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A Day in the Life: Digital Strategist

After the last interview with Peace Corps alum Melanie, American expat Edna contacted me about her jobs overseas, including this job as a digital strategist in Singapore, as well as her current gig as a private tutor in Paris. I’m excited to present a totally different kind of interview, one most people would see as a “real” job since it doesn’t include two years of volunteering, but this is proof that the corporate environment can be a good thing!

  • Name: Edna Zhou
  • Location: Currently, Paris, France
  • Job Title: Digital Strategist in Singapore

How did you find out about this position in Singapore? Craigslist, funny enough. I’d tried all the usual job databases, but the job market in Singapore is especially tough for foreigners who have no experience — almost every expat there is brought in by their company, and the rest of the job opportunities go to Singaporeans, Malaysians, or PR (Permanent Residents). It’s even openly written on job listings: “Singaporean or PR only”. So after a few weeks of fruitless job hunting, I decided to turn to Craigslist — and it worked.

What made you want to apply? The position sounded right up my alley — despite the fancy title it was basically a social media manager, meaning I’d spend all day working on facebook, twitter, foursquare, etc. I’d been highly involved in social media for years; I even wrote my senior thesis on Twitter. It seemed a perfect fit. (Also, at this point I’d been in Singapore a month without a job — I was getting desperate!)

Were you given options on where to work? How did you decide on Singapore? No, because the job was with a Singaporean production studio, and their only office was obviously in town — in a great location actually, which only helped my decision to accept the job (I hate commuting). As for Singapore itself, I’d moved there on a whim after graduation because a.) I knew I didn’t want to stay in the US, and b.) I knew I couldn’t go back to my expat life in China; it was too easy and I’d end up stuck in the China Bubble at only 21. I wanted to try something different.

Why is social media marketing a good postgraduate option? People of our generation grew up with social media. We’re used to putting out a high volume of information online; we also know what it takes to reach others similar to ourselves. For companies especially looking to reach a younger crowd, it’s the perfect situation for both the fresh grad and the company.

What was your daily routine as a digital strategist like? Each day I’d be focusing on a different project, but they were all centered around two things: working with sponsors, and driving viewers to our show.

In the mornings I’d schedule updates for our show’s twitter and facebook pages via Hootsuite (I pretty much lived in Hootsuite during this job) and monitor the traffic to our website and various social media networks. Because I came on the show after post-production I didn’t have to worry about procuring sponsors with the marketing department, but it was my job to place sponsors’ names into as much web content as possible; then after the season was over I combined everything into a report for each individual sponsor. While the show was on the air, I would go over each week’s episode and prepare the social media centered around that particular episode’s theme or sponsor. I even got to develop a couple contests with some big-name brands — for instance, I now know how much work goes into creating a foursquare badge.

Who is working as a digital strategist NOT suited for? It can be a very superficial world, marketing — depending on your company, your job every day could basically be to be a corporate mouthpiece, trying to convince consumers to watch this or buy that. If you don’t find that fulfilling (which I didn’t, which is why I quit despite being offered to stay another season) — then it isn’t for you.

What have you learned from being a digital strategist? For one, I learned so much about the worlds of marketing (see above) and public relations. I never knew how much work goes into promoting a TV show — or any product, from movies to makeup to hotels. It’s made me realize just how much we are being advertised to 24/7; plus I’ve become very aware of any product placement, anywhere. I also learned a lot about just office SOP – from lingo, like what a WIP is; to proper phone and email etiquette after meeting with clients. Things that seem obvious now, but didn’t going in as a fresh (politics) grad.

What are the pros? Because of our sponsors, I got to attend some pretty cool events, get some swag, and hang out with models. And I get to say I created two foursquare badges!

Also, working in Singapore has its own pros: There are so many public holidays, it’s quite easy to travel away for long weekends (to Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia especially) — without having to take any days off work!

What are the cons? Demanding clients, long hours…but worst of all, it can feel incredibly superficial (if you’re working in certain fields). I felt like a sell-out; like my sole purpose in life was to make rich companies richer. I’ve never wanted to be that kind of person; naive as it sounds, I’ve always wanted to make a difference. And I wasn’t doing that by promoting fancy jeans or villas.

Do you need any certifications or knowledge to be a digital strategist? Most companies probably require (or would prefer) someone with a communications background, and some experience. I had no experience, but I think I made up for it with my strong online presence — one look at my social media networks or blogs would tell you I’m not new to this game. And of course, you have to show that you’re focused — when your job is to be on facebook and twitter all day, it’s incredibly easy to get distracted.

You’ve had some other quirky overseas jobs. Tell me about those. When I lived in China, I wrote for Shanghaiist (part of the popular Gothamist network); the highlight being when I got to attend and cover the opening of Shanghai’s first Apple Store — we were the first ones to post on it and I got to see my name and photos plastered all over the China/tech sites, which was a great feeling for an aspiring journalist. I was then events manager for a company that was launching a Shanghai iPhone app, which provided great insight into the fields of tech and founding a start-up in China. On the sports media side, I’ve worked for the International Sports Press Association at the 2011 Shenzhen Universiade Games, which is like the Olympics at the university level; and was on the social media team of the Perth 2011 ISAF Sailing Championships. And of course, I’m currently in Paris as a family’s private English tutor, which isn’t as quirky; but working for them a few hours a week, I actually earn enough to save money, take French classes (my reason for moving to France in the first place) and experience la vie Parisienne at the same time.

Additional advice or information? 1. Never be afraid to take a leap. I’ve always jumped headfirst into a country and worried about things like a job second – things always end up working out. 2. I never thought I’d end up in the fields I have, but they’ve ended up being a thousand times better than if I’d followed the political science path – so Never be afraid to say YES to a job. Even if you don’t think you know anything about it or if you could even do it – if you’re offered something interesting, take it! Even if you fail, you’ll have gained a lesson and an experience.

Thanks again to Edna for another awesome Day in the Life interview. It makes me want to move across the globe (again) to work as a digital strategist! I’m looking for even more people with unlikely post-grad jobs that allow them to travel or live overseas. If you qualify, send me an email!

3 Responses to A Day in the Life: Digital Strategist

  1. Cosette May 4, 2012 at 7:16 pm #

    I really enjoyed this post. I don’t call myself a “digital strategist” (though maybe I should!), but I also work in social media and community management so this was pretty cool. Thanks.

  2. Christine May 5, 2012 at 1:26 pm #

    Great interview–fun learning a bit more about Edna’s jobs around the world!

  3. Edna May 5, 2012 at 3:41 pm #

    Thanks Christine! And thanks, Caroline, for a fun interview!

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