1) What activities did you take part in while studying Animation in NTU?
I did a lot of stuff early on, in fact I did too much. I was in my hall’s cheerleading group, I also did publicity for my school’s freshman orientation camp, as well as publicity for my hall’s choir group. In fact I took on so much side stuff that I had to relinquish some of my roles later on in the year, and caused quite a bit of disappointment and disruption in these clubs. I still feel really bad about this stuff because they had to find people to replace me, and I remember my seniors warning me that I was taking on too much stuff. This was a super valuable lesson for me. I learnt that I could do anything, but not everything. I still find it really hard to say no to stuff because I don’t like letting people down. But opting for the more short-term, immediate let down of saying no at the start of something is often way better than having to abandon a commitment because you just can’t do it anymore.
2) What is your greatest takeaway from your education years?
If by education years you mean formal education, it would be the importance of logical connections and objective proof when it comes to communicating persuasively. I hated formal academic writing (and thinking) when I was in school; having to provide references for your points and establishing connective reasoning in making a point. It’s so tedious and you just want to be able to make your point without having to go through the rigamarole.
But in hindsight I now know that this is incredibly important; especially in the information age when we are constantly bombarded by information and arguments from all sides. Developing a critical and keen filter for reasoning is important not just in communicating, but also taking in information. (Just look at what’s happening with flat-earthers and anti-vaxxers).
Academic writing forces you to write and think in very logical and objective ways, and in turn you know how to take in and critically assess information that is presented to you, and you’re much better at telling bullshit from good information. I genuinely believe this is an essential component in democratic societies. When the rules of society are decided by the common person, the common person should be as knowledgeable, critical and logical as possible.
3) What inspired you to solve problems by storytelling? What prompted you to kickstart The Woke Salaryman? Why the name “Woke Salaryman”?
Story is king for me. A piece of content executed well when it comes to the technical aspects is nothing without a good ‘why’, will struggle to connect with the general public; and inversely, a brilliantly told story with limited technical prowess can be extremely powerful. The absolute gold standard when it comes to an example of limited technical presentation but tremendous storytelling for me is ‘waitbutwhy.com’. Tim Urban (the author) did a story on procrastination that just blew/re away and the drawings are so crude yet so effective. This article changed my life, no exaggeration.
The Woke Salaryman was started by my co-founder, Ruiming; who asked me to join forces with him shortly after he created The Woke Salaryman’s Facebook page. We had learnt a great deal about social media and content creation when we both worked at Mothership.sg (a local news media website) and we wanted to apply our chops and possibly start a side hustle from this expertise. So, we were always talking about creating something together. We both shared an interest in personal finance so marrying our skills of content creation, copywriting and visual storytelling led us to create The Woke Salaryman.
The term ‘woke’ literally stands for ‘waking up’. There are connotations with the idea of also being macro/societally aware as well. The idea of salaryman is meant to define our target audience clearly; typical salaried folks who feel somewhat locked into their 9-5 jobs who want to have better relationships with their finances. Over time our content has spread out a bit more to include lifestyle and mental health aspects as they are relevant to us and our audiences.
4) What are some of the key challenges you faced in running The Woke Salaryman and how did you overcome them?
So far, the biggest challenge has been continuously trying to make something complex and dry like personal finance interesting and digestible for a broader audience. It’s a constant effort because you become more knowledgeable and skilled at the subject matter and it’s easy to forget that we are often writing for people who are taking their first steps into personal finance. Part of the reason why we started the page was to provide an easier stepping stone into the technical world of personal finance so we must constantly write in an easy-to-understand manner.
We have several things we try to keep in mind. We try to write with simple words, we break complex topics down into multiple slides/pages/panels, and we try to both show and tell. We also heed the feedback and response we get from our audience on social media and when we meet them to constantly gauge the temperature on the ground.
5) Where do you see yourself and The Woke Salaryman five to ten years down the road?
If The Woke Salaryman is still around (fingers crossed), I hope my co-founder and I would have managed to expand our team to a small but elite team of content creators that we are able to delegate the bulk of production and ideation work to so we can grow other aspects of The Woke Salaryman brand (like books, videos, podcasts).
6) What are your hobbies?
I like playing video games, singing songs and cycling.
7) What is one quote you live by?
Too many, and they change all the time. Right now, I think a lot about the idea of life, meaning and suffering. It’s not an exact quote but an amalgamation of several things Jordan Peterson has said, something to the effect of “The meaning of life is not happiness. The meaning of life is to find and dedicate yourself to something meaningful enough to SUFFER FOR.”
8) What is one thing you would tell your past self and your future self?
It’s okay to sell out first as long as you don’t forget your dreams. Selling out doesn’t necessarily mean you’re betraying your dreams; it can simply mean that you put them on hold while you amass the necessary resources to pursue them later.
9) What advice do you have for young business owners/entrepreneurs in Singapore?
I strongly believe that the essential role of an entrepreneur, what you boil it down to its most abstract qualities, is problem-solving; nothing more nothing less. So shed all your ego and identity and do whatever it takes to solve the problems that will keep coming your way. There is no perfection, and no rest. It sounds bleak but it can be profoundly meaningful if you believe your business is good for society. Also, by adopting this mindset, you are never surprised by the existence of problems; in fact, you anticipate and are constantly vigilant of new problems that are coming.
More about Wei Choon
Wei Choon worked as a content specialist at Mothership from Aug 2016 to Nov 2018. He was also a creative marketing specialist for medical devices company, Dornier MedTech, from Dec 2018 to Apr 2020. Hear more about his journey here.
More about The Woke Salaryman
The Woke Salaryman, a comic-style personal finance blog, makes accessible content to inspire, educate and remind everyone to have good, healthy relationships with money. The platform enables people to ask questions in a non-judgemental and anonymous safe space. They also aim to help young people develop a better relationship with money so they can achieve meaningful pursuits and lead fulfilled lives.