Sophia is Marico’s Lead for Brand PR and Content. With the advent of online learning, she advocates for the use of online courses. This is particularly important for those looking to upskill themselves in an ever changing business environment. Let’s learn more about her on this segment of Women In Marketing
LET’S GET PERSONAL
WHERE WERE YOU BORN? WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FONDEST MEMORIES?
I was born in a small town in Punjab in North India and grew up in the state of Punjab, the state known as the land of five rivers.
Some of my fondest memories while growing up in a small town include carefree days of playing with friends out in the street all evening- making up new games of our own, sleeping outside in the courtyard under the stars on hot summer nights, riding to school on our bicycles and being able to get around the entire city on our bicycles in a matter of just 30-40 minutes. Also, one of the most fun things was to try and read all the books in the school library and swap the ones that I bought with friends and read them through the school recess.
SHOW OFF TO OUR READERS. ANY HIDDEN TALENTS YOU CAN SHARE WITH US? A CLARINET STAR IN THE MAKING PERHAPS?
I’m told I can be the background ‘Beats’ person with my continuous sneezing fits for a music band (a minimum of 3-4 small sneezes at a given time) 😊
On the more regular/usual talents, I’ve been singing for as long as I can remember- school choir, church choir and also anywhere a group would get together- and I must say I do a fairly good job of it.
WE WOULD ALL LOVE TO WIN THE LOTTERY RIGHT? IF YOU WON $10 MILLION TOMORROW, WHAT WOULD YOU DO WITH YOUR FORTUNE?
First and foremost, I would set up a large Rescue and Care space for Senior Dogs in my hometown. I want to give all these senior dogs the very best last few years of their lives. I’d also put some money aside for early retirement so that I can live a comfortable life and travel around the world after I am done working.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE MEAL? THAT ONE MEAL YOU WOULDN’T SHARE WITH ANYONE!
It’s a very difficult choice- I love good food and usually like my own portion of everything nice that I am eating! But a good ramen bowl and some sushi is one thing I thoroughly enjoy anytime, any day. Another favourite is a well-made spaghetti Aglio olio followed by a delicious blueberry cheesecake.
WHAT MADE YOU FALL IN LOVE WITH THE WORLD OF MARKETING? WHAT PARTICULAR MOMENT IN TIME PUSHED YOU TO PURSUE THIS CAREER? AFTER ALL, WE ALL WANTED TO BE DOCTORS GROWING UP, RIGHT?
I was never the Doctor type, deathly scared of needles! But yes I did study Science till my undergrad in the hope that I would one day specialise and do some cool Chemistry work.
However, since childhood, I was always interested in the Arts and was always the one running around and organising stuff and putting plans together for events in schools/colleges and trying to find new ways to promote and talk about them. It was actually during my Undergrad that I decided to pursue the science of communication for my post-graduation instead of the Chemistry major that I was hoping to do because I realised there was so much more to explore and do and learn.
IF YOU COULD BE ANY ANIMAL IN THE WORLD, WHAT ANIMAL WOULD YOU BE AND WHY?
Most definitely a Dog! With unconditional love to give and always up for learning new tricks however old the dog is. The right kind of incentive and they’ll surprise you with what they can do. Also, if I had a choice, I’d be my dog JD and live the king-like life that he lives with my parents- being treated and loved far more than the human children in the house 😊
WHAT’S THE MOST INTERESTING THING ABOUT YOU THAT WE WOULDN’T LEARN FROM YOUR LINKEDIN PROFILE ALONE?
I am quite good at picking up languages without formally learning them, even the more difficult ones like Vietnamese. While fluent conversation may not be possible in a short period, I can understand when people speak a foreign language. Although I haven’t tried learning a new one officially, I am quite keen on learning at least 2 international languages and 2 Indian languages.
ENTERING THE WORKPLACE
GIVE US A SNEAK PEEK OF HOW YOU TYPICALLY START YOUR DAY. ARE YOU #TEAMCOFFEE OR #TEAMTEA? OR BOTH? YOU BEAUTIFUL REBEL!
I am a rebel!, I am neither Team Tea or Coffee! I start my day with a glass of milk 😊 Followed by a filling breakfast to keep me going for a few hours.
