Welcome to Episode 125!
STIMY Episode 125 features Tanya Zakowich.
Tanya Zakowich is the creator of @pinkpencilmath, a social media account that features fun, bite-sized videos on popular math concepts.
Her videos have amassed millions of views worldwide and her math foundations course has helped thousands of learners develop a strong understanding of fundamental math concepts.
She studied mechanical engineering at Columbia University and worked at NASA, Boeing and Hyperloop One.
Tanya lives in Singapore with her family, enjoys off-the-beaten-path travel, and can be reached at @pinkpencilmath on social media or her website www.pinkpencilmath.com
P/S: This interview is also available on YouTube!
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Who Is Tanya Zakowich?
It takes guts to quit your job.
But what if it was NASA? BOEING? Or Elon Musk’s Hyperloop One?!
Because that’s exactly what Tanya Zakowich did.
Tanya grew up with a fascination for space & like most kids, she wanted to be an astronaut.
But unlike many, that fascination held even when she grew up, which is why she ended up studying mechanical engineering at Columbia.
An internship in India helped her land a job at NASA, but she soon left for BOEING! Only to realise that at BOEING, she was just a cog in the wheel. She wasn’t being challenged.
Hence her third role at Elon Musk’s Hyperloop One, where she lived the ultimate startup life.
That is, until she realised that what she truly loved & cared about was her family and home in Singapore.
So she gave it all up to return home.
- 2:13 Interest in space
- 5:37 Engineering at Columbia University
- 7:22 How an internship in India helped Tanya get into NASA
- 9:42 NASA’s interview process
- 12:57 Quitting NASA
- 14:32 Quitting is easy?!
- 15:41 Deal breakers
- 18;11 Elon Musk’s Hyperloop One
Singapore & 1.9 Million TikTok Followers?!
Now if you listen to this STIMY interview, you’ll soon realise that Tanya is quite the go-getter!
During the pandemic, she strategically launched a new TikTok channel where she teaches maths in a fun and interesting way. Within 6 months, she hit 1 million followers!
Then quit for 2 months because of the toll it took on her mental health.
She now stands at 1.9 million followers. 🤯
That said, Tanya doesn’t have everything figured out.
She’s constantly experimenting, learning to give up on things that don’t work to try something else again. And if there’s one takeaway I hope you’ll receive from this episode, it’s this: Failures make us stronger. Don’t let it hold you back.
Now are you ready to listen to Tanya’s episode?
Let’s go. 😉
- 21:54 Singapore’s startup scene
- 22:35 US v Singapore startups
- 26:50 Dating app
- 29:10 Getting into TikTok
- 29:52 Personal branding
- 34:03 TikTok trends
- 36:21 Secret to going viral
- 36:42 Hooks
- 38:21 Drafting scripts
- 40:30 Tanya’s unique selling point
- 46:54 Not moving to the US for content creation?
- 49:27 Goal of 1 million followers
- 54:04 Going on a break
- 56:29 Change in frequency
- 57:11 Putting her name out in public
If you’re looking for more inspirational stories, check out:
- Jacqueline Novogratz: Founder, Acumen
- Karl Mak: Founder, Hepmil Media – Building a Viral Meme Business in Southeast Asia
- Darrion Nguyen: Going viral on TikTok as the Asian Bill Nye the Science Guy
- Apolo Ohno: The Most Decorated US Olympian in History – on the power of psychotic obsession & how to win in 40 secs
- Lydia Fenet: Top Christie’s Ambassador who raised over $1 billion for non-profits alongside Elton John, Matt Damon, Uma Thurma etc.
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If you’d like to support STIMY as a patron, you can visit STIMY’s Patreon page here.
Some of the things we talked about in this STIMY Episode can be found below:
- Tanya Zakowich: Website, TikTok, Instagram, YouTube
- Subscribe to the STIMY Podcast for alerts on future episodes at Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher & RadioPublic
- Leave a review on what you thought of this episode HERE or the comment section of this post below
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STIMY Ep 125. From Building Launch Pads at NASA to 1.9 Million TikTok Followers?! | Tanya Zakowich (Founder, Pink Pencil Maths)
Ling Yah: Hey, STIMIES!
Welcome to episode 125 of the So This Is My Why podcast. I'm your host and producer, Ling Yah, and today's guest is Tanya Zakowich, the brains behind the 1.9 million TikTok channel on math.
Now, growing up, Tanya was fascinated with space and like, many kids, she wanted to be an astronaut. The difference is that that interest stayed with her even when it was time to head to university.
So Tanya ended up studying mechanical engineering at Columbia University.
Then she did an internship in India, which helped her to land a role at NASA. But then she left because she found that NASA was located in the middle of nowhere and she wanted to be in the middle of a vibrant city, which is why her next role was at Boeing in LA.
But she soon found herself being dissatisfied, and so she moved to Hyperloop one. And experienced the ultimate, crazy startup life.
That still wasn't enough because Tanya then realized that what she truly loved and cared about was her family and home back in Singapore. So she gave it all up to return home.
During the pandemic, Tanya strategically launched a TikTok channel that teaches math in a fun and creative way. Within six months, she hit 1 million followers and now stands at nearly 2 million followers. So what motivates Tanya? Why has she worked at so many different places, and where does she find the courage to leave for these great jobs to essentially venture into the wilderness?
We cover all that and more in this episode. But before we start, can you please give STIMY a rating and review? Just head over to Apple Podcast and scroll to the very bottom of the page. You'll see a section that says, write a review. Please do because it's so hard for podcasts to get noticed and every review that is left truly helps.
Now are you ready?
you grew up in Singapore, which kind of shocks me because your name is Tanya Zakowich, which is very unusual to think of. So what is the backstory behind that?
Tanya Zakowich: Oh, that is a good question. Hello. Hello. So, yeah, the last name Zakowich, it comes from my dad. His parents were Polish and that's where it comes from. But he grew up in the States. Actually, he has an interesting story. He came over to Singapore when he was about 30 years old. A long time ago. Now he's in his seventies.
Ling Yah: Wow.
Tanya Zakowich: So that's pretty rare. And he met my mom, who's Singaporean. So as you know, they got together, they got married. And that's where my last name came from. I was born in Singapore. I lived here my whole life until I went to college back in the US. I was in New York City. I went to Columbia for a few years and got my grad school degree there, both in mechanical engineering.
And then after that I moved to Los Angeles for three, three and a half years working as an engineer. And then I moved back to Singapore actually right before the pandemic. And that leads us to, now that wasn't very detailed though. That was a very high level.
Ling Yah: You were always interested in space.
How did that even come about?
Tanya Zakowich: You know, It's difficult for me to pinpoint when and where. But one thing that actually, now that you ask me this question, like that stands out to me. The first thing I thought of in my head is when I was maybe around 12, 13, I went to the science center in Singapore and I know right and wait, it is called the sci.
Yes, the Science Center. And they had this space exhibition there. I'm not sure if it's still around, but a long time ago they had it and you could go in all these space shuttle things. And I remember taking a lot of pictures everywhere and from that day, I just remember thinking, this is so cool. I think space is really cool.
