What is the Future for White Collar Work & How Can You Prepare for it? – Ricky Willianto from Ravenry

In episode #13 of Chills w TFC, we bring on the founder of one of leading platform for freelance white-collar flexible work, Ravenry. Covid has accelerated many trends, remote work being one of them. As companies become comfortable with remote work, the talent pool is no longer geographically restrained. So how do we stand out from this global brain market?

Join me as I chill with Ricky Willianto from Ravenry to discuss about the future of white collar work. What are some potential opportunities in the transformation of work? How does it affect your work and life? How to stand out and position yourself as the way of competing for jobs change? And what are some practical steps you can do? How do you choose an employer to work with? Tune to to find out!

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podcast Transcript

Reggie: COVID has changed many things. In fact, some say it has merely accelerated the inevitable, and so many of us are quickly thrown into this new reality of remote work. As companies become comfortable with remote work, the talent pool is no longer geographically restrained, which means they can hire from everywhere.

So how do we stand up from this global brain market to position ourselves well for the future where companies can hire from anywhere, you can work from anywhere? You can even sell your skills and packages to multiple employers rather than one. So welcome home. 

Welcome to another Chills with TFC session. In this series, we want to bring on interesting, relevant people to help us learn better for various perspectives. Life is not always about learning from people that you already agree with. Perspectives shape a rounder thinker in our pursuit of the life we love on managing our finances. Well, our guest today is the founder of a leading platform for white-collar, flexible work. They pride themselves for allowing companies to work with analysts and top researchers in 24 hours, essentially brains on demand. So let’s welcome Ricky Willianto from The Ravenry. 

I’m personally, very curious. How do you see the future of white-collar work then? 

Expand Full Transcript

Ricky: Yeah, I think white-collar work is like that term.. White-collar is…. it’s quite a big umbrella, I would say. I think when people hear “white-collar”, they assume that these are high-skilled workers, working in a nice office, wearing very nice suits and therefore the white collar. Like, like, you know, a reference, right?

But in reality, a lot of white-collar workers are also low-skilled workers. A lot of people who work in larger organizations are in very rote roles. So they go into work and they have very specific things they need to do, and it’s very repetitive. I think a lot of people say that huge transformation with a white-collar worker, you can go remote, you know, you can actually… like, they’re going to be the future of work, right? Like it’s going to be more and more white-collar. But actually within that segment itself, those lower-skilled workers are probably going to be at risk a lot, because that’s the group of people that is most likely going to get automated away by technology, right? 

Reggie: Can you give me some examples? 

Ricky: Yeah, an example is I used to work for a bank in Singapore. I was a consultant. So one of the things we were doing for them is this process transformation. As a user, as a bank customer, you have all these fancy apps, you have all this website, it looks really nice. Right? You go in and like, “Oh, now I can apply for a credit card with a click of a button!” How delightful, you know?

The bank puts a lot of effort in making sure that the experience is seamless for the customers on the front end. The reality is, on the back end, there’s actually someone who is copy-pasting the form, put it into another system and then they’ll print it out and they have to sign it and check it before they will fax it again to another department who will put it into another system. 

 If you see all these steps, it’s not done by one person as well. So there’s actually one person in step one, which is literally just to copy and paste, and then in step two, and they pass it to someone who is supposed to be doing the checking. It’s another person whose entire job description is just to make sure that the two forms are… There’s no mistakes, right? They’re identical. And then the person will fax it. So I think that’s what I meant by the more low-skilled…

Reggie: Yes. 

Ricky: …white-collar workers. Yes, you have fancy office, you have to wear a nice suit and go to work, but that is the kind of job that is going to be most at risk. So I think the transformation of workforce in the white-collar space, I wouldn’t say it’s homogeneous, right? There’s a lot of different nuances as well, depending on the kind of work or task that these people are doing. 

Reggie: Yeah. I mean, the banks are so big that they have a middle office to match the front and the back.

Yes. 

Reggie & Ricky: [laugher] 

Reggie: It’s just like… 

Ricky: You have a middleman. 

Reggie: Yeah, like what’s going on here? I totally get that, a lot of UI on the front end. Beautiful, but there’s a lot of system back-end patchwork that is in tatters right? 

Ricky: Yeah. 

Reggie: So that is the kind of people that are at risk running very repetitive work. Is there an upside for everyone else that is not so at risk, or maybe even opportunistic in this idea of remote work, where jobs come from everywhere?

