"To build, sell, and lead. Those are three essential roles for the future, and learning to do all three simultaneously or being ambidextrous is incredibly challenging but valuable. Building is key - can you code or understand code and leverage technology to construct and organize effectively? Selling is about understanding human needs and identifying problems to solve." - Jeremy Au
"I think values are important for leadership because people need to connect with you and understand what you stand for. It's about creating a just environment and treating others fairly, not just in a transactional way. Values are connected to your sense of self and confidence in knowing what you believe in, even if it goes against what others think. It's important to have a sense of right and wrong and a sense of self in those things." - Shiyan Koh
“There are three things they should learn. One is writing effectively, which is how you communicate ideas and arguments. Two is you need to understand how code works.We're seeing all of these advances in LLMs and generative ai and very few people will actually build their own LLMs, but tons of people are gooing to build on top of that. The last part is statistics, the amount of data in the world has simply exploded and will continue to explore. If you have that three core skill sets, you can learn additional things” - Shiyan Koh
Here’s your weekday BRAVE Southeast Asia tech insight! Co-hosted with Shiyan Koh, Managing Partner of Hustle Fund. Thanks to Monk's Hill Ventures for the Southeast Asia Startup Talent 2023 Report.
1. Equity compensation remains low in the region. Factors: Education about ESOP value and scenarios, employees currently value cash more, exits are less frequent compared to the US, local market tax treatments of ESOPs, the marginal value of cash for developing economies and the current macro climate. The rise of remote work and labor arbitrage across Southeast Asia could impact regional ESOP grants to plateau for several more years.
2. Hybrid work and remote work trends vary by country: Singapore leans towards hybrid work, Vietnam is more office-based, and Indonesia lies in between especially due to commutes. Operating a regional business in Singapore may necessitate hybrid work due to the talent gap, difficulty in bringing in immigrant talent, labor salary arbitrage and tackling regional /global markets requiring local offices.
3. Singaporean-trained engineers are highly employable but demand is much higher than supply. High cost of living and visa issues make it difficult to attract and retain talent in Singapore. Industrial policy crowds out Singapore employment passes for junior startup technical talent, creating a two-tier compensation market. ESOPs are used to solve the compensation gap in other startup hubs, but they are not well incorporated into Singapore's employment pass decision-making.
Watch, listen or read the full insight including why the 13th-month bonus is popular yet is worse than other bonus schemes, what skills Shiyan vs. Jeremy are teaching their kids and how to find new opportunities if you've been laid off at https://www.bravesea.com/blog/startup-tech-talents
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Jeremy Au: (01:43)
Hey, Shiyan excited to discuss all things startup talent salaries and hiring today with you. How are you feeling today?
Shiyan Koh: (01:51)
Well, I think it's the altruism of the world that everyone always thinks they're underpaid. It doesn't matter where you are or how much you're getting paid.
Jeremy Au: (02:00)
So do we think we're underpaid?
Shiyan Koh: (02:02)
Well, I set my own salary, so I guess I can't think that.
Jeremy Au: (02:06)
You completely yourself. Lodge a complaint, right? There we go.
Shiyan Koh: (02:10)
Yeah, I mean at this point the trade-off is like, pay myself more or do I pay someone else so that I can get more help?
Jeremy Au: (02:15)
Well, I think that's the case for every founder and CEO that's out there. I think today's report obviously with, having the wonderful report from Glints and Monk's Hill Ventures, for the Southeast Asia startup. Talent Report 2023 So they've been doing this for the past couple of years. So this has been interesting to see, how the numbers have been changing over time, but also the trends that they've been doing. So I think kind of like what we've done in the past for Asia Partners Report and Southeast Asia Tech, for Foxmont report that we've discussed in previous weeks that you can find on previous we're gonna discuss. The things we like and the questions that we have. Right. So why don't you start first with one thing you like, that you got from the report?
Shiyan Koh: (03:00)
I think it largely confirms, I think with data what we see anecdotally. I think the thing that's interesting to me is that despite, the recent, exit events, equity still, equity compensation still remains pretty low in the region, and I think that is consistent in that founders you talk to say, well, employees don't value it, so why should I give it? And then you don't give it. So then if there is an exit, then you know, then employees didn't benefit, so then they continue not to value it. Right. Like, it's kind of this your portfolio. Yeah. But I'm kind of curious, is that consistent with what you're seeing across as well?
