From architecture to marketing – navigating the uncharted waters

Hi Shu Yi!! First of all, thank you for agreeing to share your story with us. We are absolutely thrilled to have you here.

To kick start, do you mind sharing what you are currently doing? How you got into this role?

I am a marketing manager at Zendesk, a service-first CRM company that builds software designed to improve customer relationships.

Prior to this, I worked at a financial news, media and technology multinational
corporation after I graduated from school. I started as a customer support agent and wasn’t quite sure where this job would lead me (but I was willing to try!). Eventually, I had so much fun that I hung around a little longer and progressed into other responsibilities. A decade flew by quickly and my last role in the company was a marketing manager.

My current role couldn’t have been a better marriage between my first and my latest specialization.

We understand you were an architecture student. Did you ever think you would end up being a marketing manager?

No. I always see myself more of a creative soul, but with a high competency in science and maths (as shown in my school grades) and preference for systems and methods. I think I am confused.

Tell us more!

An introspective afternoon of contemplating delirious art.

First, I always enjoyed my architecture study in the university and was very energized by the rigour of creative discussions. While I have not pursued it as a career, I always believe that my architectural learning is very instrumental in shaping the way I perceive my world and the work I do.

So, how did the change come about? I always joke that I deserve more sleep. But, it is also an honest reflection – I wasn’t confident that I would have sufficient passion to practise it as a profession in the long run. Furthermore, the notion of ‘what if’ made me a little more curious of the world out there. I knew my opportunity cost was the lowest then, if I wanted to satisfy my curiosity and explore other jobs that may interest me. I didn’t want to regret for not trying.

In addition, I also had a realistic evaluation of my strengths, interests and motivations. I asked myself three key questions:

‘What are my strengths (and weaknesses)?’ which addresses my skills and competencies.

‘What keeps me alive and motivated?’ which addresses my emotional satisfaction.

‘What are the values that are important to me?’ which addresses my core beliefs in life.

Shu Yi Tan – Marketing Manager at Zendesk

While it is mostly impossible to find a job that fulfils all my preferences at the get go (and I didn’t), my answers to these questions serve as helpful guiding principles in the development of my career. I took one step at a time, learnt as much as I could, and gave my best in every job. Along the way, I was fortunate to have the support of my managers and peers who recognized my work, believed in my potential, and advocated for me.

Eventually, I made my way into the marketing team at my previous company as a junior project manager and gradually learnt my ropes to become one of the more experienced marketing managers.

About 5 years after I graduated, I found my passion in marketing, which in hindsight, is similar to the study of architecture as it is also both an art and a science. Being a marketing manager is currently the perfect role for me – I still find myself smiling and satisfied at the work that I do, daily.

The Road Not Taken, Kinfolk Magazine 2015.

WOW. It sounds like you had quite a journey. How did you navigate the uncharted waters?

Instead of ‘navigating the uncharted waters’, isn’t it equally an adventurous and exciting dive into the sea?

Reframing a thought does wonders, I always choose to be optimistic.

Shu Yi Tan – A former architecture student

I may not necessarily know where I’m heading and may frequently feel like a fish out of the water. There will always be circumstances that are beyond me, but there are always things that I can control, especially my work and attitude.

  • My work is my best advocacy. I work hard and am conscientious in doing my job well in an honest and respectable manner. At the same time, I also frequently share the results of my marketing campaigns – both successes and my learning from failures – with my work community. It is my way of sharing insights and contributing to the larger team, and for others to learn more about my professional abilities and interests.

  • I choose to complain less about problems and channel my energy to derive solutions or provide suggestions to help address them. This makes me feel better and I also spread less negative energy to others. I am employed by my company, and therefore I should also take ownership and find solutions where it is within my area of influence.

  • I always learn and try to set aside some time to participate in workshops to further my knowledge and widen my network. American writer Alvin Toffler aptly summed up,

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.’

Alvin Toffler – An American writer, futurist, and businessman

What would you advise someone who is considering to make a career change or get into uncharted waters?

Be open minded, and always be willing to be an updated version of yourself. Frequently, while our past experiences give us much wisdom, the same experiences are also biased and limiting as they are gained through our personal journeys which are only unique to ourselves. I always remind myself to learn from everyone regardless of job titles or seniority, and especially from my younger colleagues. They see the world very differently and spur me to think from another perspective.

Next, gather yourself a community of like-minded people to support you in this journey. Speak with headhunters to get a pulse of the job market and learn how your experiences and interests align. Connect with people who understand your aspirations and will cheer you on (e.g. past managers, work mentors, close friends, better half) because finding a job in a different field can be very hard.

I’ve always enjoy floristry as a hobby.

Before we end this interview, we’ve learnt that you took a part-time gig as a florist while you were in between jobs. What made you do that?

Given that I am always on my phone and laptop, I have wanted to be more useful with my hands and be more present in my day-to-day interactions. Besides, I always enjoy floristry as a hobby. I saw a part-time job opportunity on Instagram and decided to try despite my sporadic instances when I offered my amateur help at my friends’ weddings.

It was a refreshing break from the familiar rhythm of my marketing job which largely evolved around business meetings, conference calls and email correspondences.

Getting a job has always been challenging and what’s more in the current pandemic situation. What would you say to some of us who are worried about getting a job that is not on par with our previous roles? Let’s be real and discuss compensation and benefits.

Be mentally prepared. Of course, everyone would like to have more money and job satisfaction when we change to a new job. However, it is also reasonable to say that we shouldn’t expect the same because we’re less experienced when we start new in a different job or industry. Weigh out your opportunity costs from having a minor step down in your transition. If this move were to be a springboard for better options and more opportunities in the future,

you’re merely setting aside time and resources to invest in yourself now for great dividends in the long run.

Shu Yi Tan – The occasional florist

Be practical too – you have to bring the bread home. Know your minimum salary that you would be comfortable with.

Once you have decided to change, refrain from comparing your new job with the previous one. It is just going to be different. Embrace the new things you see and hear, the new team you’re working in, the new company culture you’re assimilating to, and the learning curve! Give yourself ample time to adjust and evaluate, instead of comparing prematurely and making assessments that only cast more doubts on your own decision to move. You’ve been given one valuable opportunity, don’t waste it.

Here’s when, ‘keep calm and carry on’ is the best!

And that marks the end of the interview! Thank you again Shu Yi for the time sharing your journey with us. We truly appreciate it.

Ms Shu Yi Tan considers herself a practical dreamer who welcomes the discovery of life through imagining and enjoys the process of turning them into tangible realities. She frequently gets inspiration from the ingredients in her pantry, imagines her favourite flavours, and experiments baking recipes. Her favourite bake to date is a lemon basil cake. Oh yes, she is a marketing manager by trade.

To our readers, if you made it this far, thank you for sticking with us. We hope you have learnt as much as we did or even more. If you know of someone whose story can be inspirational to others, contact us and we promise to get back to you as soon as possible. Hugs & Kisses from WLW team.

Published by Women's Life work

A social enterprise organisation that celebrates women, their life and their work. Vision: To be the leading social enterprise organisation in Asia to provide growth & development opportunities for Women. Mission: 1. Provide a safe platform for women to share, celebrate their successes in life, career, self-development and motherhood 2. Present opportunities for women to come together and support each other 3. Supports a) Remote job opportunities for women b) Skills upgrading

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