Melissa is Marketing Manager for IT & Telecommunications company, Turrito. The Johannesburg born marketer loves a good read and shares with us why having some downtime is important in achieving a work life balance. Let’s dive into this segment of Women In Marketing and learn more
LET’S GET PERSONAL
THANK YOU FOR TAKING THE TIME TO PARTICIPATE IN OUR WOMEN IN MARKETING SERIES, MELISSA. LET’S START ON A LIGHTER NOTE. WHERE WERE YOU BORN? WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR MEMORIES GROWING UP?
I was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. Some of my fondest memories include family braais, dancing in my room, and holidays to the sea.
WHAT WERE YOU LIKE IN YOUR HIGH SCHOOL/COLLEGE YEARS?
I went to boarding school.
It taught me lessons on being independent. I have always been an introvert, so university was a daunting thought for me. I went to Vega. Even on my first day at campus, I was so afraid I’d never make any friends. Little did I know I’d make some of the best friends I would ever meet.
IF YOU COULD BE ANY ANIMAL, WHAT WOULD IT BE AND WHY?
A penguin hands down. Penguins mate for life. I appreciate that loyalty. They also defy the norms. They are classified as birds, yet they don’t fly in the way you would expect. Penguins literally “fly” in the water. It’s incredible.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE MEAL? THAT ONE MEAL YOU WOULD FEEL NO SHAME FOR NOT SHARING!
I love pasta! It’s easy to make and impossible to stuff up. Always delicious
IMAGINE WAKING UP $10 MILLION RICHER TOMORROW, WHAT WOULD YOU DO WITH YOUR FORTUNE?
To be completely honest, I would take a bit to spoil myself. But the rest I would use to invest in local businesses that are making our communities better.
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’m incredibly proud of my level 37 status in Pokemon Go! I’m an avid player.
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 wanted to be everything.
I wanted to be a palaeontologist, then a fashion designer to a teacher to a nanotechnologist. At one point I was so adamant about being a plumber I would break the toilet just to fix it. I went to Vega to do my entrance exams to university and picked up a brochure. It ticked all my boxes. With marketing, you get to be everything and creatively get to share that with people. It’s awesome.
GIVE US A SNEAK PEEK OF HOW YOU TYPICALLY START YOUR DAY. ARE YOU #TEAMCOFFEE OR #TEAMTEA? OR BOTH? YOU BEAUTIFUL REBEL!
#Both! I love my sleep a little too much. But I’ve had to adapt. I start my morning with a cup of green tea and then jump immediately into the coffee. The green tea honestly is for health benefits.
As for the routine – I have my tea outside. If I don’t start my day in my garden, I am the grumpiest person. Nature is so important.
HOW BEST DO YOU MAINTAIN A WORK-LIFE BALANCE?
It isn’t easy to do, especially with remote working.
As I said before, I’ve had to adapt. And I don’t always get it right. My number one rule is: always to relax after work. I grab a beer, sit down, and chill. Once I’ve done that – I get to the house stuff. The important part is to distract yourself fully from work. I like to read or play video games. And make sure you make time for yourself.
Sundays are “me day” where the day or the morning (if I have other commitments) is dedicated to looking after myself.
YOU OBTAINED YOUR BBA IN BRAND BUILDING AND MANAGEMENT FROM VEGA SCHOOL. 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?
There is SO much out there.
All of my digital marketing knowledge is self-taught using free resources out there. Nearly all of the Google and Facebook marketing courses are free AND you get certified. YouTube is wonderful to learn quick skills. There are also sites like edX that give you access to MBA level courses for free. You need to pay for the certificate but, you can access the knowledge for free.
Also, connect with people that inspire you. Ask them to mentor you. That guidance is magic. I would be nowhere without my mentor.
YOU HAVE A GREAT RESUME. YOU’VE WORKED FOR COMPANIES SUCH AS HDI YOUTH MARKETEERS, CLOUDGATE SOUTH AFRICA AS WELL AS DIAL A NERD 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 is invaluable for your professional brand. Keep your profile up to date. Join groups. Engage with your network. Go to events relevant to you. I often train people on LinkedIn and cannot stress the importance of it as a business network.
LinkedIn also has useful mini-assessments you can take, which (if you pass) score you high in selected technical skills which helps you become more credible.
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?
It is so so so important to get yourself a mentor. I was always too proud to do it. Then I did, not only was I humbled but, I’d never look back. The best advice I can give when choosing your mentor is to go for someone you are inspired by but also out of your field of work. It allows you to get a very different perspective on things you might get tunnel vision on.
WHAT’S YOUR SMARTEST WORK-RELATED SHORTCUT OR PRODUCTIVITY HACK?
I like to take big tasks and cut them into small achievable tasks. That way, I am not overwhelmed by the mammoth and can complete my work tasks.