Ricky: Yeah. So maybe we can look at it from two perspectives, one from the employer, the other one from the employee. I think for the employee as a remote… well, as a white-collar worker, I think oftentimes… well, most of the time now, a lot of the value you add can be delivered quite easily through digital means. So you don’t really have to be in person anymore to sign things nowadays. You don’t have to be in person… 

Reggie: My goodness, anybody send me a physical form I already want to like, strang…strangle…  

Ricky: Exactly, exactly. I’m Indonesian, so I still have to deal with some of that with my banks in Indonesia. I have to be physically there to sign things and internally, that’s how it works as well. Even within the organization itself, I think a lot of people still need to do that. So I think as an employee, now that you have all this technology that allows you to have virtual meetings, you have a way to collaborate with your colleagues live on an app or a document easily.

I think there’s a lot of opportunity for them to actually… basically open up employment opportunities beyond just working with one person. So I think remote work definitely enables you to do that. The second thing, which is very obvious, during COVID is that there is no more office hours, right? Once you are not associating yourself in a specific place with a specific group of people who work like clockwork, 9 to 5, then all of a sudden, work is just part of your life, right?

Reggie: Yeah. 

Ricky: I think for white-collar workers especially, I think… because a big part of what they do is problem-solving, is thinking, right? That doesn’t stop. It’s not like a tap where you can be” okay, I’m just going to stop thinking about this problem altogether”. So I think the implication for a lot of these white-collar workers is that there’s this blurred line, the line between work and life is getting more blurred.

Reggie: Yeah. It’s actually very hard to manage this thing. 

Ricky: It’s really hard. So yeah…. sorry, I’m going to go into different areas, not just from a work perspective, but also from like, how will that define life… 

Reggie: Yeah. 

Ricky: …for the white-collar workers. 

Reggie: Definitely, definitely, because this is the future, right? Where your work and life… it’s, so intertwined that you really got to be more conscious about how to manage this thing. So it’s all part of it. Yeah. Go ahead. Go ahead. 

Ricky: And I think the other element from the worker’s or the employee’s side is that as a white-collar worker, oftentimes you’re juggling a lot of things, right? So you are probably an expert in product management and within product management, you’re actually building risk product for a bank. I don’t know why I keep using bank as an example, but… 

Reggie: I mean, it’s where you came from. 

Ricky: That’s why, I come from that industry with a lot of people there. On top of those things, you’re also doing a lot of administrative work, your team managing, you’re talking to stakeholders, you’re working with external partners to get things done. You’re working with your finance team to make sure that all these things are being budgeted. So there’s a lot of other back-end work as well that you do that it’s not necessarily something that you’re truly passionate about as a white-collar worker. 

Reggie: I’m definitely sure you’re not passionate about it. I’m not passionate about those things. 

Ricky: There are bureaucrats who basically live for these processes. I can tell you that in this… I think that’s kinda like their moat to protect themselves. 

Reggie: It’s like their thing, right? 

Ricky: Exactly. The more processes I build around me, the more untouchable I’ll be in this organization. 

Reggie: I actually know some of those people.

Ricky: Yeah, there’s definitely people who’s like that. 

Reggie: Yes. 

Ricky: But I think what that means is that allocation of effort, time that is not optimal for the individual. You know, if you’re really passionate about what you do, if you’re really keen on building products, you probably want to spend more time doing that thing instead of the other things, right? 

Reggie: Yeah. 

Ricky: So I think the beauty of remote working is that you are actually able to just… essentially, you know, sell that part of your capabilities to people. It’s very well contained, is like one thing, right? It’s a very productized service that you offer and you can subtly work with so many different clients just on those things rather than worrying about… oh, like the finances, the administration, the team management. You suddenly don’t have to worry about that because you’re able to package just that one service and really leverage that skill of yours and make a living out of it, rather than having to be like a typical full-time worker…

Reggie: Yes.

Ricky: …who was doing a lot of those things. So I think that’s definitely another dynamic that is going to be more apparent, especially when competition in the market gets more intense with fellow workers and also amongst companies. Let’s start with a company. If the companies are getting more competitive with one another within the same industry, you want to hire the best talent who can do the best things, right? 

Reggie: For sure, yes. 

Ricky: So if you are a food delivery app, right? It’s likely that you want to hire someone, you know, an engineer who’s done a food delivery… or something delivery-related because the algorithm, the UI, the kind of customer experience… is highly transferable. You want to have the best person in that niche to be able to deliver the work that you need from them, and so I think the companies as well are going to be more demanding when it comes to looking for people like that, especially when there is no geographical boundaries anymore. 

