Olwen van Dijk-Hildebrand


Search engine optimization, or SEO, is a big part of any digital marketing strategy. With its ability to generate high-quality traffic and help with lead generation, SEO often forms a powerful backbone behind any digital marketing initiative. SEO can get very technical, and many companies looking to benefit from its strategies often need guidance to ensure they get the most out of their initiatives. To this end, SEO is most often one of the things an agency gets called in for. 

Luckily for us, 2Stallions’ SEO team is incredibly well equipped and highly qualified. In this issue of #2STeamStories, Vijay Mali, Senior SEO Specialist at 2Stallions, takes us through his career and current role at our agency.

Hi Vijay! Tell us a bit about yourself. 

Hi, My Name is Vijay Mali, 27 years old and I’m from India. After completing my studies in Computer Science, I worked for several companies to figure out my area of interest. I started my career as a web designer, but unfortunately, I wasn’t really interested in design, so I looked for new opportunities. Eventually, I came across SEO – search engine optimization – through one of my old colleagues and went on to learn some basics. 

Now, I’m an SEO Specialist backed by 6 years of experience. I’ve even started adding new skills and developing them in the digital marketing field like paid advertising.

What attracted you to 2Stallions? What is it like working at the agency?

On the 1st of August, it will have been three years since I joined 2Stallions. Honestly, what attracted me to the agency is the work culture. I haven’t worked at any company in my career that has a company culture like 2Stallions or offers learning opportunities the way they do here. I’ve learned a lot at 2Stallions, and continue to learn with the help of my colleagues. The bonus point of working at a marketing agency is that you have great experiences with clients, and so you learn through that too.

What made you settle on SEO as a career?

As I mentioned before, at the beginning of my career, I was trying to find my area of interest and came across SEO through a colleague. When I started as a web designer, I found it wasn’t as interesting as I had hoped. As a result, I sought to find out more about digital marketing, and eventually found myself in SEO. 

What really drew me to SEO was that it lies at the core of digital marketing. I realized that the Internet is built on millions of websites, and all those websites want to rank higher on search engines. I realised that by deepening my knowledge of SEO, I could help millions of companies improve their ranking. That was the moment I found my interest in digital marketing and I finally chose my preferred speciality.

Can you share with us a little about what’s expected of the role of SEO specialist?

SEO is a long-term process and it is not done overnight, it takes time and you need to wait for good results. With a good foundation and patience, SEO can benefit you and it will help you in the long run.

The fundamental role of SEO is to improve a website’s presence in a search engine; to rank pre-specified keywords and drive quality traffic to websites and convert leads and eventually grow client business. Here are the key roles and responsibilities for any SEO Specialist:

  • Initial Market or Product Research for Client Website.
  • Initial Website Audit and Analysis.
  • Initial Research About Competitor and Competition.
  • Detail Website Audit, Product or Service Research, Competitor Analysis.
  • Comprehensive List of Keywords Research That Lead to Improve Client ROI
  • Develop SEO optimization strategies that increase the Clients website search engine results rankings
  • Set measurable goals that improve in marketing efforts and ROI
  • Monitoring search algorithms set by major search engines like google, Bing and Yahoo to keep up with changes in the SEO landscape.
  • Stay Connected with other marketing experts to align goals
  • Update Web content and website links for maximum optimization and search engine rankings.
  • Prepare In Detail Content Requirement and Explain to Content Writer to make copy SEO Friendly and Search Engine Friendly.
  • To Deal With SEO On Page, Off Page and Technical SEO Part.
  • Analyzes, reviews and implements changes to websites so they are optimized for search engines.
  • Search, Evaluate and Outreach Industry Specific Webmaster for Backlink Opportunity.
  • Monitor Weekly performance metrics to understand SEO strategy performance
  • Strong analytical skills and data-driven thinking

What excites you most about the industry?

Nowadays, digital marketing is a rapidly growing industry everywhere in the world. As most of the companies and reputed brands are in the process of upgrading their digital space. Many companies are undergoing digital transformations, shifting online, and as a result, often require expert digital marketers to help manage their website in such a way that can drive more targeted audiences for his or her business. 

SEO is a big part of digital marketing and it is one of the best ways to drive organic traffic to your website and convert them to paying customers. SEO is an amazing way to draw customers through the business full, converting them into buying customers. So that excites me most about the Digital Marketing (SEO) industry and I want to help as many businesses as possible to build a strong organic presence.

What is the most challenging part of your job?

The most challenging part of my job is fulfilling client KPIs and improving their websites’ organic presence. At the same time, Google and other search engines are rapidly updating their algorithms to provide users with the finest search experience. SEO experts and site owners have to constantly upgrade their optimization strategies to the new online environment. Otherwise, if search engines review and revise their algorithms, website keywords ranking will be affected. That is the biggest challenge for SEO.

Adapting to the changing environment and technology is challenging enough without a global pandemic to throw a wrench in the works. Education, in particular, has it tough at the moment, but many institutions are finding ways to adapt, using digital technologies to transform the way in which they provide education for their students.

Developing strong brands and growing them to leaders in their sectors, is Corinna Choong, the Senior Director of Marketing and Communication at the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD). With over 30 years of experience in marketing across specialities like consumer marketing, corporate branding and communications, and B2B marketing initiatives, Corinna has a wealth of knowledge to share. In this issue of the Marketing Expert Series, Corinna talks about her career journey and her experiences setting up a brand from scratch with SUTD.

Welcome to the Marketing Expert Series, Corinna, thank you for joining us. Let’s start with something simple, can you tell us a bit about yourself? How did you get to where you are now? 

I have been working in marketing for the last 30 years, focusing on building brand and corporate values. As a result, I have gathered a lot of experience in Consumer Marketing, Corporate Branding and Communications, and Business to Business Marketing. I’ve worked for multinational companies like Procter and Gamble, Singtel and Certis CISCO, progressing to the position of Senior Vice President. 

It was fulfilling to build brands and bring them to leading positions, reaching 40% of the market share for the fragmented hair care category in Singapore and Malaysia. I also re-branded leading companies like Singtel and Certis CISCO, thus significantly improving their brand identity and reputation. On the business front, I successfully worked on winning some of the most prestigious contracts in the B2B space and won several advertising awards both internationally and locally. 

I branded the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) from scratch when I joined as a pioneer staff (No.10). Back then, it was just known as the 4th University. I launched several multi-media advertising campaigns and organised cool events targeted at student recruitment. In the process, we established a passionate and competent team.  In the last 11 years, we have won ten awards based on work in SUTD. To pay it back, I served as a jury for Effies, Markies, and Innovation and Entrepreneurship Hackathons for many years. I have been mentoring young people in their career aspirations and as an Angel Investor to pay it forward. 

If you’d like to read about the genesis of the SUTD brand, you can learn more about it here.

Currently, you’re the Senior Director of Marketing and Communication at the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD). Can you tell us a bit about SUTD and its mission? 

The Singapore University of Technology and Design was established to advance knowledge and nurture technically-grounded leaders and innovators to serve societal needs, with a focus on Design, through an integrated multi-disciplinary curriculum and multi-disciplinary research. 

In short, we aim for “A Better World by Design”.

Before joining SUTD, you worked at several big names – Certis CISCO, Singtel, Procter & Gamble. You have more than 30 years of experience across consumer marketing, branding, communications, and B2B marketing. What was it that first attracted you to this work? 

I am super passionate about marketing and communications and educating people about the benefits of good work across various industries and companies that I have worked in. For me, it’s all about creativity and innovation, and every day is different! So I never get bored of my work. 

