Notes From An Interviewer


His face got so tensed that I could tell that he was trying to fight his teeth from coming out to bite my head off my neck. “Third girl in the last 2 weeks! What can I say of you? Third girl resigned from your team in a matter of 2 weeks!” Gosh. I hate it when my boss repeat something twice in a sentence. It sounds super awful.

“That I am an inspiring leader?” I tried to lighten up the atmosphere in the boss’ room. He didn’t seem convinced. “And how is that so? Let me get this straight. One left because she found her aspiration to start writing a book after her travel to Tibet, and the second?” he asked.

“Oh she uhm… found the inspiration to start her own business after a trip to Melbourne.” I shook my head. “And the third lady?” He pressed on.

“That doesn’t even count. She is my staff but to be fair, she is from the client’s side, so technically under my team with our company… I mean your company, Sir, let’s just say that I have helped two persons discovered their passions for making a living elsewhere,” I defended. “Really, I do not think I am a horrible boss. There’s movie for it starring Jennifer Anniston but no, it’s certainly not inspired by me.”

“I am not saying that you are a horrible boss but with half of your team gone in a span of few weeks, I think that’s why you are stressed out and running thin. I don’t know how you are going to do it but my dear, you have about half a dozen projects to deliver in the next few months that I expect you get it delivered beyond my expectation. Get it? 6 projects until August. (See? He repeats serious stuff like twice, all the time!) I suggest you ask Jeannie to put up some recruitment ads to get a manager and a senior executive to assist you. Ok?” “Noted, boss.” I looked straight into his eyes and was grateful that help was on the way, at least with The Boss’s immediate instruction to the HR to get me some good staff.   960589386_09bbf2e6d8 And so I found myself sitting across the board room table from some interviewees in the last one month as I got in on the whole act of recruitment like a ball of energy mass to find my replacement team members. That was the exciting part and my story would have ended lovely here had I been more in touch with the mannerism and aspirations of some of these young job seekers. Obviously I am so out of touch that there are top six types of interviewees that absolutely drive me up the wall!

  • The Blurry

I had to run to another project site at 4.15pm. I stared at the office clock and nervously saw that it was already 3.15pm. “Jeannie, that Alice girl for the 3pm interview, is she coming or not?” I asked my colleague Jeannie, the HR Manager.

“Hmmm… Let me give her a call now and get back to you shortly.”

Five minutes later, Jeannie buzzed me from the intercom and said, “Guess what? Alice said she was so busy with her work that she had completely forgotten about the interview! She was asking if she could come see you this Saturday instead?”

I thought for a while and told Jeannie, “No, tell her that I may forget about her before the end of today!” 9227922133_c862915d95

  • The ME, ME & I King

He rattled off his success like stories from the Almanac of Successful People. “I accomplished this this and that too. It was all about me, myself and I. I led my team and achieved RM1 million in that SUPER successful case. I am so good and I am even better than the next 10 candidates you are interviewing for the rest of this week.”

Once he paused from his extremely illustrious stories, I asked him, “So is there anything else you would like to add on about your successes?”

“Yes, I am the best. The greatest. Period”. I thought to myself, Wow. And I never wanted to see him again. Period. 13771862765_03a8158ece

  • The Newbie Interviewee

What drives you?” I asked.

“I want to drive a BMW.” He replied without a slight hesitation.

Holding back my crazy laughter, I clarified politely, “I mean, what are the things that motivate you in life.”

“Oh, sorry I thought you asked me what car I wanted to drive.” 4709580506_cc6f3e0762

  • The Ambitious Sweet Young Thing

“Your goal in the next year?” I looked up to meet the eyes of the sweet young thing.

“I don’t know, may be… to be somebody in the company… like achieving the position of a director of the division by the time I am 25 years old and leading my own team of staff”

“But you have just graduated and you are only 23 years old, not trying to undermine your determination but what are the steps you will be taking to reach that goal within the next 1.5 years?”

“I don’t know but I am a quick learner. It’s like a very simple school project. I will get there irregardless.” 5228373874_056282e649

  • The Floater

“Is there any particular reasons you have jumped through 4 companies in the last 1.5 years?” I asked casually.

“Oh the first company gave me such low salary, so I left it and got 150% increment in the second job. But after 3 months I was angry that the new company gave me so much more work than the first one that I moved on to the third company. This time I thought I was lucky because work load was reduced but I got a bit bored and jumped ship again to my present company.”

“And the reason for moving on now?” I was clearly amused.

“Oh, just that I am not happy. My happiness is of utmost importance. I am looking forward to joining your company to find that happiness and fulfillment that were missing from all the bad companies that I have worked for.”

“I don’t think I can give you that. Job satisfaction comes from within yourself and if you have not been able to find that from your previous and present jobs, chances are we don’t store it in here too. Thanks for your time anyway. All the best to you as you find the ultimate happiness in your next job. Send my regards to it.” 117635854_385449ffa6

  • The Economist

“ What’s your present salary?” I glanced through his CV.

“RM4000 for basic and I have another RM500 for transportation allowance.” He replied politely.

“You are asking for RM7000 now. May I know the reason for asking such a big jump in your demand for the basic salary?”

“Oh I am planning to marry my girlfriend end of this year so my father in law asked me if I could afford to take care of his precious daughter. I told him I would find a new job that can pay for both of us so that my girlfriend could just stay home and take care of the 5 kids we plan to have.”

“Wow, that’s a very big increment in your salary and a great big plan there. Is this figure negotiable?”

“I am sorry, Miss, but I need this amount to marry my dream girl,” came the incredible reply from him.

“I am sorry, but then, this is not going to be the place to get your dream pay.” I stood up to bid my farewell to him.11901612346_36ca812923 …………………………………….

Believe it or not but I did eventually find 2 replacement out of the three vacancies that I need to fill. I tell myself that good staff are hard to come by but they are made harder when all we meet are rather strange, twilight-zone, young interviewees who make me feel like I have invaded a different planet altogether. As I continue to search for my third candidate, I keep myself sane with this mantra that…

ALL THESE SHALL PASS TOO.