Reggie: Yes.  

Ricky: I think on the talent side, the same thing, right? So let’s say I’m just a developer. It’s going to be harder and harder and harder for me to tell people that “oh yeah, I know Ruby on Rails. I know Python.” It’s not going to be enough anymore. It’s about what you’ve built, what you’ve done with those skills that will truly differentiate yourself. And so, with a lot of these people having the need or needing to come out and specialize, I think remote working will only intensify a lot of these things. Because then you’re competing not just with people in Singapore, you’re competing with like, you know, Uber, if you are a Grab developer…

Reggie: For sure, yes.  

Ricky: …you’re competing suddenly with people from Uber and stuff like that, right? So yeah, all of a sudden, all this competition intensifies and white-collar workers do need to find a niche for themselves. 

That’s on the employee’s side. I think on the employer’s side, it’s a slightly different dynamic. I think for employers, again, back to the competition point, it’s all about having the best talents. The talent market is highly competitive in Singapore and we know that Singapore is a talent magnet. Everyone wants to come here because all the HQs, all the bigger… biggest companies… 

Reggie: Yes. All the decision-makers are here so you get the best pay in this part of…

Ricky: Exactly.

Reggie: …town, right? Yeah.. 

Ricky: And in the past, you do need to be in Singapore to do work for all these companies. 

Reggie: It’s true. Yes. 

Ricky: Whereas now, I think it’s different. All of a sudden, the companies are able to tap into… again because of digitalization, right? All of a sudden, you can just work with anyone from all around the world. 

Reggie: Yeah. 

Ricky: So I think from a company perspective, I think there is a lot of benefit in being open towards the flexible model because it allows you the flexibility of, well, flexible work and flexibility. 

Reggie: [laughter] 

Ricky: It allows you the flexibility to work with the biggest talent pools than ever before. 

Reggie: Yeah, for sure, for sure. I have friends who, like, they got some of these jobs here. And then because of this whole lockdown period for a whole year, they’ve managed to get their company to be comfortable with them, to know that they can do their thing, and then they pack their bags. And now they’re in Vietnam. 

Ricky: Yeah. 

Reggie: All right. So they’re hanging out in Vietnam, but being paid like a Singaporean wage and they were originally from somewhere else. So it’s like, it’s getting so dynamic and that’s the beauty of it, but that’s also the scary part, right? Because we are still kind of familiar, or maybe let’s just put it out there that a lot of the guys that graduated before this time, they were still trained to get their resumes into the door, or like people that just have been employed for a few years. This is a big shift for a lot of them and they’re not at the end period of their employment time. They’re probably trying to go into their prime these days. 

So how then do they stand out in this new way of competing for jobs online? Because you specifically said that it’s not enough to just know how to do Python, it’s not just enough to know how to code. Now it’s a lot about “what have you done before? What is the application?” And so I’m just kinda trying to envision this idea of “I have some skillsets and I’m trying to get a job online these days. How do I go about positioning myself?”

Ricky: Yep. So again, if we were to look at it from a supply and demand dynamic, I think… from a demand dynamic, which is the employer, you always need execution, like people. People who are going to execute on your ideas on the plan. And I think, I did mention and I did talk a lot about you being, you having to build a specific niche for yourself as a white-collar worker. But I do think that that probably is something that you will slowly build towards and it doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone, even the fresh grad have to have like “ooh. I have 20 year resume” of being, you know, like a developer when you are in your 20s, right?

Reggie: That’s a stupid part, right? Some companies, they hire new graduates, but then you must have three years experience. I was like… dude, dude, dude, what do you want? [laughter] 

Ricky: Exactly. Yeah. So I think on the demand side, there’s always going to be demand for people at different capabilities level. Just now I was talking about how overall, it’s just obvious, it’s all going to get more competitive, but specifically at the top, the ones who are really experienced. I think on the demand side, there’s definitely room for people to still hire executors, so you don’t really need to be overly specialized. You’re just generalist, you have skills, and that’s what’s needed. 

I think on the supply side, I always suggest people to think of themselves as a company. You don’t see yourself as an individual who just have one thing to offer. You should think of yourself as… almost like a corporate entity with value to give. I think the question is always “how do you package it well?” 

Reggie: Yeah, for sure. That’s a big question mark, right? 

Ricky: Yeah. So I think for talents, I think they need to start thinking more around… it’s not just about developing those specific skills that differentiates you or almost defines you. I think a lot of people are very well-defined or very comfortably defined by what they do, right? Like, I’m a designer, I’m in finance, I’m an accountant… it’s a very nice pigeon hole to nestle yourself into. But now you have to start thinking about how you actually package that into a valuable, value add product that companies actually are interested in. 

