Carolyne Nekesa, LinkedIn, Women In Marketing (Black)
Women In Marketing

Women In Marketing 2020 Edition ft. Carolyne Nekesa from AAR Insurance Kenya

Carolyne is the Marketing & PR Manager for AAR Insurance Kenya. We touch on how the internet has democratized education and also highlights the importance of a work-life balance. Let’s dive into this segment of Women In Marketing

LET’S GET PERSONAL

THANK YOU FOR TAKING THE TIME TO PARTICIPATE IN OUR WOMEN IN MARKETING SERIES, CAROLYNE. LET’S START ON A LIGHTER NOTE. WHERE WERE YOU BORN? WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR MEMORIES GROWING UP?

I was born in Kenya in a little town called Busia. We later relocated to Eldoret town where I grew up. My most memorable times growing up was centred around school with my friends. We played and participated in mischief that earned us strokes of canes but shaped us to who we are today.

WHAT WERE YOU LIKE IN YOUR HIGH SCHOOL/COLLEGE YEARS? 

I was an active member of the drama club and scouts club. Most of my long term friendships were made in high school. I had my best years in high school although I hated being away from home as I was in boarding school. College was academically demanding and so I did not have a lot of time to have fun but when I did, I went all out. Formed strong bonds and networks in college which I use to this day.

IF YOU COULD BE ANY ANIMAL, WHAT WOULD IT BE AND WHY? 

Maybe a cat…lol. Sleek, charming and clever. Cats are also intelligent and do not like to mess themselves up.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE MEAL? THAT ONE MEAL YOU WOULD FEEL NO SHAME FOR NOT SHARING!

Chicken. I absolutely love chicken; grilled, boiled, fried with spices.

IMAGINE WAKING UP $10 MILLION RICHER TOMORROW, WHAT WOULD YOU DO WITH YOUR FORTUNE? 

That won’t even be enough for the castles I have in my head…lol. 

However, I would invest for my children and sponsor the girls I mentor back at home because I know if I educate them, they will be able to lift their families from poverty.

WHAT IS THE ONE INTERESTING THING ABOUT YOU THAT WE WOULDN’T FIND ON YOUR LINKEDIN PROFILE? ANY HIDDEN TALENTS PERHAPS? PREVIOUS WOMEN IN MARKETING CANDIDATE, DR. LIEZEL BYGATE SAID THAT SHE IS AN EXPERT HULA-HOOPER!

I am a good cook! Maybe not expert level but I can experiment with different ingredients and come up with the most amazing flavours. I think I am also an untrained counsellor. My friends find it easy to come to me with their issues and I offer the soberest solutions.

CAREER AND WORKPLACE

WHAT ENCOURAGED YOU TO PURSUE A CAREER IN MARKETING? AFTER ALL, MOST OF US GREW UP WANTING TO BE DOCTORS, RIGHT?

My grandfather wanted me to be a doctor and was very disappointed when I chose a career in communication and media.

As I executed my communication role, I came across marketing. It is the science behind marketing that made me fall in love with marketing. It was intriguing that influence goes beyond passing a message. There is the packaging  of the message, timing and choosing a delivery channel, then observing response and repackaging if necessary until you achieve the desired result and that was amazing an experience for me.

GIVE US A SNEAK PEEK OF HOW YOU TYPICALLY START YOUR DAY. ARE YOU #TEAMCOFFEE OR #TEAMTEA? OR BOTH? YOU BEAUTIFUL REBEL!

I am on both teams. There are days I need coffee and there are days I take copious amounts of tea. I am a lover of tea but it must be well brewed. 

HOW BEST DO YOU MAINTAIN A WORK-LIFE BALANCE?

I learnt a new phrase; be intentional. 

It is not easy to maintain a work-life balance but you have to be deliberate about it. One of the positives of working from home is that I save time from commuting. I, therefore, use this time to spend with my children. This means we have breakfast before I start the working day. Also, I take lunch break walks and cook dinner for the family which would have been difficult to do before as I would be commuting from work to home. Saturdays are exclusively for me.

I go to the spa, salon, go shopping, visit a friend, sleep in, read a book or watch a movie. Sundays are exclusively for my children. I spend time with them from the time they wake up to when they go to bed. Despite the problems COVID-19 has brought, this is one time I have had a chance to balance my life.

YOU OBTAINED YOUR DIPLOMA IN PROFESSIONAL MARKETING FROM CIM. YESSS GIRL! ACCORDING TO CNBC, RESEARCH CONDUCTED BY GLASSDOOR FOUND THAT COMPANIES LIKE APPLE, GOOGLE AND IBM (AMONGST OTHERS) OFFER WORK-FROM-HOME JOBS THAT DO NOT REQUIRE ANY FORMAL EDUCATION. IN YOUR OPINION, HOW CAN YOUNG WOMEN UTILISE THE INTERNET TO UPSKILL THEIR CAREERS PARTICULARLY IF THEY ARE NOT ABLE TO AFFORD A FORMAL EDUCATION?

I applaud companies that offer jobs that do not require formal education. 

