Nicholas Chhan: When Treading the Path Less Traveled, There’s No Other Way but to Move Forward

This is part of the #CareerAdvice series – featuring successful professionals who share their advice to people who would want to take their career to the next level.

He was involved in the digital space since he was 15, being the community leader in Geocities.com (prior to the Yahoo! buyout), he then became part of the digital team at Starcom MediaVest Group in Malaysia.

Over the course of 17 years, he has failed and succeeded in various startups, which is why he advocates that anyone who tries to take the path less traveled must not think of turning back, there’s no other way but to move forward.

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Nicholas Chhan, Digital Media Director at Dentsu Singapore Pte. Ltd.

Tell us a bit about how you started and highlights of your career

I started my career very geekily in the many facets of tech – software, web, mobile, IPTV, gaming. I was then brought into the media industry in 2010 by a man who shared with me that the agency wouldn’t have hired someone like me two years ago (from the date I joined) because I didn’t have media planning background – and that was what he needed. I came in to help him grow the digital capabilities and culture of the agency, while he grew me to where I am today – the latter: invaluable.

Other highlights would be: seeing some of the people I’ve coached flying doing well and better for the industry, being given a chance to work regionally, working with extremely digitally savvy clients and colleagues, and winning digital planner of the year. All of which couldn’t have happen if no one placed their faith in me, to which I’m extremely thankful for and humbled by the fact.

If you could advise your 20-year-old self today, what would you tell him?

When you walk the path less travelled, there will be many things in life that will remind us that there is no turning back, only moving forward.

What has been the most valuable advice you’ve ever gotten when you were faced with challenges in your career?

Do not take things too hard upon yourself, and to laugh at the face of it. Challenge it.

What would you advise those who are looking to take their careers to the next level?

Digital gets more and more complicated each year, as such the level of technical skills required to tame the beast.

More so than technical skills, is the ability to translate and convey the message uncomplicated. If you’re one of the few than can deliver this while still technically sound especially in data, you’re in demand.

Learn more from Nick by connecting with him on LinkedIn.

Enjoyed this? Watch out for the next #CareerAdvice series or share your own. Connect with me on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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Mobile Payment Startup MyCheck Raises $5M From Santander’s Innoventures Fund

MyCheck MyCheck, another startup that wants to make it easy to pay your restaurant bill using your mobile phone, has closed a $5 million Series B. However, perhaps more noteworthy is the company’s new backer: the Spanish bank Santander via its recently launched Santander Innoventures Fund. Read More

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Women in Business: Lisa Hu, SVP and US Founding Member at Blippar

Lisa Hu currently oversees Blippar’s operations and partnerships in the US. Blippar is the the first mobile visual discovery platform that empowers brand and media owners to connect with their consumer in new ways, enabling interactive and/or augmented reality mobile experiences upon “blipping” any product or print. Blippar started in the UK and has since expanded on a global scale; within the first few months, Lisa and team have already secured partnerships with Anheuser Busch (Budweiser, Bud Light), Coca Cola L’Oreal (Maybelline), Hasbro, Warner Bros, Best Buy, McCormick’s, Time Inc, Estee Lauder, and other major players across different industry verticals.

Prior to Blippar, Lisa was the Director of Media Strategy at Reuters, where she identified new market and content opportunities for the Media division in efforts to drive up revenues, margins, and brand awareness. She also worked in management positions at ESPN and Amazon UK within various Strategy & Media divisions. Prior to that, Lisa was Manager of Communications & High Tech at Accenture. Lisa holds an BBA from the University of Michigan Ann Arbor and an MBA from London Business School.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I think experiencing different work environments with people of various backgrounds has helped me learn how to embrace different points of view and acquire knowledge that has proven critical for my leadership role in a fast-growing company. I’ve also had the privilege of working in six different countries since I was a teenager, including some unstable territories. This diverse cultural background has made it easier for me to take on risks, be agile, and ultimately seek out the positives in all types of situations.