I choose to work only with companies that I believe in. Some people think that marketing is about making the bad look good or ‘spinning the truth’, but I believe in telling the truth. Of course, the fact can be delivered in an aspirational manner and beautifully designed and presented with integrity. When marketing is built on truth, campaigns resonate far more strongly with target audiences. 

You’ve been at SUTD for nearly 12 years. What is it like to shape the marketing strategy of a university like SUTD over more than a decade? 

As I mentioned before, I joined SUTD as one of the first staff members when the University was conceptualized. It was tremendously exciting. How many people can actually say that they branded and started Singapore’s 4th public University from scratch?

Over the years, I have built up a passionate and capable team that I am very proud of. We have great teamwork, and some of them have also worked 7-11 years in SUTD. Working with talented students has also been incredibly fulfilling, especially seeing how they mature and grow into people who live out our mission to better the world through their designs. 

Just like the SUTD brand, our team believes in constantly innovating on our marketing strategies and ideas. So every year,  we try new things, do things better and learn from them to do even better in subsequent years.  

As ‘Mastery’ is one of our brand values, we constantly challenge ourselves to keep up with the developments of the marketing industry like digital transformation. It was highly challenging to pivot from a physical Open House to a Virtual Open House over two weeks in 2019 when COVID-19 hit us, but my team managed to do it and met recruitment targets, which was awesome. So I cherish my team very much!

I am also thankful to my SUTD colleagues, management and even the Board, who are very supportive and focused on our shared goal. Most importantly, my family’s unstinting support and the grace of the Lord has brought us this far.

Is there a specific aspect of your work you enjoy most? 

Most of all, I enjoy interacting with students and bringing their stories to life with our marketing campaigns. SUTD is a very closely-knit community; we call ourselves the SUTD Family. Just like family, we share a single brand identity and have common goals and a single mission. This single brand identity creates a strong alignment and bond between the faculty, staff and students. 

It’s clear that SUTD is very driven in its mission to nurture innovative thinking and technical advancement to serve society; how does one go about sharing this idea with the world to attract more students? 

We use a 360° approach – using earned, owned, and paid media to reach our targets. So on top of all our advertising and communication campaigns, we pitch stories to the journalists and are very active on social media.

In addition to the university-wide marketing, we have women in tech & design programme to educate women about tech & design and to reach our audacious goal of 40% female students with every cohort, the media and our website. 

For technical research, we also spread the word to the research community. Our professors also take part in conferences, giving talks and presentations.

Universities have been under a lot of pressure during the pandemic. How have you and SUTD worked to overcome any obstacles or challenges you’ve had to face this crisis?

I mentioned going digital earlier, but we also engage students online and directly through talks, workshops and direct mail. 

On the education front, it is pretty challenging. So we invest a lot in educational technology to make it more interactive and engaging. The faculty even go to the extent of letting students bring home the VR goggles for their lessons and projects. 

What about you, personally, when this pandemic is over, what’s next for you?

I look forward to travelling again! I usually go on at least two holidays per year, and I really miss the creative stimulation that they provide.

Professionally, the lessons from digital engagement will be helpful for the future where we can do hybrid events to engage the international audience more. 

Any advice you’d give to young and aspiring marketers, particularly those with an eye for the education sector? 

Marketing is challenging work where you need to get very hands-on and be action-driven, with a keen eye for details. It would help if you had the creativity to solve problems, handle stress for deadlines, meet targets, and communicate well. Digital skills are also an asset in today’s world, which is true regardless of which sector you join. 

I would advise young people to go for companies (not sectors), with good opportunities to learn and get hands-on with projects; learn to be innovative with budgets to actualise your ideas. Find good mentors and supervisors who can coach and guide you and give you a free hand to try new ideas. People like that are a godsend.

It’s been a great pleasure and privilege to learn more about you and your career, Corinna, thank you for sharing your experiences. How can people connect with you if they’d like to know more about you?

Sure, people can connect with me on LinkedIn here.

The Marketing Expert Series features marketing and communications experts from across every industry. Every month, 2Stallions will showcase the stories and expertise of marketing experts from around the world, join us as we explore how marketers navigate the challenges of the regions and industries they work in. If you’d like to be featured in a next issue of the Marketing Expert Series. Please reach out to us via email.

If you are interested in building your own company’s digital advertising, get in touch with us today, and find out how you can optimize your digital marketing strategies.

To the non-technical-savvy among us, the world of web development and system maintenance can be alien and daunting. The truth is, that without it, the Internet and its many applications and facets would be an unnavigable palace of chaos. The technology that provides us with the connectivity we take for granted requires care and maintenance – whether it’s a website, a server, a social network, or any other aspect of the Internet of Things. 

To help bring sense and order to the chaos we would otherwise be wallowing in, are individuals like Krupa Vasava, one of 2Stallions’ Web Maintenance and Development Specialists who have an affinity for all things ‘dev’. In this issue our #2STeamStories, Krupa takes us through the whirlwind of her daily life at the agency.

Meet Krupa!

Hi everyone! My name is Krupa!

I graduated from Sarvajanik College of Engineering and Technology, India in 2014 and my major was Bachelor of Engineering in Computer Science. In 2018, I joined 2Stallions as a Junior Web Developer. Right now, I am a Web Maintenance & Development Specialist. 

This means I work on different projects on maintenance for the development and server sides, I also work on website hosting and systems and work on security reports. It’s also my job to help the client with any queries from their side about anything in their contract – especially if it has to do with maintaining their website.

Personally, I’m really interested in the general information technology field, web development, and cyber security and digital marketing. My biggest passion is learning about software and technology. Ever since I was young, I have been fascinated with computers, which is why I decided to study Computer Science in college and I’ve continued in that direction since graduating. It’s been a great choice for me! As a developer, I get to shape how the Internet is progressing and how websites are evolving, and that’s exciting to me.

What goes on in the day-to-day job as a Web Maintenance & Development Specialist?

Well, as my job title suggests,  I work  on different projects for development and maintenance. To give you an idea of what that means, here’s the list of some of the steps and tasks I regularly do:

  • Running through starter security checklist (WebArx)
  • Update security plugins (WebArx) for website
  • Setting up backups
  • On Maintenance site, Dropbox
  • Setting up Dropbox optimization schedule
  • Setup cron jobs (if required)
  • Optimization of database/tables
  • Setting up firewall/malware scan/brute force attack prevention
  • Maintenance (eCommerce or WordPress or PHP Application)
  • Set up a staging server or a local server
  • Take existing live site backup and deploy on staging/local
  • WordPress Core SECURITY updates
  • Theme or Plugin SECURITY update
  • Take a backup of final working site on local/staging
  • Deploy on live (minimize downtime) 
  • Generate reports from WebArx once every month and share with the customer.
  • Development of websites
  • Work on CSS stuff for adding feature on existing website
  • Migration of server
  • Server management

Why do you think Web Maintenance & Development Specialists are important for businesses these days?

As you can see from our checklist, website maintenance should be a consistent part of your business. It grows on itself, and if not correctly implemented, can cause some serious problems and setbacks to your potential growth and business health. 

Staying on top of website health takes awareness and organization. This is particularly the case for a large site with hundreds (or even thousands) of pages. With the introduction of new tools to make website building easier, website sizes are growing each year. While it’s easy to add pages to most websites, it’s not as easy to keep all of your pages in a good state. 

All that to say: stay on top of your website maintenance!

Many new businesses already have a lot on their plates without worrying about constantly checking in on their website. It’s tempting to buy a domain name, throw up something temporary, and just worry about it later, but there are many reasons why this is not a good idea. Maintaining a current, healthy, and active website is important for a whole number of reasons.

Do you have any advice for fresh graduates who are currently looking for jobs and are open to exploring different career paths? 

