Shai Ymbong always wanted a career in creatives but wasn’t sure how to achieve it. A cold email to Kryz Uy changed everything.
Any Filipino creative knows the struggle of finding that passion that ignites the creative spirit. It’s even harder given how certain sections of Philippine society still look down on creatives and the important work they do. This is something Shai Ymbong knows all too well. Growing up, the self-described extrovert always saw herself working in the creatives industry. But she was up against parents who were hostile towards that idea and preferred to see her enter the corporate world. That wasn’t going to happen for Shai. And her ticket to unlocking her potential as a creative came, from all places, emailing Kryz Uy one random morning asking for a job.
THE TRIALS OF A YOUNG CREATIVE
Initially, Shai, who hails from Cebu, was supposed to enter the medical field and join her sister. But she quickly learned that it wasn’t meant for her. “When I went to the medical college, I was like, ‘I can’t do this,’” shares Shai. She quickly pivoted to her dream of wanting to be a creative, particularly in journalism as she had a passion for journalism, and took up Mass Communication, with a major in Media Communication, in college.
But an internship writing news left a bad taste in her mouth as the experience made her realize that journalism wasn’t exactly her calling. “Every single day I was looking for bad news. I was in the newspaper for an internship for like every day, and on holiday. So it was kind of negative for me that made me I realize, oh my god, parang hindi ko made for journalism.” The moment led her to looking for other outlets to spark her creative passions.
By the time Shai graduated college, she was ready to pursue her dreams. But first, she had to get through her parents. “I remember my parents were super adamant of me having a job right after graduation because, let’s face it, the creative industry in the Philippines is not quite recognized sa older generations,” recalls Shai. This moment in her life was a tug-of-war with her parents, who pushed her to get an office job. “I knew instinct-wise na hindi ako makaksurvive sa office job.” So, how did Shai get over this dilemma? By cold emailing Kryz Uy.
Growing up, Shai was familiar with who Kryz was. Back during the heydays of Tumblr, Shai followed quite a few local creators, such as Kryz, who had a following then for her fashion content. And if Shai manifested the moment, she also met Kryz once during college when she skipped her Filipino class to attend a talk Kryz was giving in her school. Their paths would soon cross once more years later. “I was looking into Kryz’s vlogs and then I saw this one video where she was setting up her blog and I was like, ‘I wonder if she needs someone to assist her?’”
Upon further research, she saw that Kryz left a contact email at the bottom of her blog. At the time, video editing was just a hobby of Shai’s, but she didn’t want to pass up the opportunity. “Basically, I just cold emailed her.” While Kryz Uy today has a following in the millions, in 2019, she was a rising YouTuber with a little over 100,000 subscribers. Still, there was no guarantee that Kryz would see and let alone reply to Shai’s email. Shai was then a fresh grad who was looking for her first job and sent Kryz her portfolio and newly-created LinkedIn account. Shai’s effort could have easily been another unread email for the content creator, but the stars were aligned for the moment.
As per Shai, the morning she sent the email, Kryz was having her morning coffee with Shai’s email popping up on her notifications as she was going through her emails. At the time, Kryz wasn’t looking for anyone to join her team. But she, “just magically clicked it. She saw my email and then replied within the day and said, ‘I’m not accepting anyone right now. But are you open to do an interview?’”
Just like that, Shai scored herself an interview with Kryz Uy. “I just I didn’t expect for a reply because I know that she probably doesn’t read a lot of those messages.” The two met up a week later at a coffee shop for what amounted to Shai’s first job interview. While she was understandably nervous meeting Kryz, she brought the tension down by asking Shai to talk about herself. When Shai got home later that night, she sent an email to Kryz thanking her for the interview. What happened next changed her life. “Her reply was basically her saying na can you start next week, we’re gonna have this big meeting and then you can sit with us. So, the next week, I had work already, and I didn’t even tell my parents that I had a job.”
WORKING WITH THE FAM
One cold email and four years later, Shai is still working with Kryz and the Skyfam as a whole. Her main job with the family is serving as Kryz Uy’s video editor. If you love how easy and wholesome her videos are, you can thank Shai for that. Once the videos are filmed, they’re sent to Shai where she works her magic as she stiches moments of Kryz’s daily life. Aside from that, she also helps manage Kryz and Slater’s popular podcast, and does a few personal brand deals on the side.