HOW BEST DO YOU STRIKE A WORK-LIFE BALANCE?
I used to be bad at it and would inadvertently end up working a lot over the weekends also in the early years of my career.
But over time I have learnt to stop myself from doing that. Now I ensure that I plan my weekends so that I have things to keep myself occupied with- visiting friends, some reading time and even my lazy weekends are planned for. Sundays are mostly spent at church and hanging out with friends from church.
YOU OBTAINED YOUR MASTERS IN JOURNALISM FROM THE PANJAB UNIVERSITY (GIRL YOU FANCY!). ACCORDING TO GLASSDOOR, IT HAS BECOME SEEMINGLY EASIER TO APPLY TO WORK FOR COMPANIES LIKE GOOGLE, APPLE AND STARBUCKS AS THEY DO NOT REQUIRE APPLICANTS TO HAVE A DEGREE. HOW CAN YOUNG WOMEN UTILISE THE INTERNET TO UPSKILL THEMSELVES PARTICULARLY IF THEY CANNOT AFFORD TO OBTAIN A FORMAL EDUCATION?
There are lots of free courses and upskilling options now that are available through platforms like Coursera or even LinkedIn that can give young women a start. These courses are a great way to begin building your profile or even to add skills that are needed to switch career paths. Now companies like Google and Facebook also offer their free learning programs that are suited to the kind of roles that they advertise for and that makes applying for such roles even easier.
The internet is a vast resource of all kinds of information and learning options that you may need. All you need is a willing mind and a disciplined approach and you can learn anything under the sun without spending a dime!
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?
There’s no one side to the Job Hopping scenario and it depends on what the reasons for the job hop are.
Youngsters these days are very sure of what they want and are more than happy to hop, skip and jump jobs and professions to grow in their career. Which is great and shows that they are willing to take risks and try out new options. However, the one thing that they need to understand is that most companies are now looking for specialised skill sets and deeper subject matter understanding and therefore they need to spend an adequate amount of time to gather those skills before moving on to a much lucrative offer.
Also, one of the things I’ve realised is that you don’t necessarily have to move from one company to the other to find a new, interesting role. Sometimes if you are willing to give time and add value to your current employer, companies are more than willing to help you upskill and move on to a different role within the organisation as long as they see your commitment towards the company.
FOR OUR INTERVIEW WITH YAEL TAMAR FROM SOLIDBLOCK, SHE REMARKED THAT WOMEN ARE MOST LIKELY TO OCCUPY THE CMO ROLE AS COMPARED TO THEIR MALE COUNTERPARTS. WITH WOMEN CONTROLLING OVER $20 TRILLION IN GLOBAL SPENDING, WHY HAS IT BECOME INCREASINGLY IMPORTANT TO HAVE FEMALE CMOS IN YOUR OPINION?
In a recent interview, marketing guru Tom Peters put it very succinctly- the one superpower that makes a CMO great is Empathy! And science has proven time and again that women are generally more empathetic than their male counterparts. Women tend to pay more attention to people- whether it’s the customer who seems to have a problem or the sales team that needs simplified processes or just designing better products that will ultimately lead to increased business for the company.
Every company now is looking at building better experiences- within and outside the confines of the organisation’s offices. And that can only happen when you have someone who understands the importance of relationships between employees, between the customer and your product and between your company and your competitors. Someone empathetic, someone with an XX chromosome!
REMOTE WORK HAS COME WITH ITS OWN SET OF CHALLENGES, PARAMOUNT TO THIS IS THE FACT THAT EMPLOYEES ARE NOW ‘ALWAYS ON’ WITH WORK CARRYING OVER EVEN BEYOND WORKING HOURS. IN YOUR OPINION, HOW CAN ORGANISATIONS MANAGE THIS BETTER TO PROTECT THE WELLBEING OF THEIR EMPLOYEES?
Organisations need to set examples from the top down on how this work-life balance has to be maintained. Till the members don’t see their superiors doing it, they will always feel like they are expected to work 24×7.
Leaders have to set strict guidelines about work timings and taking time off work and then follow those. It is a new normal and it’s new for everyone, so the leaders have to take the lead to make remote working as normal as regular office work is.
2020 AND BEYOND
WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?
