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5 ways education can change your life

For Amy Kunrojpanya, VP of communications for Asia Pacific at Netflix, education has meant a completely unexpected path in life. Learn how education can benefit your life too!

Amy Kunrojpanya is the Vice President of Public Relations at Netflix Asia Pacific, with previous roles at Google, Coca-Cola and Uber. At CGA’s recent Open Day, she talked about her journey from a small town in Queensland to Netflix. Read how education helped her chart this unique path to success and how she still continues to learn new things every day.
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The Importance of Education in Amy’s Life

It might be easy seeing her work experience to assume that her professional journey has been straightforward. But taking a glimpse into her background reveal the actual twists and turns along the way.

Amy grew up in a fairly isolated and rural part of Queensland, which is in the north-eastern part of Australia. It's not really an area known for having a thriving metropolis or urban centres of academic excellence. Its farm country, famous for its fruit, and for its hard working, down-to-earth people - the population of her town today is just 1200!

Growing up, Amy didn't have a TV in her home, and as for her educational experience, she went to 8 different schools in 12 years, and four different universities across four countries! She is also the first person on both sides of her extended family to get a university degree. It was never a given that she would move seamlessly from school to university and into a career. But even though she wasn’t exactly sure how, or in some cases, even what she was going to do, Amy always trusted that if she worked hard enough, she would get there.

Read more about Amy’s journey to Netflix here.

Here are the 5 tips from Amy, reflecting on the importance education had on her life

1. You don't have to be defined by wherever you've come from.

While Amy is proud of her Queensland heritage, and humble family roots - it's a big part of who she is today - it hasn't been the predictor or indicator of her success or trajectory. Sometimes it's easy to believe that where we come from determines where we can realistically get to.

I've been really humbled to get to know people like Mitch Kapor, a technology innovator and investor, and embrace one of his most common sayings, that “Genius is evenly distributed by zip code, but opportunity is not.” Amy says.

In other words, your capacity for greatness can be separate from your origin story. They will at times overlap and you will bring amazing power and unique perspective from your history into your future, but one doesn't have to define the other. Whatever you might be overcoming, turn it into something you can use to thrive and move forward.

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2. Ask questions. To everyone.

Instead of making choices based on her history, Amy only decided on her university degree – which was an international degree program – because she asked lots of people lots of questions.

So many people don’t ask, and those unanswered questions can make all the difference in their lives and the choices they make. Based on Amy’s experience, when you're sincerely seeking answers, you'll find people will want to help you find them.

You won't sound ignorant: you'll appear ambitious, curious and open. Which is exactly what the world needs more of — so please ask.

Amy says she is grateful to the people who took the time to listen and help guide her and uncover things she didn't even know existed, like a degree program, scholarship opportunities and even specialisations! Had she not asked, she would have never known about these opportunities or been able to take full advantage of them.

Amy’s own international degree across Australia, Japan, China and Thailand, ended up helping her focus on Asia, which she had already gotten a taste for when she went to Thailand on a Rotary scholarship. It also put her on the map in a very real way: Since then Amy has studied, worked, lived and travelled in over 75 countries and she speaks eight Asian languages. (Which can appear surprising when you're a 6ft tall Australian!).

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Importantly, Amy started her degree because she wanted to be an ambassador. At the time, that's what she thought she was destined to be - a champion of her country and culture, and she started her career in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, trusting that the path from there would be a series of clearly laid out steps.

3. It's ok if you don't know what you want, yet. Or if your plan looks a little different from what you imagined.

At many times in her career and life, Amy has been faced with unanticipated challenges, and presented with unexpected opportunities to swerve, and take a different direction.

Saying yes - even to the unknown - has made all the difference.

Amy has a double degree in Asian Political Science and Asian Languages. Sounds perfect for a civil servant, wanna-be future diplomat, but then she took a sharp left turn into the corporate world and ended up working at companies like Coca Cola, Google and Uber, all before she came to Netflix. She has walked a truly non-linear path - across ten different industries – and while it’s one she couldn’t have predicted; she does not regret any of it.

I've spent my career making great, lasting relationships, representing my company, helping to educate people around me on what we're doing, on the nuances of different countries and cultures we operate in, and helping to solve hard problems across different communities. In many ways, I am being an ambassador - just in a different way to how I imagined.

Even through the hard lessons, and some have been very hard, she has learned something, and those lessons have shaped who Amy is today, and how she leads.

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Progress won't always be a straight line. But progress is better than perfection. So Amy says jump in, take a leap, take a chance. It's always an opportunity to learn something: even if you decide that's not the right path for you and change directions entirely.

Each experience I've gained, whether it's from working with different types of people to learning new types of technical skills or building new networks and relationships, for example, has proved to be incredibly transferable.

4. Education doesn't "finish" when you leave an institution.

Education isn't just about being at a school or university. It's in every conversation, every meeting room, every book you read, every podcast you listen to. Amy defines the word as being alive to the world around you, always, and understanding there are lessons to be learned in all sorts of really profound ways. And hopefully you'll never stop learning: that's one of Amy’s own personal goals.

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In Amy’s experience, if you can embrace this attitude, and be comfortable with the discomfort of not knowing, and lean into your learning curve, then your career path can take you on an incredible journey.

I didn’t see Netflix coming, but I know that each role I have taken prepared me in some way to lead the team I do today.

Education will change your life, but it isn't just one thing or one point or place in time.

5. Run your own race.

Each morning Amy normally gets up around 5, and starts her day with 10Ks. It’s quiet, and it’s how she focuses herself.

Whether you’re a runner or not, we are all in some kind of race - I think of this as the perpetual forward motion of life and its many adventures.

Amy knows that it's tempting to look around you and worry that you're not adhering to an arbitrary and invisible checklist. But she also believes that there are truly no checklists and there is no "right" time or wrong time to begin, or to begin again. Toni Morrison, Marcel Proust and Mark Twain all started writing books in their 40s! And in Morrison's case, she went on to win a Pulitzer Prize and a Nobel Prize in literature. In Amy’s case, both her parents decided to pursue higher education and change their careers in their 40s and 50s, and to this day they remind her that ultimately you set your own pace, and determine what your personal best will be - no one else.

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So don't forget that you will also always have time to plan, to think, to dream and to create. You’ll also have time to fail, to try again, and even to reinvent yourself. So don’t worry if the path is unclear, bumpy at times, or takes you in a completely different direction than you imagined.

Amy’s mantra for success!

  • Be bold in your choices.
  • Be brave as you bring your whole self into your future experiences.
  • And please, be the example you wish you’d seen more of so that others can be inspired by you and embark on their own journeys.
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