Written by Abi Koh | Image by Angela Ognev
“Your website was designed on a mini bus on the way to a traditional wedding in a rural Vietnamese village,” Melissa Ng told her client.
Melewi is a design studio founded by Melissa that focuses on product strategy, user experience and user interface design for mobile and web businesses. What makes Melewi truly unique is that its employees can work remotely, allowing them to travel and explore the world while doing their jobs. Since founding Melewi, 25 year-old Melissa has lived in Vietnam and Australia, and has traveled to Cambodia, Japan, Korea, England, France, Thailand, the Maldives, Indonesia, and more.
Melissa attended Ngee Ann Polytechnic in Singapore, where she is from, and earned a diploma in Mass Communications. After she graduated, she knew that she didn’t want the typical 9 to 5 job. She disliked bureaucracy and wanted the flexibility to decide when, where and how she would work.
“If you don’t decide for yourself . . . how your life is going to be like, then it’s a massive waste because we only have a finite amount of time to live,” she said. Melissa decided to freelance instead of going to university. “My very Asian parents freaked out,” she laughed.
Melissa stumbled upon design, and realized she had a knack for it. She started out by doing freelance graphic design and was very broke for a long time. She later moved to Sydney, and while living there realized that she also had an interest in business and startups. Through these explorations, she finally dove into what she’s currently doing. “I just sort of stumbled upon everything just by refusing to settle for what I didn’t want, ” she said.
Since Melewi’s official beginnings in 2013, it has now grown to include a team of 6 people. When Melissa hired her first employees, it was a sobering moment to realize that she was responsible for other people, and indirectly for their families.
Running a company has not been without its challenges. Melissa is young and looks even younger than her age. She’s also a female working in the tech industry. “Just because you’re female doesn’t mean you can’t do something or have to do something according to what’s expected [of your gender],” she said. The typical client would be at the opposite end of the spectrum—an older and more experienced male. In the beginning, people would write her off just based on how she looked. Over time, she learned to not let that affect her and became accustomed to talking to people from all walks of life. Melissa advises, “You just work really hard and just keep trying to get better and you get to the point where you’re so good that they can’t really ignore you.” Melissa also credits the life she carved out for herself to “sheer stubbornness.” She said, “I think I’m a pretty average sort of person. I don’t have a privileged family background, I’m not well-off, and I didn’t go to university.”
For those who are still unsure about what direction to take their life in, Melissa has some advice. “Very often people, just anybody, even people who are close to you—they intentionally or unintentionally try to put you in a box. They try to define who you should be according to what they think or believe in . . . and I think when you’re young, you don’t have a solid grasp on your identity and it’s very easy to feel the pressure to conform.” Melissa believes that it is important to take the time to think not just about what one wants, but also what they don’t want. Finally, “Don’t think about it in terms of results . . . think about what sort of journey you’re after,” she said. For Melissa, her journey took her around the world.