Ang Pag-Ibig Parang Start Up: How a young CTO successfully finds balance in business and in love

Monique Tolentino

I knew 4 things about Jaime Hing III before this interview: he’s PayMongo’s CTO; he’s a newlywed; he’s a very busy person; and that he has an amazing sense of humor.

We began the online interview at 4 pm on the dot. Apart from some exchanges on Slack, briefing him on the interview subject and the monthly company All-Hands Meetings, we’ve never interacted and this is the first time we’re speaking face to face (PayMongo has been on a work from home set-up since the pandemic flared up last year). Jaime appears on screen with a big grin and he looked shy.

“Dapat may 2 botts(bottles) tayo kung mag kukwentuhan tayo nang ganito,” he said.

Not even a minute into the conversation and it already felt like I was catching up with an old friend. Somewhere in the room was his wife, Nova, so when I asked him if he has a Valentine's gift for her, Jaime subtly pointed to his right side off-screen. Then my boss... giggled.

In this interview, Jaime explained how he chooses to take on business with clear goals, trust, communication, and a whole lot of jokes and laughter- which gave new meaning to the phrase “My relationship feels a lot like work”.

Here's a condensed version of our interview. Even without the two botts, Jaime Hing III, software engineer par excellence, is someone you will listen to when the conversation is about following your dreams and your heart:

Ang pag-ibig ba parang start-up?

Comparing love to starting a business is easy for me. We already have inside jokes in the engineering team on how running a business and love is similar.

To begin with, there’s no such thing as a perfect founder or co-founder. For both love and business, there’s no perfect partner. There will be quirks that you will experience along the way, strengths, and weaknesses with a fellow founder. That’s ok. It all boils down to how you settle issues and how you get along. Paano nyo haharapin ang bawat pagsubok sa relationship nyo or sa business nyo?

With my cofounders, we do have some misunderstandings and issues but at the end of the day, we have a dynamic that enables us to deal with these hurdles. So, for founders or for relationship partners, we shouldn’t stress ourselves out looking for the perfect one. Walang ganon.

Finding the perfect partner: Jaime and wife Nova on the day of their engagement.

What does your wife think of your work and of you being one of the co-founders of a successful startup?

She was actually very surprised. I had no intention of running my own business at all. (Laughs)

We’ve been together for eight years now and she’s always known me to be a corporate guy. I took the leap of faith and left corporate life to start this venture which really surprised her. I used to always tell her that I would never go into business, sakit sa ulo yon. And yet, look where I am. Although she was surprised she’s been incredibly supportive knowing that I went into business not just to make money, but to create something that can really help our country.

Starting a business requires a budget and so does planning a wedding. How was that similar for you?

I try to just go with the flow when it comes to financial restrictions. What’s important to remember is that it's good to have an allotted budget but not stress about it. In business, you can forecast what you will need and tweak it along the way.

My wife and I like to joke and say “love will keep us alive”, but that’s not how the real world works. You need a budget for food and other essentials. When it comes to weddings, we had a set budget and we were very practical about it. We didn’t want to spend so much on the wedding. What was important was that the wedding would be fun. In connection to business, too much money, or overspending, isn’t a good thing.

How did you propose?

It happened in Korea. I planned it for almost a year because I’m really bad at surprises. I’m very predictable for her, I always ruin the surprise. I’m very proud that she had no idea it was coming and that I was able to execute it properly with no spoilers. We went to Korea, and her dream proposal in Nami Island - nagawa ko even down to the nitty gritty details.

Dream come true: Jaime proposing to Nova in Nami Island, South Korea

How did you and your wife meet?

We met in high school, she’s a year younger than me.  We liked each other, MU kami noon. Nawala 'yung connection namin when she went to college. I understood that she needed to concentrate on her studies, so we reconnected after her graduation. We've been together for eight years, and we got married last December 2020.

How was it juggling being one of the youngest CTOs in the country and planning a wedding at the same time?

It was really stressful, honestly. We were supposed to get married in June. We wanted an ideal, practical wedding but since the pandemic happened, almost none of our plans pushed through. All our suppliers backed out. It was stressful but wala na kaming magagawa eh. We’re the type of couple who adapts to the situation we’re in so we move on and figure out what’s next.

I really want to commend my wife on how she handled all the wedding plans, actually. She was totally devastated when we realized that our dream wedding wasn’t going to happen but she handled most of the work with grace and understanding.

From 170 guests we had to cut guests to 20-25 people. Before I even proposed, we already knew the church where we both wanted to get married, but that didn’t push through either. I was supposed to write her a song and perform it at the wedding, pero hindi ko din nagawa. We’re both open to re-do the wedding ceremony but we don’t want to stress about it especially since we don’t know when things will get back to normal from this pandemic. We don’t want to get stressed over things we can’t control so for now, our priorities are elsewhere.

Do you have a relationship roadmap?

Planning a roadmap in relationships and business is natural for us.

