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.