Rejecting the status quo, drawing clearer boundaries, and finding the right balance in managing children’s relationship with technology. I talk to Shadab Taiyabi about how he and his wife adapted to COVID and created quality time, and shielded their kids from the perils of technology.
Shadab is the Head of FinTech and Innovation, APAC at Schroders. He is the President of the Singapore FinTech Association, a member of the Digital Innovation Committee at the Investment Management Association of Singapore, and the Head of Community at the FinTech Nation. Shadab is a father to two children: a daughter, age eight, and a son, age four.
In this episode, Shadab shares how he and his wife minimizes sibling rivalry even before their second child was born, ensures boundaries are set between work and home during the COVID situation, and finds the right balance in kids’ relationship with technology.
To get in touch with Shadab, 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!
[00:38) Introducing today’s guest, Sadab Taiyabi
[01:34] Conversation about kids
[02:28] Challenges of having a second child
[04:27] Forgetting and Re-learning things
[07:00] Transition to the COVID setup
[09:36] Drawing clearer boundaries
[13:10] Shielding the kids from the challenges of technology
[15:42] On every kid being different
[17:07] Blurred lines between work and home
[19:37] Rejecting the stereotype of status quos
[22:09] Shadab’s biggest challenge
[26:15] Connect with Shadab
[Qin En 00:00]
Hi, I am Qin En. And this is the Parents in Tech podcast.
Welcome to season two, where we interviewed 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 and striving in their careers. Let's find out the stories, challenges, and advice they have for us.
[Qin En 00:38]
In this episode, we speak to Shadab. Head of FinTech and Innovation, APAC at Schroders. Shadab is a FinTech leader through and through. He’s the president of the Singapore FinTech Association, a member of the Digital Innovation Committee at the Investment Management Association of Singapore, and the head of the community at the FinTech Nation. Shadab is a father to two children: a daughter, age eight, and a son, age four.
[Qin En 01:07]
Hey, Shadan. Welcome to the Parents in Tech show. To begin with, could you tell us a bit more about your family?
Hi, Qin En. Thank you for having me. It's a pleasure to be here and have a chat. Well, I've got two kids. One is an eight-year-old daughter and a son, four years old. Of course, with a loving wife.
So the family is Gordon, well-settled. As you can imagine at this stage, things can be a bit tricky sometimes with that age of kids.
[Qin En 01:34]
Absolutely. There’s a lot for us to get into depth, but maybe let’s dial back a bit into how the conversation about kids came along with your wife. When did you guys talk about it, and were you aligned about the number of children that you wanted to have?
That's a question that is quite interesting, to say the least, for our kids. But of course, [it’s] always in our mind, it's just that we wanted to give each other a bit of time after managing. So conversation happened and the number was never set. But yeah, thankfully, the first one was born two and a half years after we got married.
And the second one was born four years after that. There’s relatively a healthy age difference between the two as well, but of course, four and a half years of difference can be sometimes challenging because the elder one expects to be treated as the elder person in the house. But a good balance. I mean, in hindsight, some people might think it, I mean, I've seen some of my friends as well, where the optimum age difference between two and three years between two kits, but for now is good.
[Qin En 02:28]
Okay. Okay. So maybe, let me double click a bit more about the challenges, right? Where do you welcome your youngest son into the world? What were some of the challenges that you had to deal with your daughter?
My wife was quite clear from the beginning that we need to make sure that the sibling rivalry doesn't pick up right from the first day. So the first challenge was to ensure that we get her sort of accustomed or agree to the fact that someone is coming. In a way, she was already expecting to have another sibling just for someone to play with.
So that way it worked out fine. So in a way, the conversation with her was, well, you asked for someone to play with, and God has listened to your request. Whoever is coming will be someone who you will be playing with. So, thankfully, that part was resolved at the beginning itself.
[Qin En 03:13]
That's wonderful. And I feel like at the age of about four, four-and-a-half when they start to develop a vocabulary, the language skills, at least you're able to share it with them. Thinking, hypothetically, if let's say you only had maybe a two-year gap when they just started learning a few words, it might be hard for them to feel that way.
