Why I moved to New York City – and how staying two decades has changed me

While Singapore will always be home, Fred Ng shares how working in the Big Apple has brought him rich opportunities and an unexpected fullness of life.

By SGN | 4 Sep 2023

For Fred, moving to New York City 18 years ago was taking a step into the vast unknown. 

His employer, Singaporean sovereign wealth fund GIC, had offered him a transfer. “I was approached by the then deputy director of technology, asking if I had interest in being posted to New York,” he recalls. “Even if I had been aware of an opening in the New York office, I would not have had the courage to request for it, since I was quite green.” 

Never having lived on his own, let alone on the other side of the planet, made the move both exciting and a little unnerving. After accepting the offer, he set off for his new life in the States.

Fred with GIC colleagues enjoying a meal in Singapore.

The rewards of working overseas

Fred is fast approaching his 20th work anniversary at GIC, where he specialises in technology and the management of digital systems used by his colleagues. 

In his current role as Regional Technology and Cybersecurity Manager, he oversees tech support for users in the Americas – i.e. New York, San Francisco and São Paulo. 

“Cybersecurity has grown in tremendous importance,” he notes. “The rise of cryptocurrency has contributed to an increase in attacks for financial gain. Even in the personal sphere, it’s now important to cultivate cybersecurity know-how since anybody can be a target.” 

Working overseas has greatly broadened Fred’s experience, offering him the opportunity to work with multiple departments and in various IT arenas. Being stationed in an office of mostly non-Singaporeans has also deepened the sense of purpose in serving his country’s national interest. 

“Living in New York City means there is opportunity to pursue higher education at great universities,” he adds. Three years after moving to the city, he began taking evening classes at New York University, eventually graduating summa cum laude with a degree in information systems management. 

“It was a bit daunting at first, but I enjoyed my time in NYU. The fact that it is a progressive and well-regarded university in the heart of downtown Manhattan made it an even more enriching experience.”

Fred works among a diverse, multinational team at GIC’s New York office.

To those looking for New York work opportunities, Fred recommends internships, especially via university programmes, or working for a company that has a branch in New York. International organisations like the United Nations can be a viable pathway as well.

Once in the city, there are opportunities for networking at every turn. “New Yorkers tend to talk to strangers,” he says. “Several of the friends I’ve met simply turned to me at an event and started a conversation. Such social events can be found aplenty in NYC, for all imaginable interests. 

“There are also groups for Singaporeans in New York you can join. There’s a New York Singapore Association on Facebook, networking events organised by the Singapore Consulate in New York, and of course Singapore Global Network.”

A wider view of the world

Any homesickness Fred felt in the first few months was quickly eclipsed by the freedom and excitement that permeates the city. 

He marvelled at landmarks around Manhattan – Wall Street, the World Trade Center, the United Nations headquarters – that were backdrops to world-changing events in human history. Then there are the famous buildings immortalised in pop culture that he could now admire in real life. 

“A close friend of mine lives just across the street from Carrie Bradshaw’s brownstone in Sex and the City,” he says. For five years, Fred lived in Tribeca, near where the Ghostbusters firehouse is located. 

What adds to the buzzing vibrancy of the metropolis is a potpourri of cultures, creeds and ethnicities he gets to interact with. He also points out that being a minority in a foreign land has helped him empathise with some of the challenges his non-Chinese friends in Singapore face. 

Over time, he has formed friendships with people of myriad backgrounds and nationalities, including a close circle of friends that he considers his family in New York.

Exploring charms of the city

Fred revels in New York’s changing seasons, despite having developed springtime allergies. Even freezing winters can be charming, he finds, particularly when there is a fresh blanket of fluffy snow. “Only after moving here did I realise how there is a toll that consistently warm and humid weather takes on one’s wellbeing,” he says. 

Currently, Fred lives in the Hudson Yards area on the west side of Manhattan, which has undergone a dramatic transformation. Where forsaken warehouses once stood, gleaming skyscrapers and fancy condos have sprung up. “A neighbour says it feels like he has moved to a new place, even though he has always lived here,” he shares. Hudson Yards also marks the start of the High Line – a park set on an old, elevated train line – which Fred says is a beautiful place for walks.

Fred currently lives in the Hudson Yards neighbourhood, where gleaming skyscrapers and fancy condos have sprung up.

The city is alive with endless things to do and places to visit. Besides dining out with friends, Fred enjoys shows on Broadway (or off Broadway), cycling or e-scootering along the Hudson River, art exhibitions (recent ones featuring Basquiat and Banksy), and events by Buddhist teachers he follows. On idyllic weekend afternoons, he returns to Washington Square Park in the heart of his alma mater NYU. 

Over the years, he’s also had the fortune of attending events at New York’s storied venues: a talk by the Dalai Lama at Radio City Hall, concerts by Billy Joel and Elton John (on his Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour) at Madison Square Garden, and US Open tennis matches at Flushing Meadows in Queens.

Fred keeps a strong connection with family back in Singapore.

Singapore is still home

Throughout his 18 years in New York, Fred has kept a strong connection to friends and family back home. “I talk to my parents at least once a week. I also go back to Singapore twice a year – once for Lunar New Year, plus another mid-year trip,” he says. 

While he sometimes worries about his ageing parents, his elder brother in Singapore is thankfully able to look after them. 

On his many years abroad, he muses, “Encountering a diversity of cultures and viewpoints and experiencing the possibilities of life beyond our island nation have been greatly rewarding. 

“Singapore is still home, but I think the fondness for my work, my social circle, and the fullness of life in NYC keeps me here.”

About Fred

Fred is Regional Technology and Cybersecurity Manager at GIC in New York, where he supports users in the Americas, including San Francisco and São Paulo. He has been based in New York City since 2005. 

Connect with him here.

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