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Posts from the ‘Life’ Category

Another New Chapter

July 5th, 2015

Soon, it will be my last day with DBS Bank, and my last day in Singapore.

I am returning to Indonesia. Not sure what I’m going to do next, at least I am going to take a break for a while and enjoy time with my family and new-born daughter, Janis.

It’s been a rough six-month period. I learned a lot of things, about the company, about myself, about the industry, about design. Bad or good, I take everything as lesson.

It might sound immature to some of you, but for me, it’s just a spice of life. You learn, you move on. You design your life and forget the past. Six months later, the company you worked for would’ve moved on and would’ve forgotten about you.

There is one reason why I leave DBS Bank, no matter how many people say it’s better to be here.


Before you think I am a self-entitled guy, let me explain. I’ve been in corporate, but never been in an industry outside technology. It is very difficult to adjust myself in. Even if I give myself time, I am afraid I’d fit to their culture even more and will not be able to “depart” from that culture. I am afraid I will be blended in. I want to stay what I am now.

Corporate environment is where you are not allowed to make mistakes. Your heads will be cut off. Everybody is risk-averse. This is not how design operates. We assume, experiment, prove and iterate. Business environment is different. They never can make assumptions, nor experiment, let alone prove and iterate. They are very strict and money-driven: This is what we want to do to make profit and here’s our projection. Do this our way or we’ll cut your head off. The only measurement tool is profit, profit and profit. Design success is not measured only by money — nor short term benefits — it’s about recognitions, experiences, feelings. These things can’t be directly measured. Only good companies who care can really recognise these benchmarks.

I know you’re going to say that every company has the same problems, big or small. Well, I gotta say you this: I am not expecting to escape all these. I am just expecting to get out of these frustration within a grand scale and find a scale I can tolerate more with — maybe with a smaller company, maybe with a better culture. I know I will always find issues, but I believe there are issues and companies I can deal with.

That said, I am currently open for opportunities. If you are interested in engaging a full-time digital product designer who focuses in user experience and user interface, please email me and let’s talk!

On Living Off the Airport

May 11th, 2015


I go to Changi airport almost daily. Not to fly, but to transit — so to say — before I come to work. My office is just one subway station away from it. Taking the bus from home to the airport takes a little longer than the subway, but it’s worth it.

I usually have breakfast at Terminal 3. It’s the first terminal that bus 53 comes into, and it’s the most spacious terminal there is.

On my way home, I also take the same subway to the airport, then take the same bus 53 back home in Pasir Ris.

There’s a direct bus from the office to where I live but I find going to the airport route is the happiest route for me. It makes me happy to be at the airport. I don’t know why. Maybe the anticipation of going on a plane. But then, I am afraid of getting on a plane these days.

A routine that makes you happy. When was the last time you feel that?

When you anticipate something, you are happy — regardless of it being a positive anticipation or a negative one. It’s good for my mental health, especially when things go rough at work.

Singapore does make it easy for people to visit the airport just for the sake of it. It’s like a destination in itself. You can go there just for food. You can go there just to shop. Having the destination as the reason is what it is.

The key to happiness at work and life is anticipation. It’s what keeps motivating you. One’s life purpose is not just for the sake of living, but to be alive. Having an airport is not just for the sake of its purpose, but to make it close to the heart of the people, to have a real purpose, to have anticipation.

I Moved to Singapore

February 23rd, 2015

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.

Why I Don’t Regularly Use Messaging Apps

February 20th, 2014

The news is out today that Facebook acquired WhatsApp for a whopping total of US$19 billions:

The deal to buy it includes $4bn in cash and approximately $12 billion worth of Facebook shares, plus an additional $3 billion in stock to WhatsApp’s founders and employees at a later date. (via)

This news reminds me that for a long time I haven’t used WhatsApp or similar messaging app regularly. I only use it for certain times, and for certain people who insist on having or communicating with them. “Do you have a LINE account? Because I use it.” People would insist that everybody else uses the same service. For the sake of them, I would install and use them again. But then, I forget.

My main communication channel with my phone is Twitter, email and text messages (for certain cases, iMessage). I don’t care about text message fees. I call occasionally.

For people I know the closest, like my wife and my family, I use text messages/iMessage and phone calls. For people I network with, like friends or work colleagues, I use Twitter and emails, sometimes Skype.

I don’t participate in group messages — I must say that I don’t have so many “cliques” or circles of friends or whichever term you put into it. I believe in clear, straightforward and direct communication channels which are simple and on-purpose. If I ever have to talk pointlessly and have fun while doing it, I would only do it with my wife or my family. But then, we all live close to each others and we do it face to face.

I understand that there are other platforms to use like Telegram or Viber, but I see no point in choosing one or using multiple apps. Everybody seems to have either a Twitter account (or Facebook account if you will), email address, and a phone number to text. It’s really a smaller case-by-case basis for me.

