3 things I learned about life teaching digital marketing

I was a straight C student in school.

The only As I ever got were for the two subjects I never needed to study for – Math & English.

In hindsight, I was not made for rote learning and memorization. I was constantly bored and disengaged at school, preferring to lose myself in Narnia, the fictional turmoils of Dina & Ishvar during the The Emergency, or cry stupid tears when Clara Copperfield dies (Fun: DM/comment if you didn’t have to Google what books these characters are from).

I absolutely, hated school.

So the irony wasn’t lost on me that 10+ years after escaping the clutches of “school”, I signed on as an instructor on a digital marketing course for a coding school here in KL called NextAcademy

2 years and 700+ students later, I’ve had a few reflections… but I thought I’d share my top 3.

xinch next academy class

With the first ever batch of DMQD graduates


1. “People who can’t do, teach” is a load of sh*t.

I’d revise this to: People who can’t do well, don’t teach well.

Without experience doing, there is simply no way to teach well. The best teachers have studied, applied their learnings, and proceed to deepen their understanding by teaching. Theoretical understanding alone means you’re no better than regurgitating lines from an audiobook.

I am a generalist, but I don’t have a ton of experience in every aspect/area of digital marketing. In areas I have less hands on experience in, I truly struggled to structure learning in a way that would be easily absorbed or make sense to the recipient. 

But for other areas I knew like the back of my hand, articulating, ensuring deep understanding came more easily. 

2. If you really want to excel at something, there’s #noexcuses.

We’ve had students enroll for all sorts of reasons – to advance/change careers, to grow their business, because their parents wanted them to… the works. For remote online courses like this, the only thing that will get you to completion is discipline and a strong enough intrinsic motivation. I’m not there to hound you, or nag you for not completing your course work – it’s all on you

For the students who I find the most memorable, the ones whose careers I still follow/watch from afar today.. there’s no such thing as “I couldn’t finish this because my dog was sick”, or “I had family issues”, or “I was too tired”. 

They just did what they needed to do.

I had one student who would fly in from Bangkok for weekly physical meetups, who never failed to submit her work on time and ask questions without giving a crap what other people thought. I had another who put in so much work who bothered to learn beyond what I could teach, he is now a key employee in the marketing team of a venture-funded startup in KL. I had others who hustled even as students to get free “clients” so they could practice everything they learned immediately. 

They didn’t let circumstance or excuses stop them. #noexcuses.

3. Education is not one-size fits all

It took the final year of university for me to realize that I wasn’t really that dumb… just maybe not made for this way of learning. 

And as an adult, it has been re-validated through teaching. I was not made for Asian academia – rote learning, hours of lectures and the works.

As an adult, I discovered that I learn best through reading, not audiobooks/videos/face to face lectures (ironic, I know). I also discovered that frameworks and a strong understanding of “why” is important for my understanding and eventual application.

Today, I am still horrible in classroom settings (slept through church, struggle to stay awake workshops), still run a load of classes, and still try to customize how my team learns.

But. My biggest lesson has been this:

The most important/useful things you can do for yourself is identify how you learn best. The earlier the better. And just keep doing more of it.


BONUS: Running online classes are way, way, way more taxing than physical classes. For all you teachers out there teaching on Zoom/Google Meet through the pandemic, you have my utmost respect.