There are lots of technologies coming out in the world of development, but if anyone wants to gain some knowledge about new things and new skills then a job as a Web Maintenance & Development Specialist is a good one. 

Another thing that’s important to me is that this role allows me to not only play with data, but also present my findings and suggestions directly to clients. That is really refreshing! I’m always very motivated by being able to see the impact of my work on other people.

What challenges do you face as a Web Maintenance & Development Specialist? 

The main challenges that come when you are working on development of a website while juggling client queries about adding some features or bug fixes. 

The biggest thing is that you always need to be ready in case sudden issues come from the server side and/or a website goes down. If a website system suddenly fails, you need to fix it as soon as possible. Websites are core parts of businesses, especially if they are ecommerce systems that directly connect clients to their customers; you really can’t afford to let a website be out of order for any longer than absolutely necessary. 

It’s also really important to be aware about all domain renewals as well as SSL certifications. You also need to monitor security vulnerabilities in websites and frameworks across all the systems and websites in your care.

Since I have to handle multiple tasks on days, it can sometimes be a little tough to handle. I’ve learned that I can overcome most challenges by relaxing myself by always listening to music, or going for walks, regularly working out and doing yoga.

Where do you get your motivation from for your day-to-day tasks? Do you have any special sources of inspiration or drive?

In a nutshell, I love:

  • learning new things
  • acquiring new skills
  • meeting deadlines, goals and targets
  • improving processes, finding ways to solving problems
  • overcoming challenges

Effort recognition is what motivates me to do a good job. It’s very important for me to be recognized for my work, to get the deserved applause or mention that I feel I have earned. This may sound silly, but it really helps me keep my eye on the ball. It not only keeps me energized but also on my toes to keep putting in all my effort. 

In my previous job, I was a backend Developer. The team achieved significant sales growth by designing a new product. I was awarded the best idea distinction for helping them out. That kind of recognition is more satisfying than any kind of monetary compensation. Appreciation of work gives me the required kick to give more than a 100%. There is a need to perform to achieve success. This is especially when I am being monitored. Even if it is a small mail or message from my boss or senior, it matters a lot. It is highly motivating to know that someone requires your input in essential matters and that your recommendations will be implemented.

Is it true that an agency life is work without play? Tell us a little bit more about the culture at 2Stallions.

Sometimes when you are handling multiple projects, it can get pretty time-consuming. However, agency life is really not work without play. At 2Stallions, we encourage everyone to work hard and play hard! We have a relatively young team, so it can be pretty fun in the office at times!

Our agency also emphasises the well-being of its employees. That is why we have regular video calls to catch up with one another, to ensure everyone is coping well with the current situation. I’m grateful for my supportive colleagues who’re always ready to help whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed at work. When things get tough, I know that I will always have my team to fall back on.

Wrapping Up 

Get to know our #2Stallionsfamily with the #2Steamstories tag.  Discover the works done by our diverse team of digital marketing professionals who’ll bring your ideas to life with impactful designs. Browse and download our case studies now! 

If you’re looking for a content marketing expert, don’t hesitate to contact us

We are very proud and privileged to announce that we have officially been granted MSC status in Malaysia. 

For a boutique agency like ours to be awarded this status means that we are being recognized for the innovations we bring to the digital space. Aside from being a mark of world-class services and achievements, it opens doors for us to strengthen our relationships with our current Malaysian clients, IMU and PropertyGuru Malaysia, and enhance our presence in the Malaysian digital community. 

“Working with Malaysia clients has shown us that there is a high demand for quality digital support for things like AI-driven advertising as well as for optimization of UI/UX,” says Daniël Heerkens, our Managing Director at 2Stallions, “Malaysia is full of opportunities, and we are looking forward to helping our clients grow their brands and leverage digital to forge stronger connections with their customers in the digital space.” 

The Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) programme was established by the Malaysian government in 1996. Its purpose is to stimulate the nation’s digital economy and propel the country forward into the information age. By leveraging digital technologies like Big Data and artificial intelligence (AI), the MSC programme aims to increase productivity, drive innovation, and enhance livelihoods. It’s been very successful, having generated nearly 500 billion MYR (~162 billion SGD) and created over 180,000 jobs since 2018. 

Malaysia continues to emphasise the growth of its digital economy; in May this year, the Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, launched the MyDIGITAL blueprint initiative. This new initiative supports existing digitalisation efforts and also takes steps to upgrade network infrastructure to 5G high speed. In the PM’s words, “…one of the key learnings that the world has collectively taken from the pandemic…is that technology has become far more essential than we ever thought it was.”

With this focus on digital economic growth, MDEC – Malaysia’s Digital Economy Corporation,  the government agency overseeing the MSC programme – is very particular about ensuring that MSC status is granted to those companies that will bring a strong, added value to the programme. As a result, the process was justifiably rigorous, and we are grateful for the guidance that MDEC offered throughout it. 

With our regional headquarters in Singapore, 2Stallions has expanded with plans to establish ourselves in Malaysia with a full team, looking to make it our operational HQ. To grow and improve our digital strengths, we are now focusing on the development of AI-advertising infrastructure and strategies and the continued enhancement of digital user experiences (UX) and interfaces (UI). 

“Our experience allows us to track and use the right data, which we know is vital for optimal data-driven decision-making,” Daniël adds, “the objective is always to ensure that our digital advertising campaigns run optimally and generate revenue for our clients. To this end, we are able to work with any type of AI-powered technology and algorithms to best meet our clients’ requirements.”

With our official MSC status, we are keen to help grow the Malaysian digital economy by helping our current and future clients leverage their digital and optimize their customer relations and outreach in the digital space.

The medical industry is a complicated sector, now more so than ever before. It’s an industry many of us have taken for granted for many years, and it comes with many different facets. When we visit a doctor or go to the hospital, most of us don’t even think about the compliance and credentials that the workers in this industry have to obtain before they can go into practice, we drop in to get the remedy for what ails us and then we’re on our way again. The truth is that the world of medical compliance and accreditation is complex, and takes special understanding to navigate.

MedTrainer is a company that delivers educational and credentialing tools to help support the healthcare market, and leading their marketing efforts is Evan Fehler, Senior Director of Marketing. Join us for this issue of the Marketing Expert Series as Evan explains some of the ins and outs of this fascinating industry.

Hello, Evan! I’m very excited to have you join us for this issue of the Marketing Expert Series! Let’s start with the basics, please tell us a bit about who you are and how you got to where you are now. 

Hi everyone, thanks for having me. 

I got lucky getting into marketing. I was always more of a business owner than a marketer, and a friend of mine helped me get a job on a marketing team in a product owner/GM type of role. My background was leading people and building businesses. 

Marketing turned out to be a great fit.

Currently, you’re the Senior Director of Marketing at MedTrainer. Can you tell us about MedTrainer and what it does?

MedTrainer was founded in 2013 to deliver affordable learning, compliance tools, credentialing, and accreditation support to the healthcare market all in one platform. In 2015, we launched the first iteration and quickly became a success primarily through word of mouth. 

Today, MedTrainer has over 2,500 customers representing over 15,000 healthcare locations and supports over 300,000 healthcare professionals. We maintain a blend of technology and human-assisted support which has led to something unique in the software industry.

Our goal at Medtrainer is to make healthcare compliance easy. We do this by simplifying 3 core areas: learning, credentialing, and compliance tools. This ranges from training to accreditation, incident reporting, and so much more. 

For example, we offer medical eLearning that helps medical and support staff maintain the education requirements placed upon those who work in the industry. As you can imagine, compliance and accreditation requirements can change from time to time, and, as a result, it can be tricky to stay on top of it. 

Aside from education, we also help our clients with their credentialing process and maintain their regulatory compliances. To do this, we offer different software based on our platform.

