“You want to interview SGAG anot?” my boss asked with a glint in her eye.
Before my brain could process whatever she just said, my mouth formed the word, “Yes!” I mean, who would pass up the chance to get to learn from some of the folks behind the most viral Singaporean media channel?
SGAG’s videos and memes are my main source of daily entertainment on countless long MRT rides (read: ‘The train has stopped here for a short while as the train ahead is still at the next station’) and have also inspired me to write a university paper on memes.
The founders, Karl Mak and Adrian Ang started SGAG from an SMU classroom with the idea of creating a Singaporean version of 9GAG, and they haven’t looked back since. Over the years, SGAG has become so successful that they created MGAG (in Malaysia) and PGAG (in Philippines), serving over millions of users in the region.
But I digress; back to the interview.
One talented young coder, one hour. “No problem,” introvert me breathed. Interview questions? Check. Smile on my face? Check. Giving myself a mental pat on the back, I slid the interview door open.
And then four curious faces turned to look at me with pizzas in their hands.
“I thought I’m here for Chi Hao (the coder)?” I accidentally blurted out. The guys just burst out laughing. One of them, Ling Yi, proclaimed, “Let’s go then! Leave Chi Hao behind!” which made me grin sheepishly as well.
Four brilliant SGAGers. One awkward and nervous interviewer (me). Read on to find out how it turned out.
The Art of Being Comfortably Uncomfortable
“If what we are doing day to day is like a mundane job, then we need to push our limits,” shared Ling Yi, head of the data analytics department in SGAG.
This was how he described one of the core tenets at SGAG: the need to always be constantly uncomfortable. It is more than just looking for new ways to refine the process; it is also about putting yourself out there and trying new things. An example would be SGAG’s data analytics department. Set up only last year, this department harnesses the power of data to help SGAG’s content creators to refine their content further.
However, what about the cost of trying new ventures? Surely not every new idea tried out is a success.
“Make so many mistakes already, we paid you so much to make mistakes. No point firing you lah!” Stanley Shalom, SGAG’s product manager, voiced out.
And this is where I learnt another thing about working at SGAG: the room to make mistakes. The people at SGAG are not really concerned whether the project fails; rather they want to know about the lessons learnt from the failure.
Talented SGAG coder Chi Hao confirms this.
“There is nothing to be changed from (our) mistakes. Our mistakes are part of what made SGAG today.”
In a way, SGAG’s most famous catchphrase is a misnomer for the culture they have.
“Some of us have become so close, we meet up to 7 days a week!” quipped Ling Yi.
And it’s true. During the short hour I had with them, I could really sense their affection for one another in the small interview space. I felt like I was at home around them with their boisterous laughter and warm smiles.
Resident SGAGer, Lin Sheng contrasts his previous internship experiences with SGAG.
“It’s like, in other companies I already see you from Monday to Friday and I feel sian to meet weekends or need to stay back after work. But then here is like, ‘let’s stay back after work to sleepover or watch movies!’”
When it comes to SGAG’s culture, it can be surmised into the common abbreviation millennials use - ‘ILY’. Everyone is so supportive of one another and pushing each other to reach their fullest potentials. They have a flat hierarchy in the office too, which is great for all the crazily creative minds in the office.
“The founders’ doors are open to anyone; if you have a great idea just walk in and talk to them about it,” explained Stanley.
Ling Yi was also quick to add on: “We don’t tell people it’s a bad idea; rather we encourage people to talk freely and build onto each other’s ideas from there.”
And this autonomy has translated into some of the craziest projects I have ever heard. Take Lin Sheng for example. After noticing that a bird laid eggs outside his office window, he approached his colleagues to see if he can build an IoT to film the entire process of the eggs hatching. His colleagues were very supportive and helped him out with the resources he needed.
“We are not afraid to try out different ideas or experiment with different stuff!” added Chi Hao.
That was how SGAG taught me not to let my memes be dreams. For those of you reading this right now, what crazy ideas do you have? What sets your heart on fire? This National Day, let’s come together and make Singapore a better place to live in. #MajulahSingapura
Want to hustle alongside the SGAG team? With Wantedly Visit, you can now request a casual chat to SGAG's office to learn more about their people, culture and purpose. Don't say Bojio, check out available positions here.
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Dominic Goh Kai Xiang