Jeremy Au: (03:43)
Yeah, I mean, I think obviously there's a behavioural component of, the feedback loop about employees versus employers giving slash requiring, ESOPs, I think there was another debate I had, over supper that maybe it is also a rational requirement and request by employees, right? I mean, the exit multiples for Southeast Asia have been weaker, right? The exit probability also feels weaker compared to the US right? And so to some extent, cash is worth more if ESOPs are eventually not going to be worth as much. Right. And there hasn't been a necessary great demonstration, I think, with the last set of companies that have gone public, right? And then also a couple of the facts that it's not a very good secondary market. So it's not easy to cash out your ESOPs before the exit.
So if you wanna buy a house or you wanna get a car, these are things that you can't really do effectively or efficiently in Southeast Asia. So actually what that means is that ESOP versus say the same ESOP percentage in the US might be worth less, right? Might take longer to get there. And it's much more illiquid, right? And so that perhaps lowers the value of ESOP. And be an explanation for the gap between the US and Southeast Asia.
Shiyan Koh: (04:50)
That's that could, yeah, I mean, I think we just need to get through this kinda like next cycle of exits And, ideally you have like a C group or, a Google-type event where you're basically minting a bunch of, multi-millionaires and then people start saying, Hey, I want that. Yeah, and I think, what you're, we, you and I have discussed are that eSOPs are good for morale. They're good for long-term retention, they're good for, a co-ownership, and mentality. So I think it's not just the dollars and cents right of the cash and everything, but from an employer perspective, I think, my recommendation I always say is like, you should always give ESOPs. Even if they don't want it, you should give them some, right? Now the quantum is gonna be much less, I guess, over time, but you should always make sure to give something that's how I recommend founders to think. Yeah. Yeah, so think, ownership matters, right? Like if you feel like an employee versus you feel like an owner, I think it does change how you behave on the margin too, right? Do I put in any extra effort or not?
Yeah. And also it's like a bit of a psychological bias as well, right? If you have a share of the company, it's very different from saying like, oh, I got 10 grand more. Right? I think the time horizon of that cash slash outcome is, I don't know. Embedded. And also I think it's symbolic, right? And to give out you still you on what is what it yeah, but still, have to educate people it on is right. You there's still, like, even in the US like there's a lot of work that you have to do to help people understand what their options are worth. And how basically like what you're doing day to day is actually connected to the value of your options going up. So there is, there's still a fair amount of education to be done there.
Jeremy Au: (06:39)
Yeah, and I think they also talk a little bit about how the founding CTOs, for example, normally push for more equity also because they, are part of the founding journey at the stage area, more cash-heavy because obviously it's the latest digital company, they have more expertise. So I thought it was an interesting dynamic. And of course, the CTOs earn more than the CEOs in terms of cash, which is I think, good to see data confirm what We kind of know anecdotally as well. Yeah. let me share about what I thought was really interesting. I thought what was interesting about hybrid work and remote work and time, office, right?
I thought it was interesting to see that, of course, across Southeast Asia about, 45% were, full-time in the office. 45% was, hybrid and about 12% was fully remote. But I thought it was interesting when you break it down by country that Singapore is like 63% hybrid and 12. And 25% remote. In other words, like, effectively 90%, is some form of remote, and only about 10 to 12% are in the office. Versus Vietnam is like, 83% in the office and 11% hybrid, 6% remote, and then Indonesia is somewhere in the middle of these two. Right? Yeah, and I think anecdotally it makes sense, right? I mean, in Singapore, I think a lot of folks do a hybrid. because you can and Singapore is small, but you have to travel the cost of living.
So I think a lot of folks are using hybrid and then in Vietnam, I think people feel like, they should be in the office. Culturally, the current practice, and I think Indonesia, what's interesting is that people say they have to do hybrid. They have to go remote because the traffic's too bad. Right? They can't get to the office, right? So that was an interesting dynamic where. Different flavours to why they're different flavours because doing hybrid.
