Mr. Nelson Wong and I connected on Ecademy, around the year 2004. We haven’t yet spoken to each other or virtually or physically shaken hands. We still consider each other as respected friends whose views we like to read and understand. Ecademy was a great platform where I learnt “ Connections first – Business Later” and I later added – Business may or may not happen ever but we shall acquire a friend. And Indeed, Ecademy had a campaign called a Friend in Every City which was very popular.
When I requested, Nelson about my sort of inactive blog since 2004 which I had re-activated without any SEO or HTML, CSS knowledge and it was going to touch 100,000 views and I wish to interview and share 20 of my friends, colleagues, mentees, Mentors, Seniors – he readily agreed.
He also helped me with the editing of the interview as this is the first time I am doing these and I am grateful for his help for helping with this edition of the said interview.
So who is Mr. Nelson Wong?
Mr. Nelson Wong was born in Singapore. He is married. By way of education, he did his BS in Computer Science & in Business Administration, both at the University at Albany, New York. By profession he is a trade & data analyst in international trade & finance. He is also an e-Business owner of a start-up – www.jnellyns.com.
He has almost four decades of working experience in IT in the soft commodities, precious metals, oil & gas, accounting & forestry products sectors. He was also an external consultant & international trade analyst with the UNECE/FAO, Geneva, Switzerland, for 9 years.
His critique of current politics in USA is incisive, precise and very authentic. I enjoy reading his posts on Facebook.
- What motivated you to become what you ARE today?
- Family background. Growing up in a lower income family motivated me to break out of that poverty cycle. A poverty cycle can become a self-feeding vicious cycle, if you don’t break out of it.
- This gave me the tools that I needed to move forward & ahead.
- They gave me the encouragement to become what I dare to be today.
- What is the greatest joy you get from what you do?
- Seeing what I do accomplished its purpose. Having a purpose in what I do is important to me. Otherwise, it’ll drain me instead of driving me.
- In almost everything that I do, I learned something new. This gives me joy too.
- The ability to share with others about what I’ve learned. Sometimes, knowledge is very much like manure. Keep it in one place & it benefits nobody. Spread it around & everybody gets a slice of the action.
- What do your fans mean to you?
- Not much. My focus has always been on the task at hand.
- While I’ve no problems working as a member of a team, I’ve always enjoyed working alone.
- While I appreciate having friends who will encourage me in what I do, I’m not too much into building a fan base. I don’t have a celebrity mindset.
- What are you working on next?
This is provided that I can actually call it a day anytime soon. I’ve always wanted to design a system in bringing water into dry or arid regions or areas undergoing droughts. Believe me, it’s a matter of time before some countries go to war over fresh drinking water. It’s not a matter of “if” but “when.” We’ve also seen the horrific effects of droughts around the world over the last few years due to climate change. The recent fires in California is a stark reminder that we need water & we need it fast. Climate change is real & it’s becoming deadly.
- Who are your favourite authors?
This is a very good question. I actually don’t have any favorite authors apart from JRR Tolkien. I’ve a collection of about 2,000 books in both hardcopy & softcopy versions. Many of them were written by a mixed bag of authors. I normally read what I need to read & learn something, from data science to programming & from photography to playing the bass guitar.
- Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
One of the first was “The Jungle Book” by Rudyard Kipling. I was a cub scout then & we were encouraged to read this book to understand the birth of the Boy Scouts movement. I’ve always loved animals & nature, so this story made me appreciate them even more.
- How do you discover the authors you read?
Usually through research & also through recommendations in technical papers & reviews, as well as in trade magazines. As I’ve said before, I’m skewed more towards subject matters than towards the authors themselves.
- What are your five favourite books, and why?
- The R Book by Michael J. Crawley – This is a favorite reference book of mine in R language programming. It’s almost like a Bible to me as I’ve been programming in R for only 2 years.
- Financial Risk Modelling & Portfolio Optimization with R by Bernhard Pfaff – This is a favorite reference book of mine in understanding financial data science from an R programmer’s prospective.
