Money Confessions: I’m A Tech Executive By Day, And Run A 7-Figure F&B Business By Night

Deborah Gan
Last updated Aug 01, 2022

The Great Resignation wave is still rolling, with about one in three Singaporeans planning on changing their jobs in the first half of 2022. Are you one of them? Chua Ee Chien from roboadvisor Endowus shares how he maintains a full-time role while running not one, but three bars.  

When it comes to life decisions like career changes, it’s quite natural for us to feel uncertain about quitting or changing track if things get too stressful. For those considering a mid-career switch, the prospect might be even more daunting for them, not knowing what a change in the industry would mean in terms of salary and job scope.

Chua Ee Chien switched his major three times and changed fields multiple times and doesn’t regret his decisions. The Director of Business Development at Endowus shares his motivations and takeaways, and how he still manages to maintain a work-life balance with his full-time job and side hustle as an entrepreneur. 

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How it all started

My career has always been a combination of luck and curiosity. I majored in public relations (after switching majors three times), and realised towards the tail end of the degree that it was something that I didn’t want to do. 

My first internship was with Bloomberg News, and that opportunity came about when my professor told me about it. From the internship, I learned that I really enjoyed the intersection between communications and finance and wanted to learn more about investor relations. 

During the same period, a friend asked me if I wanted to apply for an internship at Goldman Sachs and thought I should apply, which I did. The internship turned into a full-time job offer and I decided to go along with it as it seemed like the best opportunity at the time.

Working at the bank was a great experience, but I also realised I did not want to climb the totem pole there. I also realised I started to develop an interest in the tech industry and know that I wanted to try something. So, when the opportunity came up at Uber, I snatched it up. 

Since then, I suppose my job has been relatively similar in the sense that I am constantly within the fintech space. Now, I work at Endowus and concurrently run an F&B business on the side.

The switch and challenges faced

I actually started on my entrepreneurship journey while working. I took over the bar the week after I started at Grab, and have been running both the bar and working since then. To be honest, it was my naivety that got me thinking that it would be easy to run a business on the side and have a full-time job. I did have a business partner then but he decided to leave the business after a few months. 

I’d seen other people do it and thought that it was something that I could handle since I had experience in certain roles where burning the midnight oil was common. What I failed to take into account was how much more operational running an F&B business requires, and the code-switching that you have to do between different types of work.

The biggest challenge I’ve had in my career is myself. It’s been a process — to be able to understand what I’m good at, what I’m bad at, and be able to take that feedback and figure out how to become a better person as well as a better employee. 

One of my biggest issues is being able to focus. I’ve definitely been getting better over the past few years, but it is still a challenge for me to make sure that I’m systematic enough to be able to get things done one at a time. I often get distracted, and it is something that I feel is my greatest challenge. In the workplace, things have been generally great as I have worked with different teams and colleagues.

No regrets about switching career paths

I haven’t really had reservations about career switches. Life is all about being able to roll with the punches but also being able to try new experiences. Of course, people have different comfort levels when it comes to change so a career switch is not easy for everyone, but I see each career switch as an opportunity to learn something new and grow.

Unexpected as this is, I honestly don’t have any regrets about switching career paths. In hindsight, it really has been a wonderful experience. And in Steve Jobs’s words, you can only connect the dots looking backwards. 

But when it comes to career paths, there’s still a level of practicality that you’ll have to take into consideration, like being honest about what you’re good and bad at. There are certain things that I think would be cool and interesting to try, but I know that in reality, I do not have the capacity or the ability to do so I don’t try that. Instead, I try to hone my skills based on what I feel I can excel at. And even then, excelling is still a challenge.

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Juggling two jobs at once, while maintaining work-life balance

In order to perform well, it’s important to demarcate time between both roles. For example, when I’m at the office, I commit my time fully to Endowus. One, it’s only fair and the right thing to do. And secondly, the code-switching would be crazy if I had to balance both at the same time. 

In the evenings and on the weekends, I often spend a good amount of time working on the challenges and administration with what I need to do. While I do make time for my social life, I often have to choose between one or the other. One of the things that are important to me is staying healthy, and I do make sure that I have time to work out on most days.

When it comes to spending time with friends and family, there have been quite a few instances where I’ve had to give up my dinner plans last minute to help out at the bar due to some unforeseen issue. There definitely are sacrifices to be made, and it’s a question as to whether you’re willing to do so. But of course, I still make time for my loved ones whenever I can.

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Growing my wealth through investments

I started my investing journey pretty young, investing in single stocks before I started college, but really diving into it in university. 

One of my biggest mistakes was investing using leverage and trying to pick stocks because I thought I was smarter than the market. As a young individual, it is often easy to think you’re smarter when you make some quick gain, but then quickly lose your pants when making other trades. Back then, my form of “investing” was really just gambling with equities.

As I progressed on, I have since taken a slightly safer approach, where I put a significant amount of my funds in Endowus and other lower-risk products, while setting aside a small amount of money to invest in single stocks and higher-risk products.

My investment strategy is pretty simple nowadays — I put at least 50% of my savings into an Endowus 100% equity portfolio each month for retirement. I do put a smaller percentage trading but it has since reduced by a lot. 

At the end of the day, I am less greedy with my investments. My goal now for my investment portfolio is to grow steady returns that can beat inflation, and allow me to retire comfortably, or even early. It really is about time in the markets, and not trying to time the market. 

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Final advice for like-minded people

I’m not going to say that every career path is easy or should be pursued. I think when you are looking at career paths, you should also look at your own individual circumstances.

Depending on your personal aspirations and financial situation, there really is a fine balance to strike when it comes to making the eventual career path that you take. At the end of the day, you need to be realistic about what you want to do, and the circumstance you are in, then make a decision from within those parameters.

Deborah Gan August 1, 2022 93885