For this segment of Women In Marketing, we chat with Ilana Mpiti who is a Social Media Coordinator at Standard Bank. When she’s not working up the next social media campaign, Ilana is an excellent chess player. Perhaps she can share with us what exactly a ‘Queens Gambit’ is? Let’s learn more about her.
LET’S GET PERSONAL
THANK YOU FOR TAKING THE TIME TO PARTICIPATE IN OUR WOMEN IN MARKETING SERIES, ILANA. LET’S START ON A LIGHTER NOTE. WHERE WERE YOU BORN? WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR MEMORIES GROWING UP?
I was born at Mofumahadi Manapo Mopeli Hospital in Phuthaditjhaba, Qwa-Qwa. I moved to Aliwal North, Eastern Cape at the age of 5, where I was raised by my grandmother and aunt. My earliest memories would be growing up in a household with my cousins, where it felt like it was a grooming camp; full of laughter and love.
WHAT WERE YOU LIKE IN YOUR HIGH SCHOOL/COLLEGE YEARS?
I was the black sheep of the family.
I always did what I wanted. I was very ambitious and always followed my heart; the life of the party. But, when it came to my tenure in varsity, I was focused because I paid for my own varsity fees.
IF YOU COULD BE ANY ANIMAL, WHAT WOULD IT BE AND WHY?
A butterfly. Not only are butterflies beautiful, metaphorically it represents spiritual rebirth, transformation and change (hope). I am constantly growing as an individual, I always push myself to grow not only spiritually or personally, but career-wise.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE MEAL? THAT ONE MEAL YOU WOULD FEEL NO SHAME FOR NOT SHARING!
I can’t think of a specific meal, anything with meat brings me joy! When in doubt or confusion I have Nando’s or Chicken Licken wings.
IMAGINE WAKING UP $10 MILLION RICHER TOMORROW, WHAT WOULD YOU DO WITH YOUR FORTUNE?
I would invest some of it in stock, property and start-ups. Save some of it in my son’s trust fund. Start an NGO. Renovate my family home and travel to a few of the countries on my bucket list.
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 play chess. I appreciate anything that stimulates the brain. Chess helps increase critical-thinking. It’s a good exercise for both sides of the brain. I consider myself creative, chess increases my creativity.
CAREER AND WORKPLACE
WHAT ENCOURAGED YOU TO PURSUE A CAREER IN MARKETING? AFTER ALL, MOST OF US GREW UP WANTING TO BE DOCTORS, RIGHT?
I always knew I was going to end up in this career path, to be honest. I studied media studies, which my dad wasn’t necessarily crazy about; he wanted me to be a lawyer like him. Everything I did in High school indirectly pointed in this direction; all from the subject choice to school activities. During high school, I told my mother I want to study anything that teaches me to make money and deal with people.
GIVE US A SNEAK PEEK OF HOW YOU TYPICALLY START YOUR DAY. ARE YOU #TEAMCOFFEE OR #TEAMTEA? OR BOTH? YOU BEAUTIFUL REBEL!
#TEAMCOFFEE all day, every day!
Coffee saves lives like doctors, LOL! I start my day by putting on my YouTube daily affirmation playlist and put on the kettle, check emails and shower. Ever since the national lockdown, I have been based at home, so after taking a shower, I put on my comforty ‘work-at-home’ outfit. I check Twitter to see what is trending, with the News playing in the background.
In my field of work, I need to be in the know with current affairs. Then I am on work mode until 18H00.
HOW BEST DO YOU MAINTAIN A WORK-LIFE BALANCE?
To be honest, it is very challenging to strike a balance. Thanks to my family for being my support, they are assisting with raising my son. I am also currently studying, so it is tricky.
However, I typically start work at 08:00. I get a gap at 11:00, which I use to drink coffee in the sun and prepare for supper if I decide to cook, just before my next meeting. 15:00 is also a good time to take 10 minutes to break just to stand outside and get fresh air. At 17:00, I start cooking while still attending to emails. 18:00 I shower and nap for 2 hours. 22:00 I start with school work. 02:00 is usually my time to catch up on Netflix and chill…odd I know. It is the new-new. Saturdays are family and friends day, Sunday is my sleep-in day.
YOU OBTAINED YOUR DIGITAL MARKETING QUALIFICATION FROM THE RED & YELLOW CREATIVE SCHOOL OF BUSINESS. 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?
The internet is your oyster! Firstly, one needs to establish their area of interest. Do your research, digital and social media marketing offers so many opportunities.If this is your area of interest, you can do so much in this space, from being a Social Media Marketer, eCommerce Specialist, Analytics Performance Manager etc.
Google, LinkedIn and other similar platforms offer free online courses that provide skills for social and digital. They can further contact companies for on the job training to acquire the necessary skills.
YOU HAVE A GREAT RESUME. YOU’VE WORKED FOR COMPANIES SUCH AS WSIOMS, ILOGIC AGENCY AS WELL AS KHENDA HOLDINGS. HOW IMPORTANT HAS LINKEDIN BEEN FOR YOU AND WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR YOUNG WOMEN LOOKING TO ESTABLISH THEIR PROFESSIONAL BRAND FOR NETWORKING PURPOSES?
LinkedIn has played a crucial role in my career, that’s how I was “discovered” by Standard Bank. Always update your LinkedIn profile. I started by doing weekend odd-jobs to get some work experience. My first-weekend job was promotions for Verimark at Pick ‘n Pay Hypermarket in Woodmead.
It occurred to me that to graduate, I needed to get an internship. It’s always good to network with people within the career path of your interest. I have a friend who was an illustrator at Khenda Holdings. Every time I spoke to him, I would ask if there is an opportunity to freelance at their company. I finally got lucky, they had an opportunity for a junior/temp Social Media Analyst.
