Alum of the Month - January 2020

Karsen Cheung

'The LSE brand name has opened many doors for me. I personally benefited a lot from the LSE alumni network when jump-starting my career as a student and making career decision later on'.
Karsen Cheung


Alum of the Month for January Karsen. He is a Digital Marketing Strategist with rich experience in running marketing campaigns at Amazon and Expedia, launching his own start-up, and working on strategic projects at Bain & Co, ING and Procter & Gamble.

What is your current role at Amazon and what are your key responsibilities?

I am currently responsible for on-site marketing on Amazon; this includes marketing campaigns on Amazon’s homepage, navigation panel, detail pages and check-out pages on various device types. The role is immensely satisfying (though the mind-boggling scale can sometimes be daunting), as any campaign I put up is seen by millions of customers on one of the most visited websites in the world.  

Working in the Prime Video team, my day-to-day usually involves aligning multiple stakeholders across the company to execute full-scale marketing takeovers of the Amazon website for the launches of key Prime Video shows, such as the live streaming of Premier League football and US Open tennis, as well as major titles like Jack Ryan and The Grand Tour.

I also spend a lot of time experimenting with new hypotheses, product features and creatives, in order to grow awareness, acquisition and engagement with Prime Video and Amazon Prime (one of the largest subscription businesses globally with over 100 million members).

Where have you worked previously?

Early on, I worked on various strategy projects at Bain & Co, Procter & Gamble and ING, before I realised I prefer more hands-on rather than advisory work. Therefore, I took a role at Expedia | Hotels.com, where I was the sole owner of profitable 8-figure marketing campaigns across 72 countries and 36 languages. I was also selected to speak at TEDx City University of London on “Accelerations & Developments in Physical & Digital Infrastructure”.

My interest in entrepreneurship has led me to work with venture capital fund and start-ups, before I founded my own digital strategy and advertising agency (focused on bidding, data analytics, and paid advertising) and scaled the company to 20+ clients.

I firmly believe that a diverse range of experiences is key to better decision making and to a successful, well-rounded career and life.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement to date?

This would be when I plucked up the courage to quit my stable job at Expedia to pursue my entrepreneurial passion, which also meant forgoing my UK employer-sponsored work visa and a comfortable salary. I only had two and a half years of work experience at the time when I started my own digital strategy and advertising agency. It was a very tough time, as I had to build and scale a company from scratch, as well as adjust back to life in my hometown.

In hindsight, the experience of building a start-up to 20+ clients was a massive leap for me early on in my career. It rewarded me with well-rounded, practical commercial skills, ranging from deal-making with other CEOs, to setting up accounting systems, which are difficult to replicate in business schools or in most corporate environments. 

How has studying at LSE’s Department of Management allowed you to make an impact in society?

LSE’s Department of Management always emphasises the importance of applying rigorous scientific methods to real world issues. Being evidence-driven is historically counter-cultural in business, as the media often elevates executives with eminence and quotes their own experiences as universal business principles. But one thing I learned from years of running scientific experiments on the internet is that any statement without supporting data is just a hypothesis or an opinion. I lost count of the number of times that the most probable hypotheses by the smartest people I know were proven wrong by surprising experimental results.

You were recently an alumni panellist for our ‘Careers in Marketing’ discussion for current Management students. What encouraged you to volunteer and what was your experience like?

The LSE brand name has opened many doors for me. I personally benefited a lot from the LSE alumni network when jump-starting my career as a student and when making career decisions later on. When I was at LSE in the early 2010s, the alumni network was heavily concentrated in the finance and consulting industries, but this has changed since. Now that I have been in the marketing and technology industries for seven years, I am keen to contribute back to the Department of Management by sharing my experience with LSE students.

My experience as an alumni panellist was fantastic and I got a lot out of it. I was impressed by the quality of questions from students and by the fact that the Department of Management now offers degrees specifically focused on marketing. I also met several high-achieving fellow alumni panellists that I am staying in touch with.

Tell us about your hitchhike from London to Kuala Lumpur:

While at LSE, I signed up for the Jail-Break Charity Challenge and hitchhiked from London to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in 24 hours without using any money, on five modes of transport, traveling a total of 10,500 km and raising £3,260 for charity.

While many participants reached Europe via trains, coaches and lorries, I knew that the fastest way to travel was of course by plane, so I decided to cold-call and cold-email CEOs of airlines. The CEO of Air Asia, Tony Fernandes (who coincidentally is also an LSE alum), responded positively and granted free return flights between London and Kuala Lumpur. With the flights secured, I easily convinced staff to let me also hitchhike on the London bus, Tube, and Gatwick Express to catch the flight. Once I arrived in Kuala Lumpur with the story that I just travelled from London without spending money, many generous people also offered free rides on cars and light rails, as well as a free stay at the 5-star Mandarin Oriental hotel.

This experience demonstrated to me that it often pays off to think big, challenge conventional wisdom and act boldly. You most likely won’t have a lot of competition if you do so, and may in fact inspire other people to help you to achieve your vision.