Career switch: Mother Dough's founder and head baker Naadhira Ismail on her past life in fashion PR and events
Bread of life
When you're a 16-year-old who's undecided about your next hair colour, determining your future career path seems too much of a tall order — one too lofty and grave all at once. But unfortunately, that's a common reality that most soon-to-be graduates are faced with. Some get lucky and get hit with a divine epiphany, while others simply have to make the decision based off the expectations of our parents or subjected to our grades.
But as we slowly live out the course of our career, some might experience a growing dread that stems from discontentment while ploughing through the first year of what seems to be the rest of our lives. The realisation then hits: "This isn't the right job for me."
In the second of three real-life experiences, we speak to Naadhira Ismail of Mother Dough — a little bakery on North Bridge Road that has consistenly piqued the interests of locals and foreigners alike. The intoxicating smell of bread permeates the air here at Mother Dough and visually, you're greeted with a display of fresh sourdough loaves and a variation of pastries spanning from flaky crossiants to indulgent pies. Helming the kitchen behind is Ismail, who's the head baker of her tiny haven. The spunky entrepreneur left her past life in fashion PR and events — where she toiled for ten years — to pursue her interest in baking. Then, she had to start from scratch — back to school again, at the International Culinary Institute in New York City. Before deciding to open Mother Dough, she made her bones at a few bakeries and restaurants for four years after graduating.
What determined your initial decision to be in fashion PR? Were you passionate about it?
I did the whole business marketing degree school thing, landed my first internship job in a fashion and lifestyle events company and stayed on in the industry for the next decade. I was drawn to creating events from scratch; creating the concept, planning all the logistics and setup, and making it all happen. The chaos was everything, whether it be months of hard work just for one day or one week! It was a pretty amazing feeling when all that effort and work paid off.
Why did you decide to make the switch? And what was the process like?
It was a personal thing at the time; I had to do something new or different every ten years. So I chose to do pastry and bread. I knew I had to be serious about it, so I decided to enroll into culinary school. And I was lucky enough to be able to choose New York City to have a culinary education and experience all in one! With luck, support from my family, and all of my savings, I made the switch and didn't look back ever since. To be honest, I wouldn't say that I had a clear idea or plan about what I was going be doing after at the time, but I knew I had to go through with what I felt was right.
What do you love most about your job now? Do you look back and regret making the move?
I love my job although I don't actually really consider it a job. I mean sure, there are bad days and there are good days. But every day, I still get to come to work in the mornings, and smell fresh croissants, fresh bread, and fresh coffee. And when you see, taste and smell this, all the hours of hard work pay off. I get to work with my hands every day, using all my senses in the kitchen, making bread and pastries for people to enjoy.
Definitely no regrets. I use all that I've learnt in my previous jobs and industry to apply all of that in the daily operations (front of house and in the kitchen) of Mother Dough.
What lessons have you learnt from the process of changing industries? Do you feel that you wasted time while studying so hard at the beginning?
That it's okay to be uncomfortable at the beginning with unfamiliar things. But you got to be driven by your passion for it and what feels right in your gut! Every day is a new adventure and hustle. I don't think I've wasted time studying something else in the beginning. I'd only feel I've wasted time if I do nothing.
Most students can't exactly determine what they want to do in the future, even when they have to pick a major and they're afraid to be stuck in a set career path for the rest of their lives. What's a piece of advice for them?
You might not want to do what you choose to do now in ten years — and that's okay. Choose something you have interest in for now and are serious about, this will keep you excited and passionate about what you having going on currently! But also have in mind how you can apply this knowledge in the future. And if you're able to, start saving from your first job.
Find Mother Dough at 749 North Bridge Road, #01-01, Tel: 6909 6604