Meet Kevin Chan, a proud father of six-year-old twins and Global Partner Solutions Lead. He and his wife moved from Seattle, USA, to Singapore to raise their children closer to their own Southeast Asian roots. With over 20 years of experience in the tech industry, Kevin has a unique perspective on balancing technology and parenting. He's passionate about helping his children build strong connections with their cultural heritage and believes that moving abroad has benefited their family in many ways. Kevin's experiences and insights make him a perfect guest for parents considering a similar move.
To get in touch with Kevin Chan, find him on LinkedIn:
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Thanks for listening to the Parents in Tech podcast with me, your host, Qin En. We hope you were inspired on how to raise kids and build companies. To catch up on earlier episodes or stay updated with upcoming ones, head over to www. to join our community of parents in tech. There, you can also drop me a question, idea, feedback or suggestion. See you next time!
[00:06] Introduction, today’s guest, Kevin Chan
[00:50] Reasons for the Move
[03:12] Challenges of the Move
[07:07] Preparing the Children for the Move
[10:10] Surprises in Singapore
[15:04] Challenges of Parenting Late in Life
[16:01] Unique Surrogacy Experience
[21:18] Parenting Twins
[25:14] Leadership and Parenting
[29:38] Importance of Parenting Resources
[30:23] Community Engagement
Qin En 00:06
Hi, I am Qin En, and this is the Parents in Tech Podcast.
In this episode, I speak with Kevin, Global Partner Solutions Lead. Kevin is dad to twins, a boy and a girl, age six.
Hey, Kevin, welcome to the Parents in Tech Podcast. Very excited to have you on the show today. And to begin with, could you tell us a bit more about your family?
Thanks, Qin En. Such a pleasure to be here. Thanks for having me and my colleagues on your podcast. Heard so much about it. What can I say? I'm 48 years old. My wife and I have been living in Singapore for a little bit under two years. We're both born and raised in Malaysia. And we've lived in the Seattle area in the United States for the last 20 odd years of our lives.
And we moved to Singapore, you know, right at the kind of the end of the COVID period. And we moved here in early September 2021. And we have two young children that's about to turn six years old, [we have] twins, a boy and a girl. And your audience just won't be able to see this, but I'll flash it to you anyway. So that is you can see who they are, these. And they're looking forward to celebrating their sixth birthday here in Singapore.
Qin En 01:31
Beautiful, beautiful. Now, 20 years in Seattle, sounds like you and your family were pretty settled there. Also, you know, you had your kids when you were in the U.S. What led to this huge life change for you and your family?
Well, thanks for asking. That's probably one of the most common questions we get all the time from our friends and our colleagues and even our family. We had a great life in Seattle. I was working for Microsoft over there, companies I've worked for, for almost 24 years. And living in the Seattle area was really a fun, enjoyable and enriching experience for us. And we probably could have spent the rest of our lives there. But when we had our kids, which is a story in and of itself, my wife and I felt that we wanted to raise them in a culture that we grew up with, grew up in.
And I was… I grew up my early years in Penang and my wife grew up in our early years in both Sitiawan and KL. And we felt that for our kids, especially in early stages of their lives, we wanted to expose them in really Southeast Asian or Malaysian Singaporean culture. So it was a natural thing for us to think about where we wanted to raise them, the experiences we wanted them to have, proximity to my parents who are aging in their early 80s and just having family cousins close by is an experience we wanted them to have. Like I said, living in the US was awesome. But when you don't have close friends and relatives, cousins around you, it's a very different thing altogether. So we wanted to bring them back here so that they could have those experiences.
Qin En 03:12
Beautiful. So it's really about helping them to understand their roots, understand where they grew up from. But I know that's really like division. And having just gone through a house move locally in Singapore with two young kids, man, it was exhausting and it's challenging for you moving halfway across around the world. I would imagine that takes a lot more effort. So maybe tell me a bit more about the challenges with the move, right? The logistics of it. Perhaps what was the most challenging part and how did you and your wife overcome it together with your two kids?
