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Beyond a Story - Shannen Ho: Digital Marketing is Life

“Winter always turns to spring 冬必为春.” -Nichiren Daishonin

This was first written and shared on Blogger - 3 May 2020. Sharing it here on my website, one year later.

As many of you are already aware, I have always enjoyed listening to stories and penning down moments. Since I embarked on my Journalist career a few years ago, I have been wanting to keep a collection of feature stories of my loved ones. It was after much deliberation, I finally had time to think through on how I wish to start this project. And the very first person, also a very important person whom I have decided to kick start this series with, is to feature my dearest sister Stephanie Ow Jia Min. I first shared the idea of featuring Stephanie in my blog on 21 June 2019. Took me exactly 9 month to finish and publish that post and much coincidence - Stephanie graduated last year, today! :) Click to read about her story here: Beyond a Story #1 - Stephanie Ow: Music Is My Vision And yes, I am very glad it didn't take me as long to complete this second one, for my inspiring colleague Shannen, whom I met last year at my new work place. The entire thought process, crafting and execution of the post took about 2 months, or probably slightly lesser. So here we go! Beyond a Story #2 - Shannen Ho: Digital Marketing is Life

"Hi I am Shannen, and the digital world is my reality."

Picture taken on 16 March 2020,

while we were preparing for one of our most challenging yet enjoyable projects.

I first met Shannen in May 2019, after I left my Journalist career, in search of growth, and probably wanting to realise a dream - pursue (yet another) passion as career. As colleagues in the same marketing department, we are similar in many ways, yet sometimes different in our thought processes and ideas.

We fight battles together, many battles. Honestly, I am very thankful that we are both in the same department, looking out for each other and always striving to better ourselves, grow stronger and make a positive difference in life.

Shannen is somewhat like an older sister to me; we work hard and have fun, give each other honest, yet critical comments for improvement, (sometimes) annoy one other, but we share many learning moments, together.

Picture taken on 28 September 2019,

while Shannen was focused at work and I kinda forced her to smile. :P

(Yes, annoying colleague alert)

Shannen is sincere - she puts in effort to maintain relationships, and she is reliable and trusty - she makes sure she completes her tasks to the best of her ability.

In our daily conversation, she is a confident, wise and mature young lady. To be honest, somehow I will always learn a pointer or two from her, whenever she shares. It's these little moments which I'd term them - "Shannen's wise words".

"I regard Dr. Daisaku Ikeda as my mentor in life and as a Buddhist, I am always inspired by the wisdom in his writings. He has shared a lot of encouragement about work, and one of them is this:

“...the most important thing is to first become an indispensable person wherever you are. Instead of moaning over the fact that a job is different from what you'd like to be doing, he said, become a first-class individual at that job. This will open the path leading to the next phase in your life, during which you should also continue doing your best. Such continuous efforts will absolutely land you a job that you like, one that supports your life, and allows you to also contribute to society.

And then, when you look back later, you will be able to see all of your past efforts have become precious assets in your ideal field. You will realize that none of your efforts and hardships have been wasted.

A tree doesn't grow strong and tall within one or two days. In the same way, a successful person doesn't get to where they are in only one or two years. This applies to everything.”

Shannen and I have had similar career background before we met, given that she was from a fast-paced, dynamic advertising firm previously. However, she did not started off wanting to do advertising and even marketing.

Picture taken on 25 October 2019,

while Shannen was trying out nice shots with the DSLR.

"No one in their younger years (primary and secondary school) would know enough about advertising to proclaim that they aspire to be in the industry. When I was 18 years old, I was sure that I would either pursue journalism or music, but life had its way of unfolding in an unexpected manner, for I ended up pursuing a degree in social sciences at Singapore Management University."

Shannen was eager to learn and excel in her craft. In her second year of studies, she wanted to take double majors; she was sure that she wanted sociology for her first major, but was initially undecided on the second.

"I consulted my sociology professor, Prof Chung Wai-Keung about it, and he suggested marketing as my second major. He saw sociology and marketing as complementary to one another as market trends are also heavily reliant on societal trends, norms and cultures, beyond just the psychology of consumer behaviour."

Prior to that consultation, she was actually unknowingly working on marketing and advertising related matters. Perhaps this was why she wasn’t adverse to the option of dabbling in marketing, and found it a suitable choice.

At 17-year-old, Shannen was appointed Creative Director of Temasek Junior College Symphonic Band, in addition to her role as the section leader of the trombone section. She was in charge of producing concert collateral. Even after graduation, she was tasked to become a project officer working on their biannual Mardi Gras, a mega arts festival that required her to do branding, website, programme booklets and ticket design etc.

In University, Shannen was the marketing director of her arts camp, which was attended by many. She set the creative direction for the camp photoshoot, did up a website on her own and produced other collateral, such as shirts and notebooks.