My wife is also a software engineer. It’s funny because we actually apply our techniques to building our work roadmaps in our relationship. We make task lists, to-do lists which helps us organize our life on big and small scales. If you have a roadmap, you know who is assigned or accountable for each small task in order to achieve a common goal. We’ve recently planned to have a house built this year, for this common goal we try to divide and conquer however most of the time, she ends up doing most of the work.

Moving on to the work side of things, what’s the one thing you wish people knew about your job? In relation, what are the common misconceptions about your work that you wish to correct?

For those who don’t know me, I’m very frank and straightforward. People may seem surprised by the way I speak to them but I always want to help. That’s one thing I want people to know I guess. If I say something that may seem harsh, I never intend to offend, I just always want to help people get better at what they do - that’s one.

The second would be, I’m not a serious type of person. I like to laugh and joke a lot. I may seem serious when it comes to work but I always try to balance it with kulit.

How would you describe yourself as a team leader?

I care about people. When I say that, I mean I really value my teammates’ feedback and input. I consider what they say for every decision I make. I will never solely decide for my team. Another thing is trust and true and open communication, just like in my relationship. This is very important to me. If you can’t build that with your teammates, it will reflect on your work.

Also, I try to loosen up a bit. My normal self is someone who cracks jokes all the time. Napakagulo na ng mundo kung masyado tayong magpapaka-serious sa buhay. I like to look at the bright side of things and I will always crack jokes, sometimes even during the worst of times, I will always try to lighten the mood.

Are you the same way at home with your wife or your family?

Yes. There's a lot of laughter in our house. My wife makes me laugh, too. Very comedy ang household namin. I will always try to make my wife laugh.

On Dec 26, 2020, you tweeted: “There is no such thing as a busy person. It's all about priorities and time management.” And I found that really interesting. I was hoping to get more insights from you about that. Could you walk me through a normal day in your life?

For me, saying that you’re busy is BS. Everything is always dependent on what you prioritize and value in life. Friends and family are very important to me so I always find time for them. I’ve had a group since high school and every week we have a little event or get-together that we like to call STC which stands for Something To Celebrate. It’s basically an excuse for us to drink. We find something to celebrate and get together. I’m actually a bit sad that we don’t do that anymore because of the pandemic.

Being busy for me means that you have so many things to do. But at the end of the day, you know exactly how you prioritize your life. I have a time box every day for my work and personal life.

I wake up at 7 am. 7-9 am is my peaceful time.

30 minutes is allotted for reading. I never skip this because it’s important for my job as a CTO to be updated on trends and current events. Most of my co-workers also know that I’m not an email kind of guy. I only check my email twice a day: once between 7 to 9 am and once at the end of the day. People who work closely with me know that if you need something urgently, there’s always Slack or other instant messaging platforms.

From 10 am to 3 pm, I work. I have a to-do list app where all my tasks are logged in with their own levels of priority. Everything is also segregated into work categories. I prefer to have meetings from 3-5 pm. From 5 pm onwards, it’s strictly personal time. I like watching K dramas with my wife. We’ve actually gone through a number of shows already! (Chuckles)

Are you also this organized with your time outside of work?

Yes. But I’m a lot more flexible. I allot time for certain things and activities but I move my schedule around freely lalo na sa mga instances na napapasarap 'yung kwentuhan. I really value time with my family and friends.

Were you always this organized or was it just something you developed later in adulthood?

I was always like this. Everyone knows that I’m always on time. When I say 3 pm, I mean 3 pm. I really believe in the saying that time is gold. If you want to be respected, then you must respect others’ time.

What’s one thing people would be surprised to know about how you work? (Any superstitions, strange routines, mind setting hacks)

I have a three-minute rule. If there’s a task that you can finish or accomplish in three minutes or less, do that first. Not everything that’s urgent is actually urgent. To avoid bad time management, do all the quick tasks first and always gauge the term urgent. There are some tasks that are urgent but aren’t important. You have to be able to decipher which ones are both and prioritize them.

Is it safe to say that your work-life balance is mainly because of how you prioritize tasks and time management?

Yes definitely. In both work and life, if you want balance, be organized and prioritize.

Do you have any plans or gift ideas for Valentine’s Day?

For me, my advise or idea would be give your partner something they really want. Sometimes it’s not even material. Mang-huli ka sa partner mo, find out what they want. It's actually the simplest things that may seem small to you that can mean a lot to them.

Is that what you have planned for Nova too?

Yes. Meron na akong naka plano. Hindi ko lang masabi kasi andito lang sya sa tabi ko. Baka masira nanaman 'yung surprise.

And to other newlyweds, Jaime shares this thought: “Married life hasn’t been a big adjustment. Marriage is just a status change for us, but we’ve always been happy together.”🌱

Jaime and Nova in 2015 moving from high school sweethearts to husband and wife
Jaime and Nova in 2015 moving from high school sweethearts to husband and wife

Published date:
April 8, 2021
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