Formal education gives you knowledge but it is up to you to utilize that knowledge and turn it into a skill. Women all over, both young and old, have a deep desire to contribute positively and when you look, even those without formal education have a skill in a particular area that they nurture either by practising or peer learning. What the internet does, is bring knowledge to that area of skill by showcasing examples and tried and tested methods across the world. 

If young women gain access to these resources, they can add knowledge to what they already know or learn something new.  I am happy that resources are no longer text based, now we have videos created by professionals as well as peers (through social media) that teach skills to those who access them. Women can access these resources for free and identify the area of interest, learn and practice. Additionally, some sites offer formal education such as Coursera that are free and young women can take advantage and learn

SABRA MWAURA WAS A FEATURE FOR OUR WOMEN IN MARKETING SERIES. SHE MADE A FEW GOOD POINTS ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF MENTORSHIP FOR WOMEN. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON MENTORSHIP?

Every woman must light the candle of another. 

We know our power and influence. Imagine how much change we can exert on the world if we all build that power and influence on each other. I mentor about 150 girls from my village, most from very poor backgrounds. You see it in their eyes, the zeal to change their circumstances and all they need is for someone to show them how.

It is my job and that of a million others across the world to light that fire by introducing them to the possibilities. Once they are empowered, they will empower those behind them and the cycle will continue. Start with the little girl who is a neighbour or a sister, show her possibilities through positive stories, let her come to you with questions and answer them honestly and be there to hold her hand when she needs one.

JOB HOPPING IS A COMMON PHENOMENA ESPECIALLY IN THE DYNAMIC WORLD OF ADVERTISING AND MARKETING. WHAT’S YOUR OPINION ON JOB HOPPING? DOES IT HURT OR AID ONE’S CAREER?

It probably hurt in the 20th century, but in the current world it is the norm.

I doubt employers nowadays reward loyalty more than tangible contribution. If you can deliver an execution in a year and leave to go support another company elsewhere, you will be building your CV based on what you can deliver not how long you can stay in one place.

FOR IT’S 2019 MOST INFLUENTIAL CMO’S REPORT, FORBES LISTED 31 WOMEN OUT OF 50 CANDIDATES (19 MEN). IT APPEARS THAT MORE WOMEN OCCUPY CMO ROLES COMPARED TO OTHER C-SUITE ROLES. WHY DO YOU THINK THIS IS THE CASE?

Maybe it has something to do with brain development. Men’s right brain is more developed giving them the spatial ability and therefore better at math and science roles while in women, both sides grow at a balanced speed and have more connections between left and right, building its communication and human interaction more, skills  that are critical in marketing.

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REPRESENTATION OF WOMEN IN MARKETING, PARTICULARLY, IN SENIOR ROLES IS ON THE UP. IN YOUR OWN OPINION, WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CHALLENGES THAT WOMEN STILL FACE DESPITE THESE CHANGES AND HOW BEST SHOULD THESE BE ADDRESSED?

Some of the challenges women face are prejudices from the male gender, the ‘old boy network’ and lack of mentors in those senior positions in addition to meeting ‘queen bees’. Some are self-inflicted as women tend to avoid the pressures and stresses at the top level especially if they have families.

Women need to know that they are enough and they have everything it takes to be very successful. Those climbing up should immediately start holding hands of the younger ones and pull them up as well, this fosters the culture of mentorship that is lacking in most workplaces. Women also need to know that they cannot do everything otherwise they will burn out. Every opportunity to delegate must be embraced.

Get help with home-related duties and childminding as you focus on growing your career. Please note, immediately a man marries, he delegates everything to the woman and this helps them focus on work. Women must do the same, anything that you can get help with do it and free time to focus on building your career.

ONE OF THE LEARNING CURVES FOR MOST ORGANISATIONS SINCE THE BEGINNING OF THE PANDEMIC, IS THE SUCCESSFUL IMPLEMENTATION OF DIGITAL INFRASTRUCTURES TO FACILITATE REMOTE WORK. FOR TECH PLAYERS IN SILICON VALLEY THE TRANSITION WAS RELATIVELY SMOOTH WITH THE LIKES OF FACEBOOK AND TWITTER DESIGNING A FUTURE WHERE THEIR STAFF MAY POTENTIALLY WORK REMOTELY FOREVER.  THE ARGUMENT THOUGH, IS THAT THIS IS LONG OVERDUE. IN YOUR OPINION, WHY HAVE COMPANIES TAKEN SO LONG TO IMPLEMENT REMOTE WORK OPPORTUNITIES? 

Traditionally, people left home to go to work and the supervisor’s role was to ensure staff have reported, whether or not they are meeting their targets. Companies also used staff count as bragging rights on how big the business was more than revenue and profitability.

With the rise of digital-savvy companies that compete on profits, we have seen a sharp turn by traditional companies with bloated workforce and fewer profits. Efficiency and agility are the new terms in town as companies strive to get the most out of the efficient resource investment. I believe companies were embracing this strategy albeit slowly but the Pandemic accelerated the change.

