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So This Is My Why

157 EpisodesProduced by Ling YahWebsite

A podcast featuring inspiring people about their journey to discovering and living their "WHY" or purpose in life. With your host & producer, Ling Yah, we deep dive into everything from finances to dealing with doubts and setbacks, and how to forge an unconventional career from ground zero! Expect t… read more


Ep 3: Dr Julian Tan - From Subang to Becoming the Head of Digital Business Initiatives & Esports, Formula One

Dr Julian Tan is the Head of Digital Business Initiatives & Esports in Formula 1 (London), and someone I got to meet while studying in the UK.

Perhaps a little selfishly, I’ve loved how this podcast gives me the “excuse” to reconnect with old friends and Julian is definitely one of them. You’ll find out soon enough because my goodness, there is just soo much to unpack from our conversation! We recorded this way back in May 2020 & I’m still blown away by everything I’ve learned and I’m sure you will too. :)

So buckle up & get ready for this ride! 

Who is Julian Tan?

Julian spent some of his earliest years in Hong Kong but moved back to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for primary school in Sri Subang, and were some of his happiest years. But unfortunately, all that changed when he moved to secondary school (around the age of 13) because:

In Standard Six, I got along with everybody. Everybody was my friend. and then suddenly you come into high school and then you immediately get picked on because at the time, I was a little bit overweight. 

Weight, a natural inclination towards rule keeping & always doing academically well meant that Julian stood out. And not, at least to his peers, in a good way. But you know what I was blown away? It was the way in which Julian handled that challenge:

And it was, I would say, at the age of 13, 14. I remember writing it down on a note, like, don't care what other people think. Just keep doing what's important to you and also surround yourself with people who can support you because at that age, I felt like the more time that you spend with people, you either morph into them or they'll morph into you.

So make sure you pick your company very wisely. 

Wow. I do not know if I would have had the wisdom to do that in his shoes!

The Oxbridge Experience

Julian ended up going to Oxford University to do a Bachelors & Masters in Engineering Science. And in the process, graduating in the top 3rd percentile with First class Honours, being the top engineering student & scholar of Jesus College & the recipient of numerous department and collection prizes. 

But soon after graduating, he wrote a viral Huffington Post entitled: A First Class Degree from Oxbridge - So What?. And we explore that article in the podcast and why looking back, he would have wanted to have handled his time in Oxford differently. Which is not to say he “regretted” doing what he did!

Cambridge University was his second chance to get the university experience he wanted, which is where he went to next for his PhD in composites engineering. And we talk about his experiences there as a PhD student and also the age-ago debate of Oxford v Cambridge: are they really all that different? 

But all good things must come to an end & as with any “adulting” process, there comes the need to find a job. 

Boston Consulting Group, London

Let’s be real. Julian has an academic CV that anyone would kill for. But reality is a bitter pill and as Julian puts it in his May 2012 Huffington Post article, “people rely too much on education being the silver bullet to every conceivable problem.” Even with the grades he had, the rejections kept coming. And we talk about that: the emphasis on education & false myth that the world is your oyster when you have the grades. 

Julian eventually ended up at Boston Consulting Group and it was there that he first became exposed to Formula One. 

Head of Digital Business Initiatives & Esports, Formula One

Julian, alongside Frank Arthofer, helped to establish the digital & esports division in Formula One. Most prominently to date, Julian’s team was responsible for the Virtual Grand Prixs that took place during the COVID-19 pandemic when no other races were being held! 

At the end of the Virtual Grand Prix run, F1 Esports achieved a stunning 30 million in views, and up to 85 million when social media is thrown in the mix!

In the podcast, we unravel the genesis of those results. Touching on topics such as:

  • The process used to establish the corporate structure for a digital and esports department (F1 had never had a marketing campaign before)!
  • What the esports field was like back in 2017;
  • How the different F1 offerings were conceptualised e.g. the Pro series v the Virtual Grand Prix races; 
  • Esport opportunities for gamers like Brendan Leigh (who is now signed on to Mercedes, a F1 team!), even though Brendan didn’t even have a driver’s licence!
  • What it was like putting the Virtual Grand Prix races together; and
  • How F1 intends to stay ahead of its competitors. 

And if you haven’t already done so, go check out one of the F1 races! I did and kudos to Julian and his team, because I was hooked. This, from a girl who has never watched a race in her life. Because the races really were that thrilling! I even have a favourite F1 driver that I now follow - who would’ve thought?

Other Topics Discussed

  • The question of identity: Who am I? If I have also been “special” because of my academic achievements, who am I when I enter an environment (like Oxford or Cambridge) where everyone is exactly the same as me with the same background and I find out that actually, I’m not that “special”?
  • How pursuing a PhD differs from an undergraduate degree?
  • Is consulting at one of the prestigious MBB firms really a “dream” job? 
  • What qualities someone should have to succeed as he has?

For show notes & more, visit

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