I don't know anything about it, but I find it fascinating that people get sent up in rockets and go to the moon and then go somewhere over there. And that, that's insane to me. after that, I remember my dad bought me a little telescope. I think it was from Toys Rus. It wasn't great, but you can still see the moon from there.
And I just remember finding that so fascinating. And it was just the little things each month maybe that I would read in the news or things like this. That just got me more and more interested in space. So in the back of my mind I was like, you know what? I wanna do something in space when I grow up.
I think that that is something I would want to do.
Ling Yah: So I imagine, you must have told people around you. Did people say, no, you should consider something else because, and it's such a niche area and the only viable place is Nasa, which is really hard to get into.
Tanya Zakowich: I think people didn't put it down, but I think a lot of people would just kind of laugh and brush it off, being like, oh yeah, kids love space.
You know that sort of thing. Just like I think it was pretty popular for kids to be interested in space. Just like how, kids love firetruck as well and all this stuff. So no one ever put it down. But I think it was as I got older, maybe when I was more like 17, 18 and I was still super interested in it, people were like, oh, alright, that's sure.
Ling Yah: And was that why you thought, oh, I need to go to the US to study engineering because that's the path?
Tanya Zakowich: Yes. So actually that is where engineering came out of.
I think now when I think about it, it doesn't seem like I put that much thought into it, but maybe if I was able to transport back to my 17 year old brain, I did actually put a lot of thought.
But it was just the most logical path was like, okay, if I wanna go to space engineers. Work on rockets and all the space stuff. So you know what I will do engineering and mechanical engineering, they build rockets. So that was what went on in my 17 year old, 18 year old mind when I thought of engineering.
Ling Yah: But why Columbia? You did say mechanical engineering, but you could have specialized in engineering that was catered specifically to aerospace Mm-hmm. which wasn't offered in Colombia.
Tanya Zakowich: Yeah. Columbia was my dream school. Mm-hmm. It, I love New York City. There's just something, you know, I think when to all of us who don't live in the us there's something about New York City that you're like, oh my goodness, it'll be so cool to live there.
And they did not have an aerospace program or aerospace major, but they had mechanical engineering. And when I talked to them, they said, oh, you know, When you do mechanical engineering, it's basically you learn the same things as aerospace engineering and people from aerospace companies hire mechanical engineers.
So I was like, okay, it doesn't seem like too much of a compromise, but it was my dream to go to Columbia. It really was.
Ling Yah: And was everything you thought it would be?
Tanya Zakowich: Yeah. it There was a lot of studying.
Ling Yah: I'm sure.
Tanya Zakowich: That's for sure. But I would say I had a great experience there. I did enjoy my time there and I loved the city.
Ling Yah: And I believe an internship in India led to Nasa. What's the story behind that?
Tanya Zakowich: Oh my goodness. Wait, where are you seeing this? Where, where did you get this information from? Research, research. Somewhere on Google. I said that somewhere. That actually is true. So it's funny because when I was in college, one thing about me is I love travel.
I'm one of those people who love that type of freedom, going to like interesting places, having unique experiences. And one of my friends, she was like, I'm doing an internship in India for this company called Puna Walla. It was like a biology internship cuz they make vaccines and everything. And I was like, how do I join you?
I really, really, really wanna go to India and live there for one summer. Like, what can I do? So we did so much research and talked to a lot of people and it turns out that Puna Walla lease out private jets. They have like a airline leasing company too. And I was like, oh my goodness, let's see if I can somehow convince them to give me an internship for a summer.
So it was an unpaid internship, but they actually still offered it to me. And they actually paid for things like, you know, like a bodyguard, a driver, which was really kind and subsidized accommodation. Yeah. I was so grateful for this experience.
Ling Yah: So it sounds like there's a story for you in getting the internship in the first place.
Is there a story there?
Tanya Zakowich: There's not too much of a story. It's mostly me trying to convince my friend who then tried to convince People who worked at Puna Walla, if it was something that we could do there, and for some reason it just worked out Yeah.
Ling Yah: It's just banging on the door and saying, I really want to do this.
Please consider giving us an exception to the rule.
Tanya Zakowich: Yes, yes. Banging on the doors and just somehow making our way in. Yeah.
Ling Yah: Amazing.
Tanya Zakowich: And it, it was so fun. I wasn't doing much technical work, but I got to work a lot with say like the maintenance engineers who had to take care of the planes and also helicopters that they had.
So during that internship, I really got to kind of learn firsthand about all these different types of vehicles. And that is when I went to nasa, they were like, that's something that stood out on your resume. So I do give that a lot of credit. My internship in India.
Ling Yah: So what is the interview process like to get into NASA?
Tanya Zakowich: Oh, that's a good question. Oh my goodness. What was the interview process like? So for me, I was pretty surprised I actually got it because usually for internships and jobs, you usually get it by kind of making a connection. If you just cold apply in the sea of like thousands and thousands of people, the chances are so low to get anything. But for NASA there's just no other way that you could do it.
I was in school, the internship I applied to was actually a four full-time job that they turned into an internship, but it was supposed to start in June and I applied just cold online the year before. It must have been like August, September.
So, That's like 10 months, nine, a long time before, and I was surprised I got an email back maybe in February, so it was a long time afterwards and I thought, you know, I didn't get anything.
Oh gosh, what was the interview process like? This is so long ago now my memory is leaving me. I just remember I had two rounds of interviews.
One was with like a recruiter and then one was with the boss I had there. And it was a lot more interview to just see your personality and like logical questions to see how you think. There's a specific word for this. They do it a lot in consulting, but not too much on my engineering capabilities.
I think they could see from your resume, okay, you know, this stuff, you're taking these classes and you're so entry level that there's not that much point because they can just train you from there. Yeah.
So the interview process wasn't that difficult compared to my other jobs. I would say it's like the easiest actually.
it was just a surprise that they actually called me back into interview.
Ling Yah: And what was it like actually working at Nasa? Was it everything you thought it would be?
Tanya Zakowich: I loved it. Yeah. It was pretty cool. it was awesome because, I mean, this has nothing to do with the actual job, but they would just let you rent all these cars and drive around everywhere, you know, where all the launch pads are, where all the old rockets are.
And my particular job was building the new launchpad for the new s l s system, cuz it used to be the launchpad for the shuttles back in the day, but now they're building bigger rockets that they need the whole launchpad to change. So that was my main job. And I, I just had so much fun with that.
Ling Yah: Does it feel as though, oh, I wanna stay on working here?
Tanya Zakowich: Yes. It was supposed to be a full-time job. However, I actually decided to go back to get my master's. Mm. So we then deemed, okay, let's just call as an internship, then you can go back to get your master's and then come back to work full-time afterwards.
Ling Yah: Why a master's though? Was it necessary as part of your growth?
Tanya Zakowich: Mm. Back then I thought it was. Yeah. Back then I thought I was gonna do mechanical engineering the rest of my life. And one thing I was really interested in is something called structural analysis where you use this thing called finite element analysis and usually you need to get a master's for that.
So that was my logic and reasoning to getting a Masters for engineering. Yeah.
Ling Yah: So clearly the question is what went wrong?