How do you sell yourself? How do you build a personal brand? How do you communicate the value you can bring? So I think increasingly, talents need to be able to do that in a place where we can very easily be homogenized as human beings. It’s very easy to see us as “oh yeah. It’s just another designer from another university.” 

Reggie: You get commoditized, right? 

Ricky: Exactly. So I think it’s very important for talents to learn that the skills that you have is not going to be enough anymore. You cannot just rely on your certificate, your degree, a piece of paper that says that “oh, I’ve graduated from this university and have X skills”. You have to also think about how you actually market yourself and differentiate yourself. 

And that’s why I like the analogy of thinking yourself as a company, because as a company, you need to think about “okay, how do I position my values? How do I communicate the product or services I can offer? How do I brand myself? How do I allocate my time into all these different areas so I can actually be more effective at selling my business, selling my company?” So yeah, I think that’s a very important aspect of digitalization as well and the future of work. 

Reggie: Yeah, for sure. It’s like, higher competition. You got to brand yourself, you got to package yourself. But what are some practical steps that people can do after they listen to this. What are some basic things that you think people are not doing enough because of your experience working with all these digital freelancers, people are not doing enough. And then we should do more and you know, so that our listeners get something out of this.  

Ricky: Yeah. Huh, that’s a very tricky thing. I don’t know if there is any specific things… 

Reggie: Just a few examples? I know it’s not easy to like, do this, do this, do this… 

Ricky: Yeah. 

Reggie: But yeah. What do you see some people doing in the market and it’s serving them very well? 

Ricky: Yeah, I guess the best kind of talents out there are the ones who practice their craft. Number one, I think it’s not enough, as I mentioned, saying that you already have acquired these skills, right? It’s about “have you done anything with it?” So if you’re able to produce work and make it public, and if you’re able to show that you’ve done specific things, that will help people understand how good you are and what you do. I think that is very helpful, right? I think that’s very important.

I think second is… I think Asians are not very good at this, but Americans are really good at this. It’s self promotion. And… 

Reggie: When you said… when you said that, I already… In my head, this word already came up. [laughter] I was like, yeah, people in Asia don’t sell themselves very well. 

Ricky: They don’t sell themselves very well. So I talked a lot to growth marketers on my podcast… and also founders. I always ask them “who are some of your role models when it comes to company building or growth strategy, growth marketing in Asia? And they can’t say… not even a single person and I’ve spoken to dozens of people at this point. They get stumped by this question. And I think it goes back to the fact that we’re just not very good at all… specifically, I feel like Asia, right? We’re not very good at talking about what we’ve done, our achievements, and I think it’s also very difficult for Asians to share their perspective. I feel like there’s a bit of that herd mentality, like “what’s everyone saying? Maybe I should just say the same thing”, and I think that prevents you from being able to, again, stand out in the market and put yourself as an expert in something.

So that’s why I feel like there’s not a lot of people who’s doing that really well in Asia, and I think that’s one of the skills that the new talents need to think about. How do I brand myself better? How do I put myself out there? How do I have… I guess the courage to also have a perspective, take a stand and tell it to more people about what you believe in. I think that’s important. 

Reggie: Yeah. So do you think people should write their own Medium blog or publish on LinkedIn or run a podcast or something. You know it’s like, this is all part of selling yourself, right? If you decide that you are a company, you want to brand yourself and you want to position yourself, then you have to go onto outreach programmes. You have to go on to guest other people’s shows, or you got to be a little bit more active in this space, right? Do you think that is like a bare bones requirement to these days, if you want to get jobs online? 

Ricky: Yeah.

Reggie: Because you must have digital footprint, right?

Ricky: Yeah. 

Reggie: In that sense. 

Ricky: I don’t know if it’s bare bones requirement, but I would highly encourage people to do that because I think your resume is just not limited to a piece of paper anymore. Even like 10 years ago, when you apply for a job, your employer will definitely look at your LinkedIn and see “oh, like where… is he really from like this university?” although LinkedIn has no way to verify. You can just say whatever, right? But people still look at that… 

Reggie: It’s true. 

Ricky: …digital footprint as you call it and use that as a way to do due diligence on people. I think if you’re able to create your craft and put it out there, and maybe you’re not a writer, but like just write about what you do. I think people appreciate that little insight into your thought process and you as a person, I think definitely do that. Put your portfolio out there, write about what you think, talk about it on a podcast or talk about it on Clubhouse nowadays. 

