Thriving against all Odds with Vice-President of Compliance, Fiona
Fiona is the Vice President of a Crypto Exchange and heads the compliance function. In her role, she oversees a team that primarily reviews the illegitimate transfer of funds, fraudulent activities, and ensures compliance with relevant laws, policies, and regulations. Fiona had also given birth to two adorable sons aged 1 and 2 during Covid-19 pandemic where closing borders kept her family apart.
Fiona leads an active lifestyle where she practises Muay Thai, but has played in a multitude of competitive sports since young. Aside from sports, she also has a strong interest in languages, picking up Japanese while employed in a Japanese Bank, where she studied daily during lunch hours and attained JLPT N2.
Sitting down in a candid interview, Fiona shared how she adapted and thrived despite the challenges as a young working mother in the midst of uncertain times of Covid19.
Transitioning to a working mother was particularly challenging as I constantly had to make choices between family and career, amidst the uncertainty of novel covid-19 and its travel restrictions. My husband is a foreigner with his business and family based overseas. At 3 months of age, I brought my son to join his father and grandparents, but had to return to Singapore due to work. The initial arrangement was for a month, but my fear grew as Covid-19 became more serious and shortages of groceries, toiletries, and milk powders hit the news.
I telephoned my boss and requested for approval to fly out before the borders closed. My bosses were incredibly supportive and promptly approved my leave. I was relieved but the journey was highly uncertain - I had not secured a visa, foreigners had to quarantine in an undisclosed facility, and I could not speak their language. Between security and madness, I chose the latter, desperate to close the distance, and reunite with my family. And I was really thankful for my company that allowed it.
With my company’s blessing, I began to work remotely when the borders were closed. It was not easy, as I had to juggle between work, while becoming a new mom, and also learning a new way of life and language amidst a pandemic. The real culture shock was when I learnt that women, even when holding full-time jobs, were expected to bear full responsibility for taking care of children. Mothers were also expected to appear ever-ready whether it was dawn or dusk - even yawning in the wee hours of the day was frowned upon as it was regarded as lazy. During that period, I tried my best to live up to that expectation of being a perfect parent, while also balancing my career.
The worries of being the perfect parent eased up tremendously when I conceived my second child. Once travel restrictions were lifted, I decided to make the journey back to Singapore with my first son, and unborn second child. Through these six months, I emotionally mature and toughened - I became more accepting of every matter/aspect. To adapt, I systematically bucketed my issues into (a) matters out of my control (b) matters within my control but too much effort (c) matters within my control and do-able without losing another hair.
I have been very blessed to be in working environments that strongly uphold its values of ‘Diversity and Inclusion’. While, it is a top-down culture promoted by Senior Management, it is also practised widely in the company through its wholehearted support for working moms' and their mental wellness. For example, we have a parent-mentorship program in which new parents could choose co-worker mentors (seasoned parents) to confide in. This makes a world of a difference as it makes me even more driven in a workplace that cares and connects. This allowed me to work to my fullest potential even while I single-handedly raise both children.
However, there were still the occasional passing remarks that stung. I recall during a meeting where a stakeholder and I could not come to an amicable outcome. It was one of those meetings where we finally agreed to disagree. As a closing remark, the stakeholder mentioned "See yeah, we can't close this matter. Because after you’ve become a mother, you've forgotten all the things we previously discussed and agreed upon''. I was truly taken aback and found it hard to react, especially knowing that the stakeholder was a mother herself.
Over time, I came to know and accept myself better. If the same situation happened, I'd probably laugh it off and nudge the stakeholder that being a mother should be a separate consideration altogether. If the past agreement was important, it should have been better documented in the first place.
In my own journey as a working mother, I'm most grateful to my mother. Being a new and working mom meant that I had a lot of insecurities when it came to dividing attention between work and family. I lost my cool at times, but my mom always allayed my fears, and supported me by taking care of the kids - feeding, bathing, poop cleaning, putting the kids to sleep especially when I work late into the nights.
I believe the mindset shift where I understood that things will never be the same as before helped me tremendously in managing my expectations in life and career.
While I unreservedly provide my kids the love, attention and education they need, I too never stopped upgrading my skills and developing my career. After I had my second kid, I went on to take 4 courses ranging from Compliance to Blockchain and Cryptocurrency. Within the same year, I stepped out from my comfort zone in Banking and secured a role as a Vice President in a Cryptocurrency Exchange. I slept very minimally during this period but I also have no regrets. While I am career driven, I also find immense satisfaction in being able to spend time with my children.
I personally resonated with this quote I came across in Linkedin:
“It's common you’d hear people say they regret spending too much time at work. Rarely you’d hear people say they regret spending too much time with the family.”
Having to run after 2 active kids has changed the way I dress - I seek to dress comfortably and functionally. I look for looser cuts in crease-free wicking fabrics. As I am still breastfeeding my second child who has sensitive skin, I have also omitted all forms of skincare regime for the past year to avoid any slightest chance of aggravating his skin. Nevertheless I take great care in having an unapologetically superb appetite with plenty of veggies, meat and nourishing Cantonese soup. That’s the least I could do to reward myself for my grueling schedule!
I do what makes me feel most comfortable in my own skin and keeps me happy, because that’s what matters.
*This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Photos c/o Sabrina Wee
This series is part of our International Women’s Month where we catch up with amazing women who live, as intended. With many amazing women in our community, As Intended will be celebrating an entire month to feature amazing women to #breakthebias of Working Mothers.
As part of this celebration, As Intended will be donating 10% of proceeds from purchases made in the month of March to Daughters of Tomorrow (DOT), to help raise funds for low-income working women in need of child minding support.
Daughters of Tomorrow is a registered charity organization with IPC status in Singapore whose mission is to facilitate livelihood opportunities for underprivileged women, and support them in achieving financial independence and social mobility for their families.
The lack of childminding support can be one of the biggest factors preventing a woman from being gainfully employed. Singapore Tote Board will match dollar for dollar for donations made and Tax Deduction Receipts (TDR) will also be issued for donations above $10. You may like to learn more, and choose to donate directly to: https://www.giving.sg/campaigns/as-intended