Tanya Zakowich: That is also a very good question. Oh my goodness. When I'm doing this interview right now, I'm like, wow, my life has been very random. I would say maybe my life priorities got in the way.
I loved the job at nasa, but I decided not to return because one, I actually felt like it was a bit too slow for me. The pace was a little bit slow and it was pretty comfortable.
And two, I didn't like living in Florida.
It was not just Florida. It was like the middle of nowhere, Florida with nothing else to do and for a mid 20 something year old, I also wanted to meet people, live a little bit, be in more of a city.
And I found it very difficult to live in the middle of nowhere as much as I loved my job. So my next priority was, okay, where do I wanna live? Somewhere warm. And that has beaches, Los Angeles. So I looked for jobs there next and then transferred over.
Ling Yah: Was it hard that you feel like you were giving up on your childhood dream of basically working with in aerospace?
Tanya Zakowich: In a way I did. But I also think it's so cool that I actually got to this point and now I know what it's like. Now. I know from here all the different paths I can take and evaluating all these different paths and also looking at what I want for my own personal life and what makes me happy.
I think going this way would be the best direction. If that makes sense.
Ling Yah: It does. So that's something I really wanted to talk about because I've noticed that you would basically be at Naza, then Boeing and Hyperloop. Very, very different. But it seems as though you just don't hesitate the moment you realize that this doesn't align with certain value in my life. I'm gonna switch and find something else.
Normally, like for me, I find it very hard to leave, even though it doesn't align with what I'm interested in. But you don't seem to have any issue whatsoever. And I wonder why.
Tanya Zakowich: yeah. I didn't notice this about myself until a bit later in life. read a book, I forgot what book it is. It's basically like with every job there's what, there's passion and there's your work hygiene or something like that. And if the pace is good enough maybe you don't love your boss, but you like them enough. It's like you get annoyed, you might compromise.
You still are okay with it enough, you will still kind of stay at the job. But I think for every job I had, I hit a ultimate deal breaker, which, if the job was like, pretty good enough and I was like pretty happy, I feel like I would've stayed much longer. But I hit several deal breakers and I was like, you know what, I can't continue this.
So I would go to the next job.
Ling Yah: So what have those deal breakers been? How do you decide this is something that I can't compromise on?
Tanya Zakowich: Hmm. So the first one was location. That's why I moved from Florida to Los Angeles. And then when I was in LA I was working in Boeing. And for that one, that was just the pace and the work environment didn't love it.
So I transferred. I worked at Hyperloop, which to be honest, was the best job I've had in my life. I loved it. Love the energy, love my coworkers, love the job because, I mean, hyperloop's not doing so hot right now, but as an engineer, back in the day, you just had investors throwing like millions of dollars at you and then they'll just say, okay, here's a bunch of money.
Figure out what projects you wanna do that would go towards the cause of building this. And as a young engineer, it was so much fun. But for that one, that's when I figured out I actually didn't want to be an engineer anymore because I was sitting at the computer all day. I was doing really cool projects, but I felt like something was missing and I didn't know what it was, but it was actually being involved in a community.
Feeling like I'm interacting with people every day. And also I was really homesick for Singapore and that was kind of when I decided, you know what? I think I need to come back home.
Ling Yah: Was it hard for you to decide, I need to leave all this because the opportunities, the kind of groundbreaking things that you would see in your field is happening in the US. That's where, as you said, the investors are pumping hundreds of millions.
You wouldn't really see that in this part of the world.
Tanya Zakowich: Yeah, it's true. No, it's really true. I knew if I moved back to Singapore, I would probably not do engineering anymore. And that was exactly what happened. I would say I definitely struggled coming back to Singapore because when I was in the States my whole life, I felt like I was always one step ahead of where I was.
I was like, all right, I know what I'm gonna do next. Everything just seemed to flow so easily and when I came back here, I got hit with a lot of actual life questions about what is my why? What is my why?
How do I actually wanna live my life every day? What truly makes me tick and happy and feel purposeful for other people as well.
And those are questions I never thought about before when you're in your twenties and just doing jobs, that sound cool, right? So it was difficult for me to move back to Singapore. I love it here though.
Ling Yah: Yeah, I'm sure you definitely do. I just wanna talk a bit about Hyper Loop, because obviously linked to Elon Musk. You have a viral video saying, how do you answer Elon's favorite interview question? Was that a question that you were asked yourself?
Tanya Zakowich: No, that was not a question I was asked, but it's a question when I was at Hyperloop. When I was studying for other interviews, I did look at because it's a question that Elon has asked people before.
So I did study up on some of these questions.
Ling Yah: And what is it like working in the startup, which clearly the brightest are there. Clearly, you know, the sky's the limit. I've got tons of money, which is the common problem for startups. What was that like?
Tanya Zakowich: Oh, it was so fun. Really it's just like in the movies.
First of all, we had a really big office. Dogs could roam around. It's an open office. Everyone's computer's there. You see all these like electrical wiring stuff and all these cool looking structures happening. Everyone's running around talking all day.
But it's not only that. The culture is amazing. People from all over the world are there, and I mean, this has nothing to do with work, but they would throw the coolest parties and you would hang out with your coworkers after work.
You all had free lunch, free dinner, everything. It felt almost like a cult, but it was, I mean, it's so amazing. I felt like the most inexperienced person in the room, and there was so much to learn from other people as well. It was truly an amazing time. I love that. Yeah.
Ling Yah: What do you observe in terms of work culture?
I mean, nasa, Boeing, Hyperloop. So, so different. The legacy companies and the hot young startup with plenty of money.
Tanya Zakowich: I think it depends what you look for.
Like the government jobs and Boeing, it's such big companies. Say for example, my job there, it's a redundant job. There's probably seven other people doing the same thing, but it's because the company has a lot of money and also they need to make sure that their airplanes are safe and not going to fail that they don't mind spending the extra money having like one job go through seven people.
I almost felt like I was wasting my time there. Like I wasn't needed and I was just there just cause and I was being paid for no real reason and it wasn't a good feeling. But if you love like comfort, if you love, you know, being able to just clock in and clock out of work every day and have so much time for extra activities outside, then it's a great job for you.
But for me , I liked the fast pace. I liked meeting different people and I found the startup life a lot more fitting for myself.
Ling Yah: Which do you think carries greater prestige when you're applying for jobs?
Tanya Zakowich: Um, Oh, interesting. Right? I mean, it's funny because it depends who you talk to. But if I tell people I work at NASA and Boeing, they'll be like, whoa.
But to me, I felt like I didn't really accomplish or learn as much there as I did working at a startup, which is kind of failing now. But if you talk to people in the startup community, especially the engineering startup community, they know what's up. So in terms of prestige, it'll be like, yeah, if you work at like Hyperloop one or SpaceX, they would find that way more impressive.
Cuz they know you've done your time there. You hustled so much.
Ling Yah: So it sounds like Hyperloop was one of the major factors for you getting into Entrepreneur first in Singapore.
Tanya Zakowich: Yeah, it was kind of my entryway and like, okay, I love startups, I love this vibe. I wanna be in this afterwards.
Ling Yah: And what is it like working there in Singapore? What is the startup scene like?