And what does a Senior Director of Marketing role look like at MedTrainer? Are there specific channels or strategies that you use to raise awareness about the work that MedTrainer does?

I oversee the marketing team and strategy development. To me, marketing is simple: the better aligned you are with sales the more likely you are at being successful in supporting them which is our #1 goal. 

On the whole, I like to say healthcare is 10 years behind when it comes to marketing and sales strategies; one step ahead of government. My team and I focus on bringing modern marketing tactics to a slow-to-adopt industry.

I imagine that MedTrainer is earning its stripes at the moment, so to speak. How has the global pandemic affected your marketing strategies? 

Healthcare has stayed busy but the industry focus hasn’t necessarily been on compliance software. As a whole we want to stay relevant and helpful to the market so when the time comes that they are ready to buy, MedTrainer is who they will go with.

Do you foresee any lasting trends for the industry that you will need to navigate as a digital marketer in the future?

Marketing used to be a game of ‘how do you catch people that were ready to buy’. That’s table stakes now. Nowadays, marketing has become a game of ‘how do you build your brand’. In today’s game, it’s important to have brand recognition and make what you do clear so that when your audience is ready to buy you’ve already won the race.

Before you joined MedTrainer, you were Director of Digital Marketing at SmartRecruiters, a company aimed at helping companies recruit the best talent – it’s a very different industry from what you are in now. Was it a tricky transition?

SmartRecruiters was very enterprise-focused whereas MedTrainer is very SMB/MM focused and we are beginning the transition to the enterprise. The strategies, operations, and daily activities are very different between the two. Fortunately, before SmartRecruiters, I came from Nextiva which was SMB/MM focused as well, which helped this transition immensely.

You also do some digital marketing consulting. It’s something we’re seeing more and more, with many digital marketers opting to share their knowledge outside their primary company – from your own experience, why do you think that this is the case?

As I mentioned before, catching people in the market for your software is table stakes – the minimum – and yet there are a lot of companies who don’t have the skillset to set that up. There’s a big opportunity for all demand marketers to take advantage of consulting opportunities, and I highly recommend it.

Any advice you’d give to young and aspiring marketers or entrepreneurs? 

Get closer with the sales teams. Be a business owner. Be a learner, steal everyone else’s best ideas.

The secret to getting promoted is driving results and having clear career development conversations with your boss. State your goal and ask what it will take to get there. This is the part that most people miss. After that, it’s just about delivering results.

Thanks for taking part in this Series, Evan, and for sharing your experiences with us! How can people connect with you if they’d like to know more about you?

Thank you! You can connect with me on LinkedIn.

Since the start of 2020, the world has entered a new era. Until the global pandemic is fully under control, individuals and companies alike are faced with uncertainties and insecurities. For digital marketers across all industries, the game has changed, probably forever. In sectors like education, companies have had to change tactics and change their priorities to better reach their potential customers.

In this issue of the Marketing Expert Series, we talk with Nancy Tan, Chief Marketing Officer for the XCL Education Group in Malaysia, a group that caters to K-12 students in Southeast Asia. Join us as Nancy takes us through her journey and the ups and downs the pandemic has presented her as a digital marketer during these uncertain times.

Welcome to the Marketing Expert Series, Nancy, thank you for joining us! Let’s start with an easy one, tell us a bit about yourself! How did you get to where you are now? 

It’s been a long journey. I started as a ‘suit’ in advertising after graduating from university and spent several years at international advertising agencies like McCann Erickson, Dentsu, Young and Rubicam, and Peter Beaumont & Friends. 

I then decided to become an entrepreneur and opened my own cafe. It was a valuable experience but after three years, I gravitated back to the corporate world and landed in branding, marketing, and communications in the telecom industry for the next 11 years with big telecom giants in Malaysia, namely Maxis, DiGi, and TIMEdotcom. 

After this, I continued my marketing career in retail and property development namely with the Pavilion Retail Group, Lendlease, and BRDB Developments. Now, I lead brand, marketing & communications in one of the largest education groups in Malaysia. 

I’ve always been intrigued by brands and enjoy the opportunity to apply strategy and creativity to enable people to get more out of life. 

What drew you to this kind of work? Was it something in particular, or just pure chance that attracted you to the world of marketing?

I would say it was a mix of both. 

To be honest, I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I was in university and picked a major in psychology with an interest to better understand human behaviour. I never intended to go into the clinical side but found its application relevant to marketing since it had to do with understanding consumer psychology and insights. It also aids in formulating perceptions and value propositions relevant to consumer demographic, psychological, geographic, and social needs. 

From a career in advertising, I decided to move into marketing as I felt there was more value to deep dive into understanding how businesses operate and leverage the power of branding and marketing to add value and grow the business. 

You’ve become the CMO for the XCL Education Group in Malaysia recently. Please tell us more about the work that the Group does, what are they all about?

Headquartered in Singapore, XCL Education is one of the largest, fastest-growing K-12 platforms in Southeast Asia. In Malaysia, we serve over 20,000 students across Private and International Schools, Preschools, and English Language Centers. 

In our stable are four key brands, namely:  

  • Sri KDU – a best-in-class premium local and international private school with a reputation for academic excellence – having been previously recognized by PISA as the top-performing school in Malaysia. 
  • REAL Schools provides holistic, well-rounded private education with a strong value-for-money proposition. Founded in 1985, it is one of the oldest private schools in Malaysia. Now operating 3 campuses in Cheras and Shah Alam and Johor Bahru.
  • REAL Kids has built over 30 years of history in providing excellent, award-winning preschool education, and pioneered in incorporating the Multiple Intelligences approach in Malaysia. Voted by parents as the ‘Best Preschool Programme’ and ‘Best Trilingual Curriculum’ amongst many other categories in the Parents’ Choice Awards by Parenthood Magazine, REAL Kids have won multiple awards 3 years in a row (2019 – 2021). 
  • Cambridge English For Life (CEFL) has been an established and trusted brand all across Malaysia for 20 years. We deliver high-quality and internationally recognised English language programmes and offer the largest network of English language centres in Malaysia.

On the Group’s website ( we learn that your mission is ‘Transforming lives through Education’. In your opinion, how important is the quality of education for young people in Malaysia, and indeed in South East Asia, today?

Extremely important. We live in a “VUCA” world – volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. Students today will face unprecedented challenges tomorrow that will change the way we live, work, and interact – many of these challenges we don’t yet have solutions for. As such, as educationists, we have to prepare them so that they can thrive in the fourth industrial revolution. 

To do this we are focused on four key areas:

i) Integrating Technology in Education 

ii) Empowering Parents by partnering with the parent community and provide them guidance and support in their child’s development

iii) Developing a Globally Competitive Workforce by instilling knowledge, soft skills, and real-world ready skills that will nurture a more competitive workforce in the future 

iv) Bridging the English Language Divide to raise English literacy levels across the country.

Before XCL Education you worked in the property development sector, at BRDB and Lendlease. What’s it like to be a CMO or Marketing Director in such a large industry?

These roles come with great responsibilities. Every company and industry has different objectives, goals, and each has unique challenges and to top it off, each organisation has a distinct work culture. Being adaptable and agile is essential, however with marketing, its principles remain the same while the industry or product may change. I must admit that the expectations were very high and the pressure can be both mentally and physically challenging. I remind myself to stay focused and stay the course. It is important to surround oneself with good people we can trust and rely on. 

What has it been like, making the shift from the property development world to the world of marketing education?

I must say that the transition has been surprisingly smooth but I still have lots to learn. I reckon it is because while I may not have worked in the education industry before, I am a parent and can put myself in the customer’s shoes and relate from a consumer’s point of view. With marketing, one of the most critical factors is to be able to understand one’s customer, their psyche, behaviour, pain points, needs, and wants. 

