Mentor of The Week: Khai Yong

NEXT Academy trains world class Junior Developers in Southeast Asia. With programs designed by Industry experts In Silicon Valley and benchmarked against world standards. A mentor at FutureLab, Khai Yong is the Head of Growth at Next Academy. We interviewed him for some insight, and his advice on career development.

You have over 4 years of experience in digital marketing, advertising and internet marketing, what can you take away from your 4 years, what are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned?

Let’s see, I think the most important take away is that there is no clear path to becoming a successful marketer. There are many ways to craft a career in the industry, you need to upscale yourself, don’t be afraid to fail. When I first applied to mind valley, I came in with a very unique position, I wrote to them and showed them my portfolio of failed marketing projects. I told them ‘I have failed more than any of your other marketers, but you need people like me who are unafraid of failure. I understood the value of those who experiment a lot and do a lot of things because the learning experience is invaluable.


Do you have any tips for individuals seeking to enter the marketing industry?

Tip 1. Educate yourself.

Digital marketing is new and you can go by learning in many ways such as digital marketing boot camps, but from my experience I learned more from side projects than I ever did working for someone else. By committing to my own personal enterprises I felt the pain of having to use my own money to try to market products, but what I gained was more than what I had invested.

Tip 2. Find good mentors.

When I first started out I was lucky enough to have 2 unofficial mentors, my elder brother and his business partner. I started out as a pharmacist and I learned digital marketing from them, I followed the projects and techniques that they did and tried to build on them. Lucky for you guys, you have FutureLab to help you.

Tip 3. Be very, very independent.

When it comes to building a career, as I mentioned there’s no clear path, you aren’t spoon fed on what to do to become successful. Marketing isn’t a science, you’re literally spending money to try to make money. The better you are at making money the more willing people are to hire you, if you can’t deliver, you won’t get hired. You’re in charge of your own success in digital marketing. If you’re uncomfortable with autonomy in work, then either become more independent or this field isn’t for you.

Tip 4. Execute.

It’s one thing to consume all the marketing techniques and theory in the world, but it means nothing if you don’t commit to action. There is such a thing as paralysis by analysis, there’s too much to consume, if you think that you want to learn all aspects of something before trying you are going to waste all of your time. Once you think you know enough to try something and experiment, then go and do it. I tell the students I teach ‘doing is the best way to learn, we’ve given you guys a ton of tools, now try’

Tip 5. Be Curious.

The last tip I’d like to pass on is be curious, ask questions, why did they do a webinar this way? What works about it? What doesn’t? Remember that success leaves clues, It’s very important to observe successful marketers, and successful marketing techniques. Why reinvent the wheel when you can just make it better, observe, then model their communication methods and funnels. Remember, doing, is the best way to learn, if you try it out you can see results much faster yourself and you can build on it.


You mentioned that you started off as a pharmacist, how did that transition into becoming a marketer?

I enjoyed being a pharmacist, I felt like I was impacting people’s lives in a positive way one at a time. But, I needed a vehicle that could affect more; I saw that opportunity in online marketing. I was amazed by how people were making a living by creating digital businesses, and that intrigued me a lot, If I could do that I wouldn’t be confined to a 9-5 job. So I spent a lot of nights doing the tips I mentioned earlier.

So what was it like taking a leap of faith into another industry?

That’s a misconception, I didn’t take a leap of faith. It took me 3 years to actually quit. You see pharmacists have to work a number of years before being able to qualify for a license that allows for work in a private setting. Even though I wanted to quit I told myself that I would wait for my license, and that would take 3 years, but if I still had the drive and passion to pursue marketing than I would do it. But I had to make sure I had a safety net in case it wasn’t for me.

So could you share what the biggest challenge in switching industries was?

The mental barrier “I had been a pharmacist for so long, what would my parents think? What would my friends think? What if I fail? What if I leave my career and suck at it?” these were all questions that I kept asking myself. “Am I good enough? I have no formal education in marketing and I learned everything myself. Who would take me?”

But like I said, I came into mind valley with a very unique position. Because I did things, and showed I wasn’t afraid of failure.

What could you tell yourself, or is there anything you would do differently?

I have no regrets, I think everything happens for a reason, I went through an entire cycle, education, into a pharmacy career. And because of that I am where I am today. I cannot say I wouldn’t be a marketer if I wasn’t a pharmacist, there’s still a long way to go, and I’m looking forward to all of it.


I’d like to emphasize the importance of a “doing” culture. The breakthrough happens when you actually immerse yourself in doing what you want to be doing, because the learning experience is invaluable. You spend thousands on a degree and come out with a mediocre job, but marketing is online and you are free to experiment. This is the real world, it isn’t theory, you can do it, you just have to start.