By Samantha Magick
When Los Angeles based Jasmine Yee Joy Bland finished speaking to a group of Fijian highschoolers recently, she was swarmed by girls wanting to ask further questions and take selfies together.
Bland had featured on a panel organised by Fiji Fashion Week, describing her career as a data analyst and opportunities in the field. For the audience of young women, most of whom admitted to not liking maths, it was eye-opening.
As Global Marketing Services Lead at media communications agency, OMD Worldwide, Bland says her role combines both sides of the brain. “Maybe this will make you like maths a little more,” she told her rapt audience, continuing there were more opportunities in the field than being a statistician or accountant.
So how did this Fiji girl find herself working on global accounts such as Apple?
Bland laughingly says she has ‘many exes’ in Fiji; she is ex-Yat Sen, ex-Mount St Mary’s, ex-Natabua and ex-St Joseph’s. She also spent a year schooling in Australia, and says “bringing all of that together, that kind of shaped me.”
Fiji’s education system is often maligned, but Bland believes it has given her an edge. She says the attention to detail and the sense of respect it instilled, has stood her in good stead.
“[In Fiji] you listen to understand before you interact, and so that’s my approach with every role that I have. I’ll go in and listen and learn and research, and then I will get to a point where I will talk, and I will tell you exactly what I see. And these are things based off data, not my own opinion, but based off data. I think I learned those principles here.”
Careers in accounting run in her family, but Bland says she was not keen on the corporate sphere at all, at first building a music career.
“I said, I’m going to go to America. I’m going to get a record deal. I’m going to record an album and I’m going to go on tour.
And so she did. However, she was mid-set during a performance at the famed Viper Room in LA when she realised the crowd was singing along with her. She remembered thinking, “This is crazy. And then I said ‘Okay, I’m done.’ And that was my last show. I said, ‘Alright, time to get a real job.’”
That real job initially involved answering phones and restocking office supplies as an entry-level marketing coordinator. However her boss quickly spotted her potential, introducing her to data reporting and analytics.
Two and a half years later, he told her she needed to look for another job. “I was like, are you firing me?” Bland recalls. He said ‘No, I’ve just taught you all that I can and you’re now an analyst, so you need to get an analyst job to make an analyst’s salary.’”
A love for solving problems
While she had an interest in “maths, accounting and balancing things” at school, she also liked creative writing. Bland says what she does now “is bringing all of that together, that creativity to analyse numbers and turning it into insights and storytelling, I guess I was doing it through music and now through data. It just feels like it was a natural progression.”
Her next role was with a lead generation agency, where she analysed data and shared insights into how it might be used. She was promoted after three months, and was able to build a small team, before moving on to another agency where she worked on ABC, Disney and other large accounts.
“That’s where I really got into building architecture; how can I make all of these pieces of data speak to me in a… concise way?”
Roles working on the Playstation, Adidas and Sony accounts followed.
“That was really cool,” she recalls. Despite her success, Bland is not jaded, and she can still remember the feeling of being paid to travel in first class, stay in the fanciest of hotels, and fly across the globe for one-day meetings. “It was really surreal. I was on a plane almost every week, just going to visit the different brands that I worked for.”
It took Bland eight months to decide to take up the role working on the Apple account. At first, she was worried she wouldn’t be able to handle the complexities of working across so many different markets, languages and currencies. “I [thought] no, it’s going to be too much, I can’t do it. It’s my goal, but it’s going to be super big and it’s going to be really hard.
“[But] I was basically at a certain point; I found myself solving the same type of problems over and over again. So it was a bit of a repetitive cycle and I wanted something more challenging. With Apple, just how iconic it is and being able to architect data and reporting frameworks for them…this is going to be a really challenging problem to solve, [and] I wanted to solve it.”
The rapid and ongoing changes in the digital space add further complexity. Bland gives the example of Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter, which saw some people resume tweeting, and others move away from the platform. It means advertisers need to understand how that audience and their potential engagement have shifted.
“There is an endless number of questions to answer, and this is what keeps me engaged. It’s a new question every day. And you don’t get into the cycle of becoming bored.”
Bland is keen to have more of the type of conversations she had with Suva school girls on International Women’s Day.
“It’s things like what we just did here where we’re just teaching the next generation of people that are coming into this space, that is what’s actually engaging me now. I can still solve problems and give back at the same time, and ensure the people that are coming into this discipline or into this specialty, are given the right sort of information to set them up for success. So the more I can do with this, I think the happier I’ll be.”
She is a member of a group dubbed ‘Women of the metaverse’.
“Essentially, it’s a group of women who have found success in their careers in Los Angeles; I think I’m the only one from the data tech side and the others are like Oscar winning and nominated producers, and [my friend] brought us together to help people that want to do the same things as us. It is using this group of women with their powers combined to help other people pave their own path.
“I tend to find calm in giving back. I’m definitely my mother’s daughter.”
For the school girls who left her session excitedly chattering about what they had heard, she did just that, gifting her stories and experience and advice in a way that inspired them to think about life after graduation.
This article first appeared in Fiji Traveller, April-June 2023.