Michelle joins us for this segment of Women in Marketing. She is the Marketing Manager at ESET Africa. Whilst we can all agree that content marketing is important, Michelle explains further why personalised content reigns supreme. With all the knowledge she shared with us, she’ll definitely achieve her goal to be CMO one day
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 am Nairobi born and bred 🤩.
Sunday drives to Sno-cream in Nairobi CBD for chocolate-covered cones listening to Kenny G, Sade, and Whitney Houston. Annual beach vacays to the Kenyan Coast with my family. Christmas eve dinners with family – Christmas is huge for us!
Spending almost every other weekend with my cousins.
WHAT WERE YOU LIKE IN YOUR HIGH SCHOOL/COLLEGE YEARS?
I was a mix of many things. I was nerdy, smart and a little rebellious.
IF YOU COULD BE ANY ANIMAL, WHAT WOULD IT BE AND WHY?
Tiger. They are so majestic, regal, and fierce. It also happens to be my horoscope in the Chinese Zodiac 😁.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE MEAL? THAT ONE MEAL YOU WOULD FEEL NO SHAME FOR NOT SHARING!
Chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream…super yum and the best comfort food ever!
IMAGINE WAKING UP $10 MILLION RICHER TOMORROW, WHAT WOULD YOU DO WITH YOUR FORTUNE?
Hahaha. In my head I would run-off to some exotic island like Bora Bora or Tahiti and spend my days lying by the beach, soaking up the ocean breeze and living my best island life.
In reality, though, I would invest the money in real estate, mutual funds, bonds, and any other investment ventures. The aim would be to make sure the money grows for generations to come 😊
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 love figuring out musical samples producers use in songs. It’s just interesting how if a tune is looped, reversed, or slowed down would sound so different. I particularly admire the sampling skills and styles of Kanye West, Dot Da Genius, Noah “40” Shebib, Rockwilder and Boi-1da.
CAREER AND WORKPLACE
WHAT ENCOURAGED YOU TO PURSUE A CAREER IN MARKETING? AFTER ALL, MOST OF US GREW UP WANTING TO BE DOCTORS, RIGHT?
Funny story, I studied Biomed engineering for a year and a half before switching to marketing lol. I remember walking into my first intro to engineering class. By the end of the session, I knew this was not it. I loved advertising and copywriting; it always piqued my interest. After a year of sabbatical, I decided to go back and do a degree in Marketing and Management.
GIVE US A SNEAK PEEK OF HOW YOU TYPICALLY START YOUR DAY. ARE YOU #TEAMCOFFEE OR #TEAMTEA? OR BOTH? YOU BEAUTIFUL REBEL!
#TEAMCOFFEE Black no sugar 😋
A typical day starts at 6 am with quiet time, prayer, Bible meditation, and affirmations for my day. I get dressed then head to the office and note down the day’s agenda. In 2020 though, I head to my home office and get cracking on the day.
HOW BEST DO YOU MAINTAIN A WORK-LIFE BALANCE?
I have not linked my work email to my phone.
This has been the single most important decision I made because I am one of those people who was always on. It ultimately blurred the work-life balance lines. I stick to my hours of working (8 am – 5 pm) unless it’s crunch time, then I can make the exception.
I have been lucky to work for a few companies such as Ecom Services Limited and ESET East Africa. There is respect for working hours and maintaining a healthy balance.
YOU OBTAINED YOUR CERTIFICATE IN PROFESSIONAL MARKETING FROM THE CHARTERED INSTITUTE OF MARKETING. 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?
In today’s world, formal education doesn’t quite cut it anymore. Times change fast, the coursework is not as easily adaptable. If you are interested in learning something new, I encourage you to sign up for online courses and keep building on that.
YOU HAVE A GREAT RESUME. YOU’VE WORKED FOR COMPANIES SUCH AS DESTINATION MAGAZINE, GO PLACES KENYA AS WELL AS ECOM SERVICES. 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 been a crucial part of my journey.
I was an early adopter joining the platform in early 2014 and have seen it evolve. I have had access to opportunities with various headhunters approaching me through it. It has also been vital to my job search, I found my current job utilising LinkedIn.
I haven’t been that active in recent years, but I intend to pick it up in the coming year. I urge young women to work on their profiles, follow various senior leaders in their chosen career paths, reach out to connections, and contribute to conversations.
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?
Mentorship is crucial, especially as you start to grow in your career.
Having someone senior in your chosen field, that you can get along with personally and professionally who can act as an objective soundboard can help one achieve their goals. Mentorship is a necessity for women, especially in today’s world where women are constantly challenging the norms and breaking barriers. Mentorship is akin to apprenticeship as they both guide you on how to best excel in your chosen path.
WHAT’S YOUR SMARTEST WORK-RELATED SHORTCUT OR PRODUCTIVITY HACK?
Writing everything down in my notebook from my to-do list to meeting minutes 😊.
Every morning before I get started, I review my previous day’s to-do list then create my to-do list for the day. I am also a firm believer in Mark Twain’s saying: Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.