Shiyan Koh: (08:25)
I wonder if though, it's also if you're in Singapore, you may have a higher probability of operating a regional business, yeah If so you have team members elsewhere anyway. you have them elsewhere, then you know, it's not just about the people who are elsewhere, but it's like how do you collaborate? Right? You don't need to be in the office to collaborate with someone remotely. Yeah. And I think also the other thought might be the availability of high-speed internet at home right? Like, I think in Indonesia, one challenge during the pandemic that, our founders said was that a lot of their employees didn't have good internet at home, yeah. so they had to go into the office to even like to be productive in Indonesia I'm kind of curious what that comparable rate is in, and Vietnam.
Jeremy Au: (09:11)
Yeah, I, think it's a fair point and, sharing the numbers here. Yeah. I think Singapore has 25% remote, right? Which is about three to four times more than the other Southeast Asian countries. Right. Full remote. Right. And I think this goes exactly what you said, right? It's like if half your team is across the region and why even have an office, right? You go into the office to dial into a camera right recently home, right?
Shiyan Koh: (09:35)
And so I had a debate on this with one of our founders, which is, Can you have an effective organization with remote employees if the bulk of the employees is in one place? Right? And his point of view was that the bulk of his team is in one city and it's too hard to integrate a senior person remotely. that and my sort of counter to part of it is less about, I mean, remote matters, but it's more about how you operate the business, which is like, why do people think in person is important?
Is actually partially, it's like the camaraderie, whatever, but it's also because it means, I think that your business operates much more on implicit understandings than explicit and that's why if you're not in the office, it's hard to know what the implicit understandings are because you don't design you operate in a much more explicit agreement, sort of org and you write everything down, you devolve decision making down to the nodes, then it actually makes it easier to run a remote and a distributed organization. And so like where you're physically located, I think is like one part of the equation. But I actually think the bigger, more salient point is, how do you actually make decisions and communicate information in your organisation? And those decisions, I think, drive whether or not you could do remote or hybrid effectively.
Jeremy Au: (11:09)
Yeah, and I think that also, intersects with the fact that there is a cost of living versus the cost of compensation dynamic. Right. I think that if you are in Singapore where salaries are high, but also it's hard to get a visa for the right talent to come in, then you're just like, the point is moot Right? In some sense where you have to go hybrid or remote effectively, if you wanna absorb the right talent for that conversation that you just said, versus I think for some teams of Vietnam only and are primarily Vietnam talent, then, that question doesn't even come up, right? It's just like, Hey, we can do both, right? We can have the best talent and we can have a great culture where everyone's there. Right? So I think it's gonna be interesting. I, suspect that Singapore is gonna generate the next wave of multinational corporations where everybody's remote because it's just like a biological constraint, right? Like, you just can't find the right people in Singapore or you can't bring them in easily. In that's too expensive.
Basically yeah, and I think we mentioned this earlier in the past, right? We talked about the crowding out of, employment passes, right? For Fang, the big tech companies. So there's implicit industrial policy. Let me paraphrase on your behalf here, which is that, we grant visas, too, the large tech companies. But once released I think it's harder for junior talent that is trying to come into Southeast Asia or Singapore to come to Singapore. What are your thoughts?
Shiyan Koh: (12:31)
Not even junior talent, right? I think basically what you have is you end up with like a two-tier compensation market where multinationals Fang pays at one level and then you know, startups and SMEs pay it at a different level. And that makes it, I think, really hard to compete, right? I think on the margin as you live in a high-cost city, would you rather be paid like, I don't know, 250, $300,000 a year, or you wanna be paid 150, a hundred thousand dollars, $120,000 a year? I think it's like a huge difference and so I think that makes it really challenging for startups, to hire, unless people are basically like, I have a nice savings cushion. I wanna take some risks. I really wanna work on this technology, and work with this team from a pure comp perspective, I think it's pretty hard.
Jeremy Au: (13:27)
Yeah. And I think the way that that has been solved and other regions is basically using ESOP, right? Which we talked about, right? But a problem is that when you're calculating your employment pass and you're joining an early-stage startup, your equity shares are not fully incorporated, I think, into the decision-making, unfortunately. That's what I've heard.