Reggie: Clubhouse, yes.  

Ricky: Yeah, there’s definitely a value in my opinion, in generating content online that helps you brand yourself better. 

Reggie: Okay, so that’s important. But then in that way of looking at things, essentially you are only doing a component of marketing and branding yourself, but then how does that translate into selling yourself then? In this grand scheme of digital marketplace, all these different platforms that you can sell your skills, how do you go about doing… just kind of help us envision for the many people that have not sold their skills online. 

Ricky: Yep.  

Reggie: How is that like for many of them?

Ricky: Yeah. So if you think about the freelancing world, because I think that is kind of the extreme example of you having to sell your craft and you have to repeatedly do it not just to one employer. I think the way to do it definitely is to just produce the best work you can and make it as accessible as possible for people getting social proof for that. So again, like being part of a community and showing that “look, I know what design is about. I know what furniture making is about”. You know, nowadays it’s all these niche communities.

Reggie: Yeah it’s pretty cool, all the woodcrafters and all those… wow these are popping out. 

Ricky: …leather crafters and everything. So I think being able to be a thought leader or just kinda like a prominent persona in that community, I think is helpful. I don’t believe in hard-selling because I think hard-selling does imply that you are pushing specific service or product to anyone. So I do believe more in you showing what kind of value you can create and attracting the right people through those work that you’ve done. Not so much your promise, your word against a set of requirements. It’s more around having people understand what you are able to do, showing people that you know your stuff and using that as a way to attract employers or people who want to work with you.

Reggie: Yeah. So then on the topic of the right people. 

Ricky: Yeah. 

Reggie: You know, it’s like, it’s very different now, right? You don’t walk into an office, you don’t go through a few interviews and there’s a whole process of experiencing your employer and your colleagues and the environment, the space. But now, like you said, it’s very blurred right? Like home, you can work from anywhere. So how do you then choose the right employer to work with? 

Ricky: Yeah. With the backdrop of COVID, I think a lot of things have definitely changed. I had very different principles when I was… 

Reggie:[laughter] 

Ricky: …when I was adjusting people and I was also thinking about employment before… 

Reggie: Definitely. 

Ricky: …pre-COVID. So for me, the biggest thing has always been, find someone like a manager that you’re working with that really believes in you and can be your ally in your company. 

Reggie: Your champion, right? 

Ricky: Essentially, yes. So I feel like that was always my number one rule. But I think now that there is this COVID thing, everyone is forced to work remotely and you’re not necessarily able to create a lot of that serendipitous opportunity to add value in a workplace environment. I think definitely you want to work with a company that understands the need to change and the need to build different ways of working in this context right off remote. I think a lot of companies are still trying to figure out how to do that. 

Reggie: I think everyone is trying to figure out how to do this. 

Ricky: No one is going to be a hundred percent there, but I think working with an employer that understands that it’s not necessarily the most productive thing to get people to be online from 9 to 5… try to implement that kind of rigidity into… 

Reggie: I know, they were trying to do some sort of tracking software on the people like, you know, “are you online? Are you doing your thing?” I was like yeah dude, that’s crazy.  

Ricky: But that business is booming because of COVID, right? A lot of people are… companies just do not know what to do. And to be honest with you, I can almost understand why they’re doing that because I think the people themselves are not trained to self-manage, and that kind of goes back to what we were talking about earlier about white-collar workers. You have the low skilled and you have the high skilled. In the past, it’s always been high output, high output in the sense of how many hours you put in and how many pieces of form you complete, right? It’s not necessarily the most valuable thing if you’re really smart. You probably… as an employee, you probably will automate that away. 

Reggie: Yeah, you would go and code something out, right? 

Ricky: …like with a macro or something. But I think a lot of companies and a lot of people still do not know how to navigate this. And I think the go-to solution has always been “okay, let’s put as much structure as possible”. So I think when you’re looking at… I think nowadays, when you look at an employer, it’s probably important for you to consider how are they transforming their business in light of these changes? 

I think… I don’t want to use this because I feel like it’s a bit hard to tell what’s working or not, but culture is also an important element. I think a company with a culture of openness and transparency will try to make information flow within a company work better, work well in the context of COVID. I think companies that tend to be more hierarchical and able to build positions of power by information assymetry, which happens in a lot more traditional companies, will probably struggle more with remote working because what they’re trying to do is they’re trying to forcibly control and manage people remotely now which is, I think, going to be very apparent if you’re working with a company remotely. I feel like they’re just going to go to the extreme of putting that command and control culture into the business itself. So I think that’s also culture and the leadership at the top, which is where the culture comes from, is also another important element to look out for when you’re looking at a new job. 