So I'm sure over the past years since your son came into the world, it must have been quite an experience seeing him grow up. I'm curious whether the second time was easier than the first time. The first time, I'm sure, like all parents, I would love to hear the challenges you face. And then the second time, was it like, “ah, no kick.”
It never gets easier, does it? I mean, I don't think our parents also believed that. I mean, yeah, I've been forced to believe that it never gets easier. For us, since the difference was slightly more than optimal, which is two to three years, we did forget quite a few things.
I mean the second one. So the first one of course was difficult. Everything is happening for the first time, there's a lot more enthusiasm. And I'll be very honest, the second one, there is enthusiasm, but slightly toned down. But at the same time, you need to relearn and redo a lot of things and relearn the skills.
And I'll be very honest, mothers, 200 or thousand times more than fathers for all the reasons that we are aware of. I mean, you do get involved. You want to get involved as much as possible, but in the second one, you need to relearn a few things.
[Qin En 04:27]
Okay. So, I'm going to stop you right there. What are one or two things that you forgot and you had to relearn?
Oh man, I forgot how to change diapers.
Well, it was different for different kids, right? So for the second one, it has taken a long time compared to the first one, but it's all fun in the end. And I'm sure you're hearing some of the background noise as well.
[Qin En 04:54]
You see that's the benefit of a radical parents podcast, or I get the excuse for all these background noises.
You know, this might not be a glamorous topic in the truest sense of the word but, Shadab, can you talk me through toilet training from both of your kids? Because I realized I've spoken to about 20 guests across both seasons now. No one, I've not spoken with anyone on that. So you have the honor of this, uh, this topic.
Yeah. I must say the disclaimer is I'm not the leader in this game. The lead there remains my wife, but it gets challenging given that they need to go to school as well. And at night times you would rather have them the diapers, right? So the training can only happen during the day. You may have carpets at home or you may have things at home.
So then things are moving around slightly unpredicted, you just have to be careful where the source of the issue is putting itself on. So whether it's the bed or whether it's the couch or whether it is rare. So you just need to be more careful. Of course, accidents do happen all the time.
Very, very, very patient in dealing with the accidents because no matter how good you are or how good you think you can, accidents happen. One of the biggest challenges that you will face that is there's no way to time it. Think about an end game or end date to it. Different kids are different. Some may take a week to get trained.
Some of them may do it for two, or three days. Fine. And then they'll go back to normal and so on. And especially like I said, nighttime doesn't help. So they may get back to their habits once the whole day's over. Just be patient.
[Qin En 06:22]
Got it. Got it. And this is really asking of me because I also have an 18-month-old daughter. How long does toilet training take? And I know, like you said, days, periods of regression, but if you just had to do a rough estimate, how long does it take?
At least two or three weeks? I would say not shorter than that. In certain cases, it can be a week, but at least two to three weeks is probably what I've heard in most cases.
[Qin En 06:45]
Okay. And, that doesn't sound too bad, at least it's not in the months' range, so, okay. That's good to know that.
But then it has to be continuous. Right? But if you're traveling or any such thing happens, then it becomes a restart. Because if you miss it by a day, then you are probably starting from digital.
[Qin En 07:00]
And speaking of travel, Shadab, you are in a phase wherever it's interesting. Right? Because when your kids were younger, COVID didn't happen. I'm sure your wife traveled a fair bit for work mostly. And now with COVID, things have changed. So maybe talk to me a bit more about how that transition has been for you over the past two years, compared to pre-COVID times.
Probably I'll give you a bit of an overview. The change has been nothing but positive. If I think about it given in the amount of time that I've been able to spend with the family is definitely longer than I would have on usual days, just because of our hectic travel schedules, right. In the kind of roles that we are in.
Especially, you know, in Singapore we are in a regional role. There's not much you can do, but be on the road. So that way I'm very thankful for all the wrong reasons we have been — the so-called home station and things have been slightly… We definitely haven't had more quality time with the kids, for sure.
Sometimes a bit more than what you have bought it. But you know where I'm coming from. So overall I think the transition has been positive. I mean, of course, there have been quite a few challenges to start within the beginning. I'll highlight a couple of them. One was, of course, making sure that you are in an environment in a family environment, your mind functions in a different way, while in a very professional environment.
