Welcome to the Life at FT blog: a place where you can get an inside perspective on our workplace, people and culture.
In this instalment of the Life at FT Blog, we sit down with Zoe Mak, a Strategic Marketing Manager, in our Hong Kong office, who shares with us her journey so far with FT Live (the global conferences and events division of the FT). She details what attracted her to a career in events and how she came to settle in Hong Kong after growing up in Canada.
Q: Why did you join the FT? Tell me a bit about your journey to get here.
After graduating from business school, I started my career in digital marketing doing paid search campaigns. I then moved to a more analytical role in the telecommunications industry, where my objective was to increase revenue with the existing customer base.
Four years ago, I moved to Hong Kong from Canada because I wanted to travel in Asia and experience working abroad. That’s when I landed in the events industry, since the role allowed me to travel for work. Although conference marketing was taking my career in a slightly different direction at the time, I came for new experiences and decided to try it.
To be honest, I originally planned to stay for one year before going back to Canada – but one year flew by so quickly. After a few years of learning while experiencing the shift of event formats due to COVID-19, I wanted to see how event marketing might be different at other organisations or how other brands were handling the transition.
I had a colleague who had moved to the FT, and she seemed really happy with the work culture. I also recall that at one point, the HK staff were getting free bubble tea once a week – that’s my love language. Months after my friend joined the FT, she reached out to me about an opening for a Strategic Marketing Manager role at FT Live and it looked like the perfect next step for me.
After applying, I had a four-step interview process. The first was the HR interview – asking me about my work experience and motivations for a new role. The second was an interview with my direct manager Joanna, the Head of Marketing Operations & Planning – we discussed how event marketing had changed in the past few years, whether I could handle working independently out of Hong Kong, and I was also given a task to suggest improvements to the event websites. The third interview was with both Joanna and my Marketing Director, Tania – here I presented a marketing plan, and a pitch on why I would be the best candidate. Lastly, I had an interview with an FT Live Operations Manager based in Hong Kong as well as the Managing Director of Asia Pacific, Angela Mackay.
I joined the FT two months later, on September 7, 2021.
Q: What excites you most about working in your team or business area?
According to a quick Google search, the definition of marketing is ‘the activity or business of promoting and selling products’. There are times I felt conflicted because I believe that people can consume less, but my career is based on the opposite of that.
At FT Live, I’m able to market something I truly think is valuable and worth consuming. Hearing keynotes and panel discussions can inspire the audience to think differently or come up with new ideas on how to improve their businesses. There’s not a lot of other opportunities after graduating to gather with hundreds of your ‘peers’ – people who know your industry, your field, and your challenges. Conferences provide insight, perspective and connection, and who knows, maybe the combination of these things will help change the world.
Q: Describe a typical day in your role/department?
At the moment, I have an event in Singapore next month so I’m planning a lot of marketing activity to reach our target audience. My colleagues are based in the UK, so I usually start my morning by checking the emails that came through the night before. They could be tasks such as approving ad copy, solving challenges with data selection, or answering event audience questions to secure potential sponsors. After some quick wins, I will do a task that may take a little longer, which could be building email campaigns, data review, creating social media assets, etc. After I finish these, I can move on to other tasks that are in my marketing plan – these mostly consist of briefs for design, data, campaign, etc.
Later in the afternoon, my meetings will start. My scheduled weekly meetings include event project meetings (update on speakers, registration numbers, sponsorship and event logistics), and team meetings (event marketers can share their learnings and challenges). I will also have 1-1 meetings to plan execution on certain marketing channels like social, email, etc.
Q: What project have you been most proud of? Or are most excited about?
I’m probably most proud of my FT Commodities Asia events. When I first joined, I had less than three months to get the required numbers for this event, which is a shorter lead time than usual. I was also very new and trying to learn the ropes at the same time. Eventually, the team secured some excellent speakers, we received over 1000 registrations and the feedback was amazing.
This year, with more lead time, I was expecting the journey to be easier. However, it was my first in-person event with the FT, and I was anxious about getting enough attendees signed up. By the event date, we had to close in-person registrations, the room was packed and we had to find more chairs. I had forgotten the thrill of seeing hundreds of people gathering together because events had gone virtual for the past couple of years, so this was a memorable moment for me.
Q: What has surprised you most about working at the FT?
The FT has a lot of business divisions and roles that I didn’t think I would ever get to know much about. However, we frequently get to learn about and hear presentations from people that we don't work with directly, which helps give me a better understanding of the organization as a whole.
If you are interested in learning more about FT Live, visit their website here: FT Live