Tanya Zakowich: Oh, interesting. Right. It was different. It was different than the US that's for sure. I mean, everything in the US is just bigger, right? More money, bigger everything. And in my opinion, faster as well. But Singapore, it was my first time diving into the startup world here.
I was at Entrepreneur first. Actually, what was my job description there? I was doing all sorts of things. I was like helping the entrepreneurs there and program management, also planning demo day, doing investor relations. Helping decide, like, okay, what companies to invest in when it came to the engineering, like the mechanical engineering companies.
I had a good time. I did enjoy it meeting so many new people.
Ling Yah: What do you observe, just in terms of culture, the kind of founders you were meeting in the US versus singapore?
Tanya Zakowich: That is a good question. Not that much difference actually.
I think everybody has that sparkle in their eye and they're just so driven and so interested to start that thing that they're doing. You see that across the world and everyone's working equally as hard.
I would just say I find that in Singapore it's much harder to raise a lot of money on great terms than it is in the US cuz obviously the market here is smaller.
I saw a lot of entrepreneurs who were working on problems like in Indonesia, India, like places with bigger markets. But I would say there it is just the same. It's the same across different countries, which is awesome.
Ling Yah: And was that when you thought, well I think I can do a startup too? It seems pretty easy.
Tanya Zakowich: Yes. That's when I thought, well if they can all do this, so can I. You know, all you gotta do is make a product and then sell it. How difficult can this be?
Ling Yah: So you quit without having created a product. You just thought, I'm just gonna give it my all.
Tanya Zakowich: Yep. Yep.
Ling Yah: Whoa. Yeah. And do you have savings at the time or was it just, I'm just gonna go because I know I can survive for the next three months?
Tanya Zakowich: I definitely had some savings, so that was good. I had a safety net, but I gave myself about a year to figure it out and I think it was a pretty decent runway. And I tried all sorts of things. Oh my goodness. That was a very strange year. At first I thought maybe I wanna do something in the event planning space.
And then covid happened so I was like, all right, maybe this is not the best idea right now. The next thing I was trying to start was, I used to ride motorcycles when I was in the US.
Ling Yah: Your journaling junky.
Tanya Zakowich: Yeah. I love, love all that type of stuff. And one thing that they do not have actually are motorcycle leggings for women.
They have it, but it's uncomfortable. It does not feel right. So I actually for about six, seven months was trying to see what I can do in that space. I was going down the motorcycle legging path, but the material didn't exist. The materials were available I could not make the product that I was envisioning out of that.
And it was too much of a compromise that I was like this is just not gonna work. So I could either turn the company into a materials science project and raise a bunch of money for that, or just leave it, let somebody else figure that out and then one day make a brand out of it. So I was like, you know what, this sounds like an idea I should just shelve and maybe you'll pop up one day in the future .
Ling Yah: How long were you working on this idea and what was the next thing you worked on?
Tanya Zakowich: That was about maybe like six, seven months. That was my first big failure. Yeah, It definitely set me back a little bit. And the next things I was trying to do was like, okay, well it's covid, what is covid proof? Okay. Education.
So I was like, okay, let's maybe build like a kindergarten or something like that. So we were looking, my fiance and I were looking, okay, maybe let's build a kindergarten. We were looking at locations, all that type of stuff. And then I feel I still don't know what I wanna do.
So my fiance was the one that suggested , You might not know what you wanna do, but you need to put yourself out there so at least opportunities can come to you. You can't just sit at home all day searching Google trying to figure it out and think you'll get that like aha moment. I mean, sure for some people it might happen, but the majority of people , it doesn't happen that way.
So it's really cool that you're making this podcast. I'm sure you've met so many cool people through it and you really get your podcast.
Ling Yah: That's the reason why I started it as well.
It all startup from just putting yourself out there. I completely agree.
Tanya Zakowich: So true. Yes. Things will come out of it. I completely agree with that and I love how you're doing that as well.
Ling Yah: But it's a grind.
Tanya Zakowich: Yeah. I think a lot of people don't realize that either, right? It's like, well, what's this saying? Like every success 10 years in the making, 10 years in making, right. And it looks so easy once you see something, but it took a lot of work as well, and for sure risk and also putting yourself out there a lot of discomfort.
Ling Yah: Just before your fiance said that, I believe you were also working on a dating app.
Tanya Zakowich: Oh yes. I forgot about that. So, oh my gosh, that's hilarious. So I had a friend who approached me about this and I actually thought it was a really great idea.
There's a dating app called Raya and it's for,
Ling Yah: for celebrities.
Tanya Zakowich: Yeah, it's kind of more of the like exclusive dating app for celebrities, models. Like who's who, all that type of stuff. I'm not on it, but my friend was on it and he realized everyone on in there was like from the US, from Europe. There's no Asian community, barely anyone Asian on there.
And it was like, well, what if we tried making one for Asia instead. And kind of connect all the countries in Asia and then, you know, maybe if Asians are in the states like that too, and it's open to everyone. But it's kind of more like Asia focus. And I was like, actually that's kind of a great idea. I loved dating apps.
Before I met my fiance, I was a heavy user of dating apps, so I was like, yep, sure. I could definitely work on a dating app. So it was my first time working on actual software products. I tried to learn overnight how to become a product manager and design an app and then find people to help me design and everything. Code up the front end, back end, all that type of stuff.
It was really fun, but I only worked on it for about three months because it's such a common founder problem. You just see the company going in two different directions and that became pretty clear for us after a while. And for me it's like, well, I didn't wanna work on this without him.
This was like his original thing. So I decided to step down and I think he was working on it for a while longer, and then maybe did something else afterwards. So if somebody out there wants to make an Asian raya, please, I think it's still a cool idea.
Ling Yah: So your fiancee said, regardless of everything you've done or not succeeded on, you need to put yourself out there.
How did you figure out what you were going to do?
Tanya Zakowich: Well, that was when TikTok was starting to become big. It was already pretty big. 2021. It wasn't, yeah, pretty big. It was probably the beginning. How did I decide on TikTok? So he and I had our own little accounts, and we just like making like, fun TikTok videos.
No one could see them. it was just our personal account. But he was like, why don't you just put yourself out there on TikTok? That is so out of my comfort zone. I have not put myself on a screen before. I'm a very awkward person actually. What I did was, okay, if I'm gonna put myself on TikTok, it needs to be something I feel comfortable with doing, and I cannot go on TikTok and be like a comedian.
I'm not funny in that way. Or be one of those influencers. It's always like, this is my life, this is my room and everything. I'm like, okay, I'm not like that either. So I spent two to three weeks on TikTok. Analyzing the app. Like this whole math account was not by accident.
Analyzed the app. Wrote down my strengths and my weaknesses, and then I filmed myself just talking about random stuff and analyze the way I talk. And I was like, okay, what can I do with this? It just was the weirdest experience, kind of like watching and analyzing myself in that way. It's very cringe.
Ling Yah: I love it. It's so necessary.
Tanya Zakowich: Yeah. It's so, and I still feel like I have a lot to improve on as well. After that, I also wrote down a lot of my interest and one of my interests is like stem, engineering, all that type of stuff.
One thing that I found is that there are a couple of math creators on TikTok. I was learning so much from them because my math was never really my strong point despite doing engineering. And I was like, I find this really fascinating. I find this really cool.