If you're doing some of these serious professional meetings, sometimes it becomes a bit distracting when you have kids knocking on the door and asking you, which one of these two chocolates am I allowed three today? You need to find a way to show them away from the camera, but still, manage it in a way.
And the second challenge I would say has been trying to find that end time for yourself to cut yourself away from work. So this room that I'm talking from right now, it's been my workroom for the past two years, three months. And I'll give you a very interesting reason why I'm calling it one particular type.
So my son is four years old. And three, four months ago, I was talking to him about something at something. Then he said, can you do it from your room? Then I say, which room are you talking about? Then he said, “your ‘calling’ rule.” And then I figured because I'm always telling him that I'm on calls — I am going on a call right now. He started calling it a calling room. That's a very unique way of addressing a room, right?
We all call it study room or study, but you know, it's a calling room. That's when I realized that there are times when you need to sort of find that end timeframe for yourself as well. So I also realized that if I'm coming out of this room at five or 5:00 PM, he knows that I'm only out for maybe a cup of tea or water. But if he sees me coming out at 6:30 or 7, he knows I'm done for the day.
He'll also ask, “are you done?” That's the kind of challenge that I was facing a lot in the beginning, but I could not really differentiate between, you know when I should end working on. Getting that balance is quite a bit of a task for all of us who have been with you.
[Qin En 09:36]
Got it and thanks for sharing this.
So what were some of the ways and things that helped you to draw the boundaries clearer?
Just make sure that you are actually carving out a specific period of the day where you are only devoted to your family. When I say like that tough period, you have to keep your phone away. And I've heard my four-year-old telling me many times, “keep your phone away.” “Don't look at your phone. Look at me.”
And that has reinforced the fact that between seven and nine, I tried to put my phone away and I'm generally spending time with them first. You know, they go to sleep at nine, and then you have your whole second shift starting again, getting your emails and on. That boundary is very important. And I think all of us need to understand that boundary is important for the employees also.
I was hearing a story on BBC news today. Morning, about South Korea. That boundary becomes a bit of a challenge because of the culture. I just hope that, and I'm not pinpointing that on South Korea itself. I mean, there are many other countries, in fact, even we Singaporeans ourselves can be seen as guilty of that a lot of times.
But the point here is as professionals, we need to put those boundaries clearly, at the same time, and implement them as well.
[Qin En 10:40]
Agreed. I think it's so hard because this switch from work to family used to be a lot clearer with the whole commute. There really helps us to do that search, but it really takes a fair bit of discipline and practice. And I'm glad that you mentioned that and you're also able to share how you manage with them.
So earlier you used to mention quality time. So could you describe what quality time with family looks like?
To me, it's mainly spending time with them when everybody's feeling comfortable and feeling a sense of enjoyment and happiness. With kids that can be simply playing games at home.
I remember during the circuit breaker times, you were really scared to go out, right? And how it was all the while. So one thing you could do is you could get everyone in the car and then go around, but then you couldn't get out also because, you know, by law, you're not supposed to, but that actually created fun ways of managing the time in the car.
So you could be playing games in the car, what is it? And, you know, find me a, I'm looking for something green and so on. Right? These kinds of games we have all played before. But then more importantly at home also spending time with them in a way you can use that base that you have. It's some creative games which could be inspired by my little eyes or you're looking, you're seeking a hide and seek.
The way I see it, it's about making sure that your kids see you as someone they can have fun with as well. And that's the biggest challenge that we have when we are living as nuclear families. As VR and the environment. And a lot of times, they are looking for friends in you all the time. Especially with COVID, you couldn't send them out for playdates. You couldn't take them out to playgrounds where there are multiple kids out there.
So you ended up being the friend and the buddy that they were looking for. Supporting that, I think for the quality time part, it's about creating memories and making sure that you have something unique going on with them. To be honest, I'm one of the most uncreative people in the world — as my partner points out to me every time she's teaching me some kind of art.
