Cover Daryl Foong, general manager, Aquaria KLCC, Malaysia, with his wife and kids

For Father’s Day, we’re flipping the script to ask dadpreneurs, boy bosses, HeEOs and other working dads across Asia how they juggle it all and how fatherhood changed them

Nicholas Ho, chairman, Ganyi Group, Hong Kong

What are your thoughts on work-life balance and boundaries? Can men have it all?
No one can have it all; if anyone tells you otherwise, they are either lying to themselves or are egotistical, or both. Life is all about balance—that includes balance both internally and externally, managing one’s own life expectations and struggles, as well as external factors and desires. If you do it right, you will live with as little regret as possible.

Have you ever experienced imposter syndrome?
All the time. But you get used to it, like an old friend. The fear of being inadequate, if managed well, can be a powerful driver to push you out of your comfort zone. If you let it overwhelm you, it can destroy your confidence and render you lost and unproductive. 

Do you dress a certain way when you want to feel confident?
When I got married over 10 years ago and had to attend meetings locally and abroad, the counterparts were mostly 2-3 times my age, so I started off dressing in formal three piece suits and grew facial hair. As time passed and I matured, I am definitely more casual. Confidence comes from within and with experience; people can always spot it if you are wearing confidence. 

See also: SCWO CEO Angel Chan on Overcoming Imposter Syndrome and Balancing Work, School, and Her Family

Daryl Foong, general manager, Aquaria KLCC, Malaysia

What’s your morning routine?
Nothing complicated. I’m a late riser, so usually I’m woken up by my kids. They jump on the bed, pull at my face a little, I have some tea (or coffee if my wife makes it to the kitchen first). I change for work and either have my first conference call of the day or jump into the car and head to the office.

Did becoming a father change your perspective on your professional life?
Before I viewed my career as a way to ‘keep score’ of how I was doing; I now view it as a means to an end, providing for my kids and offering them as stable a platform as I can. There’s no obvious outward change (work and my output stay the same) but it does influence the choices, goals and directions I set for myself. 

What advice would you have for your younger self? 
Probably to be louder, less reserved. I don’t like making a fuss and hate drawing attention to myself, but in this noisy age of instant and social media, sometimes you must shout to be heard. And if some people think that’s rude, that’s OK too. I’d love to also say trust my instincts and don’t doubt myself so much, but I think that’s something everyone must learn by trial and error.

See also: Mother's Day 2021: Daryl Foong Celebrates His Mum, Datin Mina Cheah

Keith Rumjahn, CEO and founder, OliveX, Hong Kong

How/when do you wind down or make time for yourself?
I’m building a fitness metaverse, so I use exercise as my wind down. I play basketball competitively and go on long hikes with my dog, sometimes while taking calls. But you can't really make time; I need support from my wife and my colleagues to give me time.

Did becoming a father change your perspective on your professional life?
I have dinner with my kids every night. I use to think that working harder is the answer to everything but sometimes it’s important to have time to think about the direction you’re going. Raising kids is a team effort; I grew to appreciate my wife even more after having kids. She’s an amazing mom. 

What are your thoughts on work-life balance and boundaries? Can men have it all?
It’s hard; there’s a saying that crypto never sleeps. I’m blessed that my work is also my passion. It’s gaming, fitness and blockchain all blended into one. I’m working out when I test my games, and my kids love learning about my work because we’re building games and working with Marvel. I even bought an NFT for my wife for Mother’s Day. You can’t have it all, it’s like juggling; you focus on different balls at different times.

What’s it like to be a man in your field?
Privileged. Blockchain is very male dominant. It’s still very bro-culture. I’m proud to say our company culture is not like that. We’ve never had a single drinking event for the company. Instead we do a group spin class.

See also: Crypto Queens: Women Making Their Names in Digital Cash and Blockchain

Jacques Christophe Branellec, EVP and deputy CEO, Jewelmer Joallerie, Philippines

How do you manage your time and stay productive?
I try to prioritise and make sure the most important things are handled first. This works on most days, but post-pandemic I am still trying to find that work-life balance, as the workload has drastically increased since the economy has re-opened. The feeling is definitely not enough hours in the day.

