• Four Malaysian entrepreneur couples open up about what it’s like to work alongside a romantic partner, and the stuff that goes on behind the scenes of an ‘office romance’.

It’s one thing to hold together a rock solid romantic relationship in the context of day-to-day living. Trust, communication, affection, disagreements, arguments, and all other relevant facets turn the task of making things work out into sort of a fine art.

There are times when things don’t work out, but most of those in long-lasting relationships will argue that if you can work things out, it’ll all be worth it in the end.

But to be in a loving relationship with someone whom you work with professionally everyday is a whole ‘nother ball game. Aside from all the above, there is also the challenge of making sure work-related things don’t get in the way of your romance, and conversely not let your affection for each other get in the way of productivity.

So in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, here’s a feature of a few Malaysian couples that work professionally together, who most probably see each other on a daily basis, and who also face up to all of the nitty gritty of being in lovers in the office, just like mentioned above.

Aerodyne Group

Image Credit: Aerodyne

Kamarul Muhamed and Azita Azizan are the bosses in charge of local drone solutions provider Aerodyne and have been married for close to three decades, officially hitting 30 years this November. Having had to juggle family life (raising four kids who are now grown-ups) and work alongside her husband as leaders of a tech company, Azita candidly responds to some questions about their relationship in the workplace and at home.

How did you guys meet?

We were both young, ambitious students in Nottingham. I heard about the mysterious “K.A.” and was immediately intrigued. I decided to make the first move by sending him a “Good Luck” card for his upcoming exam and the rest is history!

P.S.: He went three hours early and waited at the Plaza for our first date.

Who’s the “Boss” in terms of decision-making at home?

He would say that I’m the “boss”, but.. Hahaha!

Who makes more money?

We share everything! What’s his is also mine.

Do you ever have heated arguments during working hours?

All the time! Partners do fight right?

You see each other for eight hours a day everyday—what are the topics you discuss at home?

At the moment, we’re pretty busy and generally our conversations revolve around work.

But at home, we’re a bit more relaxed. We talk on more deeper values, what we want to achieve in life, what we want to contribute to others, how lucky and how grateful we are, and last but not least, how our children are going to fare in life.

How do you separate work from family and life matters?

I like the idea of family being part of our work life—both have to be hand in hand for a healthy and successful career.

The only thing is, you need to be really professional about it. And being professional means that you don’t mix emotional feelings with your work.

We learn to deal with our personal matters when we are not in the office—we even have our son working with us whom to my evaluation is good and fit for the job.

And I treat him as my professional staff when he’s in office, but of course, with the flexibility of hugging him as well.

Do you share the same interests unrelated to work?

Of course! For a marriage to work long term, you need to have common interests.

Both of us love traveling, especially to places with nature and beautiful landscapes Just imagine Iceland—we’ve been there more times than we can remember chasing auroras and just generally admiring its many glaciers and waterfalls. We both have creative minds, so our interests naturally gravitate to beautiful and creative stuff.

When it comes to kids, who is more strict, and who is more lenient? Is it the same during work hours?

We are quite strict on values that we want to cultivate in our children, but we don’t impose rules and regulations. We let them think and act upon values that we have taught. Similarly at office, we don’t like to impose regulations, we want to trust our staff. But of course, as the organisation grows bigger, you need system in place.

Akati Consulting

Joanna Woon and Krishna Rajagopal have been together for about six years now and work closely together to run Akati Consulting—an award-winning information security firm based in five continents with over 300 global clients. At home, they have two fur babies—a Golden Retriever named Yogi and a kitten named Rocky. Here’s their take on being an office couple.

How did you guys meet?

We met via a mutual friend’s introduction.

Who’s the “Boss” in terms of decision-making at home?

It depends on what types of decisions—Joanna’s territories are in the kitchen and household matters, while Krishna is in charge of everything else.

Who makes more money?

Haha, well Joanna has a Coach handbag and Krishna doesn’t carry a handbag.. that should be enough to explain.

Do you ever have heated arguments during working hours?

Not really, unless the air-con isn’t working. But at work, most of the time Krishna is the boss and that’s how we keep it.

You see each other for eight hours a day everyday—what are the topics you discuss at home?

“Aiyo! No more bagels!”, “Do we still have yoghurt and muesli for breakfast?”, “What’s for dinner tonight?”, “How are the fur-babies doing?”, which books we’re currently reading and what’s interesting about it, and how to revive our failed diet plan time and time again.

