Balancing the Grind with Eugene Ho, Talent Lead at Bifrost

Eugene Ho is the Talent Lead at Bifrost, a start-up providing synthetic training data and 3D worlds for AI developers.

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To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

I’ve actually had an interesting career over the years. After my diploma, my first job was a phone/email based customer support/service with an outsourced tech support company.

After about 8 months, the company lost the contract, and so we were all laid off and so I decided to go back to study. After first studying IT, I decided to go for a more general business degree to diversify my experience. 

While I was studying, I had 2 part time jobs – teaching swimming to kids aged 4 to 10 and telemarketing in the real estate industry, and the latter actually led me to my first job right after graduation – in conference telesales, which also included me going into executing the conference on the day of. 

After a while, I decided to explore and by happenstance found out about the world of agency recruitment, which combined my telesales experience with my IT background and it was like finding a world that I belonged to, but had never known even existed!

When I started, I realised that was not just good at it, but I had a real passion for the intersection of business/HR and tech, so I eventually went in house as an internal recruiter at an autonomous driving start up, nuTonomy, which had at that point just been acquired by Aptiv. This was because I wanted to pursue a role that focused more on the recruiting process rather than the sales process. 

By a stroke of luck, my prior education in IT helped form a way of approaching problems and processes, plus the ability to speak with tech folks at a deeper level than most regular recruiters/HR and I did well, going on to lead, grow and manage a team of recruiters. 

Nearly 4 years later, the itch hit again, and I wanted to look for a further diversification of skills, and I found a role at Bifrost AI, a start up dealing with synthetic worlds for the AI/ML industry – and this is my current role.

I am helping them set up the talent/recruitment piece from scratch, but also taking on a dual role of setting up their HR (Or as we call it here, People) department and process/policies as well. 

What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

I am typically awake around 6-6.30 am, depending on when my children get me up. I get myself ready then wake my eldest son up (if he’s not yet up, though he’s usually the one that wakes me up!) and get him ready for preschool.

I drop him off (and my wife picks him up after work), and either come home or head to the office for work. We’re currently in a hybrid set up so I’m in the office 1-3 times a week depending on what’s going on. Depending on whether I’m working remotely or in the office, I usually start my day somewhere between 9 and 10 am. 

At the start of the day, it’s usually checking emails then working on whatever’s top of my priority list. This has really varied tremendously over the entire period I’ve been here – I’ve done everything from sorting out medical insurance renewals to getting name cards to welcoming new starters, putting in new processes for everything from claims to onboarding, assessing new software, developing a performance review program and generally just working with the founders to find and address gaps. 

We’re at the point where the organisation is actually pretty fragile – we’ve just recently raised a round of funding and we’re scaling, though at a more measured pace, yet there are many gaps and issues that were glossed over, or as they saying goes, kicked further down the road, but now requires us to plug the gaps to ensure that we have a stable foundation and structure before we go into hyperscaling. 

But in any case, I typically end work between 5 and 6pm, depending on the day, and head home, and start job #2 – the father. At home, it’s everything from feeding the kids, to playing with them, reading books, having a video call with my family back in Malaysia, or any other relatives we haven’t seen in a while so the kids can say hi, and all the chores associated. 

I’m usually the last to eat dinner around 7-7.30pm, and after that it’s a blur of getting the kids ready for bed, which is around 8-8.30pm for my little one, and between 9 and 11pm for my son’s energizer bunny. After the kids are down, we deal with the laundry and have a final feed for the little one around midnight, and I go to sleep between 12 and 1am. 

What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

I love how you acknowledge the fact that work-life balance is one of those terms that I feel has a different meaning for different folks rather than a strict definition. It took a bit of time for me to understand and come to terms with this, but the global pandemic and the shutdown in Singapore during COVID helped accelerate that thinking process. 

At the start, I was working ridiculous hours because my son was fairly young and I was just hungry to do more. At one point I was working from 7.30 am till 7pm, and then taking care of my son after, but after a bout of illness for my son, I set a strict line for myself. My focus would be family – that means, no matter what’s happening in the workplace, if my family needs me, I’m dropping it for them. 

As such, I build and arrange my schedule around what my family needs – whether that’s activities in preschool, or the doctors for appointments or when the kids are ill. That said, there are a lot of those, so my wife and myself take turns splitting the duties so that we’re not both out of the office 20-30+ days a year just for doctor’s appointments and the like. 

Alongside that line, I made a promise to myself that if my employer ever required me to compromise that position, I would find a new place. I built this into my interview process to understand the culture of the organisation I’m joining, and the general stance of the management and stakeholders I was working with. 

In Bifrost, the founders are on the younger side (late 20s) and have no kids, but have an incredibly employee centric and empathetic view that bucks the traditional growth at all costs startup culture, and they’re thankfully very supportive of parents like myself, and that made me very assured that I could comfortably grow alongside the organisation in a way that ensures I don’t get burnt out. 

TL;DR – it boils down to setting tough goals for myself, and the discipline to stick to my principles and what I’ve set for myself. 

Elon Musk, Kobe Bryant, Naomi Osaka, Simone Biles, receive a new daily routine each week about some of the most successful people in the world.

In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?

Well, a new routine was introduced – my 2nd child! She was born about 8 months ago, and it got my wife and me to completely change and readjust everything we did at home because we now had someone new to cater to. 

Additionally, she is still struggling with some anaemia and blood platelet count issues, so we have to bring her to the hospital for checkups every month or so. This is one of those things that requires us to be very democratic in sharing the load, or one person would just have too much on the plate. 

At some point, we also both want to get back some time for ourselves to do some exercise as we are really out of shape!

If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?

I would love to hear from more folks in the startup and venture capital world, especially in senior management roles, do it. 

Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

I would sum this up with some questions instead of tips. and hopefully through answering these questions to themselves, it can help them figure it out. 

How would you rank your priorities in life?

What do you need to do to ensure your priorities are satisfied in order, and never conflicted?

If conflicted, how do you decide precedence and how can you potentially deconflict?

What are your support structures (relatives, friends of family, etc)? Can you expand this support structure to include emergency fall backs? Are they ingrained into your life so they do not just feel like an afterthought?

Work-life balance is a difficult concept, and requires a lot of support! Hopefully everybody manages to get some form of it for the optimal mix of professional and personal growth.

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About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.