PHOTO CREDIT

    Photo Credit photo credit: N00/960589386″>てんつくマンとの対談 via photopin (license) photo credit: N06/9227922133″>177 // 365 – Splitting Headache // Rasender Kopfschmerz via photopin (license) photo credit: N00/5228373874″>OMG! via photopin (license) photo credit: N08/13771862765″>IMG_5217 via photopin (license) photo credit: N00/4709580506″>We had a fun day via photopin (license) photo credit: N05/11901612346″>CYMERA_20140110_114505 via photopin (license) photo credit: N00/228551283″>liwanag sa dilim via photopin (license)  

Our Best Days… Ever!


Last month my domestic helper who is from Indonesia went back to her hometown to celebrate Eid with her family for 30 days.

When this happens, a stay home mom would just go on life managing the family routine, kids and her home with much grace, flair and poise that make her home completely functional as it has always been.

Forget about grace and flair with her counterpart who happens to be a working mama! The operative word was PANIC at this Seven2SevenMom planet! Short of clinging on to my helper’s leg even before she stepped off my front door, I was lost. I was petrified. I thought I’d crumble. First, I thought of my work – how do I cope with washing all the 3 bathrooms and 4 bedrooms in our apartment AND iron all the kids’ school uniforms after working 10 hours at the office? Then I thought of the crazy-beyond-description school routines of my kids and their mountain-high homework piles, which meant I would be coaching homework with my kids sitting on the kitchen floor while I (try to) wash all of the pots and pans and numerous little plastic cups and utensils after dinner. Multitasking will surely take on a whole new meaning in my life!

Maid-less day: The home was in a crazy mess but baby B found room for simple joy and laughter.

Maid-less day: The home was in a crazy mess but baby B found room for simple joy and laughter.

But when I thought of how my family-work balance will be temporarily thrown off its balance and yet I could have a chance of living my childhood dream of being an all-present, all-loving stay-home mom… I was elated!
After I succeeded at applying for a one-month special work arrangement with my extremely understanding bosses to work only half day at the office and the other half day to take care of what mattered most to me – my kids, I pictured myself launching into a supermom mode for the next 30 days doing the following loving things for the family:

1) Laundry at 5am – Oh ya. I will rise early and sort out my laundry into different colours and making sure that the stubborn sweat stains of Daddy Joe and Cheeky Koko’s shirts are rid of like they are new shirts. I even bought stubborn stain removal to get this job done that I thought was super-easy! (What really happened was: Laundry at 2pm because I only got to go to bed at 1.30am the night before after I finish ironing the gazillion of school uniforms and toddler clothings! In fact I closed one eye to the stubborn sweat stains after a capful of bleach was poured over the laundry load over a few days and it just didn’t work! Curse I had over the bleach solutions because they don’t get the job done!)

All rules broke loose! Pumpkin Mei-Mei was happy to have traditional chinese delicacy tang yuen in weird colours combo as supper!

All rules broke loose! Pumpkin Mei-Mei was happy to have traditional chinese delicacy tang yuen in weird colours combo as supper!

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Bake-happy days: One of my whimsical favourite comfort food: Ji Dan Gao (Chinese Steamed Cake). I was really one fearless chef who would just bake and cook to my heart’s content.

2) Making home cooked breakfast for the family by 6am which included preparing cute bento lunch sets for the three happiest little people — oh I would prep those rice meals into cute bear shapes, served with motivational love notes to spark up their days. (What really happened was: Kids made their own cereals and milks at 6am and bought food from the school canteen instead because mama was so exhausted from housework the night before she was still snoring away at 6am! I even rationalised to myself that my kids needed calcium to grow strong bones. So, have your milk today? )
3) Make up and change into my working attires by 7am (What really happened was: It took place at 8am. Blame those mountain-high pile of laundry!)
4) Send Baby B to nursery at 8am – and I won’t even forget about packing along Baby B’s favourite snacks and child vitamin into his lunch bag that our helper often overlooked. (What really happened was: Checked. Everything was lovingly done the way I would have it done!)
5) Reach office at 9am and conduct efficient meeting with staff because work load is still the same, half day or not, I just have to continue to optimise my productivity in half the amount of time. (What really happened was: The staff queued up to update and seek opinions over everything because I only had few hours for them everyday. On the hindsight, I was happy that I was deeply missed by them. Hehe…)
6) Get off work by 1pm, drive to pick up baby B from his day care at 1.30pm. (What really happened was: There was always pesty, long-winded meetings and discussions with staff for urgent matters that spanned a little longer than expected and I got fine just about everyday for five to ten Ringgit because I was so ridiculously busy!)
7) Get Baby B to nap at 3pm so that I can free myself for the next 2 hours to prepare and cook dinner as well as get some house chores done. (What really happened was: In between singing the Barney’s I love you song to get Baby B to nap, often we cuddled up and slept together!)
8) 5pm is my allocated one-hour clean up time when I would set a small amount of time, like 15 mins each room to clean up the apartment, room by room. (What really happened was: I was chopping the veg, some poultry meat and soup ingredients away like a mad woman because the older kids were coming home in an hour and I had not even washed the anchovies and potatoes yet!)

The kids were on dysfunctional mode. Hey mom, someone is using those tang yuen's flour mixture to press into his toy car! OMG.... Whatever!

The kids were on dysfunctional mode on some days. Like here, someone was using those tang yuen’s flour mixture to press into his toy car! OMG…. Whatever!

9) Cheeky Koko and Pumpkin Mei Mei, my two older little people would come home from tuition day care at 6pm into the warm embrace of their mama and the entire apartment would smell like a rockin’ celebrity chef has just made the best gourmet meals cooked with the freshest ingredients in the whole world. (What really happened was: The kids came home hungry, waited for another hour before mom is finally ready and before that, they still had to help to clear the dining table from the mess they left over from their school projects last night!)
10) 8pm is homework time – normally this is the hour when everyone would either complete their homework or have some quiet reading time. (What really happened was: Older kids helped clean up the house, and mom is still cleaning up the kitchen and everyone get a little dizzy over the mom barking restrictions about the number of clothing one wears in a day (just so that she would not have to wash two loads of laundry per day). Her idea is the kids should just wear the school uniforms as home lounge wear and pyjamas, one set per day, that’s ALL!)