WORKING FROM HOME IS AWESOME! MOST OF US CAN AGREE. HOWEVER, IT IS NOT WITHOUT IT’S SET OF CHALLENGES. EMPLOYEE WELLNESS HAS TAKEN A SIGNIFICANT STRAIN WITH PEOPLE WORKING LONGER HOURS AS A RESULT OF EMPLOYEES BEING ‘ALWAYS ON’ AND NOT BEING ABLE TO SWITCH OFF. HOW CAN EMPLOYERS GUARD AGAINST EMPLOYEE BURNOUT OR IN THE WORST EVENT, LOSING THEIR BEST TALENT?

Empowerment. 

Employers must deliberately empower their staff to balance their lives if they want sustained productivity. Re-skilling of the employers at this time is necessary to teach them how to get the best out of their staff while they work from home. Leadership training should include these skills.

The focus should be on the delivery of agreed output and not how long staff can work. Respecting the employee’s time is a necessary skill, know that the employee has a family and life outside of work. Limit calls and emails within working hours and encourage employees to log off and go be with their families or friends.

BCG PUBLISHED ITS INNOVATION REPORT FOR 2020 AND AT THE CORE OF ITS SELECTION CRITERIA ARE COMPANIES THAT HAVE SUCCESSFULLY MARRIED ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE IN THEIR PRODUCTS AND SERVICES. ACCORDING TO YOU, WHAT MAKES SOMETHING INNOVATIVE? 

Something is innovative if it is a new creative idea or an improved way of doing something bearing less time spent and more output.

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HEMAL THAKKAR, BRAND MANAGER FOR BURGER KING INDIA IS A RECENT WOMEN IN MARKETING FEATURE. ONE OF THE KEY AREAS SHE IDENTIFIED FOR CONTINUED GROWTH IS THAT OF INFLUENCER MARKETING. WHAT DOES THE FUTURE OF MARKETING LOOK LIKE ACCORDING TO YOU?

Influencing ‘generation Alpha’. According to Mark McCrindle, this is the most formally educated, most tech-savvy and wealthiest generation. It is a generation completely born into technology (2010 – 2025) and therefore their expectations will be high and attention spans short.

They will most probably prefer the virtual world to the real world. The future will then move from the 4Ps to 4Es – Engagement, experience, exclusivity and emotion. They will buy experiences and emotions and this will be driven virtually.

2020 AND BEYOND

IF YOU COULD GO BACK IN TIME, WHAT WOULD YOU TELL YOUR YOUNGER SELF?

Brace yourself for change every minute in the world you will live in.

WHAT CHALLENGE IS ON YOUR PLATE? WHAT ARE SOME OF THE PAIN POINTS YOU ARE TRYING TO OVERCOME IN YOUR LIFE WHETHER PROFESSIONALLY, PERSONALLY OR BOTH?

In my 30s, I am a child of both worlds. I was born when technology did not exist but grew up as technology emerged. Bridging this gap and embracing the new possibilities while still being grounded is a challenge I’m Working to overcome.

ANY BUCKET LIST ITEMS?

Professional – Developing a virtual reality program or being part of the team that develops one

Personal – Travel to at least 50 countries in the world

WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR SHEROES?

Kamala Harris. Broke all glass ceilings 

WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

I do read but consume it audibly. I’m currently listening to ‘Talking to Strangers’ by Malcolm Gladwell. Speaks a lot to my area of influence. For hard book, I just finished ‘Why men don’t listen and women can’t read maps’ by Allan & Barbara Pease

WHAT WOULD YOU COME BACK AS IN THE NEXT LIFETIME CAREER-WISE? DO YOU THINK YOU MISSED A CALLING?

No I did not. I will certainly come back as a Marketer, maybe also a teacher

WHAT IS ON YOUR NETFLIX WATCHLIST?

Borgen. This is about a lady who rose to be Denmark’s Prime Minister while balancing being a mother and a wife

WHO HAVEN’T YOU SEEN OR TALKED TO IN A LONG TIME AND HOPE THEY ARE DOING OKAY?

Interestingly this year I have managed to catch up with everyone even my long lost friends

WE ARE ALWAYS LOOKING FOR AMAZING WOMEN IN MARKETING TO PROFILE. WHO WOULD YOU LIKE US TO GET IN TOUCH WITH?

Miriam Maina

A UNIQUE MESSAGE FOR ALL YOUNG PROFESSIONALS IN THE MARKETING INDUSTRY

We are living in the best times of our careers. Let us get ready to be blown away by our own abilities

THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME CAROLYNE. WE HOPE THIS INTERVIEW WILL INSPIRE FUTURE LEADERS AND OTHER WOMEN IN MARKETING. HOW CAN PEOPLE FOLLOW YOU AND YOUR COMPANY ON SOCIAL MEDIA?

Twitter: @caroneksa

Linkedin – Carolyne Nekesa

Instagram: Nekesa Carol

Company: @aar_insurance 

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Head of Relationship Management at naughtybanana. I am a father to an awesome boy who thinks highly of me; perhaps I'm doing something right after all. When I'm not establishing new business relationships, you might catch me reading a book or of course, being an awesome dad.