CNM Alumnus Ashok Kumar Scales New Heights With Charitable Cause

Now a celebrity with a unique social initiative, Ashik Ashokan is a CNM alumnus who is making waves, one charitable cause at a time.

Heart2Climb was founded by Ashik and his former Innova Junior College classmate Ashok Kumar in 2014. To date, they have raised raised a total of $200,000. They are currently embarking on a new adventure to the world’s highest volcano Ojos Del Salado in South America. They aim to be the first Singaporeans to complete the 7 volcanic summits.

The beneficiary of their present expedition is the Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped (SAVH), which supports Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents with certified low vision or blindness. The motivation behind this climb is to highlight the challenges that the handicapped face on a daily basis. According to Ashik, they climb mountains every day.

Ashik currently works as a digital strategist with VML Southeast Asia & India. He specialises in target audience analysation and also client liaison.

Central to his success are the many opportunities that were available while he was a Communications and New Media student in NUS. As a hardworking sub-editor of the NUS CNM magazine Campus Eye, Ashik helped cover hot topics like the 2015 General Elections- interviewing key politicians and the public.

Working with companies such as Grab and Sony Pictures after graduation, he developed a keen sense of working closely with companies and other initiatives. In the initial stages of Heart2Climb, he had a difficult time trying to secure sponsorships. However, through sheer grit and hard work, he succeeded in convincing Starhub and RedBull to sponsor his first expedition and social initiative.

Written by Aby Tirza, CNM Student, Year 2


Sue-Anne Chng graduated from CNM in 2008. She is currently SMB Marketing Manager at Facebook and was among the first batch of CNM students who went on an internship during her time in CNM. We catch up with her on her journey since graduation.

Could you share a little about your journey since graduation?

Since graduating with the 2008 cohort, I’ve not deviated too far from my degree and evolved my career in the communications and marketing field. As I reflect upon my career and achievements to date, I could easily say I stumbled into each opportunity but on hindsight I would say that at every stage where I needed to make a decision, it was a conscious decision to be uncomfortable. And by that I mean, that innate need to challenge myself and it all started when I was completing my degree with the Communications and New Media department at NUS.

I think I was in the pioneer batch of the internship program when it was launched and it was a risk because we were the pioneers of the program. No one else had done it before and delaying your graduation is quite the taboo. I remember vividly the day I made the “uncomfortable” decision to break the news to my parents that I wanted to take 6 months off school, delay my graduation to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. That turned out to be the best decision I’ve made. CNM had lined up a great many internship opportunities for the pioneer cohort and I believe only a handful of us had decided to take the “risk.” I had selected and succeeded in securing an internship with Edelman, an independent PR firm and I’ve not had to look back since. That internship led to a full-time role post graduation and I continue to credit the foundation of my career path to the firm and the people I met there.

At Edelman, I had the opportunity to practice across the Technology and Corporate practice working with brands like HP, Microsoft, Marina Bay Sands in the Technology sector and brand like Etihad Airways, Marina Bay Sands, Design Singapore, Uniqlo and Denizen across the Corporate Practice. Some of the most memorable projects while with Edelman include managing the global launch of the Marina Bay Sands to over 1,100 media partners for the Opening Celebration in June 2010, managing the APAC media at the LA Workstations Event for HP demonstrating technology at work at Dreamworks Studio and launching both the Uniqlo and Denizen brands in Singapore and Asia Pacific respectively.

My work with consumer brands like Uniqlo and Denizen solidified my affinity for consumer marketing and when Nike approached me for a PR role with their SEA team, I leapt at that opportunity. That, and also being a long-time brand fan of Nike, it was a childhood dream come true. At Nike, I was applying the skills I had acquired at Edelman in my Communications role but didn’t feel adequately challenged so I went poking around and got exposed to digital marketing. That opened up a whole new door and area of growth for me so I experimented, participated in side projects with digital leanings and made the most of it while there.

At about the time I had that exposure, I got wind that Blackberry was hiring a social media manager and although I was out of my depth and had no experience in that field I went for the interview and surprisingly landed the job. Two things that rang true for my time there was “fake it till you make it” and “be humble and hungry to learn” and that shaped the start of my exposure to digital marketing. At that time Blackberry was at the forefront of digital marketing in APAC so I learnt a lot while I was there.

And then I made a passion play switch again, I’ve always felt directly connected to consumers and hospitality had always played at the back of my mind. So when Pan Pacific Hotels Group approached me for a social media manager role I said yes and took my learnings from Blackberry with me with a clear goal to transform a traditional industry set in its traditional ways in marketing.

Shortly after, Facebook came knocking and I haven’t looked back since. But on a day to day basis, I continue to challenge and ask myself how can I be a better marketer and how can I better connect with SMB owners across the world.

What inspires you?

I center my actions around mottos I’ve been exposed to in my life.  The one that has stuck with me for awhile now is a line of simple truth for me – “Where you invest your love, you invest your life” and I have that printed on my name card to serve as a constant reminder. I truly believe that if you’re passionate about what you do, you’ll commit yourself fully to it and that’s really important.

The other thing I’d emphasize on the topic of what drives me is the people I work with and for. Here at Facebook now, my immediate team, my cross function partners and ultimately the end consumers of our products are the key motivational forces that keeps me going.

What are some key takeaways from the different roles you have taken up over the years?

I actually have a one-liner for every period of along my career path and I’m going to share that with you.

At Edelman – I was a hungry, fresh graduate with fierce ambition but I was also burning myself to the ground and I had a timely intervention in the form of a manager I worked with at that time and he told me quite simply “No one is indispensable.” When I first received that piece of advise I was insulted, even deflated, I thought he was telling me I wasn’t good enough and I could be replaced but over time and on hindsight I finally understood what he meant. The world will keep spinning even if you’re taken out of the equation so give equal effort to your work but also invest in yourself.

At Nike, an internal team motto we had was “Change is the only constant” and that taught me the importance of flexibility and agility.

At Blackberry – I was there when Blackberry was at its peak but I was also there as I watched it lose its leadership position. And the lesson I learnt there was “innovate or die”. And we’ve seen this life cycle happen with a lot of giants who were once leaders in their field – think Nokia, Yahoo!. I take this lesson to heart personally as well and use it as a filter to judge my own growth and contributions in every role I’m in, and also as a filter when making a decision around what team/ company I should join.

At Pan Pacific – interestingly, I learnt a very personal lesson. I shared my quote about investing your life in what you love and hospitality has always been that passion play for me. But I also had to face the hard truth of where I think my interests lie and where my strengths actually are. And at the end of the day, I realised change is a two-way street and sometimes we need to recognize what stage a company is at and how open they are to change but it was also an eye-opening realization that I should “never say never”

And that takes me to Facebook. Remember how I mentioned I had left Edelman and sworn that I would never return to the Technology sector. I’ve had to eat my words and eat it twice having since joined Blackberry and now Facebook. “Never say never” indeed.

This year at Facebook, we launched the #shemeansbusiness campaign which turns the spotlight at women who have pursued their dreams and built and run businesses that have impacted themselves and their community. And having had the chance to interview many women entrepreneurs, a lot of them mummy entrepreneurs as well, a common theme emerged and that is that they have had to learnt in their entrepreneurial journey to forgive themselves.

A lot of times, many of them have shared with me the challenges they face in having to juggle the different roles they have to play – as an entrepreneur, as a wife, as a mother, a daughter, a boss and a friend and how they feel they are inadequate at each of the roles. And that gets to you. So one thing I’ve taken away from working on this #shemeansbusiness campaign this year is the realization that “we are all our own harshest critics” and sometimes, actually, most of the time, we need to cut ourselves some slack. 

What are some of the fondest memories of your days at CNM?

Working on the STOP AIDS campaign as part of a CNM module. The late nights and the final event we pulled together as a team is truly unforgettable. The other fond memory I have is of Dr Chung Siyoung and the SPSS module. I’ve always professed to be a non-data/ number person and I think she knew it and would call on me in class. I didn’t have high expectations of doing well in that module but surprisingly I aced it and that definitely was an unforgettable moment for me.


Spotlight on Alumni – Elizabeth Tan, akïn

Elizabeth is the Branding Strategist at social-centric branding firm akïn, which runs digital and content marketing services ranging from lead nurturing practices to ground up initiatives, offering clients a holistic branding experience. She oversees the visual branding team, working closely with designers, copywriters and strategy planners to improve clients’ visual brand identities and activation campaigns.

After graduating from NUS FASS CNM in 2012, Elizabeth worked for e27 and participated in the NUS Overseas College (NOC) programme, where she stood out as a CNM student amongst participants from the business/engineering faculties. It was there that she met two other participants, Arvin Tang (FASS Econs ’12) and Kenneth Sim (Electrical Engineering ’11), whom she started a web development company with. The trio subsequently went on to start akïn.