Another reason the shift has been manageable is due to the support and guidance from my CEO. He is a visionary, a veteran in the education field, extremely sharp, open-minded, and a passionate leader. Besides having grown successful brands in education, he is also a psychologist and engaged in people and change management. Most importantly, he has played a very genuine and supportive role in helping me get up to speed in my new role.

Do marketing strategies differ between the two sectors or are you finding similarities in how you can reach the right audiences? 

The marketing strategies differ between the two sectors, although there are certain areas where they overlap because the audiences’ needs are similar. Marketing both development and schools are very much based on the locations of the properties, hence strategies primarily address the immediate catchment areas and then widen to attract those who may be drawn to other value propositions the product offers.   

COVID-19 has impacted a lot of companies and industries, education is a sector that has been hit hard. You became the XCL Education Group – Malaysia CMO during the pandemic, how have you had to adapt your marketing strategies?

We have to listen constantly to understand the customers’ concerns and provide them with solutions and compelling propositions that resonate with them or solve their problems. Like most brands, we had to adopt more aggressive digital marketing strategies, but it was also essential to ensure that the brand stood out in the white noise. Hence, while our strategies had to be more tactical and focused on value in the short term, we spent a lot of time re-evaluating the value propositions and key messages. We also aimed at tactics that strengthen brand positioning and drive awareness for the longer term. We had to be extremely agile and fluid in our plans as the rules of lockdowns changed frequently and our tactics also had to change accordingly. I believe the rules of engagement in marketing have transformed indefinitely; hosting physical events will be controlled, and being able to effectively engage virtually has become more challenging due to online fatigue.   

And when this pandemic is over, what’s next for you, any big plans?

I believe this VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) situation will not go away anytime soon and hence we will need to continuously challenge ourselves to think out of the box, apply innovative strategies, and pivot when opportunities arise. Tactical solutions alone are short-term and not sustainable hence we need to build long-term brand equity and create value for our customers to survive the pandemic and beyond. 

Our focus now is to ensure sustainability and continue to poise ourselves for growth so that we will be in the position to reap opportunities in the post-pandemic.

Any advice you’d give marketers looking to change their primary industries?

There is never a better time to take a leap than now. If the industry you are in is challenging and bleak due to the pandemic, reflect on your strengths and potential talent and be bold enough to try something new … you may discover your true calling. Nevertheless, learning never stops, as long as one has the will and resilience, there is always a way to reach one’s goals whether in a new job or industry. 

Thank you, Nancy, for sharing your insights! How can people connect with you if they’d like to know more about you?

Thank you for this opportunity to share my thoughts and experiences. I welcome any opportunity to connect and can be reached via my LinkedIn profile.

The Marketing Expert Series features marketing and communications experts from across every industry. Every month, 2Stallions will showcase the stories and expertise of marketing experts from around the world, join us as we explore how marketers navigate the challenges of the regions and industries they work in. If you’d like to be featured in a next issue of the Marketing Expert Series. Please reach out to us via email.

If you are interested in building your own company’s digital advertising, get in touch with us today, and find out how you can optimize your digital marketing strategies.

The global pandemic forced a lot of industries to reevaluate their digital strategies. In some cases, companies had to undergo complete digital transformations in very limited periods. As a result of these transformations and shifts in the digital landscape, omnichannel marketing has seen a dynamic rise since the start of the pandemic. One of the main learnings from all these experiences is that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all digital strategy solution that can be applied across the board. 

We’ve learned a lot about our omnichannel approach during the pandemic, and here are some key takeaways that have changed omnichannel marketing strategies:

1. Customer Behaviour has Changed, probably forever.

The pandemic has changed how customers consider, search for, and purchase items they need and like. Before, online shopping and e-commerce were primarily used for clothes and luxury items, the pandemic has pushed consumers to use online shopping for their day-to-day needs. As we slowly transition out of a pandemic-gripped world and into a new normal, it may be that people find the convenience of online shopping, even for things like groceries, so appealing that they keep using it. 

2. Personalized Marketing is Key.

One of the key things that we have learned during the pandemic is that people want to connect with other people. By personalizing your marketing campaigns and initiatives, you have a greater chance of catching your audiences’ attention. Customers appreciate proactive communication and they want to work with brands that cater to their individual needs on a personal level.

3. SMS Messaging can take the place of Email Marketing.

While not everyone has constant access to their email, it has become very clear that during a crisis SMS messaging has a better chance of reaching your target audience than email. In many cases, SMS messaging also has a higher impact rate than email. Moving forward, it is likely that SMS is a channel worth pursuing.

4. Customer Communication now goes beyond the Sale.

During the pandemic, customers expected more communication from the brands they purchased from. Follow up conversations with customers is now part of the communication chains, checking in on customers and dealing with any after-sales issues that the customer may have had has developed stronger bonds and customer loyalty.

5. Companies are all turning to Omnichannel.

Communicating with your customers, through any channel, is a primary requirement for any business, and companies are finally embracing this concept. We are seeing a strong need for online, omnichannel contact service solutions as a result of this, allowing companies to develop their communication strengths, allowing brands to communicate with their customers more effectively across multiple channels. 

Final Thoughts

The pandemic has changed the world. It has had a solid impact on how we communicate with our customers and reach out to them. The digital landscape has shifted as a result of the massive changes that we have faced since the onset of the pandemic in 2020. There is no doubt that these changes will leave trends in how we approach our digital marketing strategies. Omnichannel marketing has played an important role in these changes and will continue to be a boon to digital marketers and their companies as we move forward.

Blockchain technology is making waves. By now, most of us will have heard of it one way or another, but most of us aren’t exactly clear on what it is or how it works, let alone why it’s having the impact that it’s having. Blockchain technology isn’t as complicated as it seems, but it’s new, and it’s different, challenging the way we have previously thought about data storage and distribution. 

Before we can implement its benefits, we need to fully understand what blockchain is all about, how it works, and how we can use it to our advantage.

What is Blockchain?

On the face of it, blockchain seems a lot more complicated than it actually is. In fact, the blockchain concept is quite simply an enormous database of sorts. Blockchain, also referred to as Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) and is unique in that it creates a history of any digital asset unalterable and transparent through the use of decentralization and cryptographic hashing.  

To get the best picture, it’s key to understand what a database actually is. Many of us know what a database is, but it’s one of those terms we take for granted, so here’s an excuse to get better acquainted with a database.

Understanding Databases

A database is a collection of information – data – that is stored electronically. The information in databases is normally structured in a table format to allow for easy filtering and searching, thus providing a clearer overview of the data as needed. 

How does that differ from, say, me using an Excel spreadsheet to organize something? Spreadsheets, like you, would use for a basic budget or plan, for example, tend to be designed for use by at most a small group of people. This makes them useful for collecting, storing, and using data gathered by departmental teams or individuals. 

On the other hand, a database deals with significantly larger data sets, dealing with massive loads of information. This is one of the reasons they’re often housed on specific servers built on powerful computers – it takes a lot of space and power to access, filter, and use the data contained in these databases.

Understanding Blockchain

Now, what’s up with blockchain? How is it different from a regular database? 

The key difference is in the way blockchain databases store their data. A blockchain’s data is stored together in groups – also called ‘blocks’. Each block has a certain capacity limit and when they’re full, they then link to another block and form a chain of data, thus the name ‘blockchain’. 

Unlike the database, where data is stored in tables, blockchain structures its data in blocks – this means that all blockchains are databases but not all databases are blockchains if that makes sense. The way that blockchains are structured also means that there’s a clear and irreversible timeline of when the data comes in – when a block is filled, it is ‘set in stone’ and is locked into this timeline, complete with a timestamp. This makes it incredibly easy to track the data’s journey and keeps the data unadulterated and secure. 