I feel like this is something that I could learn and then reteach to people on TikTok. So that's how I decided on math. And then that's when we decided on the name Pink Pencil Math, because I didn't want my name on there. I wanted to be an anonymous person. There was no Tanya Zakowich on there. Nothing about me.
It was just called Pink Pencil math and I wore, I would wear a pink pencil in my ear. So it's like easy to remember. I read a book on branding about this and I started making videos and it actually took off.
Ling Yah: I love that you threw away the line of, I read a book on branding about this. Tell me more about your thoughts, the process of branding yourself because it's so well done.
Tanya Zakowich: Yeah. I did spend a good amount of time on, I went through different brand names, but one thing that I've always loved is brands that convey imagery and something from the brand name that will make you think of that brand. So for example, like my brand name is Pink Pencil Math.
So whenever you see a pink pencil you might be reminded of, oh, pink pencil math lady. That math account. Or even when you see a pencil. So I like that. Being able to remind somebody of that brand. I also love brands that have color in it as well. I mean, it doesn't work for every single brand, but for this it, it did. For educational stuff, I feel like colors do work.
That was my main criteria and something that sounded cute cuz that was what I was going for.
Ling Yah: You know what I just realized I need to grab something since we're talking about branding.
Tanya Zakowich: Oh,
Ling Yah: so my color is orange
Tanya Zakowich: that is your color. I didn't even think about it, but it is,
Ling Yah: yeah, it is the brand color
Tanya Zakowich: it's true. People get reminded of it.
I love brands that have a particular color, right?
Like Orange, I think also like Hermes, right? Yes. Hermes Orange. There's so many different colors of different brands, but I also really like that. Great.
Ling Yah: Amazing.
Tanya Zakowich: When I see this colour, I'll think of you.
Ling Yah: Oh, amazing.
That's branding done right.
Interrupting this just to say I've left law and this is essentially my year of yes, to meet, to explore, to see what's really out there beyond the world of law. While, of course, also doing the STIMY, which comes out every single Sunday. Now the thing is I've started to also help other people to build their personal brand.
I've spent the past three years essentially digging deep to the lives of Olympians, C-Suite executives, four Star Generals, and now YouTuber and Viral TikTok is as well. And what I've learned is that LinkedIn is an amazing platform to allow me to tell these stories, to allow other people to share their stories, what they're passionate about.
What they're trying to do to change the people, to change the community, the world around them. So if you are interested in also learning how to build a LinkedIn personal brand, do, reach out cuz that's what I'm helping people do right now.
Just drop me an email at, [email protected] and let's get started.
And if you're not sure what that looks like, just head over to my profile, look me up Ling Yah. And you'll see what I'm doing so far, snippets past guests and also what it takes to be a great storyteller.
Let's get back to this episode with Tanya Zakowich.
So you also said you were analyzing TikTok to see what works. What were you noticing? What were the trends? Cuz you definitely have a format that really works and I noticed all the successful TikTokers definitely had a format too.
Tanya Zakowich: Yeah, that is true.
Well, first it was like, okay, what is my mission for this? Right? Am I building, say, a customer base or a follower base? I think they are two different things, right? I didn't know what I was selling yet, so I needed to make sure. I wanted to build a following base, which meant I needed to make videos that could go viral, which means that people it must be somewhat relatable to a large group of people.
So my original thought was like, okay, what if I do like really in depth physics problems and stuff? And I was like, actually, why would the average person be interested in this? There's no benefit for them. So that's why it landed on math. But for more of like a lower level. Not anything above algebra really.
Ling Yah: Something easy about fun and practical, you can tell your friends to go, Hey, did you know about this?
Tanya Zakowich: Yeah. Like, Videos like that.
Ling Yah: What kind of trends were you noticing? Like the certain way that people were doing that you thought, okay, I should mimic as well, I should talk to a person, I should keep it within a certain number, milliseconds.
Tanya Zakowich: Yes. Yes. So TikTok algorithm has changed quite a bit. When I first started videos that were around like 10 seconds long, did the best, 10 to 20 seconds. Now it's more like a minute over videos do better cuz TikTok is trying to get people to be on the app and watch longer form videos now.
This is common knowledge to anybody, but to me it was so new and I didn't have a book on this part. I just kind of observed what people were doing. It was like a video needed a hook in the first five to seven seconds. Oh my gosh, I have a whole list of hooks, actually.
Just 10 things that you should know by the time you are blank. Or like, if you're doing this, you might be making this huge mistake. A huge one that I actually feel really bad for using that was just supposed to be a test but it was so viral, was when I said, 99% of people do not know this math secret.
And I was like, oh my goodness, I just pulled this out of thin air. Why did this go viral? This is so embarrassing. Oh, okay.
Ling Yah: But the people call you out on that though?
Tanya Zakowich: No, people were not like, oh, so not, where did you get the stat from? It just caught people's attention without even them really noticing it.
Yeah. I think funny comments on there would be like, well, 99% of people do know this after the video, but I would have to have a hook.
Ling Yah: Where were the hooks coming from? Was it hooks that you picked up on TikTok or was it just hooks in general from writing, for instance, you always need a hook as well.
Tanya Zakowich: I think I would observe other people's videos what would work, and I would also put things in my own words. Cuz everybody speaks differently and what rolls off your tongue is gonna be different from somebody else. So I think that's something that a lot of people who try to make TikTok videos now do.
They try to copy something too well, but they're missing that element of trying to combine it with your own personality . when you can do that, then you can really make a video shine.
I'll give you a secret. Like um,
my videos of me facing the camera and then usually a lot of like writing a math problem with a voice overhead somewhere. All these videos, they're a hundred percent scripted. I'm not randomly just talking these beautiful words that flow so well and talking so fast for a minute. I have scripted every single word. Like every single word is carefully picked and practiced and see what flows.
I mean, it sounds kind of overkill, but when you have millions of math videos out there on TikTok, it's like, what is going to get picked up by the algorithm? And you gotta be very deliberate about it.
Ling Yah: That's the whole point, right? I mean, like, something that seems effortless probably isn't effortless, but that's the whole point.
It's supposed to come across that way for it to work.
Tanya Zakowich: Yeah, I do think there are definitely some people that it truly comes to them naturally and that's amazing. But for the rest of us it is difficult. It does take some practice, take some time, take a bit more effort. And there's nothing wrong with that.
Ling Yah: So as you're drafting the script, what goes through your mind? What are your filters?
Tanya Zakowich: My filters. When I draft a script, I play it back after I say it. And if there's any point that I feel even for a second, it loses me. Like I lose interest, get distracted by something else, then I know, okay, I do need to take this out, take a bunch of words out do something about this part because people are gonna be dropping like flies after they reach this point of the video.
So that's something that I, I do. And I also just try to make it flow. I use very simple words. No hard words, simple to understand. That's kind of my method.
Ling Yah: The thing that I noticed, and everyone says this as well, there's no such thing as original content.
Everyone's just repurposing each other. You have all these big YouTube channels coming up, like Ali Abdal, for instance. He will openly say, I just look at other productivity gurus out there who were doing really well. I basically did the content in my own way, and it also went really well for him.