But I'd have come up with one or two games that are very unique, which only my kids know what those games are, and only I know how to play with them. So that unique bonding is there. So they will be requesting me sometimes at 8:30 or 8:45 at night.
Then let's just play that because we want to have some fun. So that's the quality time talking about. Which is completely irreplaceable with anything else.
[Qin En 12:47]
Yeah, absolutely. And it's these small things that I guess, to outside, it's almost hard to describe sometimes they almost fuse like a minor trend, but it's really these small things to just feels so meaningful.
And I feel like it's the things that we remember both as parents, as well as the children. So Shadab, as a Parent in Tech, like a dad in tech, what do you think is the biggest challenge you face right now?
As a dad in tech, I'll probably talk about the challenges that I see myself, and where I need to shield my kids from the challenges of technology.
So there's a very difficult balance to strike between being a technology convergent versus technology — extremely dependent on it. The challenge that I see with the kids nowadays is that things have become so digital that they're always looking for ways to use a touch screen device. I mean, a lot of times, if you give them, let's say a device to play around with.
They can spend hours on it, right? You won't even realize when the time has passed by. So that becomes a major challenge. You know, how do you make sure that they are conversing and they'll be using tech only for the reasons that they need to. I mean, they don't get addicted to it. I'll give you one major sign of, uh, let me share the story.
We were planning for the first birthday of our daughter and she had started to crawl. And by that time, a lot of times we would show her the screen and, you know, she would look at it. And when we printed the poster, you know, very nice design, soft balloons and cakes and all on it to put it outside the venue, I realized that she started to touch on that and try to do some things on that. Assuming it's a touchscreen. That was a warning sign for me.
I'm like, okay, we need to find a way to let her experience more real toys than the touchscreens. So thankfully we were very disciplined after that and we made sure that there was limited exposure to tech devices compared to just giving it to her and making life easy for us.
And we followed that for our son as well. And thankfully, the son is not so dependent on these things, right. So going back to where my work and my professional work come in as well. One of the challenges of being in tech. It's probably a challenge to quite a few other professions as well, in the time of uncertainty that might just pop up.
So you just need to be prepared to attend to challenges and issues. And this may not happen in my specific job role, but I have colleagues who take care of issues and events as well. So that can be a bit challenging when those things pop up TM at night or over the weekend. So that's always a challenge that tech professionals face.
[Qin En 15:14]
Yeah, and things move so fast in tech. There's always this need to always [go] beyond. So like you said earlier, carving those boundaries. But maybe, also going back to the screening routine, could you give us a better insight and color, especially for your son, right. It sounds like for your daughter, there was a bit of a learning curve and lessons learned and you kind of took that and applied it to how you would teach your son about his relationship with technology and screens. What does that look like? Practically on a day-to-day schedule basis.
I'll give a disclaimer before that every kid is different. So whatever things that you might apply as a parent may have a completely different effect on your own two different kids. Right?
In our son's case, as an example, we made sure that we were not overexposing him to, or exposing him too much to things like phones and mobiles, especially, you know, the kind of habits that we have all seen in restaurants and forecourts, right?
That kids will have an iPad or a phone in front of them with some nice cartoons playing on it. So we try not to do that with the son, because we had already faced that with the daughter in the beginning. So that sort of created less of a dependency for him to perform routine tasks in response to visual stimulation.
So we try to remove that. And in terms of schedule, I think as a preschooler, he gets up and he goes to school when he comes back at 12 plus, then he gets to watch television for an hour. Then he goes for a nap and that's it not TV until 6:00 PM when he gets to watch for another hour. And what that has created is less curiosity in keeping his eye fixated on the television.
So you watch her while you can keep playing and then he'll watch her while and keep playing. But two hours at most on a bigger screen. And the second important thing I would really advise all parents is don't rely on iPads and don't rely on these screen devices. To hand it over to them because they are very accessible.
There are just so many clicks that they can do. And the interaction with the device and the usability make it very addictive. Television is an idiot box, but I think in this scenario the box helps us.
[Qin En 17:07]
That's so good. Okay. Thanks for that advice. See, that's the reason why I do these podcasts, which makes a lot of sense because they can interact with the TV.