I work on my most difficult/time-consuming task in the morning, be it a plan, presentation, phone-call, or meeting.
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 think job-hopping is good. It opens your eyes to different perspectives. With how our world is changing so fast, different perspectives are needed for career survival.
However, if you work for a well-established company with growth opportunities, there is no need for you to job hop as you gain critical skills through cross-functional working as well as climbing up the career ladder.
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 think it has more to do with women’s nature to be empathetic, nurturers, and taking care of people. It may sound stereotypical, however, as marketing has moved towards storytelling and experiences, women are better poised to communicate better, more genuinely, and to engage with audiences on an empathetic level.
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?
It’s encouraging to see many women break the glass ceiling and take on more roles in the C-Suite.
Women still battle with having their voices heard in the boardroom as the ratios in senior management continue to favour men. It all boils down to diversity and acknowledging women’s contribution to the organisational goals.
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?
For our region, I think it’s a clash of the ages. Senior management still believes that being in the office for a set number of hours is equivalent to productivity. Mid-level management, however, knows that one can work from anywhere and maintain similar levels of productivity, if not more. We still have quite a long way to go in terms of working remotely forever.
One trend I have noticed is a hybrid system where employees split their time (between the office and home). For example, one goes to the office 3 times a week and works from home 2 times a week. I think this trend is a step in the right direction.
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 first thing for employers; to trust that the employees are indeed being productive even though they are not at the office. Secondly, maintaining office working hours so that people are online-only during those hours.
Zoom parties where people can socialise without discussing work. Enrolling them in self-awareness sessions bi-weekly that discuss various topics related to mental health, work-life balance, and productivity. Allowing people to take leave days as and when the need arises. Just because one is working from home does not mean that they are ‘on leave’.
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?
For me, something I consider innovative has the following characteristics:
- It has added value
- Offers convenience through its user experience
- Is easily accessible
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?
Content is still king.
People have moved past being talked at by brands and onto individual experiences. People are getting more adept at picking out sponsored content and crave genuine interactions, both positive and negative without the whitewashing. I think micro-influencing and honest content creation is the future of marketing.
2020 AND BEYOND
IF YOU COULD GO BACK IN TIME, WHAT WOULD YOU TELL YOUR YOUNGER SELF?
Trust the journey, trust the process, don’t stop believing! As cliche as this sounds, my life has unfolded in kinds of ways I didn’t think imaginable. But I am still here standing strong, living, and thriving.
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?
Dealing with grief.
I lost my soulmate and life partner David Lein in August 2019. He was my anchor, my rock, my best friend, my biggest cheerleader, and an awesome father to our children.
It’s been a rough road to healing but a journey nonetheless. I have a huge support system made up of dear family and friends who have helped ease some of the pressure off which has allowed me to, in some ways thrive especially professionally.
ANY BUCKET LIST ITEMS?
Work at Google or Pernod Ricard
Become a CMO
Swing on the Bali Swing
Skydiving in Diani
See the Northern Lights
Go to Bora – Bora
WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR SHEROES?
My namesake Michelle Obama
Dr Katherine Getao
My mum and my mother in love
WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?
I love books! Paperback for me. I love turning the pages and inhaling that sweet scent of words and immersing myself for hours on end. Like Belle in Beauty and the Beast, I have my nose stuck in a book 😊.
I read everything but my favourite genres: fiction – romance, thriller and erotica, Africana, and biographies.
Current read: ‘Girl, Woman, Other‘ by Bernardine Evaristo
WHAT WOULD YOU COME BACK AS IN THE NEXT LIFETIME CAREER-WISE? DO YOU THINK YOU MISSED A CALLING?
Definitely would want to come back as a lawyer.
I don’t think I missed a calling given my trajectory in uni. I think I was born a marketer and no matter how much I tried to resist it I still found my way back.
WHAT IS ON YOUR NETFLIX WATCHLIST?
Umbrella Academy – Cannot wait for season 3 🙌🏾
Big Bang Theory
Grace and Frankie
WHO HAVEN’T YOU SEEN OR TALKED TO IN A LONG TIME AND HOPE THEY ARE DOING OKAY?
My former boss Tahnya Pivac.
She helped shape my professional thought process and interpersonal relations. Although we never physically met, she impacted me.
WE ARE ALWAYS LOOKING FOR AMAZING WOMEN IN MARKETING TO PROFILE. WHO WOULD YOU LIKE US TO GET IN TOUCH WITH?
Tamara Nerima. She is the Marketing Director at Scania EA and chef extraordinaire. I think her story will be inspiring as she is at the forefront of a field dominated by men in EA.
A UNIQUE MESSAGE FOR ALL YOUNG PROFESSIONALS IN THE MARKETING INDUSTRY
Never stop learning, don’t be afraid to fail! Through failure, one learns. Keep reinventing the wheel.
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 on Twitter, @sheratronics
LinkedIn: Michelle Kuria
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LinkedIn: ESET East Africa