Together On Top: Aimee Barnes & Ryan Pestaño, Tangram Wellness Singapore

Together On Top: Aimee Barnes & Ryan Pestaño, Tangram Wellness Singapore

We know our #TEAMBUSYWOMAN community members are strong advocates of supporting fellow women...and it is always amazing & inspiring when we hear of women doing great things, or being "superwomen" - handling multiple things AND actually thriving. With that being said, we can't leave out the other half of the world population in the women empowerment equation, can we?

Men are just as important in our quest towards gender equality. Perhaps, even more so. Their ability to recognize and acknowledge that gender bias is an issue, and that all of us should be working to get rid of, is essential for any progress to be made.

In this interview, we speak to an accomplished couple - Aimee Pestano, Director of Tangram Wellness, and Ryan Pestano. Both inspiring individuals, who are highly acclaimed in their respective fields!



What are you busy with?

Aimee ("A"): Lately, I’ve been busy raising our seven month old son and spending more time with Ryan while working as a coach and writer, running a business, and sprinting to the gym for a workout while Ryan’s on daddy duty. I’m also taking weekly classes in a faith-based program, and I try to fit in a few dates with friends each week. It’s actually not been too hectic - we are fortunate to have an awesome support network and a helper here in Singapore. Giving up personal social media for the year also frees up a lot of time!

Ryan ("R"): Daddy duties and balancing that with heading up the APAC region for the company I work for. Being a good father, a good husband and a healthy person are my rocks so I prioritize anything to do with those first. Then I fill it with pebbles from work obligations and try to fill up the rest of my days with connecting with people and some recreation when I can squeeze it in. When I travel, I tend to pack in as much as I can in the days and nights, so I can leave home as late as possible and come home as early as I can.

What drives you? Where or what do you think shaped your entrepreneurial drive / gave you the confidence?

A: Duty and purpose, as well as an obsession with finding solutions to complex issues. I need brain food and there’s this constant pull to alchemize what I’ve learned from my own journey - but I’m just at the starting line.

Entrepreneurship was not my life plan, although I had worked for a few social enterprises and start-ups prior to Tangram. I was just looking for a way to begin working with the group of people I’m meant to serve and it’s been a winding road ever since. I’m not sure I’ve ever had confidence as an entrepreneur. Being a business owner requires me to override self-doubt and my introverted nature on a constant basis!

Do you think women (and/or moms), are subjected to many societal ideas on what a woman “should” be or what moms “should” do?

A: Of course! There’s incredible pressure on women, especially moms, in regard to who they should be and what they should do. It’s oppressive, and it creates a competitive atmosphere that damages our opportunities to bond as women, as sisters. It also takes us away from all the radical, amazing stuff we could be doing with our lives - these “shoulds” are big distractions from living a life of meaning.

Before I had Bowie, I encountered some judgement about being a childless woman in my thirties, and I see some of my unmarried female friends dealing with similar judgements. Women tend to internalize these things. Our true worth doesn’t come from being mothers, wives, entrepreneurs, CEOs, supermodels, or anything else external. We free ourselves when we stop caring so much about what other people think of us.

R: I think they are. I try to encourage Aimee to prioritize and do what is most important and not let outside expectations set her priorities for her or let them burn her out.

Anything you’d like to highlight, perhaps on the “pregspo” movement?

A: When I was pregnant, I noticed a big Instagram trend of expectant women showing off their abs or highlighting gruelling workouts in their third trimester, and I got pretty caught up in it myself. I thought - “this is what a fit pregnancy looks like!”

As things progressed, I began to realize just how how many of the “pregspo” posts were no different from “thinspo” or “fitspo”, and how unhealthy the thinking around “pregspo” can be for women. The reality is that we all experience pregnancy differently. I ate healthy throughout pregnancy and exercised regularly, but I also ended up gaining 26 kg. A healthy pregnancy isn’t supposed to look a certain way, nor is there a universal image of a fit woman. Our bodies are all unique, as well as our experiences.


How have the both of you supported each other on your individual career journeys – were there things you had to “give”?

R: I think we do this quite well. I know Aimee made some big sacrifices leaving her career in the US for us to move to Asia for an opportunity I had in Singapore. It helped that we were looking to move to Asia anyway. I tell Aimee to go for the long shots and take risks. I'm fairly stable and happy with what I do and it affords us for her to take longer bets.

A: As Ryan mentions here, in New York I’d been on a career track as a researcher in public health and development. I was going to pursue my doctorate when he got a job offer in 2009, which brought us to Singapore. So, I let that plan go, which was initially tough, but I knew that it was an amazing opportunity for Ryan and I encouraged him to take the leap; we were also really excited to move to East Asia. We are both good at give and take in this respect, and always talk these decisions out. As I’m looking to do more work in the area of women’s health & recovery and to juggle work and parenthood, Ryan’s been extremely supportive.

Given that it was unexpected, how did the both of you feel when you found out about the pregnancy?

A: At first, I was in a state of complete disbelief. We’d gone to Turkey on vacation a few weeks before we found out, and a massage therapist at the hotel we were staying at said to me, “Congratulations, when are you due?” I thought to myself, “Wow, maybe it’s all the bread I’ve been eating.” So, when we returned to Singapore and found out that the therapist was correct, I nearly fainted. Overjoyed and overwhelmed would sum up my feelings when I found out. I love being a mom - I’m ready for five more!

R: Nervous at first, then ecstatic when we saw his little smiling face in the ultra sound. I've been enjoying it since.

How has parenthood changed you?