After a while you watch, you get bored, you get tired. Yeah. But on the screen, as we all know, right. We work in front of our computers or laptops or eight hours, 10 hours a day, so, okay. Wonderful. I guess also with the whole blurred lines between work and family, how has being a parent over the past eight years shaped the way you are a leader at work?
Time management. Time management and setting your priorities, right? Because with all the flexibility that you have in managing your time with respect to your family, and with your work, you tend to prioritize your items and agenda. Well, you tend to plan your day well as well, because some days I'll start at 8 AM, and some days I'll start at 9:30 AM. And some days I'll go to work because I've got meetings outside.
And in between, there are times when I have to come back to pick up my daughter from enrichment classes and so on. So you'll be able to manage that. That said it is an enrichment class at five o'clock.
You will finish your meetings by 4:30. You will pick her up and come back home. Then you'll get onto calls maybe until 7:30. And then you finish your emails. So there's always that flexibility in times when you are delivering the work versus how much time, because how much time is not going to change.
We all know if we leave a wet towel on your bed in the morning, you come back home, it will stay there, right? It's not going to go away as you mean you're staying alone at home. So the same thing applies to work, no matter the kind of roles that we are in nowadays, we have to manage it ourselves. That is the, I think the biggest benefit of this whole flexibility.
I'll turn it around to employers from an employee's perspective as well. It may be challenging for certain professions where too much flexibility can create impediments in the work, just because there are certain areas that are very research and focus-intensive. So then it becomes a bit more challenging because you need to have a certain timeframe where you need to be really, really focused on a specific task.
Thankfully, for somebody in my role, which is more business-focused and broader, it's relatively easier to manage my time across multiple tasks. And it has been the case for the past eight, 10 years altogether.
[Qin En 19:13]
That's wonderful. So the ability to prioritize, to time manage, and I feel like you become a lot more efficient and intentional.
So when you add work, because you know that, for example, you've really set the boundary in the evening where you want to be available and fully preserved for kids. So that really kind of incentivizes and encourages you to act quickly and to make sure that you do the first thing.
[Qin En 19:37]
So when you talk about dads, especially thanks to the media, which is what we're talking about. There are many stereotypes and status quos that are portrayed and put on that. So what's one stereotype of the status quo that you reject.
One stereotype would be that dads can never replace moms in supporting the kids.
I would say it depends on the age of the kid. If it’s up to six months, it's impossible for any that to replace mom in an issue in any shape or form. But after that, with some help you can manage. I've been able to manage two of my kids for 11, 12 days while my wife was away to attend to something really urgent. It is manageable.
It’s just that dads use it as an excuse not to be put in that position because you know, you also deny your ability to do something. For sure. It's hard for others to believe in it. I believe in you, right?
[Qin En 20:32]
True. True. Maybe tell me a bit more about the experience. I know it probably has evolved because that will probably — was pre-COVID, right?
But yeah, managing both kids for 11 to 12 days alone, what was it like?
It happened during COVID only because there was some emergency that my wife had to attend to, but overall, it was an experience I can tell you. I mean the four-year-old would never sleep with me, but the routine is that he sleeps with the helper, and then she puts them to bed and then bring them back to the room.
But the moment the wife left the house, he was like, “I am sleeping with you. I'm not going with that.” 11 days. He stayed with me and the day their mom came back, it never looked back at me. So that was the fun part. And just yesterday, he was reminding me: “when mom goes overseas, then I can sleep with you.”
[Qin En 21:12]
So, so you’re just a substitute? (laughs) the standard, but that's beautiful. Yeah.
Yeah. I would actually advise doing that at some point in time, especially for dads because to a certain extent, we all know that even if both of us are working, there is a little bit of, I would say, preferential treatment going on towards moms for all the right reasons.
I would never say anything again. That's natural. And that is how I am to my mom, as well as an example. But if you put yourself in a situation where the kids have no choice but to be with you, I would say the bonding becomes stronger. So I would always encourage that to happen.