Shiyan Koh: (13:45)
For the well even, but even the employment pass application is ridiculous. Like we had one EP that got held up because they're like, why does this guy have so much equity? And you're well cuz we're asking him to take a pay cut we have to make it up somewhere. Like, I mean, it was kind of like a ridiculous conversation.
Jeremy Au: (14:08)
Sorry. That's funny. And then did you, yeah. And then after that, you have to say like, it's the early stage, so the equity is worth less, but it's gonna be worth more in the future. How much is it worth?
Shiyan Koh: (14:17)
Yeah, I was just like, I was annoyed. I mean, I think it took like four months to get this guy's EP and like four months in a startup, land is actually quite a long time, yeah.
Jeremy Au: (14:25)
That's, that's like, the average lifespan is about two years, right? So six of the lifespan.
Shiyan Koh: (14:32)
I don't know. I really wish there was some way we could have a dedicated window at MOM or something, just for people to understand startup comp better so that we can say like, Hey, this is not actually that unusual. This is actually the way that people can bring high-quality talent in without like huge amounts of money.
Jeremy Au: (14:52)
Yeah, I think the uncertainty is what kills it, right? I mean, you have a job offer, but you know there's gonna be a form of delay where you may or may not get a job. I mean, that's just bonkers from a candidate's perspective, right? So you're just gonna stick with the normal job, right? Slash the big company job. But I think what's interesting is, kind of like, in terms of the questions here I think we're seeing this interesting spread right in the diffusion of technology talent. I thought it was interesting to see that there were different tech talent salaries. I mean, obviously, product managers are a good example of Singapore PM salaries are much higher than that compared Indonesia, and Vietnam, some of it is explained by technical skills. Some of it of course is by who you're hiring for, I guess. But that's how it was interesting, right? I mean, that kind of labour arbitrage feels like a no-brainer, especially in a ward of hybrid or remote. Right? So I just feel like more and more jobs are, just going to flow out of Singapore to the benefit of the Philippines, Vietnam, and Indonesia.
Shiyan Koh: (15:51)
Yeah, I mean, I think people already started that during the pandemic, right? Which is like, Hey, actually I can have a designer in JB who's a third of the cost. Why not? And I think then you end up in Singapore as like, basically talent you can't find elsewhere or talent. You can't talent you can find the talent you can't find that isn't willing to move to Jakarta or Ho Chi Min or Manila or wherever.
Jeremy Au: (16:18)
Yeah, and I think, it makes sense in the short term, but I always get worried over the long term. Right, well let's talk about a positive version of the story. Right. I think a positive version is that Vietnam is full of engineering teams. I heard a story about how large Singapore engineering companies moving 30 roles to Vietnam. And I think to myself, yeah, it's great for the Vietnamese economy, great knowledge. These folks are gonna get great training within the Singapore system, right? And then one day they're going to be, become engineering leaders and they're going to become, founders one day and they'll stay in Vietnam, right?
So, I think that's great for the Vietnam ecosystem. But I think that some of the Singapore industrial policy and educational policy kind of underweight some of this like critical mass, right? Where, you want to have a certain density, right of talent in some sectors of junior middle management and senior talent, but you can't just expect a cream of senior talent and not, I don't know, is there a company that only purchase talent but doesn't promote from within? Right.
Shiyan Koh: (17:19)
Well, I don't know if that's entirely fair. I mean, I think, Singaporean-trained engineers are actually very employable. We just don't make enough of them. Like, if you take the graduated class of NUS, NTU, SUTD, or SMU has some technical degrees, like you just, they all get hired. We just don't have enough. And so, but maybe that's to your industrial policy point, which is like, we, our visas tend to be very high end and we need to kind of think about the full stack of that.
Jeremy Au: (17:50)
Yeah. I mean, I think the sweet spot for everybody is just to have more seats. Right. Have more undergraduates look at a region, right? And bring everybody in who's the best, and then go from there, right?
Shiyan Koh: (18:01)
Yeah, but if like you don't give them visas and the cost of living is really high, yeah. Then it becomes really hard. Right? People go home, yeah, yeah. Why not? build that RT to JB la, then you can have a little startup town in JB. It's like Oakland.