How do you separate work from family and life matters?

We try our best to divide each day into ‘working hours’ and ‘family hours’ just like any other couple that works separately, so we don’t really discuss work matter at home unless absolutely necessary. At home the kings are Yogi (the dog), and Rocky (the kitten).

Do you share the same interests unrelated to work?

I’d say most of it is similar, but we do have our own unique interests—like how Joanna loves Taylor Swift while Krishna hates her.

Lucky for us, when it comes to vacations and our idea of an ideal vacation, we have similar interests. We both prefer easy-going, relaxing, non-adventurous tours as compared to ‘life-threatening’ activities—a sign of getting old I guess.

We both love to sit in quiet places, grab a book and relax as opposed to strolling around crowded malls. We love anything cultural (food included) as well as anything related to nature.

When it comes to kids, who is more strict, and who is more lenient? Is it the same during work hours?

Towards our fur babies, Joanna is the disciplinarian or ‘bad cop’ while Krishna will be the ‘good cop’ and best friend who plays with them.

I guess if we have human babies, it would probably be the same.

But at work, we will be both lenient or strict depending on the issue at hand.

Piktochart

Andrea Zaggia and Ai Ching are a couple of eight years (and parents to one daughter) and together run Piktochart, a startup operating out of Penang that provides both everyday consumers and businesses an easy-to-use graphic design platform that is also affordable.Their solution has already seen over 10 million users worldwide.

Here’s their take on working together as a couple.

How did you guys meet?

This is a big secret that we’re letting out—we first met on the internet.

Who’s the “Boss” in terms of decision-making at home?

It depends. Andrea decides on bigger decisions, Ching influences.

Who makes more money?

We make about the same.

Do you ever have heated arguments during working hours?

Of course! Now it’s rarer. Not because we don’t argue but we know the arguments bring us nowhere.

You see each other for eight hours a day everyday—what are the topics you discuss at home?

Work, family, and the Bible.

How do you separate work from family and life matters?

We do our best not to work after dinner and weekends. But in a way, they’re so entangled so we just ensure that work isn’t the only priority we have in life.

Do you share the same interests unrelated to work?

Yes and no. Yes when it comes to travel and food, no when it comes to relaxing. Andrea likes playing games, watching videos, staying indoors, while Ching likes reading, going to the beach, and going out while Andrea gets sunburnt.

When it comes to kids, who is more strict, and who is more lenient? Is it the same during work hours?

Ching is stricter with our daughter. Andrea is stricter at work.

Nuren Group

Image Credit: Nuren Group

Kelvin Leow and Patrina Goh of Nuren Group have been together for about six and a half years now, and both are co-founders of Nuren Group—an online family, motherhood, and female-focused platform that have portals such as Wedding.com.my, Motherhood.com.my, and Risawedding.com under their wings. They are parents to two toddlers and consider them their lucky charms.

These are Kelvin’s responses to the interview questions.

How did you guys meet?

We met during a common friend’s gathering in our hometown of Penang. Back then, I was still based in Australia, and she was based in UK.

Who’s the “Boss” in terms of decision-making at home?

Well, Petrina is CEO and I am CTO. So who do you think is the boss? Basically, she leads the business and finance aspects while I lead the tech and digital side of things.

Who makes more money?

The person who calls the shots on business and finance!

Do you ever have heated arguments during working hours?

When come to work, we do have our differences, so yes—like most company management teams, we do argue. And I believe that brings out the best in us.

You see each other for eight hours a day everyday—what are the topics you discuss at home?

Fortunately and unfortunately, family time also frequently becomes discussion time. But this ‘work-life-integration’ also mean decisions and things get done faster.

How do you separate work from family and life matters?

We can’t—that’s why we are in the business of motherhood!

Jokes aside, having both of us in work together means we have to be more efficient. We cover each other’s role on and off work. We need to be good in time management and delegation.

Do you share the same interests unrelated to work?

We like to travel, enjoy good food, and most of all–spend quality time with our little ones.

When it comes to kids, who is more strict, and who is more lenient? Is it the same during work hours?

We are almost equal. But if I must pick, I am stricter with the kids and Petrina is stricter at work.

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The answers from the founders in this article were compiled by the team at MDEC Global Acceleration and Innovation Network (GAIN), in the spirit of Valentine’s Day.

Feature Image Credit: rawpixel.com