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Toh Ry-En

Published on

May 27, 2022


RISE Academy

Toh Ry-En from TEAM LEWIS Singapore shares how he made a career switch with RISE Academy.

Just two years ago in 2020, my impression of agency life was that of a fast-paced working environment. I never really thought it was going to be something I would ever consider attempting as it would be a steep learning curve since I was in a totally unrelated industry.

You see, at the time I worked in the F&B industry. More specifically, the back-of-house at a Japanese eatery. It’s always a good laugh now when I tell people about my 13-hour work day spent standing on my feet, six days a week, churning out sushi after sushi, frying, cutting fish for sashimi, washing dishes, and inevitably smelling like fish and oil at the end of the day. No one believed I did it over a year!

Source: Giphy

Not an accurate representation. 

However, when the pandemic was at its peak, I got tired of the mundane routine and left the Japanese eatery in search of better career prospects. I joined a friend who owned a food stall and I was left in charge of running the entire operations – From cashiering, cooking, food delivery and… social media marketing. Things did not go as smoothly as I imagined but it got me interested in digital marketing. I left after a two-month stint, went back to work part-time at the first restaurant and decided to sign up for a 10-week crash course on digital marketing at General Assembly to upskill myself.  

At the end of the course, a fellow course mate told me something called the RISE Academy at TEAM LEWIS. She had just started a role with the agency as an Account Manager and thought it might be an interesting opportunity for me seeing I hadn’t found a suitable job for myself just yet. Running through the RISE Academy program, two things came to mind – first “Wow this is a great opportunity. I should take it” and second “ I really don’t have the right qualifications. Will they even consider me if I try?”. 

On one hand this was the chance I was looking for to dip my toes into a new industry. On the other, knowing that I didn’t really have the relevant background made me question if I should pursue it. What really caught my attention was that this was an earn-as-you-learn program, offering a variety of trainings and experience in the marketing and communications field.

The course included the chance to engage in day-to-day client servicing as well as brainstorming with team members from other international offices of the TEAM LEWIS network. I didn’t know of many companies offering such an in-depth on-the-job experience for individuals who, like me, had close to no experience in this industry. In fact, TEAM LEWIS was the first company I’d come across that removed the need for CVs from their application process and took an approach to recruitment that actually cared what a prospective hire really wanted to achieve in their career.  

Still, with the personal financial commitments I had, this step in a different direction of work was a little risky as a full-time role after the 6-month course was not guaranteed. However, I received A LOT of persuasion and encouragement from my parents and close friends who believed that this was the way for me to go. Heartened by their support, I quietened my initial doubts and took the leap of faith to submit my application.  

Best life decision I’ve ever made! 

I was equal parts nervous and excited reporting to work on the first day – I even went clothes shopping the day before to commemorate the start of my new journey. I recall how I couldn’t sleep the night before and even misinterpreted the message by HR on the provision of a laptop. I reported to work with my own laptop and returned home that day with another in tow. Quite silly of me, I know, but laptops weren’t an essential tool in the kitchen. 

The days that followed were filled with Zoom calls and introductions to the infinite marketing multiverse at TEAM LEWIS. On many occasions during the first couple of weeks, I had to consult my best friend ,Google, to brush up on agency and marketing jargon. At the time, I thought a “pitch” meant “captions” and “community management” was some sort of an outreach program. I know, give me a break, I was more used to dealing with seaweed wraps and Japanese rice.  

Source: Giphy

Quite an accurate representation 

I also recalled being briefed on a tech client and was tasked to create a byline and given just a day to submit it for review. Firstly, I had ZERO understanding of what the tech company did or what their USP was. Secondly, what the heck was a byline? I sought assistance from my colleagues in Australia, our B2B Tech Hub in the region, and completed the task just in the nick of time. I’m still not sure how I did it. 

But before I knew it, I was already halfway through the program. I was really enjoying my time at TEAM LEWIS and had a clearer understanding of what was required of me in my role. At this point I have grown confident in writing captions for social, drafting by-lines and even developing pitches. Still my favourite part of RISE academy was attending the many virtual lessons each week as no two were the same. I could be learning about analytics from a colleague in the Singapore office on one day and on the next, talking about creative content with a colleague in the UK. I really enjoyed how diverse the trainings were. 

The penny dropped when I came to realise that no matter what you do, be it writing a pitch, coming up with titles or creating a visual, these all come with lots and lots of practice and making mistakes! Just like using a knife to slice a fish out for sashimi, with enough practice I can achieve consistent size and shape. As the saying goes “A master was once a student”, perceptions changed and that was how I look at when creating content from scratch.  

Source: Giphy


Towards the end of the 6-months, I was blessed to be offered a full-time position as an Account Coordinator. I became part of the team with a wide variety of clients ranging from consumer and B2B tech, financial services, and even retail. Every account was unique which kept me nimble in the way to approach each one.  

Throughout the course of 6 months, I’ve been given the opportunity to develop a range of skills and found the one that best suits my interest. I was also exposed to countless opportunities from around the world every day which gave me insight into exciting, new challenges that I can learn from alongside a connected and supportive team from all our TEAM LEWIS offices.  

Midway through the RISE Academy, I could totally relate to these memes #IYKYK! 

Like I said – best life decision I ever made. My parents are happy that I found this direction in life and that there is an actual career progression! Plus my close friends are also excited and happy to see what I’ve achieved. I end each week feeling satisfied with the work I’ve done, with the knowledge that while there’s still more to learn, I have a working environment that fully supports my growth and wants me to succeed.  

Also, bonus points that I don’t smell like fish and oil when I leave work anymore. 

Applications for RISE Academy 2022 is now open! Click here to sign up, or get in touch with our team.  

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