The making of a community manager

I remember when I was being interviewed for this job, I was asked by my then line manager what my favorite social media app was. In my attempt to be cool and classy, I said Pinterest. I partly lied. I like this app being a visual person myself, but my real favourite app at that time was by far Facebook. I know. How typical of me. But then I got the job and that was the beginning of my role as a community manager. The first in our company. A completely new endeavor for me.

They briefly told me what the role entailed and I was incredibly happy for two particular reasons. First, the job sounded super fun because it involves the one thing I love to do, which is talking to a lot of people. Secondly, this job would be my ticket to leave my awesome-turned-gruesome old career life. We all admit that at one point, don’t we?

So how did I get the job considering I have never heard of enterprise social collaboration in one sentence before let alone Jive software nor any technical experience with it? Simple. They weren’t looking for one. While they were describing to me the skills set they were looking for, a word was formed in my mind — Ephinany. I don’t mean spiritual but it’s for real. I chose my career path for a reason. To be prepared for this. I became the community manager almost effortlessly. My work experience has spoken for me.

Graphics and Web Designer

This was my first official job which I got a month before I finished my university. I am not a freehand artist but I do have some fondness playing with lines, colors, and shapes so I thought maybe if I could learn some graphic tools I’d be better at it. My main role then was to manage our company website, keeping it dynamic (and by that I mean every page refresh the homepage graphics design changes), thanks to HTML and javascript. I stepped up a bit and learned simple tricks of vector animation. Tools used: Macromedia Dreamweaver, Macromedia Flash, and Adobe Photoshop. My dedication to my work pushed me to learn how to use all these tools by myself.

IT Trainer, Business Analyst, Event Organizer

This was probably the most diverse job I ever had to date. After my first job, I became a part of a pioneering team who put up a training institution offering 2-year diploma courses. We did everything from scratch, and I mean, from scratch — from deriving the course fees from almost nowhere, designing course syllabi, writing course materials and presentations, to hiring faculty members, conducting the classes ourselves, and all the admin works. I know it sounded a lot considering we were only 6 in the team. Almost everything was in place except for one major problem: we’re not earning! That’s where business analysis and event management came into the picture.

The small humble place we built has grown into a consultancy firm. We had another team who took charge of accepting projects within the same group of companies and I got myself exposed to becoming a part-time business analyst working with a project manager.

While that had given us some sort of stability, we still had to keep our game at par with the market competition. Although we were affiliated with a well-known university, we still couldn’t penetrate the academic market that time for a simple reason that they already established their own identity and had already produced successful graduates. So we had to make our own name. In order to do this, we had to tap a lot of secondary high schools, do roadshows and we even had to do the old school door-to-door flyer distribution to houses while surreptitiously inserting that gas smelling Xerox-copied piece of paper into their mailbox. Big effort, small outcome. We had to think bigger, aim better, think out of the box, and never stop thinking of strategies until all the sticky notes of different colours are glued to the board. So we took a break, drove up to a bar by the cliff overlooking the city, and in our almost state of drunkenness, the wisdom from San Miguel (not the angel) has finally arrived. We tapped different companies and made an x-deal with them — to organize their marketing events and in return they will promote our training school. This was where I harnessed my event management skills.

And don’t forget, after all this swinging hoops of efforts, I was still an IT Trainer, 3 classes 3–4 days a week, 1.5–3 hours per class. Top that.

IT Trainer Part 2

When I moved to Singapore, my first job was a full-time IT trainer for a private school. I’ve taught many subjects, including Web Development, Database Management, Systems Analysis and Design, MS Productivity Tools, and Project Management to name a few. I tried to add some humour to my teaching as the subjects I taught could be boring at times and to keep the students on track.

One fine day during my PM class, a student of mine asked me if I want to work as a PM in a real corporate world. I couldn’t recall batting an eyelash but I know for sure I said yes. Fast forward 2 months after, I got my first full-time PM role in a multinational financial company. The beginning of bliss. Or so I thought.

I am forever grateful to this student of mine and to her husband (and then my line manager ) who took the risk of hiring someone like me, academic-wise equipped but work-wise limited on that field of discipline.

Project Management

This has completely changed my career life, for the better and for the worse. A lot of people had told me that it’s typical for big companies such as this to have a dog-eat-dog environment and I didn’t get it at first until I got beaten myself, many times. And from there I learned assertiveness the hard way. Before Kelly Clarkson made it a song, I already knew that what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger. Don’t get me wrong, I had many good times doing this role. So many lessons learned more than assertiveness. I’ve learned to use swearing words in between phrases. I’m kidding. I had many ups and downs and my numerous trips to hell and back just to successfully complete most of my projects had made me dissect the ins and outs of the most complex processes and expanded my network comprising of different varieties. And finally, after 6 years and a thousand sleepless nights, I made it to the next jungle where my role as a Community Manager sits.

Now, it has been 2 years and despite some unavoidable organisational changes, I’m proud to say that being a part of the core team who successfully implemented the enterprise collaboration tool in our company and seeing how the community is adapting to the engagement culture have been the most rewarding moments of my community management career to date.