How I went from Editor-in-Chief of Cosmo to Head Of Content at a tech startup

Deborah Tan-Pink, sharing about her career in publishingDeborah Tan-Pink

If you are with Deborah and, someone comes up and says to her, “Hey, you look familiar. I think I’ve seen you somewhere,” chances are it is her magazine-past catching up with her. The head of content at SmartUp.io didn’t start her career in tech until 2017. What led her here?

How Was My University Time?

I’m not very academic. I’ve always been more street-smart than book-smart. I ended up spending a lot of time on, and excelled in, extra-curricular activities. I managed to graduate but my grades were so mediocre, I knew I had to kiss goodbye any chance of me joining the civil service.

Why Did I Seek Out A Career In Publishing?

My talent in writing came to me late. It was only in university that I discovered I was a pretty good writer. I decided that a career in women’s magazines was what suited me best because I wanted to write specifically for women; I felt I could be the strong, opinionated voice for my gender. Although a lot of people see women’s magazines as just shopping catalogues filled with air-brushed images of models and celebrities, I wanted to use the platform to inform my fellow sisters that, “Hey! It’s okay to embrace beauty and fashion! Just don’t forget to empower yourself and find your voice!”

How Did I Get To Where I Am Today?

I recently shared on LinkedIn a TedTalk about the importance of Grit. I truly believe that Grit and Tenacity played very important roles in my career path; more so than raw talent. The one thing about myself that I’m very proud of is my ability to show up for every showdown.

After a decade in publishing, I left my job as editor-in-chief at Cosmopolitan to start a content agency with 3 friends. It was a hard, hard journey because none of us had any experience in running and growing a business. Still we made it work and scored great projects with brands like Volkswagen and L’Oreal.

In 2016, both my mum and my grandmother were diagnosed with cancer at the same time. That was the moment I decided I had to rethink what my future was going to be like. I didn’t want to be stuck writing lifestyle stuff for the rest of my life so, I set my mind to finding a role in tech.

Fortunately, SmartUp was looking for an Asia Head of Content and they wanted someone who was comfortable writing about tech, finance, and entrepreneurship stuff.

How Did I Prepare For The Interview?

I downloaded the SmartUp app prior to my interview. I think that’s the very basic a candidate should do: getting acquainted with the product. I also crafted my cover letter to answer the job requirements like familiarity with entrepreneurship content, prior experience to working with other people in SE Asia, experience managing an editorial team, etc. After the interview, I made sure to send my interviewer a Thank You note.

Lessons From The Jobs I Didn’t Get

Before landing this job at SmartUp, I applied to companies like Uber, Grab, Airbnb … and was unsuccessful in all of them. Maybe it’s not such a great idea to share these rejections here but if there was one lesson I learnt, it’s that I should NEVER let these rejections affect how I see myself. We need to remember that we are all capable, brilliant and talented in our own ways. We should aim to work for companies who see the best in us, not the ones who always think we will never be enough.

About Deborah Tan-Pink

An ambitious individual with a passion for content and branding, Deborah built a career working in women’s magazines. After ten years in CLEO – four as its editor – she went on to launch the Singapore edition of Cosmopolitan in 2011. 

 In 2013, she left the comfortable confines of publishing to start a content agency – Material World – with 3 partners. In 2017, she exited her startup to join SmartUp.io, a micro learning app, as Head of Content, Asia. Today, she is Global Head of Content, where she leads a content team to create content on disruptive tech, innovation, entrepreneurship, learning, and more, to engage users of the platform and drive development in basic digital skills.

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