Reggie: Yeah, for sure. Especially in the past where it’s very high touch point. Daily, you can meet all these people, you have your managers, your colleagues. Everyday you’re connecting with all these guys physically in the same space.  

Ricky: Yeah. 

Reggie: But then now it’s like, how do you do multi-touch points a day? 30 minutes on call with everyone is going to kill the department manager… 

Ricky: Yeah. 

Reggie: …just that alone. So that’s got to change for sure. Like you rightfully point out, culture is a very big buzzword and it’s very hard to determine culture.

Ricky: Yeah.  

Reggie: So how do we… over the internet, online, how do we adjust expectations and filter these kinds of things? Do you have any practical thoughts? 

Ricky: We are experimenting with a couple of things, even within Ravenry now. I mean, we always try to be as open, as flexible as a company even before COVID, but I think I do understand the nature of remote working that prevents you from having a lot of informal conversation and informal observation as well about what’s going on in the company. For example, it’s very difficult for my team to know… the development team to know what’s going on on the design side, what’s going on the business side, right? So there’s a lot of things that suddenly become super opaque because you’re not co-located, whereas in the past, you can hear humdrums of white noise background of your colleague doing work, right? Now… 

Reggie: Yeah, you know, the other departments saying this, this, this, this, this… you know, I heard at the toilet this, this, this [laughter] 

Ricky: Yeah but I feel that that’s what… 

Reggie: Those things are important. 

Ricky: Those are important, right? That’s what actually makes culture, because it’s about the minute interaction between people that form a bigger collective, I guess, organism, that has specific DNA of behaving. So I think that’s what culture is in an organization. But I think now that we’re doing things remotely, a lot of that more informal exchanges are gone. So a couple of things that we’ve done this quarter, one is we started to write more notes as a way to make sure that information is relayed clearly and also in a way that is highly democratized. Not only specific people get access to that information. Right now in the company, every single meeting that we have, we write notes about it and we publish it so that everyone in the company can read it and that really helps getting people on literally the same page… 

Reggie: [laughter] 

Ricky: …about what’s going on. So that’s kinda more on the formal side of things, trying to keep the company direction aligned. On the more informal side… actually, this wasn’t initiated by me, it’s actually initiated by one of my team members’ centers who started to create meeting rooms that is perpetual.

Reggie: Uh… it’s always there, it’s in the background. 

Ricky: Yeah, so he is always in that room. 

Reggie: Really? 

Ricky: So he’s a designer… yeah, he’s always in that room and he’s always live, like online… 

Reggie: That’s like community champion. 

Ricky: Yeah, right? Now it becomes a go-to place for people who just feels like they need a buddy to hang out with, and he will attract the developers to go into this room for some reason. But he’s a designer [indiscernible]. The developers will be there and like “oh, [indiscernible] what’s up?” And they will just talk about games, they’ll talk about like, you know, me. They’ll talk about each other. And it becomes like a very casual hangout place for the team.

I think having, creating, and making available this kind of spaces in an organization, whether it’s within… is on a team basis or it’s just on an organization level, like here’s the cafeteria where we have lunch together online, which I’ve done by the way. And I feel like it works quite well.

Reggie: Mmm mmm.  

Ricky: It’s just some small ways that I think as an employee can do without having to go through all this bureaucracy of like “oh, can we have like a meeting?” Like, you know, there is meeting room that’s always open, you don’t have to go through that. You just have to have a meeting room and people will just click on your link and join you. So I think it’s a very easy way for employees… accessible for them, to even implement it. 

Reggie: That is very cute. Yes, that’s very cute, like recreating that physical experience online. We do our best. 

Ricky: And there’s actually companies who’s building businesses around this, right?

Reggie: Yes. 

Ricky: So yeah, I think there’s this company called tandem.chat who is basically building… you know  MRIC… mIRC 32? Are you from that generation? 

Reggie: No… I know IRC. 

Ricky: But you know chat rooms right? 

Reggie: I know chat rooms. 

Ricky: Online chat rooms?  

Reggie: Wow you’re from that generation [laughter] 

Ricky: I was like, okay… I was like six. 

Reggie: You’re like the last, you’re like the last guys. 

Ricky: I call myself the elder millennial. 

