Published on 12 Aug 2022

Find Your Career Calling

Drawing inspiration and passion from her marketing course and internships, Melissa Lee found her calling in marketing at a young age and pursued it with all her heart

How does one find one’s career calling? Sometimes it finds you, says Nanyang Technological University’s (NTU) Singapore Nanyang Business School (NBS) alumna Melissa Lee, Advocacy and Innovation Manager at L’Oréal. 

One day when browsing books at a bookstore, the young Melissa stumbled into the world of Purple Cow by Seth Godin. Properly titled Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable, the book, published in 2003, argues that traditional advertising is less effective today because consumers are more discerning, and there is just too much noise. In order to succeed, companies should instead turn their efforts into making remarkable products that people will truly love. 

“I finished it in two days and decided that I had found my calling in marketing – this was what I absolutely had to do,” said Melissa, adding: “I had also taken on a marketing internship earlier on and was fortunate to have worked with an amazing boss. So everything sort of built up my interest in this field.”

She subsequently enrolled in the Bachelor of Business at NBS, specialising in marketing, in 2004.” 

For Melissa, a good marketer  is someone who is always excited and ready to
take on a new challenge.

Learning Hard Lessons From Start-Ups

In her role at L’Oréal Italy, Melissa helps brands in the group on digital transformation and acceleration of their brand advocacy goals.

Prior to working at L’Oreal, Melissa had worked in a handful of start-ups, adding: “The start-up culture – where roles are often dynamic – allowed me to switch easily from digital marketer to tech product owner to sales and back to brand strategy. 

“I gained incredible experience in cross-functional leadership and entrepreneurship roles while building business units from ground zero. I began to understand how the impact of one decision could reverberate through to all functions.” 

However, it is precisely the challenge of scaling fast-growing start-ups that made me realise how little I knew. I realised I had to hit the reset button and learn from seasoned mentors and from truly resilient businesses about building remarkable ‘loved’ brands and businesses.”

Growing Up With Entrepreneurs

Melissa jokes that she comes from a family of start-ups, with her grandparents, parents, and most of her relatives being business owners. 

Recalling her growing years where she saw their businesses go through a lot more downs than ups, she remembers they had to constantly innovate to battle the tumultuous challenges brought about by changing times and consumer expectations. 

“It inculcated in me a natural instinct to prepare in advance for change, the courage to face failure, and most of all, the humility to understand that people matter the most at the end of the day,” she added.

She counts her undergraduate days at NBS as pivotal in helping her put her best foot forward when stepping into the working world. 

“My undergraduate days were an incubator for important life skills and networking that prepared me for the real world. As the business and communications officer in the student executive committee, I oversaw all campus communications, events, brand sponsorships, and student welfare. 

The experience gained was instrumental in helping me achieve success during my internships, as well as in my first job. Most importantly, you acquire a strong sense of confidence and invaluable social skills,” she said.

Navigating Career Challenges 

What’s her advice for students looking for a career in marketing? “To find success, always be honest with yourself, be conscious of what drives you, and the compromises you are willing to accept. This will help you reflect on your current mental state and goals. 

As with life, your career will present many challenges, so always try to find community and support systems as you navigate completely foreign environments in life,” said Melissa.

A tough but rewarding physical and mental challenge – Melissa completing
the Inca Trail at Machu Picchu in Peru in 2014