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Clean, cook, vacuum and laundry were synonymous with my existence.

Time flies and our helper finally flew back into our home which survived a super busy working mom commando in chief’s lacklustre management for 30 days. Did any good come out of it? Yes, plenty.

In that one month we have had many good times just enjoying each other’s presence as a functional family, albeit a home that always had unfinished chores and a mom who always seemed to be slaving away at the laundry and at the kitchen. It was great to see that for once, I was licensed and given the blessing to prioritise my children and my family, instead of work.

Yes I was stressed still juggling half-day work at the office and nothing went according to The Mom’s plan. But I love every moment of it and I mourned for the loss of this precious time when it finally ended. In that one month, I have also cooked and baked like there was no tomorrow – it was how I envision a family should smell like. I could spend an hour watching Barney sing and dance with Baby B and yet not feel hurried to rush because I have to go for a business conference. I was not pursuing anything related to career. I was simply a mom spending time with my kids and doing the whole Barney dance with them and loving it every moment even if I had danced it the fifth time that afternoon.

I am back to work now but in my heart, there’s always the tender spot that cherishes those Barney days that I simply would not trade with anything else.

Carpe Diem Parenting


It’s been a while since I have gotten that close to local celebrities. About an arm’s length, to be precise. The last time I was this close to any celebrity I was working for a fashion house and a few of them were invited to a fashion event the company was hosting. Lo and behold, some of these gorgeous superstar have morphed into the beautiful moms that they are now— Still gorgeous, still youthful (like how do they look so radiant and thin forever? Amazing!) and definitely fearless.

Supporting Friso Gold’s call toBe a G.U.T. Mom, which abbreviates ‘Growing Up Together’, Sazzy Falak, Belinda Chee, Putri Azalea Ramli and Low Ngai Yuen; have come together joining a group of like-minded Malaysian mothers who strongly believe in the importance of experiencing the growing up journey with their children.

Lending their glittery star presence to the launch were actress/model/TV host and proud mother to a 1-year-9-months-old girl, Belinda Chee; actress/TV host/entrepreneur and joyful mother to a pair of twins, Sazzy Falak; TV host/film producer/director of Kakiseni and mother of four children, Low Ngai Yuen.

Lending their glittery star presence to the launch were actress/model/TV host and proud mother to a 1-year-9-months-old girl, Belinda Chee; actress/TV host/entrepreneur and joyful mother to a pair of twins, Sazzy Falak; TV host/film producer/director of Kakiseni and mother of four children, Low Ngai Yuen.

That brought back memory of a well-intentioned lesson I learned from a cousin when Cheeky Koko was only four years old. We were invited to a home-cooked dinner by Daddy Joe’s uncle at 7.30pm one Wednesday night. I was an extremely busy working mama attached to a fashion house with an awful load of work and unpredictable meetings that often piled up last minute. On that night, I knew I was not going to be able to make it on time because a conference call with a US principal was scheduled at 8pm. Even if the call was to last only for 20 minutes, there was still the KL traffic jams to beat. There was also the email to draft to update my boss on what key issues were discussed with the principal right after the call.

I finally settled work and stepped off the office as one of the last few busy bees and sped on my way to his uncle’s suburb home in PJ and must have looked like my mind was scattered everywhere except for the dining room as I reached there 9.15pm looking every bit disconcerted and exhausted. After a lonely dinner (since everyone had finished theirs and were enjoying their coffee and desserts already), Daddy Joe’s cousin (a paediatrician) who was visiting from the UK asked if I’d always worked until that late that my kids went to bed way past bed time because in the UK, children went to bed at 8pm!

I came to know that Friso Gold is a premium milk powder fully imported from Holland! It is specially-formulated with Frisoshield, which contains a blend of nutrients, such as GOS, Zinc, Vitamins D and B6 and Selenium that are important for a child’s natural body resistance.

I came to know that Friso Gold is a premium milk powder fully imported from Holland! It is specially-formulated with Frisoshield, which contains a blend of nutrients, such as GOS, Zinc, Vitamins D and B6 and Selenium that are important for a child’s natural body resistance.

8pm!!!! Seriously??? At 8pm I would still be stuck in the office working on the press release for the next seasonal launch! Cheeky Koko and Pumpkin Mei-Mei only went to bed at 10pm because this mama who had missed them dearly the entire day being at work wanted to catch up and play with them when she reached home around 9pm every night!

I couldn’t possibly forget what came next through the mail box a few days later: A handwritten letter from the concerned cousin straight off the plane as she was flying back to the UK where she shared how it was medically proven that a child’s characters were pretty much shaped and moulded in the first five years of his life. In other words, I had only a small window of the first formative five years to influence my child’s character before his personality, moral values and character are influenced by the outside world. Not sure if it was because of the rain that night but I was drenched with parenting guilt so deep.

I snapped out of that old, workaholic self and quickly put into place the change I wanted for my kids. I didn’t quit my job because we still had all the bills to pay, but I did the next best thing I could: I changed my work arrangement from full time to part time with the same company. Working only three work days a week, I then had more time to spend with the two little happiest people for a good two years. I seized the day and made everyday count.

Looking back, as a family, it was a much-welcomed and timely change as we learned to slow down and prioritised what mattered most and as a result of this change, we had the time to smell the flowers together along the way!

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Celebrity moms Sassy Falak and Belinda Chee are calling for all Malaysian moms to answer Friso Gold’s call for action to Be A G.U.T. Mom today by downloading a “Be A G.U.T Mom” profile badge for your facebook at Friso Gold Malaysia Facebook page.

Anja Henze, Marketing Director of Dutch Lady Milk Industries Berhad which markets Friso Gold said, “at Friso Gold, we believe that the journey of growing up is one of life’s most unique experiences; as such, we encourage both parents and children to embrace these experiences and share the precious moments of growing up together. In a world

where human contact and interaction is gradually being replaced by technology, it is important for mother and child to share a bond that can only be strengthened by creating memorable experiences together”.

Anja Henze, Marketing Director of Dutch Lady Milk Industries Berhad which markets Friso Gold is flanked by two gorgeous mom-ambassadors of Friso Gold, Sazzy Falak on her left and Belinda Chee on her right, as they present the new pack of Friso Gold at the launch.

Anja Henze, Marketing Director of Dutch Lady Milk Industries Berhad which markets Friso Gold is flanked by two gorgeous mom-ambassadors of Friso Gold, Sazzy Falak on her left and Belinda Chee on her right, as they present the new pack of Friso Gold at the launch.

“Friso Gold helps strengthen children from the inside to support their growth and development, so that they are able to explore, play and learn, allowing them to experience the priceless journey of growing up together with mommy,” she continued. As an act of support to Friso Gold’s movement, all mothers at the launch event including the celebrity moms, donned on the “Be a G.U.T. Mom” badge, pledging their commitment and support. Moms who are interested to pledge your commitment and support to “Be a G.U.T. Mom” movement can go to Friso Gold Malaysia Facebook at here to download this profile badge.

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The not-so-glamourous mom i.e. yours truly donning a “Be a G.U.T. Mom” profile badge on my facebook profile picture. Are you gutsy enough to join me in being a Friso Gold G.U.T. Mom? :)

Studies have shown that a child develops best through experiences and discoveries. A mother’s role is to encourage her children by joining them to explore and discover the world together. There will be times when children may stumble and fall, but allowing them to learn while holding their hands and cheering them on is the best support a mother can provide along the way.

Striking the balance between work and family is never an easy task. However I believe that choice is always in our hand. Looking back, I am so glad that I seized the day to prioritise motherhood for the kiddos during their tender growing up years. I have never regretted the choice I made then because looking at the bond between the kids and myself now, I know I did good in that compartment. Most importantly I was with them together through the journey.

Carpe Diem, fellow moms!

Poppin’ Beauty


I sat there crunching numbers for an upcoming presentation when the Finance cum HR lady appeared right in front of me holding a piece of printed schedule in her hand.

“Good morning!!!” she greeted chirpily.

“Good morning Helen (not her real name), sunny side up, eh? You look like you have had a good rest last night, my friend!” I said.

“Yes, well, with the major budgeting season FINALLY over, I can have a good sleep! I see that it’s your turn now playing with numbers, eh? Hey, can I check with you if you could train the new recruits at 3.30pm next Wednesday?” she said while pointing to the column under my name which showed a marketing training session at mid-afternoon on a mid-week for the batch of freshies the company has recently hired .

“Helen, I am good for Wednesday and at 3.30pm but just curious, why are we starting the whole training including the ones by the bosses on a Wednesday? Aren’t the newbies more energized and alive on say, a Monday? I would suggest a Friday too but alas, they will probably be imagining all the happy hours ahead of them and think I am torturing them pouring out facts rather than beer, just sayin’.” I looked at the overall training schedule pensively.

Poppin' Beauty for my phone!

Poppin’ Beauty for my phone!

“Oh, that’s because you are not in town that Monday and Tuesday,” Helen informed me. “I am NOT? And why haven’t I got a clue about that?” I asked.

“You and half of the team and the bosses are travelling to Penang for a business meeting on Monday and Tuesday. You didn’t know? Your name is on the white board for the travelling schedule!” Helen replied.

“I didn’t know! Goodness now that I am being informed, I would have to make arrangement for my kids like pre-buy groceries this weekend, pre-arrange their school schedules and transportation and do my holy grail: pre-express some breast milk for my husband to feed the baby for the night time feeding! OK I’d better prepare a check list for my husband in case he is all stressed out taking over the mommy tasks.” I said, rather distractedly, while telling myself I love my job.

“And by the way, Helen… Yep, I am good for the training session on Wednesday. Considered done!” I quickly pen down the training date on my work calendar and set about preparing what needed to be done for my impending business travel, even if it’s only but for two days.

For two days! My working mom’s heart laments: Two days of not getting the butterfly kisses from Pumpkin Mei-Mei first thing in the morning. Two nights of not hearing Cheeky Koko’s funny jokes and his shy, “private-only”, tween-thing kiss. Two days of not getting the ballyhoo of welcome-home hugs from Baby B’s chubby arms, sealed with a loud “Muah” kiss that fill a mommy’s heart with that tingling sweet devotion of love so pure.

I called Daddy Joe immediately to share my travelling plan and to my surprise, he was as unruffled as the calm surface of Tasik Chini (a famous lake in Pahang). “OK, so you are cool with getting the kids all sorted out for the morning and through the night, Hun?” I asked, feeling a tad of rejection that he is quite OK with my absence. I mean, I am supposed to be the princess queen of his life, right?

“Darling, it’s only two days and we can always call each other to chat. It’s like we will miss you for only one night but when we open our eyes the next morning and go about our work or studies, you will be home in the evening already! Come on… When you miss the kids at night, their faces are all over in your phone camera and at the back of your phone anyway!” Okaaay, move over Marry Poppins, Daddy Joe has it all figured out—Thus came the cool reassurance from husband although secretly the wifey was hoping that he would say that she was totally irreplaceable. 😦

I hung up and turned over my phone to look at my latest phone cover from Pop My Case and admired the gorgeous print of my kids that was shot by a friend.

Get your own personalised smartphone case at http://www.popmycase.com

Get your own personalised smartphone case at http://www.popmycase.com

When one of the guys behind Pop My Case dropped me an email last month to share about how personalized smartphone case is the IT thing, I was under the impression that such a thing was only for the fashionable generation X (or was it Gen Y?) to immortalize their own creative imprints and personal pictures on gadgets.

