Google Thailand’s communication manager Saiyai Sakawee talks about working with the Internet giant and why she turned down their offer of a job first time round
When Google came knocking on Saiyai Sakawee’s door five years ago, shortly after the 26 year-old had completed her Master’s degree in Public Relations and Corporate Communication at New York University, she turned the technology giant down.
“I was far more interested in learning how a small company worked though I did go through the long recruitment process before saying no,” she recalls.
And that is exactly what she did, finding a public relations job with a small digital agency in the Big Apple where she was tasked with taking care of digital public relations for companies on the Fortune 500 list. She enjoyed the challenge and spent the next three years hard at work, then at age 29, moved back to Thailand.
Saiyai quickly found a job in the media, reporting on technology stories for the Tech in Asia online platform and occasionally contributing to Telecom Journal, a magazine owned by her family.
Just over a year later, she was ready to launch her own business and joined up with her brother, the former chief executive of Internet gaming platform Garena in setting up MSeed, a startup designed to incubate game developers as well as publish the games.
Saiyai took care of brand development and brand communication for MSeed.
“We came from nothing to being recognised as a player in the regional game industry in just two years,” she says proudly.
But despite that success, Saiyai quickly realised that she was happier in public relations than online gaming and sent in an application for the post of communication manager at Google Thailand.
“In fact, Google told me that this position was opening up,” she explains. “I liked the idea and felt the time had come to challenge myself working for a giant company that has so many innovative products and services,” she says.
Despite being offered that first job five years earlier, Saiyai, who is now 32, once again had to go through the six-month recruitment process, sitting through more than 10 interviews and undergoing language testing in both Thai and English. She passed with flying colours and started work on April 18.
“Being offered a job before doesn’t mean you can take short cuts. Google always picks the best to fit every position and that means it has to be certain you are the right one,” she says.
“Being skilled and proficient is not enough to become a Googler, as Google’s employees are known. Google needs people who have ‘Googley-ness’, which includes being good at teamwork and able to work with the others.”
Saiyai believes that her experience with a digital agency, as a writer for both online media and traditional media and as a startup entrepreneur were all instrumental in landing her the job with Google Thailand.
“I was excited to become a Googler, as Google is a very big brand with a lot of clever people. I asked myself how I could fit in the company and quickly discovered that my understanding of and good relationships with local and regional media were major assets in developing a strong communication strategy,” she says.
As communication manager, Saiyai works as the gatekeeper for information between Google and the public and needs to always be on top of the messages the company wants to convey to its customers/users.
“My job is to be the link between local, regional and global. We give local feedback to the global body and convey messages from the global to the local level,” she explains.
The big challenge of being communication manager of Google Thailand is knowing how to prioritise communications to promote products and services. Google, she adds, has a lot of products and services, but not all of them fit the Thai context.
“I would like to make Google more proactive in the Thai market. It’s far more than just a search engine. Google has a lot of innovative products from which Thai people can benefit. My job is to make these products more familiar to people and part of their daily lives. Google should have more engagement with Thais,” she says.
Saiyai also enjoys the independence her job gives here. Google operates a flat-management system that allows her to come up with her own ideas and share then with others.
“It’s not a top-down culture,” she says happily. “I love working at Google.”