As told to Kate Sullivan
There is no other candidate who could be more perfect for this role than me. That’s what I thought after interviewing at this tech company back when I was in my mid-20s. They were basically looking for an experience editor, a curator, someone who would go and find the best things in a city — what to eat, drink, and do. I was already that person to my friends. And I had done all this freelance work writing such similar things. The job combined everything that I loved —blogging, food, travel…
And I didn’t get it.
I was crushed.
The founder gave me the courtesy of sharing why I wasn’t hired. I forget what the exact example was, but he told me something that I’d said indicated that I would take “no” for an answer; that I lacked perseverance. I didn’t say anything — I didn’t want to come off as defensive. But I remember thinking he’d grabbed onto this one thing when there are many examples of my perseverance. The fact that I’d jumped into a new field is one of them.
When I was younger, I was so afraid of change, and yet, in my career, I’ve done so much of it.
I grew up in the very quiet, very sheltered city of Cupertino. It’s famous now due to Apple, but back in the day, most people didn’t know where or what Cupertino was. I had a great childhood, a loving family. It was safe. I was surrounded by people who had, what I guess you’d call, traditional careers. Everyone was a doctor, lawyer, accountant, or general businessperson.
My dad is a doctor, and I feel like when one of your parents is a doctor, they always want you to be a doctor. Very early on, my parents drilled it into my older brother and me that we should be doctors. And, so, I just didn’t really know anything else. I ended up going to UC Berkeley, staying in the Bay Area, and I majored in biology.
Being at Cal with a bunch of people who really, really wanted to go to med school was eye-opening. The atmosphere was very challenging and competitive. You have to be dedicated to be successful in this field. I asked myself: Why am I doing this? I wasn’t passionate about biology. It’s different today, people are told to explore their interests, But I thought: Oh, it’s too late. I’m already deep into this degree; it’s too scary to switch. And what would I even do?
Very candidly — at the time, I was going through some mental health issues. I had disordered eating patterns that I think were driven by the stress of being unsuccessful in school. (Ironically, I love food, everything about it.) However, this challenge sparked my interest in nutrition. So, after college, I knew I didn’t want to be a doctor or a nurse, but I thought I could do something in healthcare. I began working in medical weight loss because it was related to nutrition. I started off as an office assistant, trying to get my bearings for a while.
Soon, a role opened up at an insurance program for low-income San Francisco residents. It was in regulatory affairs and compliance — not the sexiest. But I applied, got it, and had some great experiences. But ultimately, that was a very depressing role, not because of the company, but because I was seeing the impact of the opioid crisis. Every day, I reviewed the paperwork of patients wanting refills of their pain medication. And we always said no. I had no impact on helping these people.
In my spare time, I would just consume blogs — recipes, fashion, just everything in those spaces. This was when blogging really started to take off. Blogspot and YouTube were rising in popularity. I thought: This is fun. I really love it. But I don’t know what a career could be like. In San Francisco, there were almost no media outlets. It all felt foreign to me. Still, I started contributing to some blogs writing about food and fashion.
Then, in 2012, I took a leap. I left my secure healthcare job for an editorial internship at Brit + Co, a media website and a startup that combined a lot of my interests. As risk averse as I was, I was in my mid-20s. I didn’t have, like, a mortgage. I didn’t have kids. I had parents I could fall back on if things didn’t work out. If I were to take a big risk, this was the perfect time.
What we were doing at Brit + Co. was very DIY. (The founder, Brit Morin, was called the Martha Stewart of Silicon Valley.) One day I would write a Buzzfeed-style article on five tech gadgets to get your friends for Christmas. And the next day, I’d write about 20 recipes using Pillsbury dough. I would make it, photograph it, and write the content. It was intense. There was a very steep learning curve. I was pumped, but I’d gone from never having done this to doing it full-time on such a public platform. There were some tough conversations with my manager. But fundamentally, I think that’s how I learned the most.
The internship sparked my trajectory in marketing, working with social influencers, etc. After it ended, I went to Clorox, becoming their social media community manager. That’s where my second life started.
Around this time, Facebook opened to brands, so social media became essential for brands. I was curious about this new type of marketing and passionate about storytelling. While I worked full-time, I was also freelancing because I just wanted to learn more. For a while, I wrote for Design Milk, a website about modern interior design. I learned a lot from the founder because she had started this website that then became this huge media outlet. It’s now an e-commerce store. I also used to do home tours for Houzz. I picked up an education from many “side hustles,” as they say nowadays. I learned from each person I worked with.
At Fenty, as the Vice President, Global Brand Marketing for Fenty Beauty & Fenty Fragrance, I have a large team. I really love supporting people who want to learn more or who are kind of scared to take a jump, to fail. I sometimes think about that job I didn’t get, and I’m glad I went for it — and that I didn’t get it. I don’t know if I would be at Fenty if I had gone down that path. When I look back on my career, while there have been some disappointments, I truly feel like destiny led me to where I needed to be. Each experience was a right step towards to where I am.
I’ve been at Fenty for six years, and what I love is that I’m always learning and being challenged to try something different. I jumped around to my next marketing role every two years. Each time I did, I was ready for something new. We launched Fenty Beauty, then we launched the skin care brand, then fragrance, then travel retail.
Being a part of the team who launched Fenty Beauty is something I’ll never forget. Diversity was never a marketing schtick, some copy on a website. I know that in social media everyone touts their “authenticity.” But the consumer is savvy; they can tell when someone is just putting out content and who is having a dialogue.
Overseeing marketing, I do a lot of fun stuff, like work with social media influencers. I throw events, and you know, do PR…I’ve never been able to give a succinct answer about my job. I just feel lucky to be doing it every day.
In high school, I was the girl with blue and yellow eyeshadow. Yes, together. I’d wear red, orange, and yellow and call it my “sunset eye look.” I had never considered a career in beauty because I didn’t have exposure to it. Until I exposed myself to it. My curiosity led me here. I didn’t get an MBA. I don’t have a social media degree. Being inspired by and caring about something can really go a long way.