Reggie: [laughter] 

Ricky: I was like, just at a cusp of like… 

Reggie: You just made it.

Ricky: I just made it, I just made the cut into the cool group. 

Reggie & Ricky: [laughter] 

Ricky: Well, we are not going to be cool for long, but yeah. I think a lot of companies are trying to build this audio chat channels that is in a chat room style. So you can go into different rooms, you’re hanging out with different people and they’re all working together. They’re chatting, but it’s perpetual. If you are running a company, all these rooms are available for you to go in and out just like a real office, and you can listen to what’s going on in that room. So I think that kind of technology, or any company trying to replicate that kind of environment, I think, will be quite beneficial in helping you retain that culture.

Reggie: Yeah, that’s very cool. Okay. We should check out the audio stuff, but yeah. So I think you’ve shared a lot of good stuff. I want to hear this last point about how companies are looking at their workforce. Because now, it’s even more different, right? In the past, it was like, you have your core team, your management, you have all these full-timers and then you have some part-timers that will rotate. Generally, that’s like the structure for most companies. But these days, you have your core, your management, your full-time, your remote guys and then your skills guys. So how are companies looking at this whole arrangement? I thought that will be important for our guys to get a better understanding so that they can manoeuvre this space. 

Ricky: I think there there’s quite a few things to consider when we look at how companies think about workforce. I think one is that the siloed structure that is the dominant structure now where you have specific functions, running specific things that is completely cut off from other functions. So I think a lot of organizations are trying to change that because they’re trying to promote innovation, they’re trying to promote collaboration. I think it’s very much inspired by the Spotify squad model, where every single squad is able to move very, very quickly within a short period of time, and I think a lot of people are trying to replicate that. 

I wouldn’t say that is a specific trend, but there’s definitely that specific thinking that a lot of leaders are considering when they are trying to redefine or transform the way they are structured, the organization structure. Because in this day and age, you just need to have the ability to tap into different capabilities, tap into different know-how and find new innovations, new ways of working. And I think a siloed structure oftentimes is… it doesn’t allow you to basically tap into that creative side of an organism, right? An organization. So that’s one way of thinking about it. 

I think from a talent availability standpoint, I think there is definitely heated competition between  larger companies for very specific talents. So again, let’s use developers as an example. There’s a short supply of them, and when companies like Grab versus GoJek are in the same industry, there is even more intense competition within this already limited supply of talent and they want people who have very specific… in terms of capabilities and experience and oftentimes the competitors have that. So I think… 

Reggie: [laughter] 

Ricky: Yeah, definitely companies are looking at…

Reggie: Digging their competitors. 

Ricky: Yeah, definitely. 

Reggie: That’s always the case, right? 

Ricky: Yeah. Let’s even not look at GoJek and Grab. Let’s look at the advertising industry as an example. It is quite like an incestuous industry in a sense, because you will just rotate around these companies as an employee, right? Like… 

Reggie: [laughter] I don’t know how they’re going to feel about this. It’s like incest. There’s a bunch of guys. But I know what you’re saying. 

Ricky: You know what I’m saying, right? Let’s just put it out there. It’s the fact, because it’s a relatively small industry, it’s very relationship-based. The same clients will also rotate around these companies, right? 

Reggie: Yes. 

Ricky: So you want to hire from your competitors and that’s just going to get more intensified. If you already have such limited pool of people, now you are just hiring from your competitors because you want to win that account. So there’s definitely that element for organizations. It’s a more difficult market to work with. I think from a talent perspective, obviously the solution… well, not obviously, but one of the solutions is definitely to look at different ways of working with them as an organization. Again, that has to go back to the structure. If your structure doesn’t allow you to have flexible workers, on demand workers, it’s going to be very tough for your teams to have to deal with this random ad hoc person who just drops in for an ad project. 

Reggie: There is no support system around this. 

Ricky: Exactly, and there’s no SOP, there’s no best practice internally that’s been defined clearly as to like “okay, a) this is what you need to do, b) don’t forget to sign this paper”. Because now you’re talking about someone external of your organization, whereas in the past, you can just pull Jamie from Design to come and help you. Now, there’s no more Jamie, right? Like Zander who is from,  this design… he runs his own design freelance business. So I think there’s definitely that to consider. That competitiveness means that you need to find different ways of working with talents because talents feel like they’re the pop star of the industry, they are the expert now, right? 

Reggie: It’s a whole new world. 

Ricky: Yeah, they have the power to define who they want to work with as well. So I think there’s also that element that I think companies are considering, and I think the other nuance of that is companies want to make themselves more attractive as an employer. Nowadays, there’s like an entire department for employees branding. 