A: It’s far easier now to prioritize and focus solely on what’s life-affirming while refusing to sign up for anything that I don’t really want to do. Whatever remnants of people-pleasing I had are gone. Events like washing and blow-drying my hair are now no longer daily necessities, because I’d rather use the time to hang out with my family or write or get out for a run. I still make sure to carve out time for self-care, but perhaps I’m more thoughtful about it.

The birth was extremely tough - I had an emergency C-section and it didn’t go smoothly. Ryan and I both weren’t sure if I was going to pull through. The experience changed us both. Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude - and a constant sense that the only day I’m guaranteed to have is the one I’m currently enjoying. I feel infinitely stronger as a mother - mentally, emotionally, spiritually.

R: It has helped me get a better view of what my priorities are. It has also made me appreciate little bursts of free time and to take full advantage of them - even just sitting and letting my mind wander is something I appreciate much more now.

What are some values that you upkeep in your relationship?

A: We’re best friends and we’ve known each other for nearly 20 years now - trust and communication are paramount. Expressing appreciation for each other, taking the time to have a real conversation each day and continuing to go out on dates keep us connected as well.

R: Trust and a love for adventures together.

What is the biggest gift you can each give to each other & your child?

A: The space and encouragement to be who we are as individuals and to express ourselves. I think Ryan and I are good at this with each other, and we’re determined to allow our child to blossom in this way.

R: Quality time with each other. I think being present when we are together is more important than the quantity of time we spend.

What are some key lessons you’ll hope to pass on to your kid on women, entrepreneurship and strength?

A: Kids are under so much pressure now - to be entrepreneurs, celebrities, doctors, tech wizards and whatever else looks impressive for the times. It’s a terrible burden, and it creates a lot of angst later on in life.

Our son will be who he is, and we just want him to enjoy childhood at this point. We hope that he’ll build a life that he’s happy with and personally proud of, one that is creative or that contributes to society or whatever else he wishes (although if he chooses to be a football player or a stuntman, I may have something to say about that!).

It is important to us that our son respect girls and women as equals, and that he develop a healthy mindset toward the opposite sex. That responsibility falls on us to teach him. Misogyny is still very active in our world, and I hope to instil enough confidence and kindness in our son so that he won’t be tempted to follow the herd.

Regarding strength, I hope we can lead by example that doing the right thing sometimes means doing the hard thing - whether that’s telling the truth even when it’s unpopular, sticking up for the underdog, or taking a path that’s not yet well-worn.

What is it about Aimee that makes you proud to be the man beside her?

R: Aimee is an altruistic visionary. I have seen her pivot a few times when it comes to her work and business, while remaining consistent and true to her mission of helping others. I'm the practical and pragmatic one in our marriage & partnership and I'm extremely proud to be the man on her side through her journey.

Any advice for other partners who have aspiring women entrepreneurs in their lives?

R: Be ready and offer to help, but don't actually do it until asked. I think a lot of people tend to just jump in and try to fix things because they think they know better, especially if it's an area anywhere near their expertise. I would encourage partners of entrepreneurs to be ready to help when asked but, to also observe to see how things can be done differently. You might learn a thing or two.


What is it about Ryan that makes you proud to be the woman beside him?

A: Ryan and I have known each other for half our lives, and I’ve always admired him as a person with great integrity. He means what he says, and he’s not afraid to express his convictions. He has never let challenging circumstances deter him from building a life to be proud of, and he has an unflagging optimism about him. He’s also an amazing Dad to our son - a total natural! For so many reasons, I’m proud to be walking this journey of life beside him.

Any relationship / family advice to aspiring women entrepreneurs?

A: My advice may be unpopular here, particularly these days, but the fact of the matter is that businesses (and careers) come and go. Your entrepreneurial journey should never come before your primary relationships. If your prospective business or career path could hurt your marriage, it’s not the way to go. This is advice for both women and men!

Don’t be too busy to have a life outside of work - make time for friends and loved ones. The “workaholic” thing is so overrated - been there, done that.

We all speak of change and making the world a better place, but change actually begins with us, and whatever little steps we can take.

You have the power to uplift women entrepreneurs, and/or support businesses that empower women! Here are 7 simple ways to do so.

Would you like to share your views on For Women Empowerment topics? We'd love to hear from you! Drop us a note at: [email protected]

Aimee Pestano is the Founder & Director of Tangram Wellness, a Singapore-based concierge wellness company providing integrative coaching & training services to women globally. Named one of "Singapore's 10 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness Under Age 40," she is also a writer and motivational speaker on issues relating to habit change, behavioral health, and well-being.

As a board-certified Health Behavior Change Specialist, Health & Life Coach, and Substance Abuse Therapist (CSAT II) at the intersection of physical fitness and behavioral health, Aimee works with women to help transform behaviors that sabotage their physical and emotional health, including self-defeating habits, self-neglect, disordered eating, and process and substance use addictions.

She holds a Master’s and Bachelor of Arts from The New School in New York, as well as certifications in counselling, coaching, sports nutrition, wellness, fitness, and addiction recovery. Her work has been featured in MindBodyGreen, Asian Entrepreneur, Elephant Journal, IDEA Fitness Journal, Singapore Business Review,, The Straits Times, Simply Her Magazine, and other publications.

Ryan Pestano is a commercially-minded technical executive with expertise in solutions architecture and product strategy of digital advertising technologies. He serves as General Manager of the APAC region at IPONWEB, which specializes in the application of machine learning & artificial intelligence in digital advertising and the programmatic evolution of traditional media channels.

Ryan leads a team that partners with catalysts of digital transformation at leading advertisers and publishers as well some of the most innovative tech start-ups in South East Asia, Australia, New Zealand, India, Greater China, and Japan.