Then in the midst of a few killing work-related deadlines and all, I just hurried through the selection of the pictures I wanted

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Eenie meenie miney mo… I chose the one with the 3 kids just so that I can always have all 3 of them with me when I am away for work! (Oh well, sort of…)

and emailed two photos back to the same guy (who by the way, is a really cool Malaysian dude with a triumphant vision for his products). Within a few days, got back two mock-up artworks in my email on how the cases would look like eventually, selected the one I thought was the best and voila, received my brand new phone case, all in a week’s time! The colour output of the fully-wrapped image over the case is beautifully crisp and clear— the end result which makes the photo of my happy little people comes alive fine and sharp as if it has popped right out of a laminated photo paper.

Needless to say, the sturdy phone case was a hit in my office and the fact that Pop My Case being a Malaysian company has gotten such cool and lovely line of phone cases – some of which are collaboration with homeland artists, is just simply brilliant! Of course, unless one hasn’t got a studio styled portrait (but who doesn’t have a good selfie these days?), the bestsellers remain the ones that can be customized and personalized with personal photos. Time to bring out those beautiful bridal portraits, shots of the baby’s first toothy grins or even shots of your cool Mini!

Honestly, to save us both from possible old age related heart attack, I am thinking of giving my man and myself two phone cases printed with our wedding photo to look at everyday so that when we are both semi-senile at 80 years old we won’t get entirely too shocked over who the heck is that white-haired, wrinkly creature sleeping next to us in the morning! 😀

As for the working mama here, business trip or not, it’s a definite sunshine cheer for the day just to see the little faces I love so dearly every minute of the day even if I am fighting a crisis somewhere up north in the corporate world. 🙂

Another Type of PR


I rarely ever want to talk about my work in the blogosphere.

I suppose if I were Steve Job, I would be proud to answer what I do for a living when being prompted at a social gathering, “Oh nothing much, you know, just inventing some computers and a smart tablet called an Ipad at my garage for the brand that has with the apple logo.”

Or that I deliver about a couple hundred babies a year including twins and triplets as an Ob-gyn.

How about running a successful chain of fusion restaurants at KL’s hippest spots (suddenly every type of food that is east meets west is called FUSION in KL now, I’m guessing that anything can go these days when you can even have a gelato with a Belacan flavor).

Even better, if I was a new age guru who has attained the best kept cosmic secrets to longevity— Surely that would make me the most sought after speaker for health-related workshops and fetch me a fat piggy among the rich and famous.

I’d be proud just to walk into the local wet market with any of the above feel-good who’s who descriptions, even if I only have enough cash to buy Kangkung that morning.

What significance could I possibly feel doing what I’m doing now then— planning for which newspapers to place ads and whether the press conference have reached a certain publicity mileage or if the promotion our team is planning helps achieve the sales target. I also cannot see how all these marketing tools such as advertising, promotion and the likes have anything to do with the whole gamut of human life.

Well, except for Public Relations (PR). PR is the one and only tool that is connected to the tapestry of life, of the complexity of human relationships with one another and not just with the media.

In marketing, PR is an important element to engage customers and the public harnessing the power of the media, to get a favourable angle in the news and to create ripples of desired marketing outcome.

In life, understanding the intricacy of human relations, much like public relations, helps businesses achieve long term partnership and short term gains, just because certain business owners do it right in their Personal Relationship, another PR . A coworker with great Personal Relationship skill also wins friends at the workplace— Here’s what they do:

1) It’s not just the food. At my first media lunch with some fashion editors, one of my ex bosses who is respected by many peers as a public relations doyen, taught me about the art of paying close attention to the details even when it’s just a lunch. Of course, we had a business proposition to pitch but it felt more like a happy gathering of friends than a business lunch.

Half way through the dim sum lunch and as this ex-boss was sharing a light moment with our media friends, she gently smiled at me while casting a sideway glance and quick signal of sort over the Chinese tea pot, reminding me to refill everyone’s tea cup. Oh shucks, like i’ve had an epiphany… I had completely immersed myself in the lunch and with the company so much so that I have forgotten to play a graceful host. I quickly got up and haven’t stopped observing and refilling others’ Chinese tea cups ever since!

2) Personal touch means everything. Corporate gifting is a common practice, but there’s nothing like receiving a personally signed greeting card from someone who calls you a friend. Every Chinese New Year, I receive greeting cards from business suppliers who squeeze 30 employee signatures under the printed corporate logo and no one, not the CEO nor the executive I deal with ever bothered to pen a personalized message eg “Gong Xi Fatt Choy” on the card. Are we making corporate gesture way too impersonal and too much of a business obligation? If the senders treat greeting card sending as just a business obligation, rest be assured the recipient feels it so too.

3) Thank you but no thanks. A friend has complained of her colleague who was just very tight lipped about her thank you. First of all, when she asks for a favour, she doesn’t care if you have other jobs on hand or that you have your own deadlines to chase. After you have helped her with a task such as a presentation, she would only respond with criticism and offered no thank you. It was no surprise that she never had any true friends in her work place. Regardless of one’s level of seniority and experience, a genuine thank you will always wins friends at work.

4) Don’t be late and don’t show up without an appointment. Really, unless you are my close friends or my husband that being late will be affectionately excused or a sudden show up at my office brings me an anticipated joy, in business 3pm is 3pm, no appointment made means let’s meet another day when I’m actually not rushing any critical deadlines.

5) Respect others. I have met many big shots and CEOs who walk into a room bringing the sunshine along when the whole office starts in a gloom on Monday morning. And then there are those high-level business associates who remember names of small fries like me (instead of preferring only to speak to my direct boss as if I am suddenly an invincible lamp post). Apparently you become respectable when you first respect the others.

At the next kids birthday party or friendly kiddie football league and if I ever got asked again about what I do for a living, perhaps I will just say I specialize in Public Relations for real life. Throw in all these observations and I’d be feeling like a guru.

