Meet Daniel Lee, 25, and Nicole Ng, 23, respectively a recent graduate of and an undergrad from SMU's Lee Kong Chian School of Business. Daniel and Nicole are also the creators of MARKON, an e-magazine that aims to equip aspiring marketers—including their juniors at the Singapore Management University—with the requisite skills and knowledge for careers in marketing and communications. ANDREA TONG catches up with the duo to find out more.
What drove you to create MARKON?
Daniel: The idea came about after attending an event by the SMU Marketing Society (aka SMarketing, a co-curricular activity). During a conversation with Cheryl Tan and Lydia Lim, the co-panellists and fellow students from the class of 2020, they mentioned the thought of starting their own blog about marketing as a way to share experiences with juniors at SMU. This sparked the idea to create a magazine about marketing with Nicole. The initial idea was something more elaborate, but I eventually decided to make MARKON a sort of a graduating project in which I could involve other final-year students who are passionate about marketing or interested in writing something for their juniors.
Daniel (second from left) and Nicole (extreme right) with co-panellists Cheryl Tan (third from the left) and Lydia Lim (second from the right) at SMarketing’s Intern Insights 2020: Networking Night.
Nicole: MARKON emerged from a simple question I posed to friends who've graduated and have been working for around two years: "What's something you wish you'd known when you were undergrads?" They usually said that they wished they'd known more about the roles or industries they were joining because once they were in it, it's harder to switch jobs or sectors. Around the same time, Daniel reached out to me about his project to create a marketing-type publication, and the rest is history!
What are some highlights and lowlights of your journey, and looking back, what have you learned from each experience?
Daniel: For me, the only lowlight was when our Google script stopped working because we did not realise that there was a limit of 100 emails in 24 hours. We were not earning any money from MARKON so we just used every free resource at hand. But through that experience, we learned to adapt quickly to situations, and even gained some knowledge in coding!
It was a highlight for me when reading through the articles that our batchmates wrote. I don't know all our writers personally, but I could feel their passion through their content. Working with Nicole was another highlight. Prior to MARKON, we'd never collaborated on any project, and were not even close before we connected at the SMarketing event. When I told her about the idea, she offered her help and frankly speaking, I wasn't sure how she could help me as I did not really know her well then. However, when our final exams were over and as she started working on MARKON, she took the idea to a whole new level of professional.
Nicole (left) and Daniel (right).
Nicole: Highlights are whenever we receive sincere and positive feedback. It's especially amazing when people who aren't directly involved in MARKON share it with their community because they really believe the magazine holds good and beneficial content! Another favourite highlight was expanding our reach beyond undergraduates to capture the interest of over 160 pre-tertiary students (JC/ITE/Poly/NSFs). It was heartening to know that this younger audience is already starting to think of what they want to do in the future, and are interested in our content.
For lowlights, MARKON has had its share of sceptics. When we started out, it was difficult to convince bigger student clubs to help spread the word because we have no explicit link with any organisations or CCAs. Though our e-magazine was created with good intentions, it was challenging to promote to the people who could potentially benefit from it. However, we were thankful that some student clubs did recognise the value in MARKON, and supported us.
When was the first time you realised you were making an impact?
Daniel: It was when our juniors gave us the first few rounds of feedback about MARKON. It was so encouraging to read their detailed comments, and I was glad that what we were doing created value for even our earliest readers.
Nicole: We have had mutual acquaintances who ask us, “Where were you when I needed you two years ago?” That helps us know that the e-magazine has been beneficial. These days, I also receive feedback from working professionals—some who've been in professional marketing roles for years—who say they've learned a thing or two from reading MARKON. When we launched this magazine in January 2020, we'd hoped to inspire at least one person, but seven months on, we've actually surpassed our goal 100 times over!
We do also receive email replies thanking us for the e-magazine. One of the more memorable comments was about how we look more legitimate than veteran media companies!
Another fun fact: we somehow found ourselves on a subreddit channel! One of MARKON's readers liked our content so much they decided to share it there. As the channel is open to all students (from Secondary through University), it contributed over 50 per cent of our usual traffic in the first week alone.
To wrap up, what advice do you have for aspiring marketers, or younger people in general?
Daniel: Stay connected and remain curious. Stay connected because your connections are resources to help you learn and grow. Remain curious because it pays to broaden your perspectives—not just for your career's sake, but also for life in general.
Also, don't feel pressured to have your whole life set out ahead of time. Many of us are still unsure about the career we wish to pursue—at least I still am. Like Gary Vaynerchuk, I'm a strong proponent for enjoying the process rather than focusing solely on the outcome. Having such a mindset gives us more room to grow as a person. Finally, set personal goals—not goals that belong to others—and embrace the pain and uncertainty, knowing that if you stay true to yourself, one day, you will succeed in your own way.
Nicole: Exactly. Never feel like you need to have your life "figured out". Honestly, I do not think most of our peers even have their lives "figured out". Rather, enjoy the journey. If you're an undergrad, embrace university life instead of being fixated on Grade Point Averages. I'm a fine example with my <3.2 cumulative GPA. Daniel and I started MARKON with five articles aimed at inspiring our juniors with the message that there is no fixed path to "success". Instead, it is more important to recognise that you can be your own obstacle if you're not determined enough! Another piece of advice: networking is essential. In almost all jobs across all sectors, it helps to know the right people, and to put yourself in the middle of the action. Networking regularly keeps you up to date with current happenings, builds connections, and opens the doors to future opportunities.
Finally, marketing is fun! So are we, and so is learning! To capture the spirit of fun, our e-magazine is presented more casually because we understand that many things at the university-level or beyond can appear daunting or overwhelming. By removing the "seriousness" from marketing, we want to show how diverse this playing field is!
All photos courtesy of Daniel Lee and Nicole Ng. Download your free copy of the MARKON e-magazine here.
|Andrea Tong is a 2020 Summer Associate (Marketing & Communications) at the Lien Centre for Social Innovation. Currently a final-year undergraduate at the Singapore Management University’s Lee Kong Chian School of Business, where she majors in Marketing, she is passionate about the arts and sustainability. In her free time, Andrea enjoys travelling, drawing and working out. She can be reached at email@example.com|