Can You Have True Friends At Work?

Co-workers and BFFs Charmaine Seah-Ong and Aarika Lee say “yes, definitely”.


It’s widely known that these two local “It” social media influencers are the best of buddies — just check out their very well-documented friendship on their Instagram feeds. But did you know that it began way back when they were teens?

“I knew Charm (how Lee usually calls her) in secondary school but we only became close in Sec 3 when we shared an A Math class. And that makes it an almost-20-year-old friendship!” exclaims Lee.

It’s funny — freaky, almost — how the two of them have so much in common. We already know that they are both famous local Instagrammers, fashionistas, mothers (with two children each). 

But that’s not all — they both studied film in tertiary school, then worked as producers in the same production house; at home, they both have large families and are the oldest of four siblings.  

The two still work together today at branding and marketing consultancy Elementary Co, which Seah-Ong and her husband started almost five years ago. Lee is a marketing director at the company. 

“I have never thought of myself as Aarika’s boss! I see her as my equal, my partner,” says Seah-Ong of their work dynamic. Lee jokes: “Charm is totally bossy at work. [Laughs] Just kidding! She is a wonderful leader and peer, actually.”

“We’ve always had an easy-going, collaborative working relationship. I can always count on Aarika to tell me if she feels like what I’m suggesting doesn’t work, or if an idea I’m really excited about isn’t actually all that great!” adds Seah-Ong. 

What happens when there are disagreements? “We talk. Simple as that. Most of the time, we are able to reach some sort of common ground. If not, we just have to agree to disagree and get someone else to weigh in with their opinion. I can’t think of the last time it came down to that though,” she continues.

“When we started working in production together, I realised and began appreciating our individual strengths and weaknesses and I think it’s something I recognise to this day. It’s what has brought us this far together. Some people feel that it’s impossible to have true friends at work, but we’ve always put our friendship before the business and would choose to make it work,” Lee shares. 

They are equally complementary in other aspects of life. “Motherhood has given us so much more to talk about, and more opportunities for us to learn from one another”, says Seah-Ong. Lee agrees: “We get to tell stories about our kids and laugh a lot. But it’s also really beneficial for my sanity — to have a friend to talk to on the tougher days.”

There’s also something that we’ve been awfully curious about — as well-known social media influencers, do they ever feel a sense of competition against each other? “Ha! Oh, heck no,” Seah-Ong replies. “Firstly, we both try to steer clear of that label as much as we possibly can. Also, we are entrepreneurs and creatives in our own right!”

For more Lifestyle, head here. Or check out This Is What Wendy Jacobs Thinks Of Iman’s Modelling Career or What Is Sheila Sim Like As A Friend?.

Photography Aik Chen  Styling Daryl Alexius Yeo  Outfits Dior  Jewellery Tiffany & Co.

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