If you’re looking for an easy way to picture how blockchain works, think of a Google Doc. When it’s created and its shared with a group of people, the document is shared – distributed – instead of copied. This creates a decentralized distribution chain that gives everyone access to the Google Doc simultaneously – no one is locked out while waiting for changes, but all document modifications are being recorded and can be tracked and traced. This is very simplistic analogy, of course, but it’s a good place to get started. 

How is Blockchain Used?

Blockchain technology can be used for a variety of purposes, from providing financial services to administering voting systems, but to give you a basic idea:

  • Cryptocurrency
  • Banking
  • Asset Transfers
  • Smart Contracts
  • Supply Chain Monitoring
  • Voting

What’s the connection between Blockchain and Digital Marketing?

Blockchain is relatively new, but it’s already making a big impact on digital marketing. Most people who have heard of blockchain may associate it primarily with cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. For digital marketing, it provides transparency, security, and accessibility of monetary and data flows. It can benefit not only the business, but the consumer as well – allowing for improved monetary outflow for businesses on digital campaigns, and direct ownership of data. 

Data is what drives the markets, a new currency, if you will, that fuels businesses with information and insight into consumer behaviour. 

The Impact of Data-Privacy Awareness

Since the increased awareness about data privacy and the scandals that sprung out of previously relaxed attitudes, restrictions and regulations on data storage, use, and sharing have become stricter.  It’s no surprise, therefore, that we are now seeing the exodus of third-party cookies and the IOS 14.5 update. The further we go down this path, the more innovative digital marketers have had to become. 

Blockchain technology potentially gives control back to data owners targeting digital advertising. This creates a direct data exchange between consumers and brands, resulting in better transparency and improved trust. 

How can Blockchain benefit Digital?

1. Improves Digital Marketing & Advertising Campaigns

Due to blockchain’s ability to link merchants directly with marketers and providing transparent data insights, eliminating the need for a liaison. Data from digital advertising can be difficult to interpret – and can sometimes be inaccurate – making improvement difficult. Being more in touch with campaign data is one of the advantages of blockchain – monitoring campaigns in real-time is achievable with blockchain. This is one of the reasons why we’re seeing big brand names like Unilever applying blockchain to improve their digital advertising efficiently. 

2. Boosts Transparency

In digital advertising, it can be tricky to know if the metrics you gain are actual people or bots that are skewing your results. Research is now showing that bots have cost companies more than 7billion USD in 2016. With blockchain, there is a clear, transparent chain, encrypted within the digital ledger system. As a result, the transparency is inviolable for every piece of data moving through the data flow chain. This will save organizations a lot of money by making sure that their ads are actually reaching their targeted audience, thus assuring that companies are getting what they paid for. 

3. Generates Trust & Credibility

Businesses prefer blockchain because it enhances the security of data and information, providing increased protection. Similarly, shared data is more easily verified and tracked, allowing for an increase in trust between parties. Small businesses, in particular, is finding it incredibly useful to use blockchain to build trust because it allows them to prove where their products are coming from and forge a willingness to be open with their customers. 

4. Prevents Fraud

Blockchain can be used to authorize and record authenticated digital outlets, thus preventing any fraudulent access. With the increased transparency and tracking ability, it’s easy to ensure that only those who should have access are allowed in. It’s one of the reasons why brands like Toyota have been using blockchain specifically for this purpose, and are seeing a 21% improvement in website visitor traffic already.

5. Improves Content Monetization

As we’ve said many times before, content is at the heart of digital marketing, and a solid content marketing strategy is vital to promoting products and services. Through blockchain, consumers, bloggers, and streamers can be rewarded directly rather than through third-party content platforms

Future Outlook of Blockchain

Blockchain is already making a big impact, but what is clear is that it is slowly and steadily changing the digital world. There is a shift of power, digital privacy and data protection awareness is driving a change, and blockchain is part of this change. 

Some reports estimate that blockchain solutions will grow from 1.5 billion (2016) to nearly 16 billion in 2023. Every industry can see a use and a benefit in blockchain technology; the financial sector alone has already shown a 60% growth in 2018. 

Wrapping Up

Blockchain is a fascinating new technology that is changing the way we store and work with data. It is going to keep making waves and impact the digital scene for years to come, and it’s important that we stay on top of the changes it creates in its wake and the opportunity it presents.

If you’re keen to find out how you can use blockchain technology to benefit your business, you can always get in touch with us. We stand ready to help you navigate the changes and the opportunities and make sure your business excels. 

Since the start of the pandemic in 2020, many companies have struggled to adapt to the changing circumstances. Digital transformation has often been a forced effort, born out of necessity rather than a driving desire. Some industries took the opportunity to take hold of their own futures and address the challenges head-on.

One of the digital marketers who drove through digital transformation early on, is Rena Tan, Regional Head of Marketing and Communications for Randstad Singapore, Malaysia, and Greater China. The world of recruitment and human resources has been impacted by COVID-19, requiring adaptation to new working practices and flexibilities, as well as the strain companies have had to deal with in light of hiring freezes and dips in revenue. 

Join us for this remarkable issue of the Marketing Expert Series with Rena Tan as she takes us through her personal journey and professional digital transformation.  

Hi, Rena, thank you for taking part in the Marketing Expert Series! Let’s start with some background, can you tell us a bit about yourself? How did you get to where you are now? 

I like to think I’ve always had a creative side. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved to write, doodle and draw, create poetry, and was a voracious reader. In fact, my dream is to publish my own book one day. 

I was interning at MTV Asia back in my poly days, and was offered a full-time position on the very day I completed my final exams (yes – they liked me that much!). Pursuing my creative dreams, I went on to become a TV and radio producer at MTV, and later moved to the licensing and merchandising division where I helped launch various consumer products under the MTV and Nickelodeon brands. That stint truly honed my skills in marketing, branding, and communications. 

Subsequently, I was drawn to the bigger idea of marketing my home country. I took on a marketing role in the Singapore Tourism Board and was working on major projects such as the Singapore Fashion Festival, Singapore JewelFest and the MTV Asia Awards. My job took me on a study trip to Disneyland in California where my mission was to research theme parks and their accompanying amenities to build a business case for having big-brand theme parks in Singapore (and this was before Universal Studios came to town!)

Afterwards, I was offered a Head of Marketing role in a recruitment company. Now, including my current role at Randstad, I have been in the recruitment industry for 15 years.

Was there something that drew you to this line of work? Were there any specific experiences that attracted you to it?

The recruitment industry is where I felt I’ve finally found my groove as a marketer. The role allows me to express my creative flair while giving me exposure to all types of people, companies, and industries. 

When I first joined the industry 15 years ago, recruitment marketing was not as prominent. In fact, it was pretty traditional. Companies typically ran newspaper ads, participated in career fairs, and posted advertisements on job boards to attract job seekers.

Over the years, the industry has been constantly changing and disrupted – yet it remained resilient and agile. Since the recruitment industry is constantly evolving, it is extremely challenging and exciting to be working in marketing. You are always running on adrenaline, and forever looking 10 steps ahead to see how you can stay competitive and relevant. The industry, although traditional, has also gradually opened up to new and emerging technologies, especially over the last five years. 

Randstad in particular, was on a digital transformation journey when I joined the company, which gave me a blank canvas to pilot new marketing technologies and ideas. We are also very open to experimenting and although not all initiatives are successful, our leadership believes that failing is also about knowing what works and what doesn’t. This level of trust is really empowering for me, especially in Asia where failure is often frowned upon. The experience is exhilarating, to say the least, because having that autonomy to try new things has opened up so many new opportunities not just for the company, but also for myself and my team. I feel like I am learning something new every day.

