Balancing the Grind with Kaijie Ng, Director at IMDA

Kaijie Ng is the Director at the Singapore-based IMDA where he heads up the PIXEL Innovation Team.

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Let’s start with your background! Can you share with us your career journey and what you’re currently up to?

I’m a recovering B2C start-up operator and corporate strategy guy who decided to take up the challenge of building a B2B start-up in the Singapore government. I head up the PIXEL Innovation Team in the Infocomm Media Development Authority of Singapore.

We inspire and support corporates to innovate digitally through innovation consultancies for corporates to identify their problem statements and improve their products, and matching to innovative solution providers across a 12k-strong international community or open crowd-sourcing. PIXEL is a 28k-square foot space that incubates start-ups and houses an AR/VR lab and one of Singapore’s four 5G test labs.

Before this, I was seconded to Carousell Group, the Southeast Asia mobile classifieds answer to eBay, OfferUp and Mercari, as their first Corporate Strategy Director and drove their US$1.1b funding round. Before that, I was a nomadic policy wonk in government, working across higher education, transport and manpower.

We’d love to know what a typical day is like for you. Could you describe a recent workday?

I spend time talking to our users (corporates, start-ups, solution providers) to understand their innovation pain points, monitor the latest market developments, get into weekly business reviews and operational details, and just do stuff to solve problems.

I have no business being in business, having no MBA (I was mass comm-trained). My strength is curiosity and tenacity, and I’ve always believed that a leader must dog food, not just the user experience, but the employee one as well.

Can you define work-life balance for yourself and share with us your approach in maintaining it?

Work and life has integrated for me, as I identify myself strongly as a public servant. It is fulfilling to see the public good and impact that you create, through policies or initiatives on the ground. That and the attitude to keep solving problems, ensuring that we’re moving forward everyday, keep me going. The balance I’m still learning is juggling the bias for action with the leadership part – when to step in, versus when to focus on removing blockers, and enable and empower my team mates to achieve.

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Change is constant, and it’s essential for growth. Have you made any lifestyle changes in the past year to improve your work-life balance?

COVID has gotten us to think very differently about health, rest and family. I’m more adventurous now, exploring leisure sports such as cycling, bouldering and regular cardio at the gym as a way to decompress. Cooking is therapeutic with better nutrition compared to take-outs. We’re still making up for lost time with regular visits to our families, which wasn’t that possible for the past few years.

We’re always on the lookout for new resources! Can you recommend any books, podcasts, or newsletters that have helped you in your journey towards balance?

The Guardian Long Reads – both the audio and written versions. We all have poor attention spans nowadays, but this is a solace with well-written long-form narrative journalism that’s a nice contrast with the hustle of everyday life, and full of insights.

Before we wrap up, do you have any final words of wisdom or insights on work, life, or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

Be humble that you don’t know everything, but be confident that you can learn. Don’t be too hard on yourself, but also never settle.

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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.