I love fiction reading and have just finished a lovely book that a friend gifted- ‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’ by Gail Honeyman. It’s a brilliant mix of giggle-worthy instances and some extremely sad situations that make you go through a range of emotions.
My job requires me to be always consuming a plethora of information, whether it is about the most recent Instagram feature that was launched or the criticism that a brand advertising has drawn in another country or even a white paper on scientific benefits of a food ingredient that is being used in one of our products. And most of this information is consumed online, usually on my phone.
But I am quite old school when it comes to reading for pleasure. I prefer paperbacks and usually, lug around a few books in my travel suitcase even for holidays or just buy them at the airport.
WHAT IS ON YOUR NETFLIX WATCHLIST?
I sat through one night and just finished Emily in Paris. It was such a relatable show especially for someone who lives and loves marketing. On my watchlist now are the newly released series A Suitable Boy and also Schitt’s Creek, a show I’ve been wanting to watch for a while.
AS WE LEARN TO LIVE WITH COVID19 IF YOU COULD REPLACE THE HANDSHAKE AS A FORM OF GREETING, WHAT INTERESTING NEW GREETING WOULD YOU INTRODUCE?
An air ‘High Five’ would be on top on my list followed by the good old Namaste that is the traditional Indian greeting.
WHO HAVEN’T YOU SEEN OR TALKED TO IN A LONG TIME AND HOPE THEY ARE DOING OKAY?
I haven’t seen one of my best friends, Bharti, who moved to Canada more than a year ago. While we do talk and I know what’s happening in her life but I miss just meeting her whenever I wanted to and spending time with her.
A UNIQUE MESSAGE FOR ALL YOUNG PROFESSIONALS IN THE MARKETING INDUSTRY
It’s always the smallest of things that can solve the biggest of problems. You don’t know what insights you can uncover if only you go back to the bare basics and start solving rather than looking at your existing situation. Also, focus on building real, genuine, trusting relationships with everyone you work with- your superiors, your reportees, your partners outside your organisation.
IF YOU COULD GO BACK IN TIME, WHAT WOULD YOU TELL YOUR YOUNGER SELF?
Take some more holidays and go travel! You have many years to work over the weekends
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?
Consolidation- that’s something I am trying to achieve at work!
I work with more than 15 brands at any given point in time and lead their content and brand PR. This involves working with multiple agency teams and brand teams and devising and running campaigns and monitoring progress on an ongoing basis. I am trying to consolidate efforts both in terms of inputs and evaluation and trying to find solutions that can help.
On the personal front, I am trying to learn more about managing finances. As women, more often than not, we don’t take charge of our financial lives and usually have someone to depend on to manage it for us. I am learning to reduce my dependence on others and understand finances better.
WE ARE ALWAYS LOOKING FOR AWESOME WOMEN IN MARKETING TO PROFILE. WHO WOULD YOU LIKE US TO INTERVIEW IN FUTURE?
I’ve had the good fortune of having worked with some fabulous women in marketing:
ANY BUCKET LIST ITEMS?
Professionally I would like to work with and consult brands on their content and PR strategies across markets outside of India.
It will also be a learning and growth experience for me to know more about these markets and new customers. I would also like to teach younger marketing professionals as a freelance consultant and share my practical experiences to go along with their theoretical understanding of the subject.
Personally, the Senior Dogs Rescue and Care centre is the most important thing on my bucket list. Also learning how to scuba-dive.
WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR FEMALE HEROES?
Naomi from the Bible is a woman hero worth emulating. She defied the cultural odds and made a place for herself in the old world. Naomi didn’t just survive on her own without depending on a man but also planned and thought about her daughter in law and got her to work in a good place and finally got her married. She was smart and thought strategically about the choice of a house for Ruth and that decision benefited them in the long term.
In the current worldly order, Jacinda Ardern is a woman hero worth all the praise that she can get and more. She has proven that with a leadership style focused on empathy and trust, the most complex and demanding problems can be solved without a whole lot of politicizing. She understands the power of clear, concise and honest communication to the people who she’s leading and with a soothing, warm heart and a practical, knowledgeable head she has managed to get her country back to normal while the biggest economies in the world struggle with the Covid-19 pandemic.