Currently, you are the Regional Head of Marketing and Communications for Randstad Singapore, Malaysia, and Greater China. Can you tell us more about what Randstad does and how you fit in?

Randstad is a global leader in the HR services industry, and our mission is to support people and organisations in realising their true potential. We help connect companies with the best permanent and contracting talent in accounting & finance, banking & financial services, corporate & secretarial support, engineering, human resources, legal, life science, technology, sales, marketing & communications, and supply chain & procurement. Our ultimate goal is to touch the work lives of 500 million people worldwide by 2030.

As the Head of Marketing for Randstad Singapore, Malaysia, and Greater China, I’m responsible for the evaluation and implementation of Marketing and HR technology, with a particular focus on regional digital transformation projects for the business. I work with both internal and external stakeholders and partners to develop, trial and roll out initiatives involving marketing automation, demand generation, artificial intelligence, big data, predictive marketing analytics, social selling, design thinking, employer branding, talent communities and customer experience (CX).

I also oversee a dynamic team of 13 marketing and CX staff across Singapore, Malaysia and Greater China – and they look after strategic marketing, communications and branding campaigns, public relations and customer experience management.

I understand you cover Singapore, Malaysia, and Greater China – that’s a broad area indeed, what sort of challenges do you face dealing with such a large region?

The key challenge, I think, is understanding the cultural nuances and socio-political landscapes in each country. As much as you would like to bring some level of consistency and scale for certain marketing initiatives across the region, it might not be possible as there are different rules and regulations governing each market. I personally have to download a number of different apps so that I can communicate more effectively with my team members in the local market.

You need to navigate the local markets with a high level of sensitivity and be acutely aware of the lines you can or cannot cross. This is on top of the cultural and language differences you need to be mindful of when interacting with people from different markets – which I feel requires a strong sense of diplomacy, humility, EQ, and the ability to switch your state of mind quickly from one to another whenever you are interacting with people from the different markets. There is always something new to learn from local colleagues so you will continue to gain new knowledge, insights, and perspectives.

Are there any advantages to dealing with a region that large?

I love learning new things and having a large remit across multiple countries feeds my insatiable curiosity – where I am constantly exposed to new things, industries, organisations, cultures, people and ideas. I’ve learned to work with different types of people, gained stronger problem-solving skills through managing various difficult situations and conflicts, developed better cross-cultural communication skills as well as significantly enhanced my local market knowledge beyond Singapore’s shores. I get the opportunity to improve my Mandarin too when I interact with my stakeholders and teams in China. I would also say this experience has vastly expanded my horizon and perspectives, and made me a more consultative, strategic, and well-informed business partner and leader.

You have a bit of experience in the marketing sector in Asia; before Randstad you worked with Robert Walters.  Have you noticed any changing trends and marketing strategy changes in the region over the last decade or so?

I recently published a trends report on the new skill sets a future marketer would need in the next normal. Future marketers are responsible for championing data-led innovation within the organisation to drive business or better customer experience. They leverage technology and emerging trends in marketing to enhance the end-to-end customer journey. Marketers are not only increasingly looked upon as sales enablers, but also act as strategic business partners and drivers of change. 

We are also shifting to deploy more digital strategies not just as a response to the pandemic, but also to better engage the new generation of digitally-savvy consumers. This explains why there is also a stronger focus on areas such as social selling, social listening, marketing analytics, SEO, online reputation management, storytelling, hyper-personalisation, gamification, voice search and customer experience (just to name a few!). 

I am hopeful that as more companies go through their digital transformation journey, the marketing function will be regarded as a growth driver. The future marketer will be expected to harness the power of data, automation, customer insights, machine learning and artificial intelligence to better attract, retain and engage their organisation’s customers. 

Given the work you are involved in with Randstad, I imagine that COVID-19 has had a big impact. Have your marketing and communications strategies had to change because of the pandemic?

At the onset of COVID-19, I convinced my team that we had to pivot, and pivot early. Globalisation and technology have created a borderless world, and we could never be truly immune to whatever is happening in other parts of the world. If we had waited till the virus became a pandemic, we would not have been able to reap the success we did. We literally threw our 2020 marketing and content plans out the window and started fresh – creating a series of employer guides, market research on hiring appetite and employees’ expectations, employment outlooks, as well as a whole suite of business technology tools and COVID-19 related resources to help organisations navigate the complexities of operating in the midst of a pandemic. Subsequently, we continued to produce content to help organisations engage and manage the well-being of their staff and provide information they need to accelerate business recovery in the new normal.

We have definitely learned to be more agile in these unusual and uncertain times, and constantly try to anticipate what challenges lie ahead and how we can add more value to our recruiters, clients, and candidates.

As a result, we saw phenomenal growth in terms of web traffic and social media engagement levels, and continue to generate a high number of quality leads despite a really difficult year where we saw many businesses come to a halt.

How lasting do you think the impact of the pandemic will be to marketing – and indeed to Randstad – in the coming years?

I think the pandemic has made a permanent positive impact on marketing and hopefully, the way businesses now view the value of marketing. 

In this new world, organisations need to learn how to better engage their talent and customers in a virtual environment, and design new digital processes to attract, engage and retain them. Company leaders are increasingly looking to their marketing teams to help build and amplify their brands online; drive constant sales through new e-commerce models; explore new channels and partners; leverage data to predict customers’ propensity to buy or leave, as well as automate time-consuming and manual processes to drive greater efficiencies. 

We have definitely experienced this in Randstad, and this trend will only grow as more and more business leaders stepped up their organisation’s digital transformation efforts to stay relevant and as a business sustainability and growth strategy. At Randstad we are already experimenting with ML/AI and blockchain and building our own tech platforms and apps through our global Digital Factory so that we can be future-ready.

What about for you, personally, when this pandemic is over, what’s next for you?

As a marketing leader, I feel we have an obligation to stay ahead of the curve. We need to constantly find ways to disrupt our own industry because others will do it for us if we don’t. 

Hence, I will be expecting my team and I to remain open-minded and agile in our marketing approach, embrace the fact that the market will remain unpredictable and be prepared for change as it will be a constant, whether we like it or not. I will be looking out for new ways in which marketing can evolve further – for example, explore non-traditional marketing channels, tools and partnerships; adopt a data-driven mindset; and continue to benchmark our work with the best in other industries and countries. 

I also hope my team continues to receive the recognition for the amazing work they are doing everyday, not just from me but also the business. They are the real masters in their craft and they deserve all the credit for the successes we see in Randstad across the region today.

Most importantly, I would need to strive to achieve a better balance between work, family, and personal life. My boss told me in a recent performance review that he has no negative feedback for me at all but if he has to pick one, it would be that I’d need to maintain a better work-life balance as I tend to be an incorrigible workaholic, and the pandemic has kind of amplified that trait. I recognise that is not a healthy example for myself, my family nor my team, and this is something I am working on. For instance, I have tried to not check my emails or work during the weekends, and take time out to do things I really enjoy like drawing and gaming together with my family.

Now, I just want to touch on something you mentioned during our correspondence ahead of this feature interview: you’re a working mother with two children, a gamer in a previous life, and I understand that you like to draw in your spare time to destress? Could you tell us a little about that? How did you start and where can we see your work?

As mentioned, I have always had a creative streak and loved drawing and doodling since I was young. However, I never had the chance to pursue my passion for art further because you know, real life gets in the way. I picked it back up again in recent years because my daughter, who like me, has developed a real passion for art. Hence I used drawing as a reason for us to bond and spend time together. Recently we even went for a manga drawing workshop together – and we loved it!

You can check out my humble works on Instagram @sheerdoodles.