Today, the core team (also consisting of fellow NUS alumni Rachel Goh (Sociology ’13) and Harris Lim (CNM ’14)) works closely with brands like Gong Cha, Home-Fix and ASUS to offer a holistic branding experience through shaping their brand messages and communication platforms.

Elizabeth recognizes that the knowledge and practices adopted during her time in CNM has enabled her to merge a keen eye for business with a creative perspective, thus empowering her to translate business plans into exciting consumer-facing products.

Aside from being part of the best dressed department in the whole FASS faculty and having fond memories of her favourite CNM modules (like NM3202: Governance and New Media and NM3027: Philosophy in Communications and New Media), Elizabeth recalls working on final year papers centered on K-pop culture. This required her to conduct intensive research into numerous Big Bang and Super Junior music videos and backstage interviews.

Enus-portraits-368lizabeth shares, “to be honest, I never really intended to start my own business despite NOC being promoted as an entrepreneurship exchange program. I merely wanted to travel (esp to India) but it was there that I met one of my partners now, who then convinced me to help him out for one of his business ideas. While that did not take off, I quickly realized that I was always ideating and thinking of new business ideas! NOC was also a good place to get exposed to not just the people that went for the program, but also the affliated networks , one of it was PGP at NUS where we were incubated for the first 1.5 years.  

For me, starting out was fun, there were a lot of things to experiment and test, and a lot of it was new experiences, so it was extremely refreshing. The real challenge came when the team grew, and we needed to think not just for the business, but for the team and how they can grow. We treat everyone like a family here and the culture is very open and supportive.  

Those who are looking to start on an entrepreneurial journey should not look at it like an act of defiance. I notice this a lot in the younger generation whereby they go “oh! I want to be an entrepreneur because I dont want to work in a corporate job” or “I think i can grow my $$ exponentially by starting my own business” 

A lot of people are mesmerized by successful entrepreneurs making it big without even completing school – Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, etc but the truth is most entrepreneurs are actually slaves to their job and are struggling to make ends meet. What i’m trying to say is that, people who want to be entreprenuers need to be inspired by the right reasons – not for money, fame, but for making a real difference and solving a real problem, this will really ensure the longevity of the business. “

Curious about what akïn does? Take a look here 

Spotlight on Alumni – Erica Ng

Erica-Ng-CroppedErica Ng, is currently Manager (Communications) at Marina Bay Sands. She graduated with an Honours in 2011 and started her career with Marina Bay Sands as an intern. Apart from managing communications, she also leads her department’s internship programme. Here’s what she has to say about her CNM days and her career.

 Tell us a little bit about yourself

I graduated with Honors from the NUS Comms and New Media programme in 2011. This also means I’ve had the honor of learning from the best tutors in CNM then, such as Cynthia Owens, Mary Lee, and Dr Chung Siyoung. I thought I would simply cruise through university life, but it wasn’t until an amazing internship opportunity came my way at the end of my third year.

I was still an undergrad when I chanced upon an internship opportunity with Marina Bay Sands. It was 2010 then and the integrated resort had yet to open. I didn’t know what to expect from the internship, especially since the whole IR concept was unknown to many. But I found pleasure in uncertainty, and I knew I wanted to be part of change. Of course, my decision to accept the internship later turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life.

I was a part of the pioneer Comms Team at MBS over the course of an extremely fulfilling 6 month internship. When I joined, the property was still being built. From treading on muddy construction grounds wearing hard hats, to ascending 55 stories up in the air in construction elevators, and eventually witnessing the “topping out” of the 3 magnificent hotel towers – it has been an incredible journey for me to play a part in the making of Singapore’s history.

What are some skills that you think that someone aspiring to be successful in your field should inculcate or develop? 

NUS CNM taught me to view and appreciate matters from multiple perspectives, which is an acquired skill that is important and relevant in any industry.  In the world of emails and instant text messengers, we often forget that all it takes is a phone call to best resolve a misunderstanding (or to avoid incurring someone’s wrath!) It is also critical to develop emotional intelligence – which is something that can be learnt the more you interact and tune in to others’ feelings. I would say, stay inquisitive, and look for opportunities to present your ideas or assignments because you will reap bountifully.

You interned during your studies and now, you supervise interns as part of your current job. What would you say to your juniors who are thinking of doing one or are already interning?

As an alumnus I’ve enjoyed working closely with NUS CNM to recruit interns over the last 3 years, and I have to say that our faculty undergraduates are some of the most outstanding individuals we’ve had. Some words to share with my juniors: Your internship is the best (and only) time you are allowed to experiment, so raise your hand and say YES to taking on challenges., no matter big or small. You would be surprised how much you learn about yourself. 1. Start somewhere, because anywhere is better than nowhere. 2. When you finish your work, don’t be afraid to ask for more. 3. Find a mentor you can count on to grow yourself.

What are some of the fondest memories of your days at CNM?

5 years on after graduating, I still find myself missing CNM and all the good people I met and still keep in touch with today. I miss the good old dusty AS7 back in the day where students would cram and turn in assignments last minute on IVLE, the canteen, the lively bazaars at the Central Forum, and even the stress that came whenever we have to bid for modules!


Reviving old ties and creating new ones, the CNM Alumni Dinner 2015 did just that. The dinner held on 31 July 2015 at the NUSS Guild House @ Suntec City, saw close to a hundred alumni from various cohorts attending it. Joining the alumni were also the faculty members and department staff.

Alumnus Tiffany Yong (class of 2011)  wore the emcee’s hat and kick started the evening by inviting Prof Mohan J. Dutta, Head of the Department to welcome that gathering. Prof Dutta was delighted to welcome the alumni and shared the developments in the department, including plans to engage alumni better through a series of planned events such as breakfast talks, industry speaker series, cohort-based networking events and other opportunities such as internships, live projects, etc. through which alumni can contribute to the existing student body.

Assoc Prof Lim Sun Sun who has been with the department for long and who knew most of the alumni took to the stage to share her happiness at seeing the alumni gathered that evening. She soon had the crowd in stitches when she teased the crowd about singing a song to express her happiness on seeing all of them.

It was also a pleasure to introduce to all gathered our alumnus Lim Su Pei (class of 2009), who was awarded with the CNM Outstanding Alumnus Award’. The award was given to Su Pei for her contribution to the industry and society. Su Pei is a Manager at Open House – a non-profit arts organisation best known for its sell-out neighbourhood art walkabouts. Su Pei also co-founded Lightly Salted, a media and visual communications start-up. She is also a founding member of two night cycling initiatives – Firefly Night Race, a regional charity ride that raises funds for charitable causes, and See And Be Seen, Singapore’s first and only safe night cycling campaign – where she leads the administration, marketing and public relations arm. In addition, she has also managed international and regional arts business programmes held locally and across the continent in South Africa and Eastern Europe.

Lim Su Pei receiving the 'CNM Outstanding Alumnus Award' from Prof Mohan J. Dutta for her contributions towards the industry and society.

Lim Su Pei receiving the ‘CNM Outstanding Alumnus Award’ from Prof Mohan J. Dutta for her contributions towards the industry and society.

The dinner was a wonderful platform to reconnect with the alumni from various years starting from the class of 2004 up until the recent class of 2015 and this was the first time that CNM has organised an alumni event at this scale. CNM will continue to engage our alumni through various platforms and hopes to form a strong CNM Alumni family.

CNM-ALUMNI-DINNER-126See more photos from the dinner here.


Appreciation Dinner for Class Champions 2015

An appreciation dinner was organised on 25 June 2015 at the Bumbu Restaurant for Class Champions 2015, to recognise their efforts in inspiring their peers to contribute towards the FASS Student Advancement Bursary Fund. The fund supports FASS students through provision of bursaries and financial aid. The dinner was organised by the External Relations and Student Life team of the Dean’s Office.

Class champions from the various FASS departments attended the dinner and shared their experience of the Class Giving initiative. Also present were staff representing the different departments. The CNM department was represented by Class Champions Lee Kai Shun, Loh Sze Ming and Louis Puah. Alumnus Kenneth Kang who was Class Champion of 2014 was also present.

The dinner was an opportunity to bond with students and alumni in a casual setting and also provided a platform for the students to voice their feedback and thoughts on the whole journey of being a Class Champions. The Class Champions also gave suggestions that could be implemented in the next round of Class Giving.

As they graduate from NUS, we wish all our Class Champions the very best as they embark on new journeys and that they continue to be champions make a difference to society.