Ms. Jessie J sings that everything comes with a price. Forget about the price tag as life lessons can be free when one observes and practices good PR skills.

Que Sera, Sera


I always know when my parents want to have a serious talk with me.

It was the eighties when the global financial crisis took place. I was only 9 years old when my mother sat all three of us down and said that we were going through a really difficult time in the family that for a long while we would need to be extremely frugal to tide us over. Turned out that we took more than 10 years to get through that “dark ages of finance” as I called it, but there was also the bright side of things because we got closer as a family. From being constantly fighting with my older brother for the control over the TV channel or quarrelling with my older sister whom I feared because of her two huge, fierce eyes, we became strong, affectionate siblings who shared great camaraderie for life.

When I was 15 years old and on Valentine’s Day I received two stalks of red roses from some boys, my mother gave me a long talk about dating too young.  I was completely flabbergasted. I wasn’t even dating these boys. They were guy friends from a nearby boys school whom I got to know from riding on the same school bus who gave me flowers. I was not even remotely interested in them romantically. To me, they were just friends. Period. In any case, mama said that I was not supposed to hold hands with or kiss a boy at just 15 years old. So I followed her advice and only kissed my boyfriend at 17 years old. But I also married him eight years later.

What happened was last month we had a little tea session again at their living room. Now when you love someone you feel them all the time! I sensed that they wanted to have one of these talks again before I had even parked my car in front of their house. Something serious…. Hmm…  Is it about the way I bring up my kids, or how unwise I plan financially (in fact I have no planning at all!) or something even more serious?!

Tea

So my mama did the whole Chinese tea ritual the moment I stepped into the house. She sat me down then brought out her little Chinese teapot, dropped one Yunnan Pu-erh tea cube into the pot, poured some hot boiling water over them and started brewing the tea while pouring hot water over all the tea cups. When the tea was ready, she poured the tea into five tea cups, called papa to join us and in her utmost subtlety, expressed that she felt sorry that I was “stuck in a rut”. I almost choked on my tea!

I am not successful by any measure but I am so NOT stuck in a rut. I mean, yes I am not a CEO, an engineer, an astronaut or a pharmacist and yes I am not rich either, but I have built  a life I am contented with that are filled with many blessings that make me, well… happy. Yes, contentment. Is that why mama thinks I live a dull life?

“Love, I am just talking about your career. Now you know my old classmate Uncle X? One of his two sons is a Doctor and the other son is an Actuarist. Aunty Y, my ex-colleague? Her eldest son is an engineer, the second daughter is an accountant and the third son is a Pharmacist. Your brother has his own small business and your sister is an accountant, but you…”

I was crushed. There was such long awkward pause there that I had to fill in the blank for her, “I am creative, compassionate, exceedingly happy and funny?” She rolled her eyes and said, “Well, if you are not a professional, at least you must own the feeling of success!”

If you think my mama put me down, you are wrong. She is the epitome of the most faithful mom who thinks you are the best of them all even when you are the sort who walks into a room with a light bulb strapped to your head and nobody even noticed you. She just has an issue with me that I am still working for others, at THIS age. Papa confirmed my suspicion when he said, “You know, my own papa has always told me to start my own business no matter how small because the operative word here is Freedom. And I hold true to that, that no matter how challenging it was back then, I served no other masters but myself. I have freedom!”

I looked at both of them and chuckled, “Oh, that whole being enterprising thing, huh? But I don’t know what I want to sell, papa.” Own a restaurant? Negative. I can’t even fry char kuey teow or make roti canai. Run a beauty centre? I am too scared to squeeze someone else’s zits and especially if he has like a hundreds of them on just his forehead. Consulting business? Obviously I am the one who needs consultation on how to run a business the most.

“So should I just quit my job tomorrow, pa?” I continued, trying not to sound defensive.

The next Entrepreneur of the year ---Seven2SevenMom. Hooray!

The next Entrepreneur of the year —Seven2SevenMom. Hooray!

“I mean, I have no idea what business I should run though.” “No, no, not now, but all we want to say to you is we think you should put that in your 10 years goal or something. I mean, just observe some of the local businesses and see if you might find something you could do successfully. We are Chinese. Trading has to be in our blood.”

I sipped my Pu-erh, not sure if I had the same blood or DNA, for that matter. But I will go think of something that will see me work on my own terms say 5 to 10 years from now, like my papa said. Good, all is well. Finally I have a 10-year goal to boast. Even this year end’s employee appraisal starts to sound exciting already because I don’t have to copy and paste the same standard answer year on year. Why, I can already imagine the newspaper headline that reads The next Entrepreneur of the year — Seven2SevenMom, and the subhead goes, the most unassuming, talented CEO of the Happiness Empire. OK I over-paint my own road to success but you get the point.

Truly not a bad thing to get some nuggets of wisdom from our parents, especially when it gives you a new perspective and comes served with a warm cup of Yunnan Pu-Erh and a beacon of hope. That brought to mind a song my mom used to sing to me:

When I was just a little girl
I asked my mother, what will I be
Will I be pretty, will I be rich
Here’s what she said to me.

Que Sera, Sera,
Whatever will be, will be
The future’s not ours, to see
Que Sera, Sera
What will be, will be.

________________________________________________________________________________________________

I don’t look at all like the pretty business woman in the photo nor had I make any Chinese tea, so this 2 came from:

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/danielygo/5370833937/”>Daniel Y. Go</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>cc</a>

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/76029035@N02/6829417439/”>Victor1558</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a>

The Cow Mama Travels For Work


Work travel - a mama misses not just the festive but also her baby.

Work travel – a mama misses not just the festive but also her baby.

It’s the cheap flights season now as airlines offer cheap and sometimes free flights just to encourage domestic or international travel for fellow countrymen. I don’t know, may be the airlines’ CEOs wake up from the right side of the bed, pressed the speed dial to the Advertising department and said to one of the Marketing’s Big Shots, ‘hey Bill, bring out those free seats, I wanna reward Malaysians! Let them fly for FREE, let them get inspired, get stylish, and oh, while they are at it, let them eat to their heart’s content while they travel!”