Wow. You know, when you mentioned it, it made me visualize the mountain of stuff we had in our living room when we were clearing our house. We're not pack rats. I mean, you know, the common thing about many American households is you buy a lot of stuff. It's a consumer oriented society. So you buy a lot of stuff and you can't even park your cars in your garage, it’s just full of stuff. I don't think we're like that by any measure. But 20 years of life, we do collect a few things. And when you are trying to move halfway around the world and with kids, you just have to and knowing that we were going to come to Singapore, we had no idea where we were going to live. But we knew obviously we were going to be in Singapore. We probably would go… it was going to be in a condo somewhere.
So going from a very comfortable, sizable house to a smaller condominium, we knew we had to do some adjustments. Right. So the first thing we did was we had to get rid of all this stuff. If you can just visualize a living room with stuff that, you know, you just came to the conclusion, you just don't need it, but we're never going to use all our winter clothing, sports equipment, stuff that we could just get rid of. Two golf bags that we're never going to use. Mountain of stuff. We probably did 20 trips to Goodwill. And if you think of Goodwill in Seattle, it'll be the equivalent of like what would be that charity organization in Singapore?
Qin En / Kevin 05:06
So imagine I did 20 trips over there just to get rid of stuff. So just reorienting our household to life in a foreign country, in a different country was something that we had to do. So really adjusting to the space that we anticipate that we would not have, and getting our family ready and finding our kids new schools was another thing we had to do. And mind you doing it overseas without really having a deeper understanding. Awesome thing is obviously our kids are young. They were four years old when we moved. So they were clearly a lot more adaptable than the adults, right? We are the ones who probably had to adjust more than the kids. The kids were just looking forward to new experiences, the change. So that was probably the easier part, with the exception of just them getting acclimated to the weather and the warmth and all that, but we're totally fine right now.
And honestly, if I step back and looking back at the move which just happened during the COVID period, we were very blessed to have the support of Microsoft in just arranging for a big household move. I remember the truck coming over to the house and you imagine those big 40 foot trucks or whatever and accumulating the chores to get rid… most of our furniture, we didn't move most of our furniture and just helping pull things together. And we had a timeline, you know, how we want to gather things and prepare for the move. But throughout the period, at the time, our kids were just obviously anticipating, they were asking, are we moving? Are we going tomorrow? Are we going tomorrow? And we had to tell them no, we'll be coming up. But it's one of those things whereby we had looked forward to the move for quite a while. We were anticipating.
In fact, when I started on the role, I started a role probably about close to two months before we actually did the physical move. Right. Because I remember it was during the COVID period, the immigration wasn't so easy at the time. We were waiting for our passes to be approved and that sort of thing. But I was working late hours, as you can imagine, Seattle time and Singapore time. And when the time came, right, once again, remember, this was during the COVID period. Right. So not… the airports were empty and all that. And we arrived and all the swab tests and all sort of thing. And if you remember spending 14 days in quarantine in an apartment. So we were very lucky to get a two bedroom service apartment, if I recall.
Qin En 07:33
And so it wasn't too bad. It was better than we expected. But we finally made it over here.
Qin En 07:41
Got it. Got it. Thanks a lot for sharing that, Kevin. And I think what I'm most curious about is also how you and your wife got your children ready for the move. Right. It is significant. It means uprooting their lives, their friends, whatever they're used to, the space even. How does that look like in terms of the preparation now, especially in hindsight? Right. What do you think you did well? What did you… what would you do differently if you had the chance?
You know, you asking me that question reminded me of a mini party that my kids preschool had arranged for them to say goodbye to them. Right. So they were… as best as any three, four year old could do their social bonds within the context of preschools in the greater Seattle area. And the teachers had arranged for a little small party to wish them goodbye and all that. And, you know, they were like missing your friends and that sort of thing. But I think being four year olds, they are a whole lot more adaptable than as adults. Right. For them, looking forward to the novelty and the idea of, you know, being in a different country was something that we had talked about with them in anticipation of the move. We had watched video, YouTube videos of Singapore. Right. All the touristy videos you can think of, you know, giving them idea. Okay, this is a country you're going to be moving to. You're going to be closer to your grandparents in Malaysia. We're going to… you're going to make new friends. You're going to find a new school.
