Aw Mei Shan

Good luck comes only to those who are well-prepared. If you’re not ready, opportunities will just pass you by.
Discover SIM GE Mei Shan hopes to move her career into a leadership role “IF I DIDN’T do well last month, I can’t sleep, but keep thinking how to make up this month. If I have done well this month, I can’t rest too because I may not do well next month.” So says Aw Mei Shan, 28, a highly-driven individual in both her studies and work. In school, Mei Shan was the top student in her SIM-RMIT University’s Bachelor of Business (Marketing) cohort, graduating in 2008. At work, she handles sales at MediaCorp, working with clients in the travel industry, learning new things and impressing her clients with her knowledge of marketing principles and practices. The challenge for her as Senior Account Manager is to build a relationship with the clients by helping them not just in their marketing but also in their television production, radio commercials and other advertising solutions. Most of these are small and mid-sized firms who do not need specialised staff to handle marketing operation, so she has to pitch in with advice on the nitty-gritty details of their business. This develops “kumcheng”, she says, an important Hokkien business term for relationship underpinned by trust. “I also have to manage my bosses’ expectations,” says Mei Shan. “If, for instance, I could not hit the previous month’s target, I have to assure them that at least I’m meeting my daily quota now and that I am confident in meeting my long-term targets.” Managing expectations Meeting expectations at both ends of the work spectrum takes its toll. “In sales, stress builds up because I’m assessed every month based on hard figures. I can’t be complacent even when I’m doing well.” The question is how Mei Shan handles the stress accumulated during work? One answer is to go punch and kick somebody or something, as in the sport of kick-boxing, or to run and swim or simply dance and do aerobics. “I signed up for a gym membership and three times a week, I’m practising these rigorous exercises. I’m a workaholic but when I work too much, my mind needs to be refreshed with physical activity.” Do today what you could put off to tomorrow Her driven work attitude was already evident in her student days. “RMIT’s study format included a lot of projects. I was particularly proud of one where I had to stand in front of over a hundred other students to present a marketing distribution strategy of an actual Australian and New Zealand brand.” The emphasis on project work helped her develop “people” skills since she had to work in a group, and negotiate with team members on who was to do what. Her academic success was due to consistent hard work, which applies well to her work. “To be a top student, you must study consistently all the time, and not just before exams. You cannot procrastinate. After a lecture, you must follow-up immediately with further reading and revision on your own. I revised my lessons every night, from 8 to 10pm. “The same don’t procrastinate principle applies to my sales work. After meeting a client or a prospect, I follow-up straightaway with an e-mail and calls to meet up again. “Preparation is the secret of success. Good luck comes only to those who are well-prepared. If you’re not ready, opportunities will just pass you by,” she adds. Independent living Mei Shan once worked overseas as a student intern for three months in 2008. The place was Seaworld’s Aquatica theme park in Orlando, Florida, that opened earlier that year. “No, I didn’t get to feed killer whales or dolphins. I was handling ticketing and checking bags. What I learnt from that experience was to budget my expenditure carefully since I was paid only US$8 an hour. It was an eye-opener for Mei Shan to serve American customers in the theme park. They were more vocal than many Asians in expressing their appreciation for good service. “You feel that your services were being appreciated. It was great to see CEOs and ordinary folks enjoying themselves. The park brought families together, including those with handicapped children. “I did not know what I wanted in my life before my stint in the US. When I was there, I was living my own life and making my decisions away from my parents. I had to cook, wash my own clothes and shop for groceries. “Living away from home has made me learn more about myself. I made decisions about what I really like to eat and should I go to a party or work overtime. I broke the physical reliance on my mother. When I was at home, Mom cooked for me and washed my clothes. Sometimes she even tidied my room when it was messy!” Mom’s her hero As for Mom cooking, washing and tidying her room, Mei Shan reveals her mother has done far more. “When I was in Secondary school, my father had a stroke and was unable to work. So Mom had to support me financially all through to university. “She is strong in spirit and when the going was tough, she did not give up. She used all her savings to further my studies. Mom is really my hero!” Long-term ambition “I’ve been in sales for six years. Despite the stress, I still want to be in this profession for the next 3-5 years. It is different from a 9-to-5 office job such as marketing. Sales is challenging and I hope to move up into a leadership role when I can mentor somebody,” Mei Shan adds - Posted online July 2014, published in VIBES magazine, August 2014