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 have seen it hurt people. However, I do not think it is a bad idea to diversify yourself. It is crucial to try to stay in a role for at least a year. Sometimes it may seem tough in the beginning. Once you are in the groove of things, it gets better. If it still sucks, move on. Being on the back end of the recruitment I’ve seen it been frowned upon and it annoys me, so if you can, don’t change roles every 3 months. You’ll learn more sticking somewhere for a year.
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?
We just do things better 😉 I’d like to see these numbers at the CEO level. It’s good to hear.
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?
Working in a predominantly “male” industry (IT) hasn’t been easy.
As women, we have to talk twice as loud, fight twice as hard, and deal with being put in a box. For example, the popular opinion in my company was that I make things pretty, it has taken 5 years to change that (and, unfortunately, some still think that).
I must say I have a lot of support from the top, I hate to say I am lucky.
We need to take this seriously. I am a believer in equal pay for equal work. We need to fix this. We then need to talk about the elephant in the room.
I know many women who are tired of being shut down for an idea that would have been otherwise approved had it come from a male counterpart.
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?
Our company (Turrito and Dial a Nerd) was the same as those silicon valley companies. We moved seamlessly to remote working. Companies have taken so long to implement remote working opportunities because they don’t like change. They want to be in control.
The positives of anxiety and fear; a life in Joburg – https://t.co/r4Z0OpNArc— Dial a Nerd (@dialanerdsa) November 19, 2020
For example, in our business, we’ve had many clients ask for tracking software to see how productive their staff are working from home.
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 thing for businesses to do is being aware of this. Followed by the implementation tools that staff can access and show their support for those staff. Some companies offer psychological support for business for employees. I strongly suggest employers sign up for them.
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?
This is a tough question.
I think innovation can be defined as a fresh perspective on something that has already been done. The reason I say this is that I don’t think anything new can happen. If it is something new, it’s been inspired by something that already exists. To sum it up, innovation is something that solves a problem in a way that problem has never been solved before.
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 interesting.
Big data and AI are both going to drive a lot of marketing decisions going forward. However, you still need that human element. That is the most crucial part. That is successful marketing.
2020 AND BEYOND
IF YOU COULD GO BACK IN TIME, WHAT WOULD YOU TELL YOUR YOUNGER SELF?
You will get confident. You will succeed. Don’t Stop Believing in yourself.
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?
Honestly, right now I’m just trying to maintain the balance of all the brands that I manage.
I currently manage five brands. The challenge that I’m trying to overcome is: manage all of those expectations and still delivering everything to the best of my ability. Another challenge that I have is trying to successfully drive accounts based marketing in South Africa with a very traditional sales team.
ANY BUCKET LIST ITEMS?
Yes, tons, but my big one is to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.
WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR SHEROES?
My number one is Jane Goodall. Thuli Madonsela is a wonderful woman to look up to. I have always looked up to and aspire to be as strong as my mentor, Robyn Nixon. As a nerd, I need to mention a comic book hero, Raven. She is just so badass!
WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?
I am an avid reader. I like to read 4 books at a time. I read one business book and the rest of it is fiction. I’m a big fantasy fan. I like to escape. I’m reading a lot of business books at the moment. At the moment, though and one of those is ‘Becoming the Boss’. The other one is ‘The Lean Startup’. And the two fiction books on my bedside table are ‘Mrs Benson’s beetle’ and, ‘We Need New Names’. I would recommend reading ‘Outliers’ by Malcolm Gladwell and ‘Linchpin ’ by Seth Godin.
WHAT WOULD YOU COME BACK AS IN THE NEXT LIFETIME CAREER-WISE? DO YOU THINK YOU MISSED A CALLING?
I’d like to do something way more involved in sustainability. I don’t think I missed a calling as I mentioned earlier the great thing about marketing is that you get to be anything. I do try to be as sustainable as I can in my personal life.
WHAT IS ON YOUR NETFLIX WATCHLIST?
Way too many things. I like too many things. I am currently watching Peaky Blinders, The social dilemma, Glee and I’ve recently just gotten into anime.
WE ARE ALWAYS LOOKING FOR AMAZING WOMEN IN MARKETING TO PROFILE. WHO WOULD YOU LIKE US TO GET IN TOUCH WITH?
Theresa Gibbon. She runs her PR agency.
A UNIQUE MESSAGE FOR ALL YOUNG PROFESSIONALS IN THE MARKETING INDUSTRY
Stay strong, stick to your truth. Be you and you’ll get where you need to be.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME MELISSA. WE HOPE THIS INTERVIEW WILL INSPIRE FUTURE LEADERS AND OTHER WOMEN IN MARKETING. HOW CAN PEOPLE FOLLOW YOU AND YOUR COMPANY ON SOCIAL MEDIA?
You can follow me on Instagram @brandpenguin and all of my beautiful brands on Facebook and Twitter: