With 15 years of experience in the digital industry under the belt, Jenifer Ooi has made her home in the creative field. The MissMafia co-founder is currently based in Lion&Lion as Regional Creative Director, and has racked up more than a few awards in the past few years.
Jenifer graciously took some time out of her busy schedule to impart to us her wisdom on being a creative and talk about her experience as a female creative director.
You started out with a background in engineering. How did you end up in a creative field instead?
Growing up, I was quite jealous of how my brothers got all the perks that I didn’t as a girl. I wanted to outperform them, so I grew up to be quite the high achiever. Anything that revolves around logic and numbers was relatively easy for me. I aced all the mathematical, computing and engineering courses. I was the top student in my course, as well as the only female.
I started off my career as a developer but once the job got too easy, I lost interest and dove into the creative field. In engineering, the answer is either a 1 or 0. However, on the creative side nothing can be proven right or wrong. In design, you can never make everyone happy. Design is a very subjective matter and I find it to be much more challenging than engineering.
What’s your biggest takeaway from all your years of experience as a Creative Director?
I guess it would be to always stay humble. You will never know when anything will go terribly wrong or incredibly well. When all is well, stay humble. When all is wrong, stay humble still.
I’ve learnt a lot from just being with different people every day. My team is the reason why I’m successful and I owe my achievements to them. It’s extremely important for me to be humble at every stage of my life so that I continue to strive to improve myself every single day. It’s a never-ending journey to learn and innovate when you’re a creative.
Are you influenced by any of your past experiences in terms of how you conduct yourself with your work?
Yes, most definitely. In fact, I believe it’s a daily learning process. My job is highly stressful. I deal with people from different walks of life daily. Sometimes—or rather, most of the time—a lot of the creative work we do involves a lot of trial and error. I believe we learn through mistakes, but our failures do not define who we are.
Sometimes I have my bad days where nothing goes right, and I tend to react rather than take a step back and evaluate. Thanks to constant learning, feedback, and experience dealing with different issues, I have become more mindful of what I do and now reset myself every single day.
What’s something interesting about you that we wouldn’t learn from your resume alone?
I’m a certified yoga instructor and have been teaching for the past 5 years. Yoga has kept me sane in the digital industry for the past 15 years. Being able to take care of your physical body is important in maintaining a healthy working mind.
Also, I’m a geek geek. 🙂
Did you experience any difficulties being a woman in a position of power?
I get a lot of people telling me that I’m the first female Creative Director they’ve ever met. I believe that it’s a positive statement. However, I do know that it’s a tougher industry for women due to the hours required for the role. There are also other male counterparts who will speak condescendingly to female creative directors as they do not believe that women can take on the role.
I would say that because I love being hands-on with my role, I’ve gained trust and confidence from my peers and the industry by leading through my actions and letting my work speak louder than my words.
How did you first get involved with MissMafia?
The other co-founders and I came across each other while working in a digital agency together. We found that we could support each other better when united in our areas of expertise instead of going against each other.
At one point in my career, I began constantly wondering how I could do my part in empowering other female creatives who aspire to be in my position one day. As I mentioned earlier, female CDs are extremely rare. Most women I know do not consider the role as achievable due to the limited amount of support given to women within this industry. I would love to mentor and coach a few aspiring Art Directors to help them understand that we are all in this together.
Have you learnt anything from starting the group?
Definitely. Apart from meeting like-minded female leaders in the industry, every single event that we’ve created in the past has validated our mission of what we are trying to achieve.
Asking for help reveals strength, not weakness. Too often we ‘tough it out’ rather than reaching out to ask for help when we need it most. When we support other people to be more successful, we discover opportunities for collaboration that ultimately enable us to be more successful ourselves.
What motivates you to keep on going?
The fact that other women have our backs and are supporting our non-profit cause.
Bonus question: Malaysia is such a diverse melting pot of cultures, and we all love our food! If you had to describe yourself as a food dish, what would it be?
Banana leaf rice, without a doubt! I’m vegetarian and I swear by BLR as my ultimate Malaysian comfort food.
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