I mean, there are a lot of times where during the day, as well as on a weekend, I'll just say my wife can rest, or maybe she's not feeling very well I'll just take the kids out. Just go somewhere, and spend time with them one-on-one or alone. It just helps them understand that you know, you're there with them for all the enjoyment play purposes as well. So bonding, bonding becomes stronger. So I would strongly encourage all of us dads to do that.
[Qin En 22:09]
Definitely any, it builds the confidence, like you were saying earlier, right? That you are able to handle your kids. You're able to manage them and you feel that there's a less reliant in a negative way. We feel like that.
So, Shadab, if you look towards the future over the next couple of years, what do you think will be your biggest challenge as a parent to two very lively and young kids?
I think the biggest challenge is, I mean, that's my earlier point as well, to keep a balance between keeping them aware of the technological changes that are happening, what are the new technologies that are coming up, but then making sure and keeping them away from getting addicted to the challenges. We all know where we're at 3.0 meta versus evolving.
I mean, of course, I'm a big fan and big supporter given that it does time very well to that FinTech landscape as well in certain ways. But the fact is if they get too much entangled in the virtual space only they would not be appreciating too much of the real world as well. I mean, I'm just a bit, bothered about how — for us, it's very natural that we know how to differentiate between real versus virtual, right?
Because we have seen it evolve. It has become a part of our lives, but we know when to switch it off and then go back to the real world. But for the newer generation that is just growing up in a society where a lot of the activities can be done virtually, we let keep them away from the real interactions and we can see it in our pre-COVID parties as well.
A lot of times you will see the kids having these handphones. And playing games while they are in the same space. So that's a big challenge. I think it can probably get worse. If we, as parents do not make a conscious effort, to let them keep a balance. And I don't want my kids to be the so-called tech illiterates in the circle as well, where they don't understand what are the new trends in the market, which are the new games that are coming up.
What are the new technologies that are coming up? And that, of course, I want them to be switched on, but keeping that balance, that is where I think it's going to be the bigger challenge for the newer generation, because they are actually the real digital native people compared to us who have more like adopted this.
[Qin En 24:02]
Yup. Yup. I'm sure we all remember the Nokia block phone days or even pager days. But for our kids. Yeah. Life without screens. It's unimaginable. Nice.
Bro, Shadab, thank you so much for sharing all these really wonderful experience and advice that you have. To kind of wrap up our session today, if there's one lesson you've learned as a parent in tech, what would that be?
Don't underestimate your kids. They are listening. They are watching. They are always judging you. So just be careful to utter every single word that you say in front of them. And also, your body language. I mean, I don't want to go into examples, but I've seen them so many times. When my daughter and my son would emulate my reaction to a particular action beat while I'm driving a car or looking at something they're always listening.
They're always learning from you. So without trying to sound very idealistic here, it's for your own good as parents that you're very careful in choosing the right words, right. Body language. Teaching empathy to our kids. One of the things I've realized that, that we get swing crossed with our work, with our work pressures and other types of pressures that we sometimes forget that our reaction is actually creating a different level of psychiatry in our own kids.
We just have to be very careful that their minds are extremely impressionable. The way they react in situations is what they're learning from you the most. So if you don't have a grip on that, it will come and buy to sometime in the future. So as parents think about your own future, when you're dealing with situations and it's easier said than done, I know what I'm saying, but keeping that in your subconscious all the time that whatever you do in front of your kids is going to be absorbed by them is very important.
So we just need to be careful, and that would probably help us in the long run as well in terms of managing our own.
[Qin En 25:55]
I fully agree that we are role models, not just, in what we speak, but also in the way we act.
Well, thank you so much for taking the time, Shadab, especially on a weekday evening. I know this is the time that you usually spend with the kids, so I really appreciate it.
If our parents listening to this podcast would like to connect with you, how can they best do so?
They can connect with me over LinkedIn, if they do have an account or I'm happy to share my personal email with them, email@example.com.
[Qin En 26:24]
Sure. Will do. Thank you so much.
It's such a joy to have you on the show today.
Thank you, Qin En. Thank you for inviting me. Really appreciate it — the time. And also you being so casual about the chat. I really liked it. Thank you.
[Qin En 26:33]
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.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.