Jeremy Au: (18:17)
Yeah, if, but then, like you said, you might as well just use high-speed internet then if you're taking the MRT, the train. So what questions do you have in your head, I guess, in terms of, you've seen a report, there's so many different parts of it? What, what's on your mind for the tech landscape, talent-wise?
Shiyan Koh: (18:36)
I mean, I'm not that surprised by the comp numbers. Right. I, I think this is pretty consistent with what I would expect. I am curious if like all the layoffs actually lead to more startups. Or do those people kind of get recirculated into more like big company stable corporate jobs because people are like, ah, I'm done with startups. It's too high a variance. I want some stability. Or are they like screw it, I can do it myself and better, I'll be my own boss. So I'm kind of curious, kinda what happens given the sort of scale of the layoffs over the last six months across both regional startups and regionally based M&Cs, right? So, that's kind of what I'm sort of more meta-interested in on the talent side. Can we turn this into an engine yeah of growth going forward?
Jeremy Au: (19:30)
Well, I think I definitely see that, at least on the founder's side. So a lot of founders, obviously, their companies are winding down. And obviously, some of them make decisions to join big tech companies. Some decide to join their family businesses and I think some are starting to build again, right? So I think that feels like a more straightforward path. I feel like I haven't seen too many folks who have been laid off. Because I think the cash, I dunno what's the word? The cash buffer is too thin. I think it's Southeast Asia, that's my read, think so. I don't really see a lot of executives, folks, who are like on my end yet who have been laid off and then they're like, okay, I wanna build a business. I guess the only ones I can think of that. Somewhat see that as maybe you can see a few of them at Antler has a program where they provide some of that cash buffer in between. But generally, I haven't seen that like Silicon Valley style, right?
Which is like, okay, you got laid off, but I don't know, you had half a mill stash your way somewhere and then you know you're gonna build something. I don't really see that. Yeah. Yeah, one can dream where Air drop half a million dollars to folks to build companies. Oh, but that's true as well, right? I mean also because VC is a tighten in terms of liquidity and deployment now, so I think that proactive pre-product market fit type of funding that could have like dinner stop-gap for half a mil of, pre-seed funding. I think that I think there's, this feels a bit harder as well.
Shiyan Koh: (20:55)
Yeah. I mean, I think people are asking for more metrics than they were 12 months ago, for sure.
Jeremy Au: (21:03)
So the question I have in my head is, yeah, like, tech roles, what do we think is gonna change from, I guess, ESOPs and equity over time? Right? Do I believe that this is going to, grow large as a share competition over time? Or do I believe it's, this is roughly the stable component, right? Because I think it was interesting where the trends that they shared were like, it's still short, that the numbers roughly were the same over the past few years. Yeah, so I just thought it was interesting because a lot of folks expect that trend to get better, right? Depending on how you look at it. But more ESOPs be shared over time. So I just thought it was interesting. Maybe we've already hit the stable state.
Shiyan Koh: (21:42)
Yeah. Yeah. Probably, I mean, I think what would change it, right? I think how do you move off the equilibrium of what people are used to? Like either you need a really big exit for a company that had proactively given everyone shares to make people start saying, Hey, where are my shares? Or you need founders to come in who have a very different baseline, and I don't know whether you have enough of those people coming in volume to make a difference on the aggregate number.
Jeremy Au: (22:09)
Yeah. Actually, this also intersects as something we just said, right? Which is we're talking about remote work at a spread, right? And one thing I do know from a behavioural economic side is like, when your income is $10,000 a year, a dollar is worth a lot more to you than when you're earning a hundred thousand dollars a year. So the truth is, we look at this cash spread as if it's like a linear trade-off against equity. But the truth is, if your team is now, for example, 80% in the Philippines, in Asia, and Vietnam, where you know the average salary is much lower for tech. That dollar is not worth a lot more, right?
The marginal cash is way more valuable to you yeah. And so the, so it's not just a linear thing, but, so maybe, with this remote push, actually we can expect ESOPs and just brainstorming here, to decline or stay flat, right? It could be either but basically, the remote work push, because I think Singapore and founders and Singaporean employees are much more from my perspective. Open to ESOPs, right? Being distributed, negotiated for larger chunks. Right.