25 June 2015 - Appreciation Dinner

Class Champions 2015 and staff at the Appreciation Dinner


Spotlight on Alumni – Kintu Annie Joseph

Kintu-Annie-Joseph-WebKintu Annie Joseph

Account Manager, Expion, Singapore

Kintu Annie Joseph graduated from CNM in 2013 with a Master of Arts in Communication and New Media. She currently works as an Account Manager with Expion, an American SAAS (Software as a Service) company to support their Clients digital marketing needs. She manages clients like Coca-Cola, Singapore Airlines, Oreo, and Cadbury Dairy Milk for the Asia Pacific region. Kintu, says her work is pretty challenging and involves being aware of current digital marketing trends, and knowing how to solve the needs of these organizations in multiple markets.

Kintu feels that doing her Masters at CNM under the supervision of Dr. T T Sreekumar was probably one of the better decisions she has made and that the experience was not just about learning theories or getting grades, it was about exposure to different schools of thought and perspectives. She adds that, personally, the research project she did helped her learn and look at life from a different perspective. The 3 years she spent at CNM were among the best and she continues to keep in touch with most of her friends from NUS.

Spotlight on Alumni – Dr Cheryll Soriano

Cheryll-Soriano---WebCheryll Soriano

Associate Professor and Graduate Program Coordinator, Dept. of Communication at De La Salle University, Manila

Cheryll Soriano completed her PhD at CNM in September of 2012 and is currently an Associate Professor and Graduate Program Coordinator at the Department of Communication at De La Salle University in Manila. Cheryll’s research appear in Media, Culture and Society, Communication, Culture & Critique, Journal of Creative Communications, Telematics and Informatics, and Journal of Communication Management, among others.  She is now working on a book project on Asian digital cultures (with A/P Sun Sun Lim) expected to be published by Routledge under its internationalising media studies series.

Cheryll says, “NUS-CNM was a vibrant academic environment that prepared me for engaging with important questions underlying the politics, ethics, and consequences of media engagement of varied users, particularly those of cultural minorities in developing societies. I benefited immensely from the collegial atmosphere and generous support available for graduate students — expert mentoring, stimulating classroom sessions with intelligent and supportive packs of graduate students and Professors, opportunity to engage with colleagues and get feedback on my work during brown bag sessions, writing clinics, to generous conference and fieldwork grants. All these have helped me think about my research a bit more systematically and encouraged me to disseminate my work to the broader academic community through conferences and publications. Even the teaching assistantship was rewarding for the opportunity of working closely with some of the best Professors in the region and beneficial for obtaining the teaching experience necessary for an academic career. The relationships I’ve build with my Professors at CNM are treasured and sustained through continuing collaborations with them even after graduation. I’d strongly encourage the graduate students to take advantage of these many opportunities for expanding your field of knowledge —whether for preparing oneself for a career in academia or elsewhere!”

Spotlight on Alumni – Dr Carol Soon

Carol-Soon---WebCarol Soon (Dr)

Research Fellow, Institute of Policy Studies, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, NUS, Singapore

Before pursuing her graduate studies, Carol Soon developed marketing and communications campaigns for profit and non-profit organizations such as the Guardian pharmaceutical retail chain and the National Kidney Foundation. She joined CNM’s PhD program in 2007 and was awarded her doctorate in 2011. Carol’s research interests include new media and activism, online collectives and digital engagement. Her work has been published in peer-reviewed journals including the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, Information Communication & Society, and Asian Journal of Communication. While she was a PhD student at CNM, she won several teaching awards in the department and faculty. Upon completion of her PhD, Carol won the Australian Endeavour Award which supported her fellowship at the Asia Research Centre in Murdoch University.

Currently as Research Fellow at the Institute of Policy Studies, Carol’s research lies in the intersection of social science and policy research. She enjoys publishing on a wide variety of platforms which enables her to reach different segments of the public. She is also teaching a module on new media and politics at the University Scholars Programme. Besides conducting policy-related research in the arts, culture and media, Carol sits in the Media Literacy Council and is Associate Editor of the Media Asia journal.

Her favourite CNM moments are the brown bag lunches that faculty members have with students. Those collegial sessions provided a cosy platform for research talk and chit chat. Still fresh in her memory are the celebrations for tenured staff where distinguished professors were decked out in Hello Kitty and royalty accoutrements. As for her advice to current students, Carol would like to refer them to Albert Einstein who said ““I have not failed 10,000 times, I’ve successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work.”