How We Got Here — Anna Sian

Text by Charis Poon
Photos by Michael Kusumadjaja

Text by Charis Poon
Photos by Michael Kusumadjaja

Everyone’s journey is a unique inscription through time and isn’t a path that can be retraced or duplicated. How We Got Here is a series of concise recollections of personal journeys as told by talented creative individuals with different backgrounds, careers, and interests who share their struggles and motivations to explain how they reached this point in their lives.

The series begins with a story from Anna Sian who works at Spotify as Head of Marketing in their podcasts division. She’s been a steady presence in New York City having previously worked at Staple and VSCO. Read on for her account of how she got here.

Anna Sian

— 34, New York —

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Standing in the total darkness of the tiny bathroom in our East Village apartment except for a single amber light, I watched attentively as my dad ran a sheet of paper through a sequence of tray baths, explaining how I could use this process to develop my own photos. Later this week I wanted to further develop my latest song and there was also a poetry slam to prepare for.

Growing up in New York City was to be in the center of overlapping experimental artistry. My parents were architects and artists and they showed me the many possible avenues I could explore. Even more than my nuclear family, the city cultivated the creative spark I’ve always felt. I saw what creative expression meant for individual New Yorkers, and in a big picture way what that meant for New York as a whole—and I wanted to be a part of it. Like a sponge, I soaked up the influences around me and like coral I grew linked to the city’s extended reef of arts, creativity, and expression.

I love people. I love meeting new people and hearing the stories of other creative people. I pushed forward, following my various passions while remaining open to experimentation, and found ways to create that enabled me to understand other people better and inspire them to do things.

Even when people have diverse backgrounds, languages, and ethnicities, what we create and share serves as a unifying bond. That helps me make sense of the connections I cultivate—if we can connect over what we create, we can better understand how to add value to our lives.

Marketing is often thought of as making hard sells, the carnival barker with the flashiest banner or the biggest button, but marketing done well meaningfully contributes to a community.

Working at Staple, I was producing collaborative projects and it clicked for me that marketing is a powerful tool for creating community. My love for people and appreciating them has made me empathetic, which is what makes a good marketer. I put myself in someone’s shoes and consider their likes, motivations, and interests. I think outside of myself. To me, my role is not about selling a product, but about understanding what the experience is on the other side.

Knowing that collaboration creates more meaning for disparate audiences has been a foundation for my work. Collaboration doesn’t mean just having established voices talking to each other, but finding ways to serve communities and boost all creators.

One of my favorite projects is VSCO Open Studio, which allows photographers to use the VSCO photo studio for their personal projects. I’ve done something similar at Anchor in forming a podcast lab for our creator community. This is what I enjoy most about the marketing I’ve done for the past ten years. I take an idea that is a way to serve the community and build that out into as many different possibilities, using products as a part of enabling that.

I’ve seen and experienced firsthand the halo effects of many different creative people. When you’re doing something right and can amplify your voice, you inspire other people to become creators in their own ways. I give people the tools to build their own halo effects around them.

I love people. I love meeting new people and hearing the stories of other creative people. I pushed forward, following my various passions while remaining open to experimentation, and found ways to create that enabled me to understand other people better and inspire them to do things.
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