And I've seen that in other markets. So as the mix moves from Singaporean employees to employees in other countries, right? Where the marginal dollars value, value more, but also there's less of a culture we may actually see, like you said, ESOPs to decline or even say the same. Right. Until labour arbitrage disappears right when a PM in Singapore doesn't pay, he doesn't get paid three times more than they count apart in a different country. Yeah, when the arbitrage looks more normal and just only accounts for the quality, then I think that's when ESOPs might come back yeah, yeah. again.
The interesting debate we have here. No, just start something new today. I thought it was interesting to also look at some of the bonuses as well. I think like a performance bonus is, they said about 58% have a performance bonus, and then they said 33% have a 13-month bonus, which is very confusing to me. A 13th-month bonus when you, I was just saying, right? And of course, they'll say like, 25% have a referral bonus, 70% have a retention bonus, and 13% have a spot bonus. So I thought it was interesting. So our bonus structure, and I think I often get questions from founders to be like, Hey, should I offer a 13-month bonus and a performance bonus? Things like that.
Shiyan Koh: (24:23)
I don't really understand the 13-month bonus. Can you explain it to me? I don't have this in the US.
Jeremy Au: (24:29)
It's a practice in Singapore and some countries and Singaporean companies. They give you 12 months of salary and they're under December, they give you one month's salary as a bonus that's independent. And yeah, it doesn't make sense because wouldn't you just put it into your gross? And I've literally had budgeting debates where we just couldn't, I was like trying to figure out why the numbers were like indifferent, because I'm like, your monthly gross is this, but why is the annualize forecasted this? And I'm like, this thing made no sense until I find out this. And I was just like, what's going on?
Shiyan Koh: (25:04)
Yeah. I don't know. I prefer the idea of a performance bonus to a 13-month like random thing cuz it's like, wouldn't you just rather have a higher base salary so you can like, kind of understand what that is? And also having an end-of-year performance bonus just gives you more flexibility I think, on your cash management. Spot bonus is an interesting question. Like I think I have a hard time seeing people implementing that very well or consistently until you're like quite a bit further along. Hard to do fairly as well, yeah, and it requires kind of like a lot of machinery to kind of get it going unless it's really a very coin-operated role. But the performance bonus, I think, like a mix of like company performance versus individual team performance, I think that can help people like drive like you really wanna drive them towards a number. I've seen it be pretty effective.
Jeremy Au: (25:56)
Yeah, I think a breakout feels like, everybody should have a performance bonus. It's the one bonus that should effectively go to zero. You just, move one side to the other side. Right. And then even there should always be a referral bonus.
Shiyan Koh: (26:09)
In the early days, you end up kind of hiring out of your own networks, and so you'll have much better information on those candidates than someone coming in cold through your funnel.
Jeremy Au: (26:18)
Yeah, exactly. The retention bonus is a weird one. Have you ever seen that done well? I mean that ESOPs are far right.
Shiyan Koh: (26:24)
No, I mean, I think, what is it? It's like your employee comes to you and is like, Hey, I'm a competitive offer. I'm gonna leave. And you're like, no, no, no, stay. Here's something to sweeten the pot. I mean, I think by that time they're already out the door, even if you retain them. What does that do for you? That if a higher offer comes along, they're gonna go. So, and I think the other adage that I think about is that comp is only part of the equation. When people talk about comp, there's probably other things they are unhappy about comp is just the easiest, most concrete thing to point to.
Jeremy Au: (27:05)
Yeah. That reminds me of this quote that was in a report from Minette Navarre from the president of Kickstart Ventures, and she said that she asked founders when making critical decisions today, would we decide this way if we had half the resources tomorrow? If the answer is no, the decision bears more thought. So it's a stress test, right? About, the prioritization of resourcing. And I think there's more tough times actually, honestly, in this coming year. I don't know. I think early in, in the year we were like, oh, things are gonna be okay by.
Shiyan Koh: (27:37)
No, no. I said I thought they were gonna get more layoffs, so remember.
Jeremy Au: (27:41)
Okay, we've gotta go back and check the what? Check the record. But, okay. I was under the impression though, things would be like, get better by the after the year, but feels like the pain is going to drag on for a, I don't know, two years. So I think this is gonna be a really tricky period for a lot of teams. I think in terms of layoffs, I think, I think we're gonna see a lot of companies announce the second round in this second half of the year.
