Q&A with Elgin, PR Manager (Asia) at Wise

CommunicationsSingapore

Working with freedom and autonomy means I can do my work faster. There are no endless approvals and hoops to jump through. In many companies, working in PR means each statement needs to make its way upwards through multiple layers of hierarchy, and that takes a long time. Sometimes you might miss out on good press opportunities. Here, especially being in a different time zone from the rest of the company, it’s important that I can make decisions after quick discussions with just one or two people.

You get more satisfaction when you take end-to-end ownership of your projects, as opposed to executing what someone else tells you to. But that also means when things don’t work out, you’re accountable and need to take responsibility for your decisions.

Why did you join Wise?

I was interested in joining a FinTech startup and was inspired by the growth story of Wise. I also found the mission intriguing. Still, it’s always hard to tell whether a company really has a strong mission or if people are just saying the mission without meaning it. During my interview process, I gradually became more taken by how much people here cared about the mission. I had to find out what all the fuss was about!

In a nutshell, what do you do at Wise?

In the PR team, we tell the Wise story through the press. Our goal is to raise awareness about Wise and its mission. It’s an important channel because media outlets have a much bigger reach and are often more trusted than ads. We’re not paying to be featured, and journalists write about us objectively.

Before you start using a service like Wise, you may Google the service to find out more about the company. If you read well-researched articles about the company in reputable publications, it builds your trust in the product.

What’s the biggest challenge working here?

For me, it’s working remotely from the rest of the PR team. Most employees work alongside other people from their team. But I’m the only PR person based in Singapore at the moment, and my lead is in Australia. Working in a cross-country team can be difficult with time zones to grapple with and sometimes not being able to have a quick chat, as everything needs to be scheduled. In some ways, that’s good as I’m challenged to solve problems on my own. Still, I often do miss having casual conversations with my teammates.

What’s the most interesting project you’ve worked on?

In my second month at Wise, our CEO Kristo came on his annual trip to Asia. I got to arrange all of his media interviews around Asia and travelled with him from meeting to meeting. It was quite an experience as I had the chance to chat with him about a very wide range of topics. It was the best possible onboarding I could’ve had.

Most interesting place you’ve used your Wise card?

I extended my business trip to Japan over a weekend and my family joined me there. We did a day trip to a ski resort where my daughter saw snow for the first time in her life!

What’s your team’s fun tradition?

We hold an offsite once every six months. It’s a rare opportunity for a team scattered around half the globe to talk about serious issues affecting PR globally, but also to form closer relationships with colleagues. I really enjoy the meals – PR people are great at conversations!

Tell us about a time you disagreed with your lead, and why?

We were running a campaign about hidden fees in Singapore. We decided we’d go with the title: “Why Singapore spends more on foreign exchange fees than tuition”. Tuition usually refers to the fees paid to universities and colleges for studying. But in Singapore it means private after-school tutors to help students boost their grades, and it’s a huge business here. My lead was hesitant about the title, unsure if it would translate to the audience correctly. So I had to convince him that it’s the correct term to use here and a huge industry in Singapore. In the end, he trusted my judgment and I really appreciated that confidence in me.

What’s the most unusual job you’ve ever done?

I covered a general election and a by-election in Singapore as a journalist. Those were exciting periods when you could hear people expressing themselves in very strong terms, much beyond their usual reserved selves. It was eye-opening. There were constituencies where the contest was really close, and talking to voters one could sense how some were torn between two strong sets of candidates. And just as people took their decisions seriously, politicians did too.

In an impromptu moment, a Cabinet Minister broke down during the election when talking about a difficult decision in which his personal values clashed with his party’s decision to allow casinos to be built in Singapore. I was at that press conference, seated within a few feet of him. A journalist is in a front row seat of history. A question either gets asked or it doesn’t get asked at a moment in history. And which journalist is there doing the asking makes a big difference.

What’s your side hustle?

The biggest thing I do outside of work is taking care of my two kids. Life outside of work can be quite hectic and stressful – taking them to chess, piano, ballet, and so on. It feels like another full-time job!