OK, I am just imagining but whatever it is, some moms are jetsetters due to their work. Thank God I have definitely passed the age (ok, don’t even try to guess my real age!) to apply for a highflying job that would have been nice as I imagined, to have a secretary make a nice warm cup of coffee for me every morning or decide the fate of a company’s fifty million ringgit deposit on some mega investment on a whim but which would probably also require me to leave the kids behind to do some globetrotting trips for the company more than a few times a year.

However, even just a few times of work travel a year is quite a lot for a breastfeeding mama though, considering all the planning and logistics involved in being committed as a nursing mother. So much as I am committed to extended nursing until my last happiest little people aka Baby B at least turns 24 months old, in my little world of corporate reality I am required to travel for work an average of twice a year sans the baby, and the longest of such journey was a good 8 days away from him.

I would like to share some tips of making work travel work for nursing mama. Whenever I get any advanced notification for work related travel, I would plan way ahead before the trip by including a pumping session over the weekends or add on an additional pumping session at work to get a good stock of Expressed Breast Milk (EBM) supply in the freezer that Daddy Joe or the babysitter could reach for to feed the baby when I am away.

Over the years, I have worked out an average of 6 bottles of EBM a day for a baby who has not started solids and 4 bottles of EBM for a baby who has started solids. Once they have started some semi-solid food, my baby has managed anything between 4 to 8 bottles of EBM per day when I was away, so somehow this math has worked out well for us.

To maintain my milk supply when I was away, I would take Moringa Capsules and at times Nursing Tea to build up my milk supply which would naturally dwindle a little due to us mommies not being able to get into direct nursing and cuddling of our baby over so many days. On top of that, I would make sure that I eat healthily and had sufficient rest.

If motherhood is all about getting creative and make do with any challenges that come your way, man, pumping while travelling sure is the cream of the crop when it comes to thinking out of the box for a place to express your milk. I have pumped away using a manual pump at nursing rooms of malls, beg a waitress for a pumping corner covering my dignity with a nursing bib at a restaurant, and I have even pumped at a DJ control room stuck with 15 gorgeous models changing for their next catwalk!

Once I am done, I would normally ask for help from any restaurants if I could store the EBM and cooler gel in their fridge until I was done with my work. Just before we head back to our hotel at the end of the day, with a lot of apologies I would ask my colleagues to wait for me while I rushed back to the same restaurant to retrieve my precious EBM. Thank God for really kind and supportive bosses and colleagues I have had all these years!

At night, I wash and sterilize all of the manual pumps and bottles and fit in another pumping session via an electrical pump just before hitting the sack and then at 6am again before I get ready for work. If the room had a chiller I would leave the EBM in it, but I have travelled to enough hot and humid places to notice that you just can’t trust the chiller in most of the hotel rooms. In that case, one would just have to ask for hotel front desk or their restaurants for help to store EBM elsewhere.

If you are travelling for work sans the baby, make sure you bring along at least a manual pump and an electrical pump since not all places or countries that you travel to have a power socket at the place you pump and because you would be pumping quite often. Yes there will be so much pump parts and bottles to wash at night and so many logistics to think about, but it’s worth every droplet of health for the baby!

Some countries have strict airline regulations that all frozen EBM are to be packed along with some cooler and ice packs inside a separate cooler bag and kept in one’s luggage to be checked in, which I have done while travelling for a 16-hours journey only to reach home to half thawed EBM. Some airlines are ok that you hand carry your cooler bag then speak to the air hostess inside the plane and have your cooler bag kept in the chiller compartment of the pantry.

Also, bring some breast pads, breast milk bags (they are lighter to lug around plus you can write the date and baby’s name on it), nursing supplement, cooler gel, cooler bag, wet bag, some wet tissues in case the place you are pumping is not that clean), sterilizing tablets (in case no jug kettle is provided in the room to sterilize stuff), baby bottles detergent and a sponge for all the washing you will be doing nightly.
Last but not least, it will be helpful to carry a photo of your baby to look at while you pump away from home. It also serves as a loving motivation that all of these sacrifices and commitment will one day come back to you when your child, in his successful 30s self, call you from out of his HQ in London that he will be sending a private jet plane to fly you and his dad to Paris just for a nice breakfast with him, overlooking the Eiffel Tower and all. Just saying. 

In this seven2sevenmom’s planet, there is no harm to be super-imaginative while one checks out some cheap flights for the next well-deserved holiday. Happy globetrotting, fellow moommies!

The Working Mama’s Wardrobe


Some women have it and some do not. I used to have it but now I have lost it. My sense of fashions and style, that is.

fashion1

The company I work for is housed in a business building at a buzzling suburb. Everyday the lobby packs a phenomenal mass of energy before and after the nine to five office hours window when scores of business executives, most of whom dress the part of a successful population smoke fashionably (much to my annoyance) and chat away as they wait for their turns at the lift lobby to go to their respective offices to take the boardroom by storm with another brilliant idea or artfully nail down another million ringgit deal.

As the Seven2SevenMom joins the long league of powerful executives at the lift lobby to get to her office daily, she tries very hard to emulate these shrew business people in coming out with the next BIG, breakthrough idea—- which dreadfully never actually came through because her mind is always accommodating the many minor compartments of the three happiest little people who rule her life. In that eternally long ten-minute of waiting time, she is often thus left to observe and compare her own lack of style with the fashionable chicks in front of her.

fashion2

In typical urban fashion, these working fashionistas sure know how to work the oomph into their work attires with ladder-climbing style. One gorgeous office lady donned bright hot pink pencil skirt paired with a semi sheer black blouse and layered with a three-quarter-sleeved black cardigan and just to give it a youthful vive, she cleverly matched her look with a cute pink Miu Miu.

