Two Singaporeans working in AWS Seattle reflect on their time away from home. Singaporean AWS software development engineer Peh Jun Hao will be diving into a potluck meal with other friends in Seattle on Aug. 9. The potluck meal is a Singaporean party favorite, where all in attendance contribute a dish to the gastronomic spread. This will be the last year Jun Hao is celebrating his special overseas National Day tradition, as he is returning to Singapore in October 2022, after working for six years in the city which houses Amazon’s global headquarters.
"My BTO (Built-to-Order) four-room flat is ready,” he replied, when asked why he is coming home. He had applied for the Build-to-Order flat – a rite-of-passage for young Singaporeans who are buying their first homes – five years ago. As he is getting ready to leave Seattle, he reflects on his work stint which has been life-changing. He moved from Singapore to Seattle when he joined Amazon in 2016, because he wanted to explore new opportunities.
"I like to ask myself every two years – are there new challenges I can work on? Is there anything more I can learn and do?
Peh Jun Hao | Software Development Engineer at AWS
“Joining Amazon was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, because it’s a huge company with many chances to learn, and contribute to different teams. I like to ask myself every two years – are there new challenges I can work on? Is there anything more I can learn and do?”, said Jun Hao.
Jun Hao has contributed to three teams in less than six years. First working on merchant platforms for third-party sellers, he moved on to boost the customer experience for gamers on the Luna Gaming platform.
He now works in the AWS Marketing Response Center team, where one of his responsibilities involves acting as a “bridge” for senior engineers in Seattle to the team in Singapore. He shares business updates and tech developments across Asia and other regions with the U.S. team, which helps AWS align on decisions as a global business to roll out solutions that benefit our customers.
Uplifting work which makes a difference
Just like Jun Hao, his Singaporean colleague Lyanna Lim, has spent five years in Seattle in a number of diverse roles. She is currently a senior technical product manager at AWS, where she and her team have worked on transformative deals with AWS’s largest enterprise customers. This includes implementing Database Freedom incentives for customers, a unique program designed to assist organizations to migrate from legacy, on-premises commercial databases to AWS database systems and analytics services, by providing technical advice, migration support, and financial assistance.
“AWS builds technology that advances diversity, equity, inclusion, and creates sustainable solutions. I am proud to play a role in enabling this through the projects that I work on. We have an impact on underserved markets, non-profit organizations, government sector, startups, and many more,” said Lyanna. More recently, she cites how AWS stepped up its disaster response in Ukraine, by bringing AWS Snowball devices (compute and storage hardware) to help the government secure, store, and transfer data to the cloud.
“Working at AWS is definitely challenging, but rewarding. Seeing the far-reaching impact our work has is uplifting, and keeps me hyper-charged and motivated,” said Lyanna.
Life in Seattle as parents
Beyond work, both Jun Hao and Lyanna took on one of the most important roles of their lives while in Seattle: They became first-time parents.
"Giving birth away from home without the usual circle of family support was challenging, but right now, I am loving every moment of spending time with Mira and watching her grow."
Lyanna Lim | Senior Technical Product Manager at AWS
Lyanna gave birth to a baby girl, Mira, in May. “Giving birth away from home without the usual circle of family support was challenging, but right now, I am loving every moment of spending time with Mira and watching her grow,” she said. As for Jun Hao, when his wife – a former marketing manager who accompanied him to Seattle – gave birth to their first child Gwen in April 2018, the new father rose to the occasion admirably.
With up to six weeks of paternity leave, Jun Hao supported his wife by churning out hearty, delicious food for his wife including Singapore staples like chicken rice and Hokkien mee.
Even when he returned to work, he would cook lunch in the morning and bring a packed lunch to the office. Sometimes, his wife would even bring Gwen – with lunch in tow – to eat together with Jun Hao at work.
Jun Hao believes AWS has a strong family-friendly culture. “We are able to work at different hours. Everyone here understands if you need to go off for your kid’s 4pm soccer event,” he said.
What’s the first thing he will do when he returns to Singapore?
“I’d probably enjoy a breakfast of kway chap!” quipped Jun Hao, on the Singapore dish of flat rice noodles with pork cuts, including offal. “I can cook most other things, but I do miss home-grown authentic flavors!”
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