I also used to be quite an avid gamer before I got married – and at one time I was really into the MMORPG game World of Warcraft. I was literally “going on dates” with my husband (then boyfriend) – questing and raiding in the virtual gaming world every weekend. I stopped playing when I became a mom (time is such a luxury I don’t have!) and got back into playing casually only recently due to the lockdown. 

Any advice you’d give to aspiring or upcoming marketers? 

For a start, I would perhaps encourage aspiring marketers to keep pace with the trends not just within the marketing function, but also the industry that you work in. Understand your skills gaps in the next normal and take initiative to find out how you can upskill to close that gap. It’s also important to take an outside-in approach and network with your peers to find out where they are at and how they got there. It could help you map your career path. 

However, when I am looking to hire, I tend to look out for talent with a good set of soft skills. I am a strong believer that technical skills can always be taught, but soft skills – or essential personality traits as some might call them – have to be developed. For many people, you either have it or you don’t.

Examples of soft skills that many CMOs like myself look for in marketers would include having a high level of emotional quotient, adaptability, drive, an open and positive mindset, as well as strong work ethics and commercial acumen. Marketers are also increasingly expected to be a collaborative team player, great communicator and champion for change.

Some key advice for aspiring or upcoming marketers:

  • Continuous learning is key. Cultivate an insatiable appetite for knowledge and understanding in the disciplines or areas that are beyond your current role. Learn from the best outside of your function or industry to gain a new perspective on your work.
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment. You won’t know if an idea will be a success unless you move it to reality. Be prepared to fail and try again.
  • Always strive to add value and position yourself as a business partner. If you act like an order taker, you will be treated as one. Integrate yourself into the heart of the business and identify challenges/issues you can solve as a marketer.

Thank you, Rena, for sharing your experiences with us. How can people connect with you if they’d like to know more about you?

LinkedIn would be the best place as everything you want to know about me is right on my profile page:

If you’re wondering, sheerlock is my avatar’s name in World of Warcraft when I was playing a warlock. 🙂

The Marketing Expert Series features marketing and communications experts from across every industry. Every month, 2Stallions will showcase the stories and expertise of marketing experts from around the world, join us as we explore how marketers navigate the challenges of the regions and industries they work in. If you’d like to be featured in a next issue of the Marketing Expert Series. Please reach out to us via email.

If you are interested in building your own company’s digital advertising, get in touch with us today, and find out how you can optimize your digital marketing strategies.

A lot of digital marketers seem to find their way into their specialties because of some discovered passion for the field, either early on in their education or later in their careers. As we’ve seen throughout the Marketing Expert Series so far, digital marketers come in all shapes, sizes, and many different backgrounds. It takes all kinds of experiences and approaches to make a difference in the world of digital these days, and it’s that variety and passion for innovation that makes digital marketers such fascinating individuals.

To emphasize that very point and joining us for this week’s issue of the Marketing Expert Series, is Shun Di Lim, Content Manager for Hewlett Packard Asia Pacific. Join us as Shun Di talks about how her digital marketer’s journey came when someone took a leap of faith, and take a peek into the world of digital marketing for a high-flying brand like HP.

Hi, Shun Di! I’m very excited to have you join us for this issue of the Marketing Expert Series! Thank you! Let’s get warmed up. Can you tell us a bit about who you are and how you got to where you are now? 

Having been an avid gamer since young, an IT degree was a natural choice for me to pursue; I was fantasizing about a career in the gaming industry! In my final semester at Monash University, I met my first boss, Datuk Tim Garland, Director of TBWA Malaysia. Datuk Tim was on the judging panel for a business case presentation competition in which I took second place. That’s when I took a leap of faith into the world of advertising and marketing for the next 5 years. 

Currently, I am with Hewlett Packard (HP) as a Content Manager, Asia Pacific based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

You’ve been in and around the world of digital for many years – really since the start of your career. What drew you to this line of work? 

I was extremely fortunate to have a boss who took a chance on me. He believed in me and gave me freedom and opportunity to pitch ideas. He let me dabble in digital marketing on my own, strategising, branding, and analytics for various clients. To upskill my knowledge, I completed Facebook and Google certifications. 

After three and a half years with TBWA, I was head-hunted to join other agencies, where I was presented with opportunities to gain an understanding of a holistic approach to digital marketing, adding performance marketing to my portfolio. 

Clearly, you have a passion for digital – marketing, websites, performance, advertising – you have experienced the full scope of what the digital world has to offer. Is there any facet you are more passionate about over others?

This is a hard question to answer! Can I say all of them? 

Having experienced multiple facets of digital marketing, I am able to understand the intricacies and insights that connect one facet to another, resulting in a more polished outcome.

With the ever changing and evolving world of technology and social media, one has to be constantly kept abreast of the latest, especially with performance marketing and SEO, to get the best bang-for-buck or pivot to ensure impactful campaigns.

Currently, you are the Content Manager, Asia Pacific at HP. What is it like to manage content for such a widely recognized brand?

I joined HP at a very exciting time, growing our online store – HP Store – and establishing our brand throughout Asia. My role is to develop content strategies with a team of designers, writers, and developers, aimed at creating user-friendly gateways to our online stores. 

I really enjoy the process of analysing competitor positioning and laying out content on a landing page to increase traffic and average time on site. The most satisfying part is when all our hard work is rewarded through conversions for the store. 

I like the challenge in producing positive results for an already recognised brand, and strategising for multiple customer segments.

You landed this role at HP in 2020, when COVID-19 interfered with many lives and companies. What is it like, to enter a brand new job during a pandemic? 

I was enjoying my stint as a Digital Marketing and Performance Manager with a Muslim travel and tours agency for a year when COVID-19 hit and I lost my job. 

Fortunately, digital marketing is even more relevant during the pandemic and I am  grateful to have landed a job with HP in a short span of time. Like a duck to water, I quickly eased into the Content Manager role and am currently enjoying both job satisfaction and the great company culture. 

Do you have any suggestions or advice for other job seekers who might be having a hard time finding employment during these uncertain times?

Stay hungry and curious. Every interview is an opportunity to learn how to sell yourself, your experience to a prospective employer. Upskill yourself and get certified. Learn something outside your job scope, outside your comfort zone.

Lastly, always remember: When one door closes, another opens. 

Has COVID-19 impacted your work and the strategies you’ve had to use to overcome the challenges?

The nature of my work with a global computer organisation and its ePlatform had no negative impact. The team is constantly in touch via Teams, Zoom, and email. Working from home is a plus, no need to wake up early and rush through heavy traffic to and from work.

Are there any digital trends that have come out during the pandemic that you think we need to think about for the future?

Companies could get used to the idea of a remote workforce, especially those with a digital-centric business model. Good thing Zoom existed well before the pandemic, hence working from home and communication was made almost seamless. 

What about when, finally, this pandemic is over  – any big plans for you?

Travel, travel, and travel! I can’t wait to embrace the wanderlust and explore different countries and cultures. Also, to reconnect with friends socially in person.

Any advice you’d give to young and aspiring marketers or entrepreneurs? 

Advertising is a great place to build your experience but brace yourselves, working hours could be long and the work is hard. 

Always follow your heart. If you have a passion, make that your career then your job won’t feel like just a job. 

Thanks for taking part in this Series, Shun Di, and for sharing your experiences with us! How can people connect with you if they’d like to know more about you?

Hit me up at LinkedIn or by email!

The Marketing Expert Series features marketing and communications experts from across every industry. Every month, 2Stallions will showcase the stories and expertise of marketing experts from around the world, join us as we explore how marketers navigate the challenges of the regions and industries they work in. If you’d like to be featured in a next issue of the Marketing Expert Series. Please reach out to us via email.

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