Industry Highlights: Alumni in media Sector

2 August 2023
Nicholas John,
Bachelor of Art in Media Studies 2005

The Industry Highlights series feature fellow alumni on a journey of their careers in various industries, sectors, and stories behind the scene. Find out more about our growing domestic and international community of over 70,000 Alumni through unique stories and experiences.

This Q&A session with Nicholas John (BA Media 2005), Head of Sports, Astro in Malaysia will highlight his aspiring career and life.

What did you study at Murdoch? What do you do now?

I completed my BA Media Studies in 2005. I’m currently the Head Of Sports at Astro in Malaysia.

 What do you think is Murdoch’s point of difference compared with other universities?

It’s tough to make a direct comparison but personally for me, the quality of the lecturers is something worth shouting about. Until today, I clearly recall some of my conversations with some lecturers – down to specific lessons and projects we worked on. Martin Mhando, Melanie Rodriga, and John McMullan – are just a few educators that come to mind. Needless to say my time at Murdoch University left a long-lasting impression on me. I was also extremely thankful that the university provided Merit scholarships for students – because had this not been available, I might not have been able to complete my degree.

 What motivates you at work, especially while working on your career progression over the years?

Hmm good question! I like to think I’m generally driven, a borderline workaholic (in the most positive way haha). Most students dread ‘Group Assignments’ in University as there will always be uncertainties – about the members of your team – the personalities and characters. I love that challenge! You can call me naive, but I genuinely believe I’m able to help a group rally together for a common goal. And I think that really motivates me at work. I enjoy teaching because I generally enjoy sharing my humble knowledge and experience. I also really believe in building strong and meaningful relationships.  At the end of the day, your colleagues, your boss, your stakeholders, your clients, your partners, your competitors – are all human beings. So if you are not able to connect with them in a true and genuine way, you are going to struggle. Thankfully, I love this aspect of leadership – and the satisfaction you get from seeing a colleague succeed on a project you helped with, or your stakeholder win an award. Don’t get me wrong, I am ultra-competitive in everything I do, but also subscribe to the concept of winning together. If you focus on being the best at what you do, everything else will take care of itself. Be it, recognition, promotion, job offers, salary jumps, opportunities etc. Instead of the other way around, where you chase it, the chances are you will get lost along the way because the ‘purpose’ is missing.

 What drew you to working in this role?

When I first returned from Australia upon graduating, my original plan was to do my Masters in London but my scholarship application fell through. That made me dramatically adjust my ‘life plan’ and my first venture back in Malaysia was directing music videos and TV drama series. That stint was extremely satisfying for me because, as I was passionate about filmmaking and storytelling – this line of work early on was as close as it got to my idea of the ideal career path for me. A few months later, I received a call from a sports broadcaster in Singapore with a unique proposition. I was 24 at the time. I took up that offer and have been in the sports industry since 2006. I was always a sports fan from an early age – be it football, badminton or even running. The opportunity in Singapore effectively “changed my life”, (oh so dramatic!). I met some really incredible and inspiring people along the way, many of whom are close friends till this day.

What have been some of the big changes in your line of work?

From an industry point of view, 2020 was very challenging because live sporting events were all cancelled because of the pandemic. Operationally, the sports team was down to 30% on day-to-day work, while the rest were required to stay home. From a content perspective, we were forced to re-think our approach and you could see globally, broadcasters resorted to creative programming using archive material to make up for the lack of live sports. Engagement with fans became the top priority. We did our best to keep sports fans entertained across all devices. We learnt to improvise a lot, as a team – with the help of technology. And it did present us with a new way of thinking and approaching our work. As we return to normalcy, big sporting events going on as planned, travel opening up again and fans being allowed into venues.

 What is the best piece of advice you’ve received?

My cousin advised me to ‘get your mistakes out of the way as early in life as possible’. Today, especially relevant in the last few months for me, I’ve experienced a really steep learning curve – in this new role. And I can tell you, that process of learning (sometimes through mistakes) is the key.  Opening up yourself to learn, and constantly preparing your mind and heart to know that you may be the ‘dumbest’ person in the room – and it’s ok. Because it only means that in that environment, you are learning. Often I find that some people unknowingly reject learning because they are afraid to look stupid or are worried about appearing incompetent. Of course, that’s a valid fear, especially in the corporate environment. But I find that allowing yourself to learn new things is very powerful and rewarding.

 Who inspires you?

Wow, tough question. Many people, inspire me. I have so much respect and admiration for my parents – who did all they could to ensure I “had a shot”. They both came from tough backgrounds and their work ethic really inspired me. My dad was working in a printing factory, hard work but from what I’ve heard from his colleagues who visited us, he was one of the hardest working in the group. Same with my mom, who was a babysitter and cleaner. In fact, I recall following her around to offices and houses when I was really young. Despite all the hurdles ahead of them, my parents were able to somehow give me (and my 2 sisters) a healthy childhood, education in school and a strong foundation. I always tell people that my parents’ superpowers were ‘encouragement’. Every step of the way – my first Spelling Bee competition, attending all of my Sports Day(s), Art competitions, right up to the screening of my short film at University and even as I entered the workforce, they would watch the shows I directed and produced, and tuned into the channel of the network I was attached to – they were (and continue to be) my number 1 cheerleaders.

I look up to many people for many different reasons. With a film background, people like Clint Eastwood, M Night Shyamalan, Paul Haggis and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu are very inspiring. Whether it was their journey or their approach, every single one of them was able to unlock something in me. A special mention also goes out to Michael Jackson. I grew up on a heavy diet of his music. The first movie I watched in a cinema was Moonwalker. I was so inspired by his imagination and creativity when it came to storytelling – remember, he was one of the first to really break new ground via Music Videos. Of course, I liked his music a lot too!



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