A New York City local these days, Jeff Tan heads up product and innovation for Dentsu Aegis Network USA. And it was his innovative streak that saw him take out a 30 Under 30 spot in B&T back in 2010.
Tan echoes others profiled in this series advising up and coming talent to embrace globalisation and get out into the world. He also comments on the Tall Poppy Syndrome that he sees as “ingrained” in Australian society.
We’re on the hunt for our 2019 30 Under 30 with the countdown on and just four days to go until on-time entries close.
For now, read on to hear what Jeff Tan had to say!
Then: general manager Melbourne, iProspect
Now: managing director of product and innovation, Dentsu Aegis Network USA
A stint overseas, a degree in engineering, global recognition for his efforts and a general manager job title at the tender age of 28 all made Jeff Tan a clear choice for 30 Under 30.
James Prebble, a former colleague from agency days in the UK, commented, “Jeff was tasked with exploring additional revenue streams from our existing clients, and driving forward new marketing channels.
“After an extensive research stage Jeff led the setup of Pancentric’s search marketing division, developing a structure, business plan and methodology for the unit that still exists today. Jeff immediately won a number of search marketing contracts from our existing clients.
“He led the search marketing team and oversaw its growth and development during his time with Pancentric, even helping the division to branch out into conversion optimisation strategies. The team became responsible for 20% of business turnover.”
It is for his innovative streak, and the ability to add lasting value to the companies he works for, that Jeff Tan was recognised in B&T‘s 30 Under 30.
What did it mean to you at the ripe age of 28 that you were chosen as one of B&T’s 30 Under 30?
I felt really proud. On the global stage, the Australian advertising industry is considered progressive and creative, and it was an honour to be recognised by the industry.
How do you think being nominated affected your career, if at all?
It gave me a boost of confidence that I could achieve whatever I wanted. The following year I embarked on an Executive MBA at AGSM, providing both a great general management education that really helped my career, as well as amazing lifelong friends.
What’s been the biggest change to your life since then?
Five years ago I moved to New York. To call this just a change is an understatement! I had previously lived in London for four years and thought that the culture would be similar, but it’s not.
Working in the US ad industry is what I call the 10X Factor. The budgets to work on a relatively comparable client in the US vs AU are 10X larger, the teams are 10X bigger, and the time taken to achieve anything is usually 10X longer!
What words of wisdom would you have shared with your 28 year old self back then knowing what you do now?
My number one piece of advice is to define what the key pillars in your life are and use this as a guidepost for evaluating how you’re spending your resources e.g. time, money, emotions. For example, my four pillars are: Career, Health, Relationships, Experiences. To me, all four are equally important.
This can be used also as a decisioning framework i.e. should I run a marathon? It won’t help my career, training for it would be good for my health, it’ll have a negligible effect on relationships, but damn it’ll be an amazing experience! So, yes.
Further advice is to focus on doing the best work you can, nurture incredible relationships, learn how to build empathy with anyone, and ignore those that try to tear you down out of envy or insecurity.
What are you most proud of?
Meeting my amazing wife Stephanie in NY (another Aussie from Melbourne). We now have an incredible toddler boy called Hudson….yes named after the river!
What do you see as the biggest challenges that face young people in advertising, marketing and media these days?
I’m constantly surprised by the Tall Poppy Syndrome ingrained in Australian society. I’m saddened by the hostility and pettiness in our industry. For proof of this, just glance at some of the comments from readers in the Australian ad trade press.
I believe we as a nation won’t fully realize our potential unless we can shake off our attitudes of aggression towards those companies and individuals that want to get ahead.
In the OECD we have one of the lowest numbers of Fortune 500 company headquarters per capita, and that is a tragedy. I firmly believe this is due to our general culture of indifference and acceptance of average. The only industry this is an exception is sports – we expect our sports stars to be the best in the world, but revel when our business leaders are taken down.
Conversely, what’s the biggest opportunity for those under 30 now?
By far the biggest opportunity is to embrace globalisation. Get out of your home country and work abroad. Ask yourself – are you feeling mostly comfortable? It’s a sign you’re not learning and pushing yourself. One of the best ways to make yourself uncomfortable is to move overseas. The experience will make you a better person.
What can the industry do better to attract and retain young talent?
Talent retention: Teams need to create a culture of Outcome, vs a culture of process. Yes, we need general process to get things done. But, ‘productivity’ doesn’t mean following process, it means delivering results. Teams that focus on the former will become overworked and burnt out.
Talent attraction: Stop focusing on ‘years of experience in the media industry’. Our industry mostly isn’t rocket science, and any person with a curious mind can fly through the learning curve. Instead, we should be looking to create teams with diversity of thought, from different backgrounds.
Entries for B&T‘s 30 Under 30 Awards for 2019 close 1 week today people! For all the details and to submit your entry, click here. Tickets are also available for B&T Bootcamp, a day of speed mentoring and masterclasses aimed at up and comers in the industry.
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