While Shai has her deadlines to meet, working with Kryz Uy is not a 9-to-5 job that has set hours. One day, Shai can be working at home, the next, she’s with Kryz in what new adventure she sets on. “I kind of feel like I’m part of the family,” she muses. “Every time I’m with them, we sit and eat lunch together and talk about what’s going on. That’s why I feel like it’s normal [to work with Kryz Uy].”
But more than getting to hangout with the family, what Shai appreciates most about the job is how much she’s grown as a person, and the environment Kryz and Slater built to make it possible. “Before, I was super insecure with everything. I wasn’t confident. [Kryz] really saw me at my lowest that I cried in front of her.” As Shai explains, the dynamics in the team is one of openness and honesty. Slater and Kryz want their staff to open up about what they are going through, both good and bad. It builds a safe space for them. This in turn, not only helped Shai grow professionally, but holistically as well as the duo helped Shai work through her self-doubt. “Parang I wasn’t going anywhere and they’re super reassuring that they wanted me to grow. You’re not just an editor.”
Admittedly, Shai had a moment where she felt like her editing work was not fulfilling. “There was an instance where I felt like I was a shadow. I was editing for people, but at the same time I also wanted to create and have a platform for myself.” Working with Kryz made Shai feel empowered as she felt safe to try new things with Kryz’s support. “I feel empowered that I can do anything within my reach and I can enjoy my 20s.” A supportive boss is the dream for many, and Shai arguably landed on the jackpot. “I always tell Kryz that I have partnerships with brands and she doesn’t hinder me from working with them.”
DEALING WITH THE FAMILY
In 2019, Kryz and Slater were just starting their family and beginning their social media empire. Shai was there for it all as one of the OG team members who helped build the Skyfam into the presence that they are now. “I’m one of the pioneers who make her content, make sure that it’s all aligned, and that it will click it will go viral.”
But, just because Shai was living the dream job, that didn’t mean everyone in her life was happy for her. Once again, she had to deal with parents who did not understand the work of a creative. “My parents didn’t accept my job, like, it’s not a profession. That was their perspective.” It’s the (sad) life story of most Gen Z working in the creatives space. Add to that her own personal doubts, it wasn’t easy for Shai in her first months on the job.
“I wasn’t confident with my job. I felt like they didn’t know the title of editor. So it made me feel insecure. Video editors are not credited as much. So I felt like it wasn’t a real job. I had the pressure of my parents kind of labeling it as not professional because it’s not in a traditional setting.” It was only when Kryz, and the Skyfam as a whole, grew in popularity, and Shai frequently traveling with Kryz to shoot her content, that Shai’s parents saw the impact of her work. “They kind of knew the impact step by step and it built my confidence also that I can do it, I can contribute to something that will grow and that will have a much bigger audience.”
These days, Shai’s parents left behind their old mindset and are now supportive of their daughter’s work. “I feel really validated from my parents,” shares Shai. “They show me that they’re super proud of what I do. So right now, I kind of feel really happy and proud of myself since I made my own career from scratch. And yeah, I’m really proud of what I achieved but it doesn’t stop from here.”
From an outgoing fresh grad who didn’t have the most concrete plan to a confident young woman who built a career for herself, Shai did it all. And what started it all was an email she sent one morning. Working with Kryz Uy has not only helped Shai gain a platform of her own, but also allowed her to step into the creative she always wanted to be. “I kind of found my essence as I wanted to create a platform also for editors and people working behind the camera that they also should be credited and feel the pride of their work because without us, there’s nothing to produce.”
Shai Ymbong found herself and is living the life many young Filipino creatives aspire for. Even though her journey to where she is now wasn’t easy, Shai’s proof that the dream is possible. For the other Gen Z creatives out there on the search, the 25 year old advices that they let their creative spirit flourish. “Go out there and create connections. Just create your own career path out of there. Believe in yourself and your worth, find outlets for you to become creative, and find a lot of references for you.”
The pressure out there is real, both from within and outside the industry. But that one path is out there. “I was also in too much pressure. I was super into other people’s opinions and I wish I didn’t listen to most of them. You have to trust your own timeline and trust that you have your own path. Put your manifestations out there and embody what you want to be in the future. There’s no need to pressure yourself, or compare yourself with anybody because at the end of the day, you will always have your own path and you will always have your own space. Especially in creative industry, everyone has a space and everyone has the chance to be seen and be heard.”