Michelle joins us for this segment of Women In Marketing. She is the Communications & Digital Marketing Manager for De’Longhi Group. The Port Elizabeth born marketer speaks about innovation as well as the importance of customer centricity as brands seek to personalize marketing. Let’s learn more
LET’S GET PERSONAL
THANK YOU FOR TAKING THE TIME TO PARTICIPATE IN OUR WOMEN IN MARKETING SERIES, MICHELLE. LET’S START ON A LIGHTER NOTE. WHERE WERE YOU BORN? WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR MEMORIES GROWING UP?
I was born in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Some of my fondest memories are of myself and my sister creating stories about the fairies in our huge garden, hockey with the cousins on the weekend, baking cakes with my gran in the kitchen “nook” and the beach.
WHAT WERE YOU LIKE IN YOUR HIGH SCHOOL/COLLEGE YEARS?
These are two extremely different phases of life.
In one, you’re trying to fit in, and in the next, you’re trying to find your person and stand out. I had a great group of friends through high school, but the cliques in that stage don’t make the experience an easy one for anyone I don’t believe.
University was much better. I found more like-minded and friendly people.
IF YOU COULD BE ANY ANIMAL, WHAT WOULD IT BE AND WHY?
I would be a dolphin. Dolphins are graceful and intelligent. They don’t tend to have a lot of predators constantly chasing them, so that’s nice, y’know! Also, their habitat is the ocean, and to me, that is home.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE MEAL? THAT ONE MEAL YOU WOULD FEEL NO SHAME FOR NOT SHARING!
I am such a foodie, there’s not much I don’t enjoy but when considering sharing, don’t touch my calculated number of sushi pieces.
IMAGINE WAKING UP $10 MILLION RICHER TOMORROW, WHAT WOULD YOU DO WITH YOUR FORTUNE?
Debts first ‘cos who wants that hanging over them? Magical holiday second. Side hustle business growth is the third.
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 don’t know how to follow on from Dr Liezel Bygate’s “expert hula-hooper”, but I am quite the baker and I am a qualified rescue diver.
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’ve done a lot of introspection about this topic recently where I have acknowledged that the positions you land up in are not necessarily the ones you aim to be in, but things have a way of leading you in a certain direction.
When I joined the Corporate Communications degree at the University of Johannesburg, I thought events management was the industry I wanted to be in. The first two years of my degree did nothing to help me with this intent. In 3rd year we were combined with the Marketing Communications degree, and if that didn’t happen, I don’t know where I would be right now.
I learnt all things digital and marketing. For that, I will be forever grateful, because it turns out that I’m not too shabby at it!
GIVE US A SNEAK PEEK OF HOW YOU TYPICALLY START YOUR DAY. ARE YOU #TEAMCOFFEE OR #TEAMTEA? OR BOTH? YOU BEAUTIFUL REBEL!
I work for De’Longhi so let’s not mention this to anyone 😛
I am #TeamTea first thing in the morning and last thing at night. The thing is that I am hugely into my running and so many of my mornings begin by meeting smile-filled faces that are red and sweaty at the end of our session. I’ll then head home to make myself look presentable and off to work I go!
HOW BEST DO YOU MAINTAIN A WORK-LIFE BALANCE?
Shutting down at the end of the day and creating a wedge between work and home. The normalisation of overwork culture is something which confuses me. The pride associated with working a 12 hour day is not something I can relate to.
There is more to life than work. This doesn’t mean that I won’t step up when required, , however, making it a daily feature of your life just diminishes your productivity. You may think you’re achieving more, but shorter working hours have shown to boost productivity, not the other way round.
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?
In 2017 I learned just how vitally important mentorship is!
People behave in ways they are taught and, if you’re only exposed to one way of doing things, it’s how you’re always going to do them. Having someone that you’re able to approach and learn from is of utmost importance! Networking and meeting people in the industry who you feel comfortable approaching is a challenging thing to do, but if you can, I truly believe you’ll have a one-up on many people.
WHAT’S YOUR SMARTEST WORK-RELATED SHORTCUT OR PRODUCTIVITY HACK?
The right tools for the job! Just because you know one platform or software extremely well doesn’t mean you should allow it to be your comfort zone. Sometimes pushing through the initial learning phase of a new platform can increase your productivity – suck it up and do it! Things like Adobe XD were a saviour for me in 2020!!
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?
If there is no room for growth in a company, how else are you supposed to grow? That is my view. Many people are lucky and receive promotions and growth. However, I believe there are more who get stuck in redundant positions where the only way to grow and learn is by moving.
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?
I would say that this is caused by two things – communication and empathy.
Women tend to have strengths in these two areas, in comparison to men as a generalisation. I think that women are also very customer-centric and try exceptionally hard to understand people.
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?
Again, this is going to sound like a generalisation, but it is based on personal experience and my world-views, so let me have it. I think because these roles of seniority are still so new to many women, it seems that they are frequently out to prove themselves rather than the team they represent.