Those things kind of stirred up their imagination, it stirred up the interest a little bit. Obviously, the move, the time came very quickly. And so that I think other than the logistics of actually preparing for the move, which obviously we had a lot to do, I think overall, I think we were blessed that things went really, really smoothly. And like I said, even the quarantine period, right? You know, went on pretty well and we adapted to that. Like I said, it could have been much worse because I think it was… I think Singapore had three weeks before and we switched it to two weeks. If you remember that, right?
Qin En 09:40
And after that, we switched to our temporary apartments, which was in Great World. And that was a very comfortable place, once again. So really appreciative to Microsoft that helped us really make the move as comfortable as possible for obviously, my wife, myself and the two kids.
Qin En 09:58
That's awesome. So tell me what's one surprise you had about Singapore when you and your family came here? I'm sure, of course, you heard a lot of research and a lot, spoke to people, Microsoft helped. But I'm sure there was still surprises. Tell me one.
You know, obviously, you know, from a cultural point of view, it's the main reason for coming here to begin with was really to reconnect with our roots and to enable our children to kind of build these roots and to build social bonds with both new friends that they would make and also our family and our extended family. Right. So that was the thing. Not to mention the language, right? We wanted to build up their Mandarin skills. And what better place to do that and to be… to do it in Singapore? And what was amazing was even from the point that we landed and once again, COVID did it, right? Colleagues and friends, people who I probably barely knew because starting in this new role in Microsoft in Singapore were warm. They were reaching out. They were sending toys and gifts for the kids, food for us.
Once again, remember, you can't see them, right? So they would send stuff up to the hotel and all that. Sorry, the service problem we were saying, just to make us comfortable and help us kind of get at home. So it wasn't necessarily a surprise, but it was such an endearing, warm feeling that within your first day, we got people welcoming us and people who hardly knew me, didn't know, never met my kids before and just welcoming us to Singapore. So that was such a pleasant experience, which was nice to start our Singaporean journey that way. Right.
Qin En 11:33
So it was less, like I said, less of a surprise per se because I think we've done our research. We were… all the main things about if you move your family halfway around the world.
Qin En 11:43
Where you're going to live, where you're going to send your kids to school, what's your primary transportation going to be? All those fundamental things, I think we had worked out. So I think we were prepared for that. It was just such a nice thing to have the warmth of these new social bonds that we were able to create. Once again, it's because of my colleagues at Microsoft and also the business partners I was working with, just to very quickly launch into, effectively this new life.
Qin En 12:13
Makes sense. Makes sense. Oh, I think that that's really nice. And what a warm way, right? Even though Microsoft is such a large organization, their personal touch is very real. And I can see that from how, even though it's something that's almost two years ago, it's something that you still remember. And I think that's incredibly valuable.
Qin En 12:31
Now, maybe if we could shift gears a little, Kevin, let's talk a bit about the role of technology in your life as a father. Right. You know, kids these days are glued to screens. When my kids start to melt down the fastest way, which probably might be not the best thing, it's to just turn on the screen and it's an instant pacifier. So I'm curious, what does the role of technology, screens and all of that look like in a life as a father? Because that's also what you work as in your profession.
Yeah. Yeah. Well, first of all, I've read the research. I've seen the videos. I've listened to the experts. I get it. You know, screens extend too much. Screen time is not good for children. I get that. But true confessions. Right. And once again, living here, we are blessed to have the support of domestic help, right. A helper, as you guys would call it. Versus, in living 20 years in Seattle and then for the first four years of their lives where we had no help. Right. When we brought the kids home. Right. And that's a story in itself, which we can cover after this part is it was my wife and myself and the kids. We had the support of an au pair. And if you don't, for those of your audiences who don't know what an au pair is, it's a program. It's kind of like a nanny, but not quite, right? It's very limited, very restricted. They do live in, but they only work certain hours of the day. They only do things specifically to help the kids. They don't work on weekends. You pay them. But again typically, usually young, either post college or even around college age.
Qin En 14:08
So we had a little bit of help. So the big aspect and big transition of having kids and then moving over here is just this is a support system in and of itself. Once again, we had no… we really effectively didn't have any relatives when they were born and we brought them back to Seattle.
Qin En 14:26
And then we brought them to Singapore, at least. I think progressively, we did get a helper and that did make a difference. And once again, another big blessing, being in Singapore where the access to domestic help is available. And I think I know many of my colleagues and many of society in Singapore has that facility, has that opportunity and just give people the opportunity to kind of have very vibrant careers as a result of that. But if you ask me about the big fundamental differences, I think that will be one big aspect of it. And it does make a difference because once again, Qin En, I think I mentioned earlier, I have twins, right?
Qin En 15:03
They are vibrant, energetic, demanding at times. And I think my wife and I, who had kids probably later in life than most people, 48 years old, my kids are six. You know, it does make a difference. You know, energy levels are not the same. Right.
Qin En 15:22
So to have a little bit of support, a little bit of help with the aspects of raising kids and the household and that sort of thing.
Qin En 15:30
Absolutely. Absolutely. And now, Kevin, I want to dial back a bit to the part where you had twins and you had minimal help at best to au pair. Right. But that just sounds absolutely crazy because now I have two young kids and they're not even twins, but it's already tough enough to manage them. And like you, I have a helper. So what was it like in the first pretty much six years, right? When you were in Seattle, when I presume both you and your wife were working. Like, how do you make that work?
Well, first of all, let me address the origin story a little bit. Right. Because we had intended to have twins. And that's a story in and of itself because it's worth mentioning, because we had kids late in life mainly, because we couldn't. My wife and I have always wanted children, but we tried IVF. We even tried adoption. Didn't work. The way our children came about was through commercial surrogacy. And for most of your audiences who may not be aware, commercial surrogacy works is, you literally pay somebody to have a kid for you. And the surprising thing for most people is we did it in the country of Ukraine. So we had a Ukrainian surrogate.
Qin En 16:38
And we had a Ukrainian egg donor. And remember, we were in Seattle and the agency organized everything. The clinic organized everything. It's probably an extended conversation to go through that. But effectively that, we had wanted twins. Right. You know, we were effectively catching up. And we've always wanted to… we wanted a child, to have a sibling and say, you know what, we're late in life. We wanted to have kids. Let's get it done. Right.
Qin En 17:03
So working with the agency, we went down the path of aiming to have twins and we had twins. Right. So that's obviously a lot of technicalities behind there.
Qin En 17:14
But we knew, I guess, we knew what we were getting into. And we knew the support system that we had and didn't have living in Seattle. So when we brought the kids home, we had probably arranged for the au pair in advance of that. I think the au pair that we got, yeah, I remember it was from Thailand. So that made even though it was very restricted, it's nowhere near what most Singaporean helpers can do because they are limited hours of what they can do. They're going to do stuff that's related to the kid. They don't clean the house or anything like that. It really lifted the burden a lot for my wife and I. So that was the main difference. The second big thing I wanted to call out was even the time when we went to Kiev, Ukraine to pick up the kids, because you have to be there in anticipation with kids to be born. I was working. So I had the flexibility to work remotely.
And once again, it was an outcome of Microsoft's work policies, hybrid work policies to allow people to really, to work anywhere. And I was doing that remotely while waiting for the kids to be born. And that obviously, you know, is my time management requirements because I had a global role. So I was working with both partners and customers in different parts of the world. And my colleagues in Seattle, it allowed me to do that from wherever I was. So that was one advantage of that. Second thing is we had a purpose, and our purpose was really to welcome our new kids into our lives. So we had to be there with… my wife had never been to Ukraine before. I would even have been there once just to do the paperwork. But in anticipation for the kids to be born, right, we were preparing as much as we could for their arrival. So buying everything that you did at [unclear] in preparing for your kids, we had to do right. We had to get the double stroller. We had to get two cribs for my care. I assembled it. We had friends who gave us clothing, all this kind of stuff. And mind you, it's zero baby experience, right?