But I also wonder for you, I mean, you also do your research and you make sure it's very, very simple and easy and perfect for your audience. Do you feel also a sense of guilt that actually, it's not like I had this brain wave that just came and I thought, okay, this is a brilliant way of interpreting this particular equation.
I'm really just repurposing and regurgitating something that someone else figured out a long time ago.
Tanya Zakowich: It's so true. That's a very good point. I did feel bad in the beginning, but then I was like, well, how am I supposed to make up a whole new set of math rules and then market it in a form of a TikTok video. I think someone else can do that.
But I also believe everyone is different in life and there can always be more content creators that will speak to a particular group of people that can be more relatable to them, right? Maybe they went through the same experiences, the way they talk, they relate to more.
I think that's fine if you're able to take something that has already been researched and is well known, say like a math topic, and then you can repurpose it better than all these other people for a particular group of people. I think that's amazing. And we definitely feel bad about that.
Ling Yah: 1.8 million people follow you, so I wonder what it is that you feel people are drawn to you. You instead of other math groups out there.
What do you think is your unique selling point?
Tanya Zakowich: I think I say things that are, fun and easy to understand and it makes people not feel like they're bad at math. It makes them go like, oh, aha, yes. But the videos are short enough that they actually watch it. Not like long YouTube videos where, somebody who thinks they're bad at math, wanna spend 15 minutes watching a math video randomly?
So definitely trying to make math like relatable and fun and make people feel more confident that, oh, oh my goodness, I just watched this one minute video and I actually understood this and now I'm going to maybe apply it somewhere and tell my friend. One thing about me for math is math was never my strong point.
I also forget math really easily. I'm not great at mental math. I'm one of those people who would be the last ones to turn in a test. I think really slowly, you know, I'm not someone you wanna bring to trivia. I didn't get horrible grades, but I just take a long time to process information.
So mental math has never been my strong suit. So whenever I do a video, it requires me kind of like refreshing my memory of a topic and relearning a certain concept. It's cool because I'm approaching everything from scratch. So I feel like I take points that I was like, oh, that's kind of good to know again.
And then I amplify it in my videos to people. So I feel like this part of me that I didn't really like about myself is actually useful when making these math videos to make them relatable, if that makes sense.
Ling Yah: It does make sense . I wonder if you have doubts sometimes on whether you should have done math. For instance, I know on TikTok that's this particular person, Erica, who does really, really well because she was a lawyer and she always has this format where she would role play two different people. Mm-hmm. One is the person's working a company. Once the customer, the customer will say, Hey, I want something.
The person who's working there will say, no, you can't. And she would say, oh, I followed this person called Erica and she reached the fine print so I don't have to. Which is a very, very smart concept.
It sounds almost as though math isn't your thing really, but you know, it does really well therefore you're doing it. But because it's done so well, you almost can't get out of it.
Does that make sense?
Tanya Zakowich: Are you a mind reader? Is this on the internet as well? Is it on Google?
Ling Yah: It's not. It's not.
It just feels like something that I have been going through and been thinking about. I just never executed it.
Tanya Zakowich: No, it's true. Like TikTok and social media work these days, there are two type of content creators. One is that kind of like influencer person that talks all about their life. You follow them through their life journey. And to me that's a skill that is just so foreign to me. I struggle with that.
But they're not really confined to particular niches. Actually it's pretty cool because they get great brand deals and everything. And then you have the other type of content creator that you can get a lot of followers, but you truly are confined to a particular niche. You become like a subject expert.
So people don't exactly follow you for you as a person so much, it's more of like what value they're getting out of you. So when you do that, I found that it's difficult sometimes to sell certain products just based off of you, if you get what I mean.
So for math, it's funny that you say that because that's something I've actually really struggled with.
I love making these math videos. It's a creative outlet that I have. And I could do it the rest of my life to be honest. But I did spend a year and a half trying to monetize Pink Pencil Math. And let me tell you, this has been a nightmare journey. It has been a bit of a struggle to try to monetize pure math content.
Right. I've made courses, I even made a tutoring school. It's not something I love to do. It's not something I feel purposeful doing. I find it has been a little bit difficult for me.
Ling Yah: Why would you say that? I'm so surprised because at least for me, I struggle because I'm so general.
So when people come in, they would say, Your followship is so wide. It's so international. It's not like I can say if I'm in a Singapore based startup and I'm only catering to Singaporeans, yeah. Then I probably am not gonna care about 70% of your followers because they're not Singaporeans.
Whereas for you, it is international, but it's math. It's very, very clear what it is. So it's like an industry specific thing, which where people always say the richers are in the niches and you have a niche.
Tanya Zakowich: I've never heard that. I have evaluated this. I could just make another count and choose a different like niche to be honest. I would say there are much more lucrative niches out there. Like if you decided to talk all about finance.
Ling Yah: But that's what everyone is too.
It's a Red Sea.
Tanya Zakowich: Yeah. It, it is. And it's not something I would love to do. It takes a lot more effort for me to try to do that than it would doing math videos.
And I won't enjoy making finance videos every day. So that has been a difficulty for me. I love math, but I have found out after a year and a half, the way I've been trying to monetize it hasn't been working.
And I'm still trying, so I try making a course for it. The course didn't sell so well, cuz one thing I found out is that, okay, if you have courses on like life career events that courses that you need, so things like Excel or even like photography or something like that, those do really well.
But a pure academic course for the US it doesn't. It doesn't sell the way that other courses do. So there's that. I also tried, I was running an online math tutoring business in the US and I actually decided to close that down recently because that conflicted with my life goals to be in Singapore to get married next month to settle down, do something here.
Thank you. So I am looking for the next thing. Now I'm kind of leaning towards, maybe I can build a type of physical toy something geared towards younger kids that, you know, maybe involves like some math or stem for an actual physical toy. And if I do that, then I will make Pink pencil a little different and more geared towards like parenting.
Right. So it's still a work in progress. I'm still navigating where to bring Pink Pencil too.
Ling Yah: That's the interesting thing you talked about conflicting with your live goals in Singapore. Do you not feel as though you would want to give it a go to move to the US where the creator economy is thriving?
Tanya Zakowich: Yeah, that's a good question.
I don't want to. I love Singapore. It's my home. My family is here, and I'm very happy living in Singapore. The hardest part for me has been my career. It's something I've really struggled with in Singapore. But I don't see it in the US either, so that's why I just have to live with that compromise.
Yeah, it's a hard decision. I think there's doors I had to close, but at the same time it's like, all right, let's take that and see what can I do from here as well. So, two things that I'm working through right now.
Let's say I like physical products. How do I make a product that can be more mass market for the States that I can do from Singapore? And also what is something I can do in Singapore as well that would get me involved with a community? Make me feel like I have a sense of purpose here. You know, I get to talk to people, work with people here.
What can I do here as well that will fulfill that part of my life? So there's kind of two things that I'm trying to play around with and figure out, and it's not something I'll get overnight, but every day it's like, you know what, I made some progress and I'm going in the right direction for that.
So I'm excited to see what will be happening in a year and also for you, like where will we be?
Ling Yah: Where will we be? Giant's question mark
Tanya Zakowich: Giant. But that's the exciting part as well.
Ling Yah: I love the positivity. I love the fact that you look at it and you go, oh my gosh, it's not the whole doom and gloom and oh my goodness, my fun is gonna run.
It's a, I'm just excited cuz the sky is the limit and no one is stopping me. One could just pivot into anything we want.
Tanya Zakowich: Yeah. It wasn't always like that before. I think one thing, especially for us, like women that we feel is just, oh my goodness, like I don't have a fancy job under my name.
I'm like such a failure right now. I can't figure out my life. You really start feeling down about yourself. But in order to grow, in order to do something new, you have to go through that. You know, it's a beautiful thing, being able to try a new thing.
So it's kind of a mindset. I've tried to trick myself into dealing with the uncertainty. It wasn't like this like two years ago when I first jumped ship, but I think this time around I'm back with like a lot more confidence for the second time.
Ling Yah: Talking about that whole mental health aspect, I want to talk about the fact that I learned you had a goal initially of hitting 1 million followers before you decide to quit TikTok.
So firstly, the question is, did you have that goal right from the start? I need to hit 1 million.
Tanya Zakowich: I did.
Ling Yah: That's a crazy goal because, I mean,
I had a little goal for myself when I decided, let's learn Instagram, and I just thought, let's get 1000 followers in 30 days. And I thought people are impressed with a thousand, but you set a million.
Was it because you already were starting to get traction? Why Amelia, how do you even decide on that? It could have taken you 60 years.
Tanya Zakowich: Oh my gosh. I'm glad it didn't, but it's also because I saw that there was another math person in the world that had over a million followers, and I was like, you know what?
If someone else can do it out there, I wanna be able to do it too. So, so that's why it's my goal from a start. And oh my gosh, I hate to use the word manifest, but I feel like if you have a particular goal that you're manifesting, it will be much easier to get there. Instead of just saying, okay, I'm gonna make math videos on TikTok, it's like, okay.
Well, what am I really working towards here? I need to trick myself into making some type of goal that's like pretty high. Yeah. The only problem with that is that sometimes if you set goals that are way too high, you do feel a little bit bad about yourself every day. So I think that was one mistake that I made.
I should have celebrated the little wins more instead of being so hard on myself. Cuz like of course you're not, you're gonna have videos that don't do well. And whenever that happened, I'll be like, what did I do wrong? And of course, so many thousands of people commenting like negative stuff every day and it's like, well, okay, you just have to get over that and just focus on the goal as well, so.
Ling Yah: Wow.
Tanya Zakowich: Yeah. I like that you also set a goal for yourself.
Ling Yah: I did, but it was a very, very, very small goal compared to 1 million. It's a completely different thing.
Tanya Zakowich: I think one thing that you only realize once you start a business is that things take longer than they should.
I would always write down everything I want to do in a day. And maybe only get through like half or three quarters of it. But when I was in a job, I felt like I was completing everything on time, even before the deadline. And it was like, do we just have unrealistic expectations of how much we can do?
But when it comes to running a business, being entrepreneur, you can do all those things, but then you have a million unexpected things pop up while you're doing those things. And that's why things always take longer. So true. So don't worry about it. It's normal.
Ling Yah: So what were some of the tactics that you used to hit 1 million?
Because there was so many almost scammy tactics. You had your engagement pause, you had back in the day, 30 hashtags. It felt scammy.
Tanya Zakowich: I know what you mean. It feels scammy.
It really, really does. As I said, it was the hooks that really did it for me. Also, not having a pause for me just literally talk, talk, talk, talk, talk.
So you just edit all the different pauses in between Just go bam, bam.
Yes. For the TikTok 30 second video, I had to edit out every single pause.
When I have my face to the camera, I make it in a way that looks like we're having a FaceTime video call. And that's how I would position my face. So it feels like, I don't wanna say customer, but it's not the audience that you are actually having conversation with whoever this girl is at the end.
So it did feel bit gimmicky. It definitely, it definitely did. And when I first started, I did look at what videos did well on TikTok and kind of copy what they were doing. And then only maybe about two months in, I was starting to do original videos. So it does feel, yeah, a little bit scammy, but I mean, there's a formula to everything .
Even if somebody doesn't think about it and they're achieving like success, if you really break down what they're doing, you can see, oh, okay, yeah, this is why it's working. So it's different for everything. But yeah.
Ling Yah: The tactics are there. It's actually the same for everyone in that particular field.
Tanya Zakowich: Yeah, it's, it's all similar, but not everybody is willing to risk, put themselves out there and actually try to follow some of these tactics while integrating their own personality. You know, it, it does take a lot of courage to do that. So kudos to everybody who is, and everybody who wants to like do it.
Just do it. Take the first step.
Ling Yah: So you hit a million and then you thought, I'm gonna take a break. Well, your break was six months. Firstly, did you know it'll be that long? And will you not worried? Because I would think you've got to keep the algorithm going.
Mm-hmm. So if you're posting every day, then they would know, okay, let's just give you a little bit more attention boost. But the moment you drop off, then you lose all that traction that you've been building for the past one year or two years.
Tanya Zakowich: Oh yeah, definitely, I did not feel good every day.
I took a six month break. First of all, it was pretty unhealthy on my mental health actually, when I was first doing Pink Pencil before I reached a million. Because I just couldn't understand why some things did well, some things did poorly. There was so many negative comments all the time.
And I mean, now I'm just numb. It doesn't phase me at all. But at first I just wasn't used to this type of thing. I've always been behind the scenes, not in front of a camera. After 1 million, , it was a break, but also that's when I started making my course. I thought it would take three months, but it took six.
And when I was making this course, I was working all day on the course. I could not bring myself to even make videos every two days. When now I think about it's like, why can't I just do that? But it just was not in my capacity to do it at that time. I was so burnt out, so I took six months off.
I was so nervous when I came back on, I was even more nervous when I first started. But you know what, it just picked up right where it was and it increased even more. It was like nothing happened. I was reading something recently that it's like, you know what, less is more sometimes. These days there's so much on the internet .
People are spitting out content left and right that I think good content and valuable content is king during this day and age. To me, it's much better to put out one video that is so good, so valuable to someone than it is for like 10 videos that week that is like mediocre. So, I've stuck to that type of thinking, and it seemed to work despite TikTok saying you need to put out a video day or like three videos a day at one point.
And Instagram also, I think they came out with this thing saying like, you need to be posting like 10 stories a day, something like that. I still think if you have good content that's valuable to people, at the end of the day, people will watch it. And then if people are watching it, TikTok Twitter, just like anything will push it out more. It's so simple when I say it, but it's not when you try to execute it.
Ling Yah: So would you say that the frequency is the biggest change since you came back on that allowed you to sort of manage your mental health and everything else you've got going?
Tanya Zakowich: Yeah. The frequency change, I don't post like one video day. I post like once a week now. Yeah. And it frees my time up to do all these other things that I'm trying to work on.
But say for example, if I have a product that I'm trying to sell in Pink Pencil. If I come up with this toy or like whatever, then I will start making a lot more videos. Cuz now I have a mission for this I'm trying to sell. But if it's just me as a creative outlet making videos right now, it'll be one video a week, maybe two videos a week around, around that frequency.
And I, I'm very happy with that.
Ling Yah: We started talking about Pink Pencil because of the idea of personal branding. And you said the first year you didn't want anyone to know that it was you. Yeah. Then you revealed your name. At what point do you feel as though you were comfortable to share your name out there in the public?
Tanya Zakowich: It was once it started popping up on everyone's TikTok so people knew I had a math TikTok. And I was like, all right, well, The cat's out of the bag. It's already there. And also, there were some articles that were being published about my videos, but they wouldn't put my name on there.
And I think there was one that they put like, someone else's name. And I was just like, actually, I think maybe this is when I should put my name on there. I told people who made the articles, Hey, this is my name, just so you don't put someone else's random name on here.
I think one thing I have learned through this experience about myself is that I actually don't really care so much about how many followers I have or like fame to put it. It's more about, Being able to connect with people on a one-on-one personal basis that come out of this .
Say, like, you, this is so amazing that we get to talk right now and this would've never come out if I didn't start Pink Pencil and if you didn't start this podcast.
Ling Yah: Yeah, the connection will never happen, for sure.
Tanya Zakowich: Yeah. I love this part of it. But one thing that did make me a little bit sad about Pink Pencil is that in the videos, I'm not interacting with people, I'm just putting out content and people and comments are just a number after a while.
Actually that's pretty meaningless to me. So how can I incorporate pink pencil in my life that I feel like I'm actually making an impact on people one-on-one as well.
Ling Yah: Would you not want to do one video every now and then where you, the person are talking to them and it's a more personal level?
Tanya Zakowich: Yeah, I should. That's actually one thing I'm gonna work on this year is doing lives and maybe just like meeting some people here and there, setting up calls and anyone could sign up. Yeah. I think that's one thing that I want to do. It's a good suggestion.
Ling Yah: How have you feel since revealing your name that it's helped you in terms of your own personal branding?
Has it really opened doors and opportunities?
Tanya Zakowich: I feel like it has. Yeah. I feel like I haven't figured out that thing that I want to really carry over for the next 10 years. That one product that I really want to monetize.
I love that you asked this question, because actually I've had some really cool opportunities. I met some other really cool content creators. I've done all these things I've never thought I did. Like I literally acted on some Discovery Channel show. I will not send you the video because it is painful to watch. But you know what, it was still a very cool experience.
Ling Yah: It's a great story to share and bring up all the time.
Tanya Zakowich: Yeah. It's like, you know, just Get to do all these interesting things and meet interesting people. I'm so happy about that from Pink Pencil. And also when I was running the online tutoring, I got to work with some amazing tutors, meet parents and students. It's a very rewarding experience too. yeah. But
Ling Yah: For those listening who are very inspired, who want to get to know you more personally as well, beyond just the math, what can listeners help you with?
Tanya Zakowich: Oh, interesting. What can listeners help me with? Actually just for people to reach out to me who I might not even know and just talk about things.
I feel like my mind is actually pretty scattered and disorganized and it's really nice to just talk to other people just to hear what they're doing, their ideas, and also opinions and advice on what I'm trying to do. One-on-one conversations. I love one-on-one conversations. Yeah.
Ling Yah: Love that.
Tanya, I've loved this conversation so much. I always end my interviews with the same questions. So the first is this. Do you feel like you have found your why?
Tanya Zakowich: I love that question. Yes and no. Yes and no. I feel like my why changes all the time. I think we were talking about this before we started this podcast that once you climb one mountain, now you're seeing another mountain that you wanna climb.
And that's just life. You always wanna keep on challenging yourself, you know, over and over again so that you keep on growing. If I think about why I started Pink Pencil Math when I first quit my job. It wasn't for the money. It wasn't for that. It was for me to have control over my time. The freedom to meet new and interesting people. Do something that I felt like was helping other people in the world and giving value to them.
And when I think about that criteria like three years ago that would give me purpose and my why. I hit all of that and I forget that sometimes. But now that I'm here, my next goals are to figure out how to monetize this or something. And also figure out now that I am officially back in Singapore and I plan to be here, find something that I can feel like I'm giving value to people on a daily basis that I can actually see and experience and work with people here.
And I haven't fulfilled that yet, so I still feel like I have a lot I need to do. But up to this point with previous things, I would say I have found my why with things that I wanted to accomplish back then.
Ling Yah: What is the legacy that you want to leave behind?
Tanya Zakowich: Oh my. Hmm. That is also a very good question. These questions really make you think. The whole reason and purpose for Pink Pencil math is to make people feel confident and fun. If they thought they're so bad at math, they accomplished something that they thought that they couldn't in just one minute. It just popped up.
They didn't know it was gonna happen and it happened. And I love that. And anything I can do more with Pink Pencil and other things in life to make people feel empowered, confident. Even if they think they're bad at something, they can work on it and grow.
You know, that that's something that I would love to be my legacy. It doesn't have to be my name or my face. You know, when I hear the word legacy, a lot of times I think of like these statues, people you know what I mean, in countries and stuff like that, like leaders and stuff like that.
I would like my legacy for people to feel that they did accomplish something through whatever product they have or whatever video I'm having, so that, that is something I would like to leave behind.
Ling Yah: And what do you think are the most important qualities of a successful person?
Tanya Zakowich: Oh, why? I am curious to see what people answer for this question. I think everybody has a different definition of what success is.
I guess my definition of success is when I think of people I really look up to. It is people that not only have like big companies delivering value to people in the world, but they're also such amazing people.
You know, they love their family. They're so warm. They also don't work like 20 hours a day. They also want to set an example to their employees where there's things you can do outside of work as well. And it's a whole balance. So for me, success is if somebody could manage all and balanced everything in life.
It's not just all about work. That's the type of people I truly look up to and admire as well. People who have time to even talk to me and when I'm asking for advice because I know everyone's so busy.
Ling Yah: And where can people go to connect with you, find out more about you doing and support you?
Tanya Zakowich: Oh yeah. Well, my Instagram, Pink Pencil Math. I respond to every message on there or even my email. Tanya pink pencil map.com. Like, I read everything within the day. Really. Just don't ask me for homework help, please.
A lot of people do, and I don't typically answer those questions. But,
Ling Yah: and don't forget TikTok as well: PinkPencilMap.
Tanya Zakowich: Yes, yes.
Yeah. Thank you.
Ling Yah: Anything else you'd like to share that we haven't covered so far?
Tanya Zakowich: Oh my goodness. Please reach out to me. I would, I would love to talk to you and if you're thinking of doing something or branching out, just give it a go.
Try making a TikTok, try making a podcast. Get yourself out there because you never know what opportunities come out of it. And something will, something will, even if it's small. Things come out of that.
Ling Yah: And that was the end of episode 125. The show notes and transcript can be found at www.sothisismywhy.com/125.
Next up, we have someone who has taken the unconventional path. Or as he calls it, the Pathless path. And he has made a name for himself in that space. Because we're right now all about exploring what else is out there beyond the conventional careers that society tells us is perfect.
So do stick around, subscribe to STIMY if you haven't done so already, and see you next Sunday.