Shiyan Koh: (28:03)
Oh yeah, because people always make the same mistake. You never cut enough the first time. See two shallow cuts are worse than one deep cut cuz it makes the morale hit like a drag on more and it increases more of that like, am I next? This is gonna happen. And you're like distracted cuz you're like looking for another job in case you get laid off. Cause you don't know what's gonna happen. You're like living in this zone of uncertainty and fear.
Jeremy Au: (28:27)
Yeah. Oh, the only thing worse than that is two shallow cuts and then a third shallow cut after that it is, yeah. like dark humour here, no, it's pretty terrible. pretty terrible. So how, how do you think, do you think. so I know we did a previous episode, right? We talked about if you were one of the people being laid off, right? And to some extent, if you're an employer laying off what you should do we talk about how it is like the end of the tunnel. Any further thoughts they've had? I'll tell you mine very quickly. Mine. Yeah, I think we made, I made the assumption in the advice that you would be applying at another technology job, right? And I think that it's worth applying to non-tech jobs as well. I think there's a strong possibility that if you're applying for jobs and you're looking for a new one.
Just apply to, non-class tech, right? Maybe you apply to the banks or to the conglomerates to, work there. Obviously, they'll be looking for technical talent or folks that are willing to be more innovative. And the second thing I'll add is I think if you're in a market is more worth being hit by layoffs. So for example, Singapore, and Indonesia, consider relocation as well. So if you see a good startup opportunity that you want to do across the region and you don't have family and kids yeah, maybe take the chance to take a job somewhere else in a different market that doesn't have your skillset and is willing to move you into a place, a low-cost living. And just worked there for two to four years. Yeah.
Shiyan Koh: (29:51)
Yeah, I think that's sound advice. But I mean, despite, the layoffs and stuff, there are still companies that are growing and hiring. So, I think looking for who has made a funding announcement recently, generally when people are picking up hiring because they've got fresh funds in the bank and, there's still a lot of good activity in the just that, layoffs, I think dominate the news cycle more.
Jeremy Au: (30:18)
Yeah, I agree about funding announcements. If they announce something, go send your resume to all of them and edit all of them on LinkedIn. If, I guess the question I have is, let's just say, you are coaching a bunch of teenagers, right? And then looking at the world ahead, I'm kind of curious, what jobs would you train them for from your perspective?
Shiyan Koh: (30:43)
I wouldn't train them for a job. Yeah. No. I would say, I think there's, three things they should learn. One is writing effectively, like how you communicate ideas and arguments and understanding what makes a good argument and communication. I think written in oral. So that's one. Comms, I think two is like, I don't think you actually need to necessarily learn how to code, but I think you need to understand how code works. So like, we're seeing all of these advances in LLMs and generative ai and very few, like comparatively fewer people will actually like build their own LLMs, but like tons of people are gonna build on top of. Right. And so I think understanding basically the structure of how those things work and how you can harness them for purposes, I think is something I would learn how to do. And then the last part is like statistics, like the amount of data in the world has simply exploded and will continue to explore.
And so like being able to understand what data means when you look at it, you don't need to be a data scientist, you just need to have a sense of like, okay, if I look at a data being output by this system, like what does that tell me about this business or this product or this thing? I think if you have that three sorts of core skill sets, you can probably learn other things, but I think it's really hard in the world for basic people who are like zero understanding of technology and how it works because you have no framework to think about. Right, and then people who cannot communicate are really hard because at the end of the day, you are all, everyone is selling something. If you're not selling a product or service, you are selling yourself as an employee, as a founder, and as a partner.
You're selling ideas. And so if you can't communicate, I think like you're, you're life, life just becomes like way, way, way harder. Yeah, and then the stats thing is like, you just have no sense of magnitude. You just don't understand like, is this important or not? You're just gonna be diluted with data. And so being able to like sort through that I think is really important. And so, even my six-year-old, she'll tell me like random stuff and I'm like, does this matter? Is this material dominates her brain? And you're like, this is irrelevant. Do not focus on this, so it's I think those, that's what I would advise a high schooler.
