Crystalla Huang, 30, is a second-generation brewmaster at Reddot Brewhouse. She is the youngest female brewmaster in Singapore and has been brewing beer since she was seven years old.
She is a sustainability advocate in the craft beer industry, who looks to explore and apply research and development aspects to the waste they produce through upcycling and recycling. Today, she shares some of the lessons that she has picked up on her journey.
I started my working life with the attitude of being a perfectionist. I quickly realised that I was wearing myself down. I came to the conclusion that perfectionism only creates friction between me and the people around me.
Hence, by adopting the idea that you are what you repeatedly do with an attitude of excellence, it has instilled a discipline in me and guided my way of life, even in the smallest things.
I stepped into the workforce brash and ambitious, thinking I was all-knowing and ready to share my school-based knowledge without regard for the multi-generational team I was in. I quickly hit a wall and became frustrated as I realised that the people around me did not want to take my ideas or suggestions, despite me feeling like I was armed with the supposed knowledge.
Being a second-generation brewmaster in a business is not easy. I had to learn that respect is earned, not demanded. In school, we are often taught this. But the actual working world is very different and the application of this lesson was like eating humble pie.
There is no such thing as a gender-based job, nor is there a cool job or a dirty job. In my industry, I learnt to just do what my male counterparts could do. Believe in yourself that you can do it and don’t be upset with anyone who doubts you. Just roll up your sleeves and get to work!
Are you passionate about something you are not good at? Or do you realise that you have no aptitude for your chosen line of work? Thinking you have a passion for something is not enough. Passion must be followed by an intense interest in a particular subject that fuels a quest for answers and a grit to improve at your skill for a long time to come.
Over the years, I have learnt to be a lot less temperamental and emotional when I have to do things using “old” methods that I may disagree with. Instead, I take note of what can be done better. Often, I have been able to distil some wisdom or develop an alternative way to achieve similar or even better results.
When I first started working overseas, I was homesick and overworked. I was working 16 to 18 hours a day without rest. Within the first few months, I felt my passion crumbling to ashes. I did not want to get out of bed to go to work. I did not want to do anything. One day at work, the chef came over and gave me a big hug, then looked me in the eye and said, “The fire must come from within, do not expect it to come from the outside.” In my young mind, I was baffled. Over the years, it became clearer to me.
In this journey, there are bound to be good days and bad days. There are days when you do not feel like getting out of bed, but you still do. Some seasons, you feel stagnant, yet you trod on and find inspiration and new things to learn. That is passion.
During job interviews, youth nowadays ask for career progression and what the company can do for them before they’ve done anything for the company. I say it’s important to not be too calculative and make your job all about the numbers. You should count your hours, but don’t count them too carefully. If not, you will be an unhappy individual.
Over the years, I have observed that the employees who count every cent of work they’ve done, down to the hour, often do not enjoy their work as much and do not progress as far. I reckon this is because they are often not team players. Time flies when you are having fun or absorbed in a task. If you constantly look at the clock, waiting for the work day to end, time slows down.
Find time and do something that you’re good at outside of work. Work can be all-consuming and overwhelm you. I used to be so mentally drained from work that I would literally be on the couch like a zombie when I got home. Now, on a yearly basis, I try to pick up a few new skills that are totally irrelevant to work. If my interest catches on, I get the satisfaction of learning a skill and reminding myself that I am bigger than my work.
Being a young Asian woman in a predominantly white and male industry is not easy. There have been harsh words, questions, outright rejection as well and incredulous looks from male brewers when I travel overseas for work. To them, I was just a “pretty face”. It took me many years to earn respect from the industry as a female who can run a brewery and brew beer. I am glad I have refused to carry emotional baggage over the harsh words that could have potentially weighed me down, stunted my growth and even drowned me.
In a society that is reliant on social media, we often see our peers enjoying themselves on holidays or doing glamourous work. It is only human to feel jealous and inadequate.
I used to turn to social media for inspiration and ideas, but I found myself often bogged down noseying around my peers’ online lives. I have come to realise that no one’s life is as perfect as it may seem. We need to be kind to ourselves and not measure ourselves against others, especially the lives we see on social media.