Anna Sian has been in branding and marketing for more than 10 years articulating culturally relevant brand stories through strategic digital and offline campaigns. Both an NYC native & child of immigrants, TFCU wanted to learn more about her story and how she navigated pursuing her creative endeavors working with companies like Staple Pigeon, VSCO, and Anchor/Spotify. She touches upon being a Filipina-American with creative parents, her favorite projects, and where she finds inspiration.
Sidenote: I cold emailed her after listening to her awesome episode of the podcast, Culture Study produced by Tailored Heritage and was very lucky to profile her for TFCU. I recommend you listen to it!
Tell us about yourself. What was your childhood like growing up in NYC and being a child of immigrants?
I grew up as an only child in the most New York part of New York, the East Village. For anyone who’s ever visited, it’s a fun, lively place that at the time was teeming with artists, musicians, and the like. My parents are architects who immigrated here over 45 years ago. They’re both pretty adjusted to NYC’s creative culture and pace, and they’re super progressive. They threw me right in and exposed me to everything at an early age, and I took to photography, music, and writing poetry in high school.
Even though I wasn’t born in the Philippines, my parents were bullish about teaching me Tagalog and didn’t speak English at home. I feel lucky to be able to speak the language, because many Fil-Ams don’t. But I always tell people it’s never too late: learning Tagalog can really strengthen your connection to your culture and your family.
You’ve been in Marketing for 10+ years. How did you get into branding/marketing & what do you do currently?
My path was not a straight line — working in photo publishing, a men’s streetwear fashion brand, agencies, and now tech and podcasts— but I tried my best to follow my passion and whatever intuition was guiding me at every step. I fell into branding and marketing because I loved to tell stories through words and images, and wanted to get them to be seen and felt by as many people as possible.
I now look after the brand at Anchor, a platform that makes it really easy for anyone to make a podcast, for free. My job is to communicate our mission to democratize audio as clearly and creatively as possible, through our branded content and marketing campaigns. As of last month we’re now part of the Spotify family, and that’s super exciting for me!
Do you have any specific projects that you’re really proud of? What was your role and what did you get out of it?
My favorite projects have been ones that serve creative communities — while at VSCO I worked on a program called Open Studio, a free photography studio for emerging creators in NYC. At Anchor we’ve similarly opened up a space for any creator to use, and this time it’s a podcast recording studio. I’ve been involved from initial concepts to branding, and designing the experience from the application process to the moment you leave.
What obstacles have you faced in your career and how have you overcome them?
Working at startups requires a ton of flexibility and patience. Sometimes your job will change multiple times in one year, and you kind of have to roll with it, and grow with it. Or it will completely shut down and everyone will get laid off. It’s very unpredictable. I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit, so if worst ever came to worst, I’d know I could count on me. Always have a fallback side hustle, it’s the New York way!
I heard you went on tour with Toro Y Moi! How did that opportunity come about and how was that experience like?
Years ago, I was on tour with my band, Ava Luna, and we were performing at our first SXSW showcase. I was with my best friend / bandmate, Felicia, and we were walking around Austin in between shows. I randomly recognized Chaz from Toro Y Moi across the street and pretty much fan girled and was like “OMG I love your music! You’re Filipino right? Me too!” He asked us what we were up to later and we said we were performing at midnight and gave him the address. Halfway through our set that night, Chaz and all of the Toro Y Moi guys walked in and we freaked out a little on stage, but tried to keep it cool. Two weeks later, their agent called our agent and asked us if we wanted to join their next US tour with Unknown Mortal Orchestra. It felt like we were in a movie.
How do you find inspiration and what helps you wind down when you’re stressed?
I find inspiration everywhere, especially through travel. One of my favorite trips recently was to Kyoto, Japan. The culture is full of history and dedicated craftsmanship, and it made me want to be more mindful in my work and in my art. My husband also inspires me a lot, because he’s insatiably curious, and always learning new things (like woodworking, laser cutting, making electronics, etc). It’s funny, I’d be lying if I didn’t say I often find inspiration through social media, but it’s also one of the things that stresses me out. So I think getting away from screens and doing more with my hands is the healthiest way to stay focused. Other ways I wind down are through meditation, yoga, eating some bomb sushi, listening to jazz, and watching Netflix!
Traditionally, Filipino-Americans tend to pursue a career heavily influenced by their parents. I’m pretty sure all of us had to think about nursing as a career path because someone in our family did it. What advice do you have for anyone looking to pursue a creative career?
My parents were not very traditional when it came to my career, but they did try to persuade me not to consider art (even though they were both creatives). So rather than become a studio art major in college, I took up science. My major was literally called Psychological and Brain Sciences, so nerdy! Looking back, I think studying the human brain helped me a lot in my marketing career.
My advice for anyone looking to pursue a creative career is just to be patient and follow your intuition. Every job you take has something to teach you. If you recognize it’s “this is what I DON’T like to do,” understand WHY that is, then move on quickly in a different direction and take that learning with you. It’s like finding a soulmate – you have to date around a bunch, figure out what you’re looking for, what you’re willing to compromise on, and be in the right headspace to receive the opportunities in front of you.
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