Yeah, but because you don't know what jobs are gonna emerge, like when we were in school, was TikToker a job? Nope, not a job. Yeah, yeah. But, I think these are skills anybody should have. Whether you are a deeply technical person, you're still gonna need to get your projects funded. Or you're like a very fuzzy person, you're still gonna have to interact with all these people. So I think like, core, basic skills around that kind of equip you with anything and then you just have to, have the ability to do a little bit of grinding. Yeah. Yeah. It's so I always tell everyone like the first job I worked in investment banking, I was an Excel monkey, and one of the biggest lessons was like the human body is actually capable of way more than you think it is. With the appropriate incentives?
Jeremy Au: (34:13)
You can treat this car like trash.
Shiyan Koh: (34:16)
No. No, just like, like you can, you didn't think that you could do that, and then you're like, oh, okay, I can do that. And so obviously you don't wanna spend your life operating, like working a hundred hours a week, but knowing that you can do that actually is incredibly empowering because you're like, okay, if I just put my head down, I can do this.
Jeremy Au: (34:35)
Right. Yeah, no, I think it's true. You guys remind me of when I was in the Army and before that I was very nice and, middle class and then suddenly, you don't sleep for three days and you're like, oh. I can do this doing this high strenuous like military exercises and then you're just like, yeah, I mean, after you do that and you're like, oh, I love sleeping after that, before that you don't wanna sleep after that, you're like, oh, you know why I really love sleeping right. So, I think, it's interesting. I mean, if I was to teach my kids, I would, I mean, I'm also kind of like, I have to say thank you for inspiring me cuz I changed my answers.
So I have to say, I'll say like, I think, I think to build, sell, lead. I think those are three roles that people can roughly do in the future and I think learning all three of those is really important. And I think you get the most gains if you can do all three, right, simultaneously or you're ambidextrous, and that's really, really hard. But that's like kind of like the gold price, right? Or the triathlon, the right, kind of thing, right? But I think, as you said, the building is really key. Can you build right? Can you code or can you understand code? Can you leverage technology to build whatever it is, right? And the logic or organizational structure to get stuff built. I think to sell, like you said, understanding humans and saying a problem. Don't get disconnected from the actual profit and loss machine.
Don't become an executive or like some consultant who doesn't understand how it really works, what the product is being done. So I think selling to humans, selling to organizations. And then leadership, right? I think at least in a lifetime, I think you have to lead, humans, robots, and capital. So being able to mobilize and organize them. And I think, the truth is you have to do all three right? In the future to really have that awesome career I hope my, my do two daughters have, right? So, I think that's gonna be a tricky part. Obviously, I don't, it's hard to imagine anyone being good at all. Three, to be honest.
Shiyan Koh: (36:31)
I think values also, all of that has to be connected to a value. Yeah, because I think, I think part of leadership is like, people need to connect with you, right? And like, what do you stand for? Like, what matters to you? How do they know that they live in a just environment? How do they know you're, they're gonna, you're gonna treat them fairly? You're not just in a purely transactional mode with them. So I think values and I think values also like are connected to like your sense of self and confidence in like, Hey, I don't necessarily agree with everyone but I'm not afraid to say it because I have like a pretty good sense of like what I think right and wrong are, and sense of self in those things. So anyway, this got a little bit more philosophical than I was planning for, this morning's bingo card.
Jeremy Au: (37:22)
Yeah. Well, I just wanna say that values, I agree. I think it's hard to play long-term games with long-term people if you don't have values intrinsically. So I think there is a commercial advantage to having values, but also as a parent, I hope I hang out with people with values, right? And I hope I would love my child to have values, right? I wouldn't wanna hang out with someone with no values as a kid. But he does feel, I think in this world today, he does feel increasingly transactional, right? And so he does feel. Sometimes like a sucker's game to, I dunno, have values or try to bite by them.
Shiyan Koh: (37:54)
No, I think you still have to like yourself in the morning when you wake up and so that's, I don't know. I try to, it's something I try to communicate, right? like, you, you really just need to know your mind you need to understand like, you know what you stand for.
Jeremy Au: (38:10)
Yeah. So well, on that note have a wonderful week ahead.
Shiyan Koh: (38:17)
You too. Take it easy, Jeremy.