Then, there’s the upcoming manager who looks fabulously chic in a classic DVF wrap dress, accessorised with chunky, strappy black heels. She commanded the eyes when she walked past the admiring crowds and I bet, all the way to the boardroom. Young executives look sharp in their navy blouse paired with a white boxy jacket and a pair of long white pants that show off their endlessly long legs.

Pitifully, during the short few minutes of restroom break, the Seven2SevenMom often realized that for the umpteenth time in that week, she has FORGOTTEN to comb her short bob, thinking that her hair which had been cut and straightened would find its own way to connect with style and order.

And almost immediately she would bang her head against the restroom wall remembering how flattered she felt that morning when a few hot CEO-looking men and charismatic-looking women looked intensely at her as she walked down the hallway, who were actually, really horrified that some mothers just never had time to take care of their looks. They probably jot down mentally and on their smart phones with messages like” Note to self: Never get married and if I did, NEVER get a baby lest I look like THIS woman.”
fashion3

And if I took another minute to look at what I had managed to put together for work, I would always have a hard time recalling when the baby’s spit up had found its way to the centre of my lovely shift dress that was such a steal from the recent Zara sale.

Every now and then I do look “put together” but it is so hard to look good when you are just rushing about chasing madness, three happiest kids, cooking, some desserts, house chores, work piles, coffee and more desserts. If Isaac Mizrahi, an American fashion designer, dared say this: Half the time I don’t even think about it, I just throw something on because I’m so late or so busy.

Then fashions and style have not eluded me. They are just out for a walk and will be back soon when I have mastered this whole juggling act.

Happy International Women’s Day, may you be gloriously praised and loved for who you are inside and not what you wear on the outside.

Photo Source:
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/conniesec/4608446588/”>Connie Arida</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/saintmarche/6887435734/”>Christina Saint Marche</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/an_untrained_eye/2102196106/”>an untrained eye</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

Perfetto!


I said “six”.
“Three,” he said.
“Four” I looked at the end products intently.
“No, two,” he said, trying to wipe away the perspiration from his forehead with the back of his hand.
“Two now, but later, four.” I replied, not planning to give up as we approach the end of our bargaining session.
“No, no, no, ma’am. Two now, later also two, in fact two all the way,” the man stared back at me with disbelief. He never met a master bargainer so determined in his entire lifetime.
“Fine, three then” I exclaimed, walking away from where the man in his pagoda singlet and checked prints shorts was standing, assuming I would get three. THREE. No more, no less.

I wasn’t bargaining for the number of mullets I was getting from the fish monger at the local market, if that was what it looked like.

I was haggling it out with Daddy Joe on the number of kids I thought would be nice for the happiest family on earth. It’s been a long debate since I gave birth to Pumpkin Mei-Mei, our latest addition to the family some while back.

My purpose is simple: Kids add joy to life. His explanation is clear: After all these years of bringing up the two happiest babies on earth to kids, it’s about time to focus a little more on life besides diapers and kids-related chores. Obviously this matter takes two to tango, and I’m the only one on the dancing floor now with my over-embellished, sumptuous costume waiting hopelessly in the last few years for some divine intervention to change Daddy Joe’s thoughts.

Of course, there was a point in life I was glad that we only had two kids so that we could both build our career paths which we often passed on previously to focus on our family. That is, until some what-ifs struck you as you approach another birthday and make you realise just how much you miss having a bun in the oven. Of how good a baby’s head smells. How she gives back the seeds of love you sowed in her life through her endearing smile that seems to sweep all your sorrow away.

There’s never a magic number as to how many kids each family should ideally have. It is purely a divine blessing that only the Creator can grant. For now, what is given by God to the happiest family on earth just seems like a perfect cup of Mocha coffee – soothingly creamy, warm and fuzzy, a little fun with just the right flavour of life and blissfully stirred and served. Too much of chocolate could even be a little overwhelming to the chocoholic.

At this season of our life, two is just perfetto!

See you at the bottom


Sometimes you’ve just got to give a standing ovation when it comes to workers’ creativity in giving excuses for tardiness, absences or wanting to take hours off from work. One particular staff recently drove me insane with lame excuses all involving his “aunties” which warranted taking emergency leave (EL) for the day.

The sms read: Sorry boss, am on EL as aunty had a bad accident. A few days later, this message: My aunt is on the verge of dying, need to return to hometown to attend funeral. Fair enough, I granted him EL out of compassion. A few weeks later, another sms read “Sorry, can’t make it to work, aunt passed away”. And you would think it would be the end of story for this poor aunt, that life would resume normally for this particular staff. But weeks later, another aunt fell ill. Then yet another aunt also died the next month, two weeks after an uncle, urr… also died!

Not sure if any of you have heard of this widely circulated theory i.e. the “six degrees of separation” that at the end of the day, humans are related to one another in some way or another. I prayed so hard I wasn’t genetically or socially linked to this guy in any way that I might be his cousin related from 30th generations ago, I sure do NOT want to be cursed like his “dead aunts”. I’m certain they must have fell ill after what he said, even if they had not before.

I feel sorry that some of these younger people have chosen to waste their prime years Not wanting to be the humble employee with the right attitude and EQ. Instead of being eager to learn the ropes in work and in life, so many are full of excuses to fail.

They take medical leave with minor physical discomfort such as backache (at age 24) and eye pain (who could go on facebook for four hours on end at work), when they are more alive and kicking at their MUCH younger age than mine and could gulp down Guinness to drown their purported sickness. So are the daredevils who perpetually arrive later than the bosses and blame anything from traffic to their sick hamster.

I must say that the good old days of finding staff who are committed to their work are long gone. I even have a classic staff with whom I would reserve for the Most Blur Award. After the third time of explaining to her the step-by-step procedure for a project, she “miraculously” forgets she was supposed to do it by the deadline.

At such junior level, one is already bending the rules for success, what happen when they move up the corporate ladder? Until that happens, my guess is such lax and slipshod way is definitely the holy way to career destruction.

Remember, no one is indispensable to any organisation. Unless you are going to change your way, the boss has every right to say ”See you at the bottom.”