Qin En 19:19
Forget about even not just doing it via surrogate, just zero baby experience of any kind. We didn't have our parents or my in-laws there with us. So we had to build a support system in Seattle with the close friends that we had. And that was amazing for us. But it's nothing like having grandparents or relatives or even a helper. So we did the best that we could, and we were very blessed to have what we have.
Qin En 19:43
Now, fast forward, even moving to Singapore itself. Right. And like I said, I mean, we're living in a much smaller place now. But honestly, it didn't really matter because what mattered was, was that as they grew, their needs changed, their needs evolved. Right. And we put them in the kindergarten here and we moved about a year ago and we changed it to a different kindergarten. But the kids were all about these experiences. They were all about what Singapore could offer them. They were all about the friends that they would meet on weekends. We take them to classes like Taekwondo and drama class.
So they would build new social bonds that way. A lot ultimately came about was this whole pathway to enrichment, this pathway to new experiences, new friends that they would make. And we got a lot of supporting them throughout this journey. And you could argue probably the last six years since the time that they were born to move me here has been quite a whirlwind, as you can imagine.
Qin En 20:47
No, that sounds like a really incredible kind of experience and a journey that you and your wife have been through. You know, but the truth, Kevin, it's tough things when it comes to parenting. And I feel like you're further ahead in the journey with both your kids at six years old. Like this morning, just dealt with my elder daughter having a slight meltdown on the way to school. So there are these challenging moments, right? I'm curious about how you and your wife manage it. What are some of the things that you do towards? Yeah, just talking, educating, encouraging, being there for your kids. What does that look like?
Sure. If I look at the course of the kids from the time they were born until now, and I reflect on the key highlights or even low lights of the challenging moments from the time of their birth, the thing that comes to mind, that these are little moments, right? It will be like sleep training. Right. Looking back right now, we're huge believers in sleep training, whereby you would take all the techniques that we learned from all the experts out there about what you should and shouldn't do to kind of ensure that your kids are sleeping through the night. That in isolation was probably one area that we… a big challenge that we address by learning all the different techniques from all different experts out there about what you should and shouldn't do, what to feed them and all that.
And when they were born, we spent about a month in Ukraine waiting for all the immigration work to be done and all that. We hired a Ukrainian nanny, barely spoken in English. And somehow it came up. She taught us the feeding schedules. You know, and that's how, and we wrote it down. And these are obviously baby stages, right? Obviously, we're beyond that. But going back to the challenges when you have zero knowledge about what it takes to raise, handle a baby, much less two babies, twins. Right. That was quite the process that we went through. Because once again, no knowledge to having twins. And once again, the first month in a country that, you know, we all speak the language in as foreign as it can be in anticipation of bringing them back to the US. Think about that from a challenge point of view.
Then as we let… as we got to life back in Seattle, raising the kids from effectively one till four. Right. Getting them to the schools, getting them into just the process. And they are very, once again, if I reflect on their personality types, they're both very high energy. They're very verbose. They're very expressive. They're very different personalities altogether. And they have… And I think that the challenge and the demand for us as the parents was to, because remember, they are twins, was to recognize their differences because they both have very unique, Anna and Erin have very unique personalities. And, you know, Anna is very, how would I put it? They're both emotional in different ways, but they are both expressive of their emotions and also very different ways.
And it was a lesson for us to kind of recognize their individuality because they are different. But at the same time, noting the fact that they are twins has a certain bond and connectedness and competitiveness because of them into the level of sibling rivalry between the two is, it is pretty crazy, actually. So is it, how do you hand… you know, it goes beyond just getting two things for both of them. So they don't fight. It goes beyond that. It is recognizing they're both unique needs. How they would want to be communicated with, how they want to handle certain challenges between mom and dad and how they handle us, how they play, how they are, how they fight. And they do argue quite a fair bit. Mind you.
