I Moved to Singapore

I took the job offer as Product Designer with DBS Bank last December last year and I made the move. It’s my second month, going to my third month. I will write my comments about the experience in two parts. The first part is about Singapore itself, the second part is about the job.

On being in Singapore

Please note that I am here alone, I still leave my wife and soon-to-be-born kid in Jakarta until the kid is born and we are all ready to make the move together. I stay at a small cheap HDB flat common room (for $650 a month) in Pasir Ris, a largely residential area east of Singapore, which makes it very convenient for me to go to the office since I work at Changi Business Park. I take only one bus to go to work, which is bus 12, and usually take the train home, changing train at Tanah Merah and going in easterly direction towards the final terminus of Pasir Ris.

First — it’s been a convenient ride so far with the budget. Budgetary wise, Singapore is very manageable, especially for singletons. I try hard to not spend over $20 every day for meal, although it’s the hardest part of my budgeting, since I really love eating and snacking. Over the weekend, it can get more than that, easily reaching $30 mark for a day. I try saving in other parts, especially communication and transport. I spend only $50 for mobile data plan and phone plan each month, spending $7 each week just for 1GB of data, which translates to a total of 4GB of data. I spend $70 – $100 for my transportation card and I only take MRT and public buses. Sometimes, when I meet friends until late in the evening, I take a cab home from the city to Pasir Ris, which equates to around $20 – $25 a trip with the surcharge fee. Most of my salary goes back to Indonesia, to prepare for the birth of my first daughter. A nice amount of the salary also goes to monthly airfare to home, and I normally take JetStar or Air France which are around the range of $150 – $220 return. So that makes it look like this for a month: $650 for accommodation, $750 for meals, $100 for transport, $50 for mobile, $250 for airfare and everything else for groceries, the accidentals and a big chunk of savings at home. All in “Sing Dollars”.

Second — life is very easy in Singapore. Public transport is very efficient, although sometimes they can be congested. Generally, coming from a city like Jakarta, I find Singapore a breeze. Nothing that I cannot do with my ezLink card. Train, bus, cab, even drink and food, I can buy with the card. Singapore is a food heaven, and they’re very affordable if you can look into them. In Pasir Ris, some stalls can even have $2 rice meals. If you’re really that frugal, bring your own water. If you get hungry in the night, you can always hop in to nearest 24-hour food stall (although it can be a bit challenging here in Pasir Ris). I mean, if you live in the US, the cheapest meal would be junk food. Here, you can have a full healthy meal at less than $5. Again, if you look carefully. Also, everything is very conveniently located that you can almost always walk to where you need to be. Parks — tick. Malls — big ticks. Food stalls — don’t ask, they come to your sights. 7-11s — a gift of God. Top your magic cards up — almost everywhere with AXS machines.

Third — the government is very efficient. It took me 5 minutes to process the issuance of my Employment Pass and they sent me my card in a week. I didn’t have to come to Singapore beforehand to do this, all I did was take a photo, scan my thumbs and sign things off. I can check my tax status online even faster than my Indonesian one. I feel more welcomed coming to Singapore than to Indonesian airport with a greeting of my name on the autogate machine.

What I still worry is whether having a family life would mean the same thing for us, but we’ll see.

On being a Product Designer at DBS

This is my second corporate job after Oracle, which I left 3 years ago. It’s been challenging.

First — I didn’t even expect I’d go back to corporate life. However, this was an opportunity too good I couldn’t miss. Not only for the chance to move to Singapore — although that’s relative — but also because of the team members, and the opportunity to push design thinking in a big corporation. I also wanted to learn more about banking and what challenges and lessons it brings to me as a designer.

Second — It turned out that to move a company this big is not an easy thing. I am so used to startup mind where every decision can be made in a swift and everyone’s consensus can be received in a single sitting. It doesn’t work like that of course. Not necessarily a bad thing, but it can be quite challenging at times.

Third — I learned that iterative, agile, quick-shipping product development still work way better than waterfall, perfecting-it-all attitude. This I learned so hard at Ice House and Bukalapak, but sometimes I have to unlearn or step back a bit here at DBS. Again, I think we’re all still learning, and eventually, I believe we can lean towards the first.

Fourth — It’s hard to be the only team who actively use Apple products in the whole company. Wink.