What’s the most rewarding part of your day?
Coming home to my son’s warm embrace and the meal my wife’s prepared.

How/when do you wind down or make time for yourself?
As a new father and juggling a challenging work schedule, the term itself is relative. Time spent with either my wife or my son always feels inadequate therefore I try to make the most of it as it does give me the most rewarding feeling. Every once in a while, I do treat myself to a motorcycle ride where I can be alone with my thoughts.

Ashish Manchharam, founder and MD, 8M Real Estate, Singapore

What’s the most rewarding part of your day? 
The morning when I spend time with my kids before they head to school. They’re so energetic after a good sleep and excited for their day. We talk about what happened the day before and what’s on, but they also tell me a lot of fun stories.

What are your thoughts on work-life balance and boundaries? Can men have it all?  
As a business owner, I am passionate about my business so does not really feel like work to me. However, my family may have a different opinion! Setting boundaries is critical—switching off from work when it’s family time is very important to ensure you’re 100 per cent there and committed. Men can have it all but it’s up to the individual to decide how to spend time.

What’s it like to be a man in your field? 
Real estate has been very male dominated in the past. However, this has changed over recent times and led to a more balanced approach, which has provided different thinking and helps to create a diversified point of view. At my company, I have always maintained the importance of a balanced approach in having equality in terms of number of men and women in the company at all various levels.

See also: Entrepreneur Ashish Manchharam on His Passion for Rejuvenating Singapore’s Heritage Buildings

Dr. Z Teo, cosmetic surgeon and CEO, Aivee Group, Philippines

Did becoming a father change your perspective on your professional life?
When I became a father, the stakes were suddenly higher because I had to think of the future of my kids. Where I used to be all gung ho and aggressive in whatever I did, I became more measured and cautious after fatherhood.  

What are your thoughts on work-life balance and boundaries? Can men have it all?
As a Singaporean Chinese born and raised in Singapore, the concept of work-life balance has seldom crept into my mind. My parents always say that the day they stop working is the day they pass away. Growing up with that mentality, working hard is second nature. However I believe that holidays abroad are important for balance; all work and no play will make one a dull person. Men can certainly have it all if they are disciplined, focused and practical.  

Do you dress a certain way when you want to feel confident?
Yes, dressing up is important. When I want to feel confident, I usually throw on a power blazer and wear shoes that give me a little more height. 

David Chen, CEO, AgriG8, Singapore

What’s the most rewarding part of your day?
When I read a bedtime story to my girl. We are on a Singapore Library subscription service, which we started because my girl is going through the princess phase and I ended up reading the usual fairy tales, which I wanted to shift her away from because the female representation is horrible—don't even get me started on Snow White. I recommend this book instead.

How/when do you wind down or make time for yourself?
I used to coach and now fence recreationally like once a month. I also serve on the board of Fencing Singapore so that I remain connected with the sport and community. 

What are your thoughts on work-life balance and boundaries? Can men have it all?
I can't remember the last time I had a social gathering without the kids. Even when I am out, I would leave early enough to get the kids to bed. At this stage in my life, I prioritise my kids; it may seem restrictive to some, but I feel balanced and content. 

What’s it like to be a man in your field?
With our first child, I felt a lot of guilt but still spent 60 per cent of my time travelling for work in rural Myanmar. As a man, I wasn’t often asked how I felt about being away from family. Two years at home during Covid gave me a very different perspective, and after doing confinement for our second child, I realised that guilt can never be repaid. Thereafter, I prioritise my kids and I don’t have to feel like I am not giving 100 per cent to my career because of this. 

See also: How This Entrepreneur’s New Agri-fintech Startup Is Helping Underserved Farmers to Stay Competitive

Alessandro Bisagni, founder and president of BEE Incorporations, Hong Kong

How do you manage your time and stay productive? 
I find that ad hoc daily communications and interruptions are the largest disturbance to productivity. As such, I try as much as possible to group calls, chats and meetings in single blocks of time during the day so that outside those hours I can be focused on completing the task at hand. 