Qin En 24:42
Qin En 24:43
But as they grow up a little bit more, what we are noticing yet, yeah, the personality differences even more pronounced. And as much as we want to do a one to two model, if I, oh, we just want to do one time and we have to recognize that they both have different needs. And give you one example, you know, Anna really likes the drama class that we assigned them to. Aaron, not so much. Aaron would like the STEM class that we were assigned to expose them to. We want to expose both of them to sports. Both of them are in Taekwondo right now. I'm not sure whether both of them will take on to the same level that they would, but we want to give them both the opportunity. So we're just trying to anticipate not a skill set, but what affinities they have, what natural abilities that they have that [are unique] to one and another. And fundamentally what they need from us as parents to support them so that they can thrive in their own individual ways.
Qin En 25:44
Absolutely. And I really like the approach because it's so new ones. You are really about helping them to explore, help them to understand themselves and not placing that pressure that you have to do things a certain way. But there are certain activities that have to be done. I think that in itself, it's very much the kind of parenting style that I aspire to it and would certainly love to. So we've spoken a lot about your parenting experiences, your wisdom and the journey you have came through. So, Kevin, can you share a bit about how being a parent has changed or shaped the way you are a leader at the workplace?
Well, you know, I'll borrow on this… on what we had just talked about a moment ago, right? If I looked at my kids and I've been a parent of twins, right, who are very… who have a mind of, they don't fail to remind you they have their preferences, they don't fail to remind you that they have their needs. Right. And even though there's twins as a unit, they are individuals. So I think working with people at, where they are, right, working with them, recognizing where people are coming from, from the point where they're coming from to the direction of where they want to get to, I think is fundamentally important. So from a leadership context, we all have perspectives about the goals, the opportunities, the targets, the direction that we want to get to. And when our teams to get to, we all want to meet certain objectives. And we have worked with people all around us.
Another blessing that I have is to work with such a team, an amazing team of talented individuals, talented professionals who not only bring the best of themselves to what they do every day, but the certain passion and love for partners, which is what I do in my day job, that they bring it to the… they meet those challenges with the utmost professionalism, with the utmost intent in helping our partners be successful. The point is, you know, as a parent, the big takeaway I've learned is recognizing individual needs differently, recognizing individual capacities, individual aspirations. And once again, parents of twins, right, they all have, as much as I want to kind of create this uniform perspective of what my kids want, they have different needs and different aspirations and learning to address that can be challenging, but it's something that we as a parent and as a leader, we have to do. People have… they have different perspectives about the direction of where they want to get to. They want to… people want to run their careers.
And I think it's our duty and our role as a leader, and even as a parent, is to kind of be in support of our children, our teams, our colleagues, so that people can bring the best of themselves to the challenges that they face every single day. And I think the reward at the very end of the day, Qin En, is to see whether it's your team at work, whether it's your children or whether the others that you have in your stewardship achieve their greatest goals. And I think there's nothing more rewarding than, and seeing others attain those accolades, whether it's accolades or challenges that they resolve or milestones that they want to get to that we all have a role to play in helping others achieve that.
Qin En 29:10
Yeah, Kevin, I think you could have said it better, right? The role of a parent and the role of a leader, it's really similar. It's really to unlock the potential, to support, to provide a platform for both our children as well as the people that [you’re] leading. Well, thank you so much, Kevin, for being so forthcoming and so candid with the sharing. I wish we could go on this conversation longer. Maybe we need to have you on for a part two. But, you know, it's been such a joy to speak with you today. And thank you so much for coming on the show.
Qin En, thank you so much. It's such a pleasure speaking with you and thank you for what you're doing with this podcast, I think more than ever before. The community of parents out there need resources like this because, you know, it's not an easy task, it’s not an easy job to do. And we need all the help that we can get.
Qin En 29:54
Absolutely. Thank you, Kevin.
Qin En 30:01
Thanks for listening to the Parents in Tech Podcast with me, your host, Qin En. We hope you were inspired on how to raise kids and build companies. To catch up on earlier episodes or stay updated with upcoming ones, head over to www.parents.fm to join our community of Parents in Tech. There, you can also drop me a question, idea, feedback or suggestion. Once again, the website is www.parents.fm
That's all for this episode, folks. See you next time.