Photo: Crunchmoms

As someone who grew up and lived in several places, moving countries wasn’t foreign to me. Still, relocating for work with a family of my own was a different story. But I’m thankful for this opportunity as the move has led me to my current venture as co-founder of Crunchmoms. 

My foundational years started in China — mostly Beijing and Suzhou — from Grade 4 to 12.

I then attended Western University in Ontario, Canada, to pursue a bachelor’s in finance and administration, with my first job in Singapore at Bloomberg in 2014.

Before migrating to Dubai in 2018 due to my husband’s work commitments, I was a growth marketer at Grab, leading the company’s user acquisition across Southeast Asia. After settling in, I landed my first marketing role with Wahed, a Shariah-compliant robo-advisor platform based in Abu Dhabi. 

In my first few months there, I worked at a co-working space with other like-minded women who left careers behind to move with their partners and found it hard to continue building careers without a strong professional or personal network.

This pain point made me connect with Julie Nguyen, a fellow advocate for women’s empowerment, through LinkedIn (I saw her post on the platform and sent her a private message in response — that’s how it all started!). She also experienced a similar struggle as a first-time mom who left her job in the Netherlands for her new role in Dubai.

Our connection was immediate, sparked by shared interest, energy, and a vision to innovate and address this problem space. What began as an organic connection evolved seamlessly into a collaborative effort, encompassing the two of us and our broader team, all driven by a collective mission to empower and uplift working mothers and women in Dubai.

We both recognised many female expats’ challenges in building professional and personal networks when transitioning to a new country. They struggle to build careers while feeling disconnected from familiar colleagues, friends, and family. This shared vision birthed the idea for Crunchmoms — a platform dedicated to supporting women across all stages of motherhood and career.

In the landscape of the Middle East, where female work participation remains low despite high levels of female education, Crunchmoms strives to make a meaningful impact. Our mission, “Supporting women across all stages of motherhood and career”, embodies our dedication to fostering a supportive environment for women to invest in themselves and excel in their professional endeavours.

More than just a network

With that said, Crunchmoms is more than just a networking group. For me, it’s a vibrant community offering a comprehensive program suite to empower women. From skill-based workshops like “The Career Restart Workshop” to inspiring speaker series featuring successful working mothers, Crunchmoms provides valuable resources and guidance. 

Recognising the crucial role of childcare in facilitating work-life balance, we even offer onsite babysitting services during events.

Crunchmoms community event. (Photo: Crunchmoms)

Crunchmoms also maintains a dedicated job board featuring flexible work opportunities, facilitates returnship initiatives into corporate environments, and offers peer-to-peer mentoring with experienced executives. Our flagship “Designing Your Life” coaching program empowers women to take control of their careers and personal development.

These initiatives work to support women at various stages of their journeys, providing tailored solutions to address their diverse needs.

Co-founders Liying Tay and Julie Nguyen. (Photo: Crunchmoms)

Shifting perspectives and evolving work cultures

Before moving to the UAE, I had reservations about women’s work culture and contributions at work. But I’ve since spoken to many women — local Emiratis and expats doing amazing things — and my doubts dissipated. In fact, the UAE is one of only a few United Nations member nations that have achieved gender equality in parliament.

With that said, life in the UAE is inevitably fast-paced; it is a country buzzing with opportunities, especially if you are a go-getter. However, as a working mother, I know to prioritise my time and navigate motherhood and entrepreneurship with time management and personal boundaries.

For example, mornings are dedicated to family and exercise, while evenings are reserved for quality time with my daughter. Weekends are strictly family time, ensuring a healthy work-life balance.

You’d be surprised to know that my co-founder and I organised Dubai’s first-ever summit on motherhood and career while we both had newborns three weeks apart (talk about juggling babies and business)! That experience stands out because it proved how tangible our vision for Crunchmoms is.

Right now, our focus is on growing Crunchmoms in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region, but we’ll never say never to global expansion if the need is there. This journey has taught me that anything is possible. Set a clear “why”, never be afraid to ask for help, and remember that everyone’s path is unique. You define yours.