- The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by JRR Tolkien – I can hardly think of anyone whose writings that could challenge & stretch the human imagination just as much as JRR Tolkien’s.
- Music Theory for the Bass Player by Ariane Cap – A very helpful & enlightening book in merging music theory with fingering (finger aerobics) in a very logical & progressive fashion, for bass guitar players.
- Various books on photography & travels by the National Geographic Society. These books helped to broaden my mind & enlarge my vision. Very hard to read these books without their amazing photographs embedding themselves inside my mind, for almost a lifetime.
- What do you read for pleasure?
Reading & browsing through books on travels, nature, animals, photography & music.
- What is your e-reading device of choice?
It has to be my iPad mini. I’ve up to 100 of my favorite books in my iPad & at my age, it’s also much easier to read the news from my iPad than from my cell phone.
- What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
I think of it more as an ingrown self-discipline than an inspiration. I used to get up at 5:30am in the morning while growing up in SE Asia. Now that I’m working from home, I still get up at between 5:45am to 6:15am in the morning, even on weekends.
- When you’re not working, how do you spend your time?
Spending time with the family to create memories, listening to music, playing the bass guitar, going for nature walks, nature photography & catching up with friends in church on weekends. Apart from a good movie & watching the news, I’d avoid watching any TV at all. And of course, I still take my wife to the movies, romantic dinners & shopping every now & then.
- Do you have some work and rest related non-negotiable rules?
I spend up to 12 hours a day working on my eBusiness & my consultancy business. I’ll take a catnap after lunch if I can spare the time. Other than that, no work is to be done after 10pm & weekends. Weekends are for the wife. I take over the things she would have to do otherwise on weekends.
- Do you remember the first assignment you ever did?
Well, as a fresh computer science graduate, one of my first assignments was in data entry at an infamous investment bank in New York City in the early 80’s. I say “infamous” because this bank was liquidated & shut down later. And some of the bosses went to prison. No prizes for guessing here.
- What is your working process?
I tend to spend a lot of time on planning. I want to know if the task before me can be done within the time & with the resources I have in hand. I want to know what am I supposed to deliver. If there are constraints, I like to know where or what are the compromises that I’ve to make. I want to know what is the objective or purpose behind the task. I want to know who are all the stake-holders involved. So my working process is a bit like creating a mind map or running an ERP system inside my head.
- What is your unique Work Style?
- Always under promise & over deliver.
- Always document everything.
- Remember a good income is important but a good outcome is much more important.
- What is your approach and how do you Plan the Finishing touches to the work?
From the very onset, I’d try to visualize & imagine what the final deliverables would be like. From there, I’ll try to work backwards in streamlining the processes in factoring in the finishing touches. In working with any clients, I’d query them on their expectations & on what kind of deliverables or end results would they expect to see. If your clients cannot verbalize their expectations, you’ll end up working with a moving goal post.
- Please describe your desk.
A very respectable & decent organized mess, seriously.
- Where did you grow up, and did this influence your business, If Yes – How?
No. I grew up in SE Asia in the 70’s. In those days, I doubt anyone knew what a computer was, unless they were working in a bank or a major organization. To be fair, neither eBusiness nor big data existed anywhere back then. It was a girlfriend of a good friend of mine who introduced me to the world of computer science. She was doing her first year in computer science at Monash University then.
- When did you first started what you do?
Shortly after I got married in the mid-80’s. I realized that there was little financial security in working for somebody else. Worse, if I was working for a family business, which I did a few times. The lack of financial security & an absence of a career path in these companies awakened a deep desire within me to start my own business & put my nose to the grindstone. In striking out on my own as an entrepreneur in the early days were fraught with disappointments. There were many challenges. At one point, I decided that it was best to get a full-time job & worked on my business in the evenings & weekends, until I was really ready. Since then, I’ve been on my own for the last 10 years. It was quite a journey. I learned a lot.
Thank you, Mr. Nelson Wong.