Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Story of Me (VI) : Corporate Chrissy

After university, my friends and I got down to seriously avoiding responsibility. We were young, a little reckless, feeling grownup and lived a brief life of excess until one of us ended up in rehab.

It was a wake-up call and forced us to take control of this next stage in our lives. Again, decisions to be made. Barrister or solicitor? LPC or the Bar? Pupillage or articles?

I opted for none of the above.

Law school was fun because things made sense. It was so rational, so analytical. Poking holes in arguments is so much FUN (my boyfriend hates it)! But it wasn't something I could commit my life too. I acknowledged pretty early on that my lack of interest would have produced a very mediocre lawyer.

I ended up in an ad agency as an account executive. And did pretty well for myself because I loved it. I loved the creativity, the consumer insights, the hands-on production, the design. The cleverness of it all. I loved how it was all about forging new paths, new ideas, doing things that haven't been done before.

I loved the learning, it kept me so motivated and interested, and the end of every job well done was so gratifying! Watching the ads on TV or in print, watching the reactions of people who saw them, winning awards....

I started in 1999 with no advertising/marketing experience whatsoever as an Account Executive (basically a glorified personal assistant) on the princely sum of S$1800/mth (approx US$1000 at today's rates). By 2004, I was an account director looking after blue chip brands like Coca-Cola and Johnson & Johnson for Asia Pacific on a six-figure annual salary.

I was privileged to work under some amazing bosses from whom I learnt all my good habits - Kerry & Laurent, Matt, Joff & Caroline* have been the most amazing role models. But I also did well for myself because I was passionate, I worked hard and I genuinely cared about the job, the client, the process. I've been in countless fights with colleagues, proper screaming rages, because the job matters so much.

Moral of the story: You have to give a shit
Giving a Shit => Passion => Commitment => Working Hard => Becoming a Pro
And I'm not talking about being a professional like a lawyer or a doctor (ie by my parent's definitions!)

In The War of Art, Steven Pressfield distinguises the professional from the amateur best:

"The amateur plays for fun. The professional plays for keeps.
To the amateur, the game is his avocation. To a pro it's his vocation.
That amateur plays part-time, the professional full-time.
The amateur is a weekend warrior. The professional is there seven days a week."

Striking it out on your own is a scary road. There will be many, many challenges. If you're not a professional you may never make it. Even if you do, you'll never be as good as the pro next to you. And to turn into a pro, you need to really care. Otherwise you'll just be faking it.

There are countless success stories of entrepreneurs who have 'made it' without having worked a day in their lives for anyone else. They pride themselves on never selling out to the corporate beast. Good for them.

But for me, my years as Corporate Chrissy taught me how to be a pro.

*Kerry Fitzgerald & Laurent Garnier, my account manager & director first at APL, then at Batey Ads for the Mercedes-Benz account from 1999-2001
Matt Bartelsian, my group account director at Lowe Singapore on the Zuji account from 2000-2001
Joff Carter, my CEO at Quickcut from 2002-2004
Caroline Slocombe, my regional business director at Lowe Asia-Pacific for BPW & J&J from 2004-2006

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