Reggie: Yes, yes. There’s a whole onboarding kit. I have friends who do that. They give out onboarding kits because people are international, right?

Ricky: Exactly. 

Reggie: They send bottles, they send you socks, you know, those kind of things. I was like “oh that’s so cute”.

Ricky: It becomes a differentiator. 

Reggie: Yes, yes, yes. It’s like aww…

Ricky: I’m not sure how that specific onboarding kit thing is going to look up. I mean like, I think it’s nice to feel very welcomed but I feel like it’s important for brand nowadays to… for companies to stand for very specific values, right? No one just wants to work for… especially the younger generation, they don’t want to work just because you are a big brand name anymore. They want to work because you are part of a bigger cause, you’re trying to solve a big problem, and I think a lot of people want to have that purpose in life, and that’s probably something to do with the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. 

The younger generations have a lot of their very basic needs nicely fulfilled now. It’s not like our parents or even our grandparents who have to worry about food right now. They don’t even have to worry about food now. They can focus on self actualization, which means that companies need to have that aspect of opportunity for people to actually self-actualize as an individual, not just someone who is working for money anymore. So I think there’s definitely that element of branding and employee branding that is going to be very important for employers to consider.

Yeah, and I think the fact that now you are working digitally and remotely, you are not just limited to the people around you. Geography is not a boundary anymore, you can work with anyone anywhere. I think that’s also another element that companies need to take into account. 

Reggie: Yeah. I think there are a lot of good pointers. All in all, I think people need to recognize that yes, competition is crazy online because everybody is online these days, but it is not just talents going through the competition. A lot of employers are also going through the competition. So there is a playing fee here, right? It’s not the end road. 

Ricky: Yeah, yeah. For sure. 

Reggie: Yep. Thanks for coming on. Thanks for sharing with us good stuff, and we’ll see you around. Take care. 

Ricky: Thanks Reggie. 

Reggie: Hey, I hope you learnt something useful today and truly appreciate that you took the time off to better your life with The Financial Coconut. Knowledge is that much more powerful and interesting when shared, debated, and discussed. Join our community Telegram group, follow us on our socials, sign up for our weekly newsletter. Everything is in the description below, and if you love us and want to help us grow, definitely share the podcast with your friends and on your socials. Also, if you have some interesting thoughts to share or know someone that you want to hear more from, reach out to us through hello@thefinancialcoconut.com. With that, have a great day ahead. Stay tuned next week, and always remember personal finance can be chill, clear and sustainable for all.

I’m just going to ask you some questions that we ask every single guest. 

Ricky: Oh man, I haven’t thought about that. 

Reggie: [laughter] It’s okay. You’re good. 

Ricky: Okay. 

Reggie: So the first one is, what is one of your core life principles that you hold closely to? 

Ricky: (sighs) I mean, there’s a few.. 

Reggie: Just one. 

Ricky: Okay, yeah. I just need to pick one. 

Reggie: Yes.

Ricky: I think definitely, always try to find ways to live up to your best potential self and always developing yourself, always learning and maximize the value you can create to this world and not just economic value? But like emotional value, cultural value, whatever you can create and bring good vibes to the world. I think you need to, as much as possible, work towards that. 

Reggie: Yes. Hashtag #goodvibes. Important. Okay. Second question: what is a personal finance advice that you feel needs to be propagated? 

Ricky: I think people need to realize the power of compound, compounding and time? I think that’s one of the most powerful things that people can learn early on and take advantage of. And it’s never too late, even though, like I said, you know, early on, but it’s never too.late to start. 

Reggie: Yeah. 10, 20 years compound is still very sexy, right? 

Ricky: It’s very sexy. 

Reggie: Yes. Okay. Great! Point number three is: which part of your life are you giving additional focus on now? 

Ricky: I think mental health is a very big one. I think COVID has only taught us that we are actually quite fragile. One little thing like, you know, being cut off from your two friends… I only have two friends. You have two friends, right… can severely affect your mental wellbeing and that affects your physical wellbeing as well. So I think I’ve been spending a lot of time rethinking what it means to be healthy, what it means to be the best version of myself, and a lot of it has to start from knowing how to take care of yourself mentally. Yeah, so that’s what I’m focusing a lot on now. 

Reggie: Awesome. Yeah, I’ll see you at Bishan Park. 

Reggie & Ricky: [laughter] 

Reggie: Take care. Thank you. 

Ricky: Thanks.

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