I have been in situations where I have been refused access to information I require to complete my work, purely for this reason, and it achieves nothing.
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?
In so many scenarios, it’s a handful of people who ruin it for everyone. From the alcohol ban to working from home. I am a person who is riddled with guilt if I even think about faking a sick day. I recall that at one of my companies, when Eskom would switch off the lights and we were permitted to work from home, there were people brave enough to switch their laptops off at 3 pm, and I sat there like “whaaaa-“? If employees behave in this manner then it’s no wonder why companies are nervous about shifting to permanent remote work opportunities.
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?
I have been part of cultures that just keep going.
However, I am fortunate that in my current company people do switch off, so there is no guilt in you doing the same. There have been very few incidents where I have had to pull out my laptop on a weekend, for that, I am exceptionally grateful because it hasn’t been that way throughout my career.
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?
To me, innovation has to do with making a person’s life easier.
Everything the banks have done to reduce the time spent in queues in-store has been innovative. Being able to do everything through an app is innovative.
Wow, I am going to be taking such a jab here, but changing the way a banking card is created is not innovative. Vertical or horizontal, they do the same thing. Me not having to even remove my card from my purse is innovation. Being able to tap to pay with my Garmin Vivoactive 4S is innovative. *Drops mic
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?
Digital personalisation and growth within the application of VR.
Customers are so frightened of being tracked and of the concept of big data. Plenty of people are too frightened to download the Covid-alert app with the chance of being “tracked”. If tracking my location and the stores I frequent online leads to a more relevant form of media being served to me, or if it makes me aware of being in close contact with a person who has tested positive with Covid-19, then why would I not want this value added to my life?
Personalisation makes my experience online so much simpler. I remember when Woolworths first started their rewards program on their store cards; they would send me promotional offers of “receive 10% off R250 or more with children’s clothing”.
I am not a mom, and at that age I did not have many friends becoming moms. By serving me this promotional offer, they were wasting my time and theirs. I would much rather receive R3 off my next bunch of bananas than 10% off children’s clothing.
2020 AND BEYOND
IF YOU COULD GO BACK IN TIME, WHAT WOULD YOU TELL YOUR YOUNGER SELF?
I would have told my younger self to travel in my gap year.
There are so many opportunities out there for youngsters which I was completely unaware of in 2009. It’s something I would have done if I knew about it. Working on the yachts, or as an Au Pair – I would have signed up for that!
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?
Trying to define what my next step should be is something I am trying to overcome. There are so many areas of marketing which I believe I could become more specialised in, but it’s tough to determine what I should do next.
ANY BUCKET LIST ITEMS?
I want to complete a triathlon as well as to travel more. I don’t even have a specific top priority – I just want to see more places and take it all in!
WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?
‘I am Pilgrim’! What a great book!
I am a very slow reader. I struggled to get into it when not on holiday, however, I love a great thriller!
Paperback is the way for me. I might be a millennial but not in every aspect! Consumption of career-related information is different. I do have some books, however, I prefer to read shorter articles.
WHAT WOULD YOU COME BACK AS IN THE NEXT LIFETIME CAREER-WISE? DO YOU THINK YOU MISSED A CALLING?
When I completed the aptitude test I mentioned in the beginning, I was told that I would make a great teacher. When a person thinks about a “teacher”, they think of the standard school teacher. I don’t know why my mind didn’t go further than that.
As a scuba diving instructor, I am a great and patient teacher. As a running coach, I am informative, helpful and I am constantly trying to better myself so that I can add further value to people’s running and their lives.
WHAT IS ON YOUR NETFLIX WATCHLIST?
The Queen’s Gambit – I’ve heard really good things! Any show which drives uptake of a hobby must be good!
WHO HAVEN’T YOU SEEN OR TALKED TO IN A LONG TIME AND HOPE THEY ARE DOING OKAY?
With social media, I feel like we constantly get glimpses into people’s lives to let you know that they’re okay. But it’s social media, and we show our best.
Someone I haven’t spoken to in a while was a person who used to be part of my running community. She emigrated, we don’t talk anymore, but I hope she is living her best life there – it was bound to be an adventure of note!
WE ARE ALWAYS LOOKING FOR AMAZING WOMEN IN MARKETING TO PROFILE. WHO WOULD YOU LIKE US TO GET IN TOUCH WITH?
My manager from my PANDORA jewellery days, Cathy Qama. She is the most incredible woman I’ve worked for and if there’s anyone who can comment on women in managerial roles, it’s her.
A UNIQUE MESSAGE FOR ALL YOUNG PROFESSIONALS IN THE MARKETING INDUSTRY
Keep on upskilling yourself! If you think you’re good just relying on the brands you’ve worked for, think again. You need to keep on learning!
THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME MICHELLE. 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 at @runningforcake_sa – I have a side hustle where I get women moving – it’s pretty cool!
You can follow my company on the following handles on Instagram: