Fresh out of university, 22-year-old Giulia Cian Seren thought hard about her next steps. Now seven years later, she runs her own digital marketing agency, Juicy Pickles, and her spirit of entrepreneurship has given her a wide span of experiences across the public speaking, marketing, and food & beverage (F&B) industries.
THG caught up with Giulia to learn more about her journey.
Beginning her marketing journey
Hailing from North Italy, Giulia wasn’t familiar with marketing: “Digital marketing wasn’t really a thing, especially not in small-town Italy where I come from.”
Her journey with digital marketing began with her work at AIESEC, an international not-for-profit organisation (NGO) that helps students to explore their leadership potential.
It was this first brush with AIESEC that motivated Giulia to learn more about marketing. “They help students with getting internships and volunteer opportunities abroad. And I joined them. And the first thing that I thought was, oh, my god, these guys are doing something so amazing, but nobody knows about it. I have to fix this.” This led her to continue volunteering and working with AIESEC throughout university.
After graduating, she bought a one-way ticket to Malta, where she worked with a startup that involved geolocation and mobile applications. She shared that this was an unusual step, as most people wished to pursue opportunities at larger firms in cities such as Milan or Rome, but that she sought a new country with a warmer climate.
In 2014, she moved from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore to help one of her clients open an office and decided to stay when they asked her to move back to Europe. “But then when they wanted me to go back to Northern Europe, I said, I’m sorry, I really don’t think I can go back to living in Estonia right now.”
Eventually, Giulia ended up opening her own company, Juicy Pickles, in 2017 after having lined up enough clients – a venture that was influenced by her experiences in the food & beverage (F&B) industry.
On diversity and trying alternative paths
It was Giulia’s relationship that led to her setting foot into the F&B industry, as her then-boyfriend ran a café in Singapore.
“It started off as a very friendly kind of thing where, oh, you know, you’re my boyfriend, we’re in a relationship, let me help you to market your café a little bit better. Because your coffee is great, (and) everything is great. But you could do much better.”
While she started by helping him with marketing, they eventually opened a restaurant and café stall together, and were on track to begin opening a second one.
Giulia credits her business know-how to this experience. “Up until then, I had knowledge of different industries, because I had worked with companies that (were) in (the) skincare and fashion (sectors), and (with) startups and a lot of small businesses. But up until the time when I ran my own restaurant, I never really experienced what it’s like to (have to) pay salaries.
“I think that in a way, it taught me a lot of business skills. I never really had any experience with accounting, or finance or money matters, other than the basic audits (for) my company, and I invoice people… So that was quite the crash course, in accounting, but I think that it really did help because I… understand the business aspect of running a small business, you know, from the rent, to the salaries to all the mechanics of cash flow. It’s very exciting.”
Giulia also appreciates the diversity of experiences that her stint in F&B brought her.
“I am mindful that usually, if you’re a foreigner in Singapore, you live a different life. And I didn’t like that, because I didn’t move to Singapore to (only) hang out with people (who) are not from Singapore.
“I loved the idea of being in Asia because I wanted to experience something else and meet different people and different ideas… Running a restaurant and working (there) gave me a lot of that, because our team was (fully) Singaporean except for one Malaysian chef. It was really awesome to meet so many Singaporeans and so many people from all over the (world) in terms of background and culture and religion.”
Giulia was diagnosed with autism recently – a diagnosis she was prompted to seek after a friend’s remark. “He mentioned, ‘My friends (and I are) all autistic. We’re all on the spectrum.’
“That’s what really pushed me to dig a bit deeper. Because it’s true that people on the spectrum are all different in our own ways, but… can kind of relate to one another. Because we are different.”
“When I discovered it, I was actually pretty relieved,” she shared. She spent the circuit breaker researching autism and mental health, as she tried to understand why she was not diagnosed at a younger age.
A 2020 study states that males are diagnosed with autism more frequently than females, which has been attributed to the difference in presentation of symptoms between males and females, as well as the suggestion that female presentation is not aligned with the criteria used for diagnosis.
Giulia added that the label “high-functioning” is not a positive one. “We are all… trained to look at people with a visible disability in a certain way. And I guess we’re all biased, because if we see someone who… doesn’t have an eye or who’s wearing glasses, we see their circumstances.
“But then I guess that autism is something that happens on the inside with your emotions. So when somebody says high functioning, it feels a little bit like they are ignoring the struggles that we all went through. In a way, it feels bad compared to people who… have Down’s syndrome, or those who are on the spectrum, but are non-verbal. Do you define them as low functioning just because they don’t have a job? Having a job is not the point of our society, and so, judging someone as high functioning or low functioning, just because of their ability to produce an income, is a little bit of a narrow-minded vision.”
Her condition has also led her to structure her work week differently, as she shares that she schedules all her meetings and interactions to fall within the same day.
Balancing Health With Her Career
Mental health and physical health are both causes that Giulia holds close. To her, therapy isn’t just for individuals who are struggling; rather, it should be mandatory for people who wish to run their own businesses. She explains: “It helps you… to understand yourself better. But the (second) benefit, which perhaps comes out the most when you are relating to other people, is that it helps to smooth your edges.”
“Going to therapy also helped me a lot (in) [understanding] myself and to become a better person. It sounds like a cliché but it’s true. We all come with lots of trauma from growing up from childhood, from different experiences that touch us. I really wish that we could get to a point where going to therapy is as normal as getting your nails done… There should really be no shame about it.”