Picture taken 18 February 2020,

while Shannen was deep in thoughts about our upcoming projects.

Fast forward to post - graduation, she started her first full-time job in a small non-profit organisation, excited to grow in her marketing role. She later left the company as she was seeking more growth. Then, an opportunity came for her to explore advertising, and she took on this recommendation by her friend.

"When I first started my content specialist role, I was really anti-social, with regards to the frequency in which I used social media platforms. I am not the kind of person whom you would regard as trendy, fashionable or hip, and I am also one of the slower ones to know about updates or world news. Everything was so fast-paced, ever-changing and time is of essence."

It was not an easy route for her. Often, when it came to ideation for campaigns, she found herself awestruck by the creativity and feasibility of the ideas that her colleagues could think of.

"It was a dazzling world but it also left me feeling insecure at the beginning, and I often doubted my own ability to keep up with the pace. However, as time went by, I found myself analysing data with greater ease, churning out ideas more naturally and within a shorter period of time. Receiving positive feedback about the work that has been done, no matter if it is by the public or by my boss, was gratifying. I was surprised at how analytical advertising can be."

To Shannen, true creativity and successful advertising are often backed up by powerful insights and research, and that satisfied her analytical/research based side and her creative side.

"As you can tell from my background, digital marketing was not my original aspiration. Yet to say that I came into this industry by accident is to think lightly of the efforts I have made over the years, the challenges I overcame to be where I am today. I followed this guidance since I graduated, striving to be an indispensable person wherever I am."

Currently, she works in the arts scene as a digital marketer, for Singapore Chinese Orchestra, Singapore’s only professional national Chinese orchestra. Equipped with passion for music and love for digital marketing, this year marks Shannen's second year of growth and pursuit of excellence in her career.

"My role may be replaceable, but the impact I leave on others through my role is something that I can strive to be indispensable. And it is in always doing my best that I have dared to pick up many new skills, with the more recent ones being photography and videography. "

Picture taken on 16 March 2020,

while we were preparing for one of our most challenging yet enjoyable projects.

"Personally, I feel that embracing digital platforms is to embrace the reality of the world that we live in. I know that some people think that the virtual world is virtual for a reason, but in so many ways, the digital world has facilitated the physical world that we live in. Buying and selling things, exchanging conversations and ideas, sharing information, advocating causes and providing individual space for creativity - all these get shaken in the current COVID-19 outbreak where social distancing is necessary to contain the virus. We are able to resume some normalcy at a time like this, all thanks to digital technology that makes possible for digital concerts, livestreaming, audience engagement to take place."

During this COVID-19 outbreak, there seems to be more that Shannen can offer as an individual. As a student, Shannen formally learned the piano and trombone. She also sings and play the ukulele and guitar.

Since young, Shannen admired her mother's singing and musicality, and she saw her interest, thus signed her up for piano classes when she was just five-and-a-half years old. She enjoyed sight reading and learning new pieces, and by Primary 6, she was already at piano grade 7. Scoring distinction and attaining full marks for aural and sightreading grade 8 in Secondary 3 piqued her interest to further pursue music, thus she took Music as O and A level subjects under the Music Elective Programme.

"I think with an understanding of digital marketing, there is a lot that we can do to raise awareness, spread positivity and create discussions online. On a personal level, I have thought of doing adhoc online jamming sessions, work on writing prompts or even produce documentaries discussing about societal issues (to once again satisfy the sociology major in me). I don’t think all of them will be done during this COVID-19 outbreak because I don’t wish for it to last so long, but they are in my plans."

As she continue to grow stronger and better in her life, Shannen has her list of goals which she hopes to achieve in future, 5 years or even 10 years down the road.

"I wish to travel to many countries, to have my own house and family, own a cat, and perhaps be a freelancer or even setting up my own business. I also wish to have my own thriving garden, because I haven’t been great at taking care of plants."

Picture taken 9 December 2019,

while we went to explore the Singapore Bicentennial Exhibition with our colleagues.

And as we conclude this article, Shannen shared that she likes this simple yet profound quote by the 13th century Buddhist monk Nichiren Daishonin: “Winter always turns to spring 冬必为春.”

"Even though we may face difficulties in life, we must persevere all the way until spring comes. It is also in the harshest of winter that the flowers will bloom most radiantly during springtime. All our struggles are not wasted, and they become life’s treasures in making us stronger, better and achieving victories in our lives."

-- On a side note, May is Shannen's birthday month. I wrote this article and specially chose all these photos which I have taken for her over the year, as her birthday gift. Although we can't celebrate together for now, but here's one of your present! Thank you for being an inspiration, Happy Birthday Shannen! :)

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