Bike commuters are happiest

February 4th, 2013

Commuters who bike to work are the most satisfied with their morning travel, according to a new study by Portland State Urban Studies Planning Graduate School. The study concludes that commuters who walk to work were almost as happy as cyclists, the least happy being solo drivers. Considering that 76.6 percent of Americans drive alone to work, the findings should resonate with most of us.

(via Outside Online)

Comfort zones and their deceiving faces

August 21st, 2012

I believe I want to be in comfort zones. If there is any. But there isn’t.

I’d rather believe in it or none at all: that there is no comfort zones at all in this world. Comfort is something we make, and there is no zone. We’re always at risk. The world is revolving. Life is turning. Sometimes we stumble, sometimes we rise, sometimes life goes normal and boring.

Many people think they don’t want comfort zones and they want to keep moving on, putting their life at “risk” and face new challenges every once in a while. Rings familiar.

But comfort zones themselves are deceiving. They succumb you to their “constructed realities” and making you believe that staying inside is good. People who hate comfort zones believe that this is bad. But I disagree.

Many people have different priorities and finding new challenges don’t need to be outside these “comfort zones”. People who continually moving from one place or another should just call themselves “continually building their careers in the other way.”

Nothing more than that. The other way is to stay inside a company or venture, and it is perfectly normal to do so.

Let’s put it this way. People have different priorities in life. Staying inside a company or venture for a very long time could manifest into better, structured life that puts families first, although not necessarily that way. Moving from one to other company or venture could be tiresome. There are many ways to grow yourself. You can always keep a job and find another way to realise your passion. (Now I am starting to sound like one of those career coaches.)

“Comfort zones”, in my opinion, are contextual jargons used by career coaches or motivators to put laypeople into believing that they should get out of something that doesn’t really exist, or putting a new name to “structured, quality life.” My advice is, don’t just listen and succumb to their theories. Believe in what you do and decide wisely.

Sometimes you just need to stay and find other ways to move.

On choosing health insurance

August 21st, 2012

Since I moved on to a new job, I was thinking to get a new premium health insurance. Not that my company isn’t providing one, it just feels better for me to have an extra net.

So, I was searching for a good health insurance. One of my main considerations was it has to have outpatient benefits. I feel that my current office’s plan doesn’t cut it (and I’m only getting it after probationary period). I was looking at Allianz Indonesia, because apparently, it’s about the only one who offers it in a couple of insurance I looked.

I was comparing between Allianz, Chartis, Prudential, AXA and Generali. For no apparent reason. I haven’t moved in to local insurance companies like Jiwasraya or Jasindo yet.

I am the type who thinks that trust is everything and customer service is above any priorities. I don’t scrutinise a plan too much, and I hope the insurance company has a clear (but less of a paranoia-ladden) policy. Their product offerings must be clear, concise, nicely-branded and informative. Their customer service must be helpful and oustanding. Their emails and phone calls must be professional and timely. But above all, simplicity matters. Product offerings must be clear and I am currently in favor of modularised insurance products. Something that we can add and subtract as we need.

My first year of personal health insurance choice comes to Chartis. It has a simple informative web site and brochures of product offerings. It has modular offerings that are not only clear, but stand on their own and can be started or added any time in the future. Moreover, I have already been their customer for a while, purchasing some travel insurance products in the past.

Also, I have decided not to opt for outpatient benefits as I have decided I can manage it on my own.

This is not a recommendation, for sure. I’ve had both nice and bad experience with insurances in the past. Everyone deserves their own choices. Sometimes people say insurance companies are necessary evils.


April 1st, 2011

We’re occasionally busy with things, but can we hold back and think of where we are heading? Can we stop worrying about what the next minutes will be and worry about what the next year would be? Can we sit back and relax, think about things that define us? Or perhaps, is it just a question for the undecided like me?

Is indecisiveness okay? Is it a state of mind, or is it a reality? What’s with the urge of being decided? Can we project ourselves into a certain path and let our life in the years forward become defined by this path? Is being decided a good thing?

Decisions sometimes kill. They kill possibilities. When you decide on buying a pair of shoes, you risk not liking them, you risk not having them for a long time. You’re having a closure. You risk not having that better pair of shoes out there. But, perhaps, you might not need that better pair of shoes. For now. Maybe you should stick with the bad pair of shoes for a length of time and see the gems of the experience. Next time, you might or might not get that better pair of shoes, because “better” is a mind-framing of your own.

Life probably wants you to be adventurous.

What is life for? What is a job for? What do you do for your life? What is it that you do with your job? Do you even know what you’re doing? If not, then what makes you think you should be decided with a certain path? Can we just sway away from the firmness of decisions and let loose? Can we take the risk of being indecisive and not be dragged away by regrets?

In five or ten years time, let’s be able to look back and convert all the regrets to values. That there was nothing wrong with what we have chosen, that they were actually part of our scenario. Sometimes, forgiving ourselves for not making or making a choice is the hardest thing.