The only experience I had with social media then, was updating my personal social media accounts. It was in 2012 when corporate South Africa began being aware of social media. I was honest during my interview and told them I had no experience. I was, however, willing to learn. You need to have a ‘can-do’ attitude and be eager to 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?
I highly recommend it. Knowing what I know now in my career, I encourage women of all ages and backgrounds to make this a priority. This is vital for your career and personal development.
I only got a mentor later in my career because I was too shy to ask.
WHAT’S YOUR SMARTEST WORK-RELATED SHORTCUT OR PRODUCTIVITY HACK?
Prepare before a meeting; ask for the agenda of the meeting.
Time management, if you can, block out a time in your diary to attend to work, it’s easy to fall behind if you don’t plan properly. Write down a to-do list and tick off all completed tasks. It’s even more effective if you write it down on a piece of paper. Start with the tasks you enjoy first. This way, you get into the groove of working. Starting with the tasks you dread can be a drag.
If you are working from home, create a relaxed work environment. A good playlist is important.
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?
I believe it depends on the time frame. If you job-hop within 3 months – 1 year of your career, it makes you look unreliable. 2-3years is a good time for a career change. This way, you can say you have learned and acquired skills.
I believe in building trust and long-term relationships. Good relations are everything, even in this fast-paced era. This industry is still relatively small (in South Africa), good impressions last.
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?
There are more women with buying power within households. Who else can better appeal to these emerging customers than women?
When doing my research within the Marketing and Communication business units, brand love has increased within these departments for companies having women as CMOs. An example would be the Momentum Metropolitan Holdings Limited with their Momentum Women’s Month Campaign led by the current CMO Nontokozo Madonsela.
She was the Head of Personal and Business Banking, Marketing at Standard Bank in 2016-2017 and led the ‘What’s Your Next’ Standard Bank campaign. Women marketers have a gift of appealing to the human heart.
BRANDS WERE FORCED TO UTILISE SOCIAL MEDIA AS A MEANS OF MARKETING TO CONSUMERS. WITH A LOT OF JOBS LOST SINCE THE BEGINNING OF THE PANDEMIC, MARKETERS HAVE HAD TO COME WITH CRAFTY WAYS OF CONVEYING THEIR MESSAGE DURING THIS DIFFICULT PERIOD. IN YOUR OPINION, HOW SHOULD BRANDS AND MARKETERS COMMUNICATE TO THEIR CONSUMERS DURING A PANDEMIC? SALESY CONTENT WON’T CUT WILL IT?
Appeal to the human.
You are a consumer. Communicate with consumers the same way that you would want a brand to communicate with you. We are all consumers first before we are marketers. Transparency and honesty are crucial. Your content needs to serve the consumer.
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?
The biggest challenge would be the pay gap. Yes, more women are occupying senior roles, but don’t have the salary increase to match.
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?
I personally don’t favour remote working.
I believe in separating workspace and personal space. Remote working can easily spill over to one’s personal life and cause one to work longer hours. Some projects require team members to be at a central point/area to conduct business. Also, remote work can be costly to the employee.
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?
The best way for employees to guard against burnout is to have boundaries. Take lunch breaks as you would in the office. Block out your diary for tea breaks and take time to attend to emails, and don’t just attend meetings for the sake of it, ask for a meeting agenda before attending a meeting, to better prepare for it (Time Management).
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?
Innovative is something that causes disruption and solves a problem for a consumer.
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?
The future of marketing is continued consumer engagement. Consumers want to be engaged, educated and entertained.
2020 AND BEYOND
IF YOU COULD GO BACK IN TIME, WHAT WOULD YOU TELL YOUR YOUNGER SELF?
You will turn out just fine, don’t doubt yourself, you are on the right path. Everything that happens is a lesson. What matters most is how you react to what happens to you, not what happens.
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?
Not having enough resources to help people around me. This literally keeps me up at night. I live to serve others.
ANY BUCKET LIST ITEMS?
I want to travel more. Invest more. Serve others more. Just do things that make me happy.
WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR SHEROES?
My Mother – Ntombizanele Mpiti
WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?
I am currently reading – ‘21 lessons for the 21st Century’ by Yuval Noah Harari.
I have never finished an ebook, so I will say paperback. 🙂
WHAT WOULD YOU COME BACK AS IN THE NEXT LIFETIME CAREER-WISE? DO YOU THINK YOU MISSED A CALLING?
I am living my dream, as a marketer.
WHAT IS ON YOUR NETFLIX WATCHLIST?
The Queen’s Gambit
Girlfriends – reruns
The story of Diana
Emily in Paris
WHO HAVEN’T YOU SEEN OR TALKED TO IN A LONG TIME AND HOPE THEY ARE DOING OKAY?
Ennie Ndweni , such a regal spirit.
WE ARE ALWAYS LOOKING FOR AMAZING WOMEN IN MARKETING TO PROFILE. WHO WOULD YOU LIKE US TO GET IN TOUCH WITH?
Ennie Ndweni and Kelly Maselo
A UNIQUE MESSAGE FOR ALL YOUNG PROFESSIONALS IN THE MARKETING INDUSTRY
Say it with your chest, say and do what is right, ALL the time. Integrity is EVERYTHING.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME ILANA. WE HOPE THIS INTERVIEW WILL INSPIRE FUTURE LEADERS AND OTHER WOMEN IN MARKETING. HOW CAN PEOPLE FOLLOW YOU ON SOCIAL MEDIA?
Instagram – @ilana_mpiti
Facebook – Ilana Mpiti