How has your previous employment experience aided your position at Blippar?
Working in consulting and in large corporations has given me the ability to take on complex challenges or sets of ambiguous information, analyze them, and formalize feasible solutions. Day-to-day at Blippar and when I am being “thrown into the fire” and need to call on urgent problem-solving skills, this holistic approach has been hugely valuable in helping me to resolve all kinds of situations. Also, having experience working within a more rigid hierarchical structure and with set processes has allowed me to facilitate some scalability, as Blippar has moved from a start-up to a growth-stage company, though still maintaining our start-up spirit.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Blippar?
We’ve had many exciting milestones at Blippar, all of which tie in some way to the broader goal of activating the physical world around us, and making it digitally interactive via our mobile devices. The most recent highlight was officially announcing the next chapter of Blippar for our users – visual search. This new evolution of the company means we’ll be able to bring billions of images and products to life instantly via our proprietary image recognition technology, and truly become the first visual world browser. It was exciting to be part of an amazing team who made this accomplishment; we can’t wait to bring the capability to millions of users around the world.

I generally try to see challenges as opportunities; the main ongoing “challenge” we face is still getting more brands on board and leveraging Blippar’s unique technology in order to achieve scale. However, we are continuing to see stakeholders opening their eyes to our true value proposition, beyond first-time augmented reality initiatives, and our true partnerships are accelerating day by day.

What advice can you offer to women who want a career in the technology industry?
Don’t be intimidated by what you may hear about this industry. You’ll realize that a lot of the skills you are required to apply in this sector stem from fundamental attributes you may already possess: logical reasoning, strong communication, organization, multitasking, etc. Also, there are many different definitions and areas of technology across a wide range of verticals. Take the time to discover what you may want to focus on. For example, do you just like anything mobile regardless of the industry? Or, do you have inclination towards Finance technology? Challenging your own perceptions by learning more about the existing options will help you find your right fit.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I have to admit, I love what I do and in general I don’t see work as “work,” so I don’t necessarily find the need to separate work from, or balance it with, life. (Call me a nerd!) However, to ensure a full “shut down,” I’ll do the basic fundamental activities – run a few mornings per week, ensure 7-8 hours of sleep per night, and eat well. I love catching up with friends and family too and hold myself to proper meet-ups at least twice per week. I also try to unplug from time to time by putting my phone in Airplane Mode in order to disconnect from the network (but still have access to simpler stuff like music.)

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
In my career, I’ve observed a lack of confidence amongst many women – typically younger professionals or new hires – which can lead to some indecision or sensitivity. These women are seeing themselves as a 4 when they’re really a 9/10 when it comes to their skill, knowledge and ability levels. Obviously it’s not an overnight change, but with time, experience, and the support of colleagues or mentors, a shift in confidence can happen and can dramatically impact a person’s ability to succeed and excel.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
Speaking with more experienced women who have embraced challenges both at work and at home has helped me a lot. For some complicated situations that may take me weeks to resolve independently, my unofficial mentors, who are also my friends, can instantly recommend great advice, as they’ve been there or done that – often more than once too. Leaning on this network has helped me to expedite decisions and to make sound judgments on my career path. On that note, I also think mentoring cannot be forced or assigned, as some corporations do; the mentorship process should come naturally.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
There are many females in the medical and research sector, a field still dominated by men, whom I deeply admire. For example, the radiologists or oncologists currently performing research at NIH/NCI to find the latest cures for cancer who truly deserve recognition; the impact they make with their milestones and advancement is hugely commendable. I also definitely admire my mom, she is in her 70s and is still going strong working as a full-time accounting consultant. Almost 50 years of working non-stop in a professional capacity and at home, without ever once complaining and always doing things with a smile- now that’s phenomenal.

What do you want to see Blippar to accomplish in the next year?
Over the next year, Blippar will realize our vision of becoming the first visual world browser. I can’t wait to see our longtime mission be put into action as we “turn on” the physical touch points across our everyday surroundings; ultimately, a good portion of the world will be activated seamlessly through billions of blippable images and products. Also, through the efforts of a dedicated education team at Blippar, we seek to bring more classrooms to life – it’s amazing to see students’ reactions when they blipp their textbooks. Finally, as we’ve organically grown our user base across the globe, we aim to further expand our operations to include additional international cities and new worldwide audiences.

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