Did becoming a father change your perspective on your professional life?
I work in the health and wellness space of our built environment and this took on a whole new level of urgency when my girls where born. I knew that I had to ensure that their living environment was as clean and healthy as can possibly be; especially when it comes to indoor air quality, a difficult point for Hong Kong urban living. 

How/when do you wind down or make time for yourself?
In addition to wine time with my wife while our kids eat supper, I truly enjoy exercise and try my best to do it every day. I have found that consistency beats length and intensity in the long run and it helps me manage stress. 

Have you ever experienced imposter syndrome?
Not really. I studied sustainability prior entering the workspace and felt equipped with the technical knowledge needed to deliver for my clients. In the early years I was self-conscious about how much younger I was than my clients and peers. I would sign contracts with huge multinationals and think, “Wait, did I really just do that?” Now in my old(er) age, I don’t feel this way anymore. 

See also: True Dads: Hong Kong’s F&B Fathers on Running A Family

Daniel Ting, director, SingHealth Artificial Intelligence office, Singapore

How do you manage your time and stay productive?
My work time is split 50/50 between my clinical work as a retinal surgeon and my academic work driving and coordinating $100 million AI research innovation projects in SingHealth and heading the AI and digital innovation research group at the Singapore Eye Research Institute. 

My wife, Cel, works as an obstetrician gynaecologist, so she has a similarly busy routine. We both make it a habit to set our weekends aside for family time, which includes tennis and swimming classes for our son Aiden, 5, and outings to Gardens by the Bay and River Safari. We recently welcomed baby Evan, and it has been a joy spending time with our two boys. My wife and I also go for date nights to talk about our plans for the future while enjoying a nice meal.

What advice would you have for your younger self?
Be a leader who is kind, caring and inclusive, as you will be able to attract the best talents this way. My favourite quote is by Theodore Roosevelt: “Keep your eyes on the stars, and your feet on the ground”. One should always dream big, but that dream must be accompanied by hard work and sacrifices necessary for it to come true. Also, I believe in creating an ecosystem that can proliferate; if you want to go far, go together.

Kevin Tan, CEO and vice-chairman, Alliance Global, Inc, Philippines

What’s your morning routine? 
I make it a point to get enough sleep so that I feel recharged to tackle the next day. I drink coffee and read a couple of newspapers. Nowadays, I do my first meeting virtually at home to get things rolling and head to the office before lunchtime.

What’s the most rewarding part of your day?
Coming home at night after a full day at work and seeing and playing with my kids. That’s something that I always look forward to.

Have you ever experienced imposter syndrome?
Never.

What advice would you have for your younger self?
Enjoy whatever you are doing, because that’s how you discover and build your passion. If you love what you do, it will not feel like work.

Daniel Chew, co-founder, Beyond the Vines, Singapore

How do you manage your time and stay productive?
I believe in managing my energy over managing my time. I’m most effective during the first half of my day, so I keep important meetings and decision making then. The second half of my day is usually spent having in-person meetings with the various teams and visiting our stores.

Have you ever experienced imposter syndrome?
Oh yes, many times. I believe businesses should invest in people and this can mean hiring and working with people who are far smarter and more talented than I am. Since establishing Beyond The Vines seven years ago, I’ve learnt to trust my instincts when it comes to decision making while keeping in mind the reason why we started the business in the first place. This has kept me grounded and on a continuous learning journey.

See also: 9 to 5: Beyond the Vines Co-Founder Rebecca Ting on Overcoming Challenges as a Working Mother

What are your thoughts on work-life balance and boundaries? Can men have it all?
Recognising that life moves in seasons has been liberating. In some seasons, I find myself allocating more time to the business, in others, I am more involved in the lives of my family. Learning to move with the rhythm has helped me stay present, find fulfilment and contentment.


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