Being humble and having desire can get you a long way in career. It is the secret of success for Lynn Cheng (MSc in Marketing 2016), who demonstrates that with a little drive, it is possible to move from a traditional industry like FMCG into the cutting edge tech scene. Change can be a good thing, as long as you frame your mental attitude in the right way and step out of your comfort zone.
Originally from a journalism background, Lynn quickly fell out of love with the subject she had studied for her bachelor’s degree and first master’s degree, having finished several internships in the media industry in mainland China. “Being a journalist, our duty is to reveal the truth. Most of the time we played the role as an observer. We wrote stories of others, but I could hardly find fulfillment from it. I would be more fascinated by the kind of job that is more tangible, those that could truly create something, and make things happen,” she says.
One day she happened to be on a company visit to Coca-Cola. “Because of that, I started to do some studies about this industry, and was truly touched by the FMCG giant Procter & Gamble (P&G)’s brand promise ─ Touching Lives, Improving Life, which strongly resonated with my personal mission,” Lynn says. From that moment, a spark had been lit and there was no stopping Lynn from moving into the world of marketing.
She started her FMCG journey by gaining experience at Reckitt Benckiser, a global consumer health, hygiene and home product company, for its Veet brand in Beijing, and Mars Wrigley Confectionery in Guangzhou with Doublemint. “I still remember my first assignment after joining Mars Wrigley was to generate a B2B strategy. We had to convince our key account partners to offer us more display space, a resource that is very scarce in stores, and alleviate the pain point that the product was hardly accessible by customers. It was my first time ever to step into B2B marketing territory, and I was so happy that my proposal was not only accepted by our partners but also helped them lift the category business by more than 70 percent in test stores,” she says.
While Lynn was satisfied by her progress in FMCG, she felt that the trend of “Internet+” might be too big a challenge for the industry to handle. “I could strongly feel the mechanism in FMCG industry was relatively slow to catch up with all the new opportunities, in terms of its openness to try out new things, and the agility to react to the changes. More importantly, I foresaw the importance of big data in reigniting the business. Unfortunately, we knew nothing about it, not to mention how to use it, especially in marketing and business management. Besides, I could hardly grasp the knowledge and experience in this industry and I needed a big change. That is why I decide to go back to the campus for further studies, and will be able to utilise what I have learned in the industry later,” she says.
We learned the mindset of discovering business opportunities and using data to analyse potential issues, verify hypotheses and draw valuable suggestions. — Ms. Lynn Cheng
CUHK Business School as the Catalyst of Change
Lynn decided the time was ripe to change by pursuing a master’s degree in marketing. The one-year study journey at CUHK Business School’s MSc in Marketing Programme was an eye-opening experience. “It was such a multi-cultural and vibrant environment, which is a very different experience to me compared to the one in China. Yet, it is still very close to the mainland market, so I could fully understand what was going on there. By that time, CUHK Business School was the first institution that offered a programme covering big data marketing in Hong Kong, and was one of the best in terms of research and academic collaboration among other institutions in the territory,” says Lynn. Some of her achievements included being awarded in the Dean’s List and receiving the Academic Performance Award (Top 3 percent), along with achieving top scorer with the highest GPA in her class.
But aside from academic achievement, Lynn was able to cherish something much more, that of discovering leading edge opinions in big data marketing, and learning how to dig out deep insights from data and technical and modelling skills. “We learned the mindset of discovering business opportunities and using data to analyse potential issues, verify the hypotheses and draw valuable suggestions. This ability can be applied in many aspects. It’s more like a soft skill and very competitive as traditional marketers seldom have such a mindset,” Lynn says.
Don’t Be Scared to Walk the Path Unknown
Graduating in 2016, Lynn took the bull by horns and entered unknown territory, this time with Tencent in Shenzhen. She joined the company as a brand manager for QQ Browser and has become Senior Brand Manager for the product in China since last year, working on strategic planning and core brand building projects. “As a product-driven company, Tencent positions every other function to support the product team, including marketing. So the brand team steps back as a supporting function from a company standpoint but in terms of soft skills, they all require marketers to have leadership, to be driven and curious,” says Lynn.
Success has followed Lynn along the way. She recently received awards including the Corporate Vice President Award (top 1 percent) and Breakthrough Award (top 5 percent) with Tencent for developing a brand repositioning strategy and implementing the biggest campaign of the year, in the process outperforming KPI by 40 percent more users and historical high daily active users.
What are the philosophies and attitudes that Lynn holds dear? She says it is crucial to always be a great learner at every stage of your career. “Technology will always be evolving. My advice is to be curious and agile to the changes. Understand the tech and always think about how they can be applied to our own territory and get prepared accordingly. Besides that, I prefer immersing myself in Coursera, an online learning platform, and I am recently learning something about statistics and analytics,” she says.
The marketplace is ever evolving. My advice is to be curious and agile to the changes. — Ms. Lynn Cheng
Know Your Goals and Strive Towards Them
Lynn’s career has been driven by strong fundamentals, of which she highlights three critical aspects. Firstly, she believes it is important to set your own priorities. “I’m not trying to do everything perfect. Most of the time, I choose those which can create the biggest impact, fascinate me the most or create something new,” Lynn says. Secondly, embrace ambiguity. “At school, things we are dealing with have relatively low uncertainty. However, it could be very different at the workplace, especially when you are doing something no one have done before,” says Lynn. Finally, it is crucial to reach out and integrate resources that one can leverage. “It can be someone more senior than me, my peers and subordinates, or external resources.
A cat lover, Lynn has two felines at home, but does not share the animal’s typically introverted characteristics. “I love working with a group of people instead of working in solitude as I feel more energised. It makes me eager to learn new things and dare to try,” she says.