomy, especially when your kid is young. Hopefully as time goes by, he starts to get better every time, but I just also couldn't very well exercise for the first three to six months when a newborn is just like, yeah, you just struggling to even stay awake and survive the work day.
Yao Hong 23:47
Yeah. I mean how it is. I don't know. I, I mean, I look back and think about our time was only thing, the only sourcing you cannot get more money, right? Time is getting by (inaudible) every second.
Qin En 24:05
True, true, true. So, I guess, perhaps just summarizing our entire conversation for today, right? If there's one key lesson that you have learned as a parent in tech, what would that be?
Yao Hong 24:15
Do we have to use the last portion or (inaudible)
Qin En 24:19
No, you don't have to. It’s just part of my questions for the podcast.
Yao Hong 24:25
Uhm, I would say we got to learn how to let go, to not have control over something, being individuals that crave control in our lives. I mean, for me and my wife, we crave a lot of control and things happened in a certain way. Having a child reminds you that we, uh, sometimes, just setting up (inaudible).
Qin En 24:49
Correct, correct. Not to take things too seriously, right?
Yao Hong 24:43
Of course, there’s danger, yeah. But, just enjoy the process, but it can be tough. It can be very tiring and very stressful. All the (inaudible) about the greater good. You have some (inaudible) happiness, happiness a way of being (inaudible).
Qin En 25:14
Wonderful. Wonderful. I think there's no better way to say that. I take things easier and let's stop being so hard on ourselves as parents.
Yao Hong 25:21
(Inaudible) No need to be selfish if you’re on schedule, right? So… kind of, yeah.
Qin En 25:29
Yep. Agreed. Agreed. Cool. Well, if some of our listeners would love to connect to for Yao Hong, how can they best do so?
Yao Hong 25:35
Just the LinkedIn, I would say.
Qin En 25:38
Okay, yeah. Yeah, sure, we’ll jump your LinkedIn profile in the episode. Thank you so much for having this conversation with me today, Yao Hong. Really appreciate it.
Qin En 25:50
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.
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That's all for this episode, folks. See you next time!