Rehema joins us on this segment of Women In Marketing. She is the Marketing Manager for South African Airways (Africa & Middle East). The Nairobi born marketer shares her life story as well as some nuggets about standing up for what you believe in those crucial moments! As a professional in the aviation sector, she explains how the COVID-19 impacted her organisation and how they used this opportunity to relook their strategy as we all adjust to the new normal. Let’s learn more
LET’S GET PERSONAL
WHERE WERE YOU BORN? WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FONDEST MEMORIES?
I was born in Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya.
Also known as the green city in the sun and boasts its uniqueness of having a national park consisting of all the big five.
One of my fondest memories began when I was 10 years old, I decided to stand up to my class teacher who frequently bullied me for reasons known to her. Okay, my only fault was being talkative in class.
My decision to stand up against being picked on, put me in trouble with the principal, as it was perceived wrong and bold to confront a teacher. However, the whole experience was worth it!! The bullying stopped, I became more popular and admired by my classmates. The experience brought out my no-nonsense personality, which to date, I still stand up to injustices be it professionally or personally.
My other fondest memory was in high school. I loved playing netball in the position of goal attack (GA) equivalent to number 23 in basketball (wink! wink). The hard work and discipline my team and I put in saw us qualify for the national competition, which was fierce, but we managed to take up third place. That was one of my proudest moments as the game taught me the importance of teamwork and discipline.
SHOW OFF TO OUR READERS. ANY HIDDEN TALENTS YOU CAN SHARE WITH US? A CLARINET STAR IN THE MAKING PERHAPS?
I’m a great cook and baker.
I enjoy cooking and baking as I find it therapeutic and love entertaining my family. Not bragging but, once you taste my fruit cake, addiction is inevitable.
WE WOULD ALL LOVE TO WIN THE LOTTERY RIGHT? IF YOU WON $10 MILLION TOMORROW, WHAT WOULD YOU DO WITH YOUR FORTUNE?
How did you know I have been secretly wishing to win a lottery? Lol. In my religion, Islam, it’s forbidden to receive lottery money, so I would return the money back.
I know it’s shocking, but I’m sure God would provide in another way.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE MEAL? THAT ONE MEAL YOU WOULDN’T SHARE WITH ANYONE!
I don’t have a favourite meal per se, but I tend to enjoy grilled foods, especially meat but it has to be halal.
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?
My sister, Saada, exposed me to the world of marketing in my early teens. Once in a while, she would allow me to accompany her to her office after picking me from school or on weekends. At that time, she was working for a leading global Ad agency. I would sit in her office and silently watch her interact with colleagues and clients as I did my homework.
I would also pay keen attention to how creative work was being discussed, shadowing her to the studio where the creative team would work on execution. My highlight was seeing the final work on TV, print, billboard or hear on the radio and would share my excitement with her. Everything she did with her team seemed fun; that made me fall in love with marketing.
I can say that this spurred me in pursuing a career in marketing as I realised it also brought out my personality traits, fun, creative and passionate.
IF YOU COULD BE ANY ANIMAL IN THE WORLD, WHAT ANIMAL WOULD YOU BE AND WHY?
I would be a lion.
I admire the strength and courage it possesses; The fight to the death attitude. I try as much as possible to emulate these characteristics in helping me navigate through my personal challenges and work environment during this pandemic time.
WHAT’S THE MOST INTERESTING THING ABOUT YOU THAT WE WOULDN’T LEARN FROM YOUR LINKEDIN PROFILE ALONE?
I love travelling and exploring new places. During my explorations, I’m drawn towards historical sites and museums. Thus, learning while having fun.
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!
My mornings start with a struggle, which is getting out of bed. I set my alarm for 5:30am as I usually spend about 30 minutes syking to get up while hitting the snooze button every 10 minutes.
Once I’m awake, I spend about 15 minutes checking up and chatting with my mum. I then prepare for work and have my breakfast. My breakfast key feature is Tea masala as it’s refreshing and keeps me alert. As I drive to work, I listen to the hottest topic of the day being discussed on the radio as a way of entertaining and keeping myself abreast with the happenings of the day.
Once I arrive at the office, I spend about 20 minutes of my morning catching up with my colleagues before getting down to my emails and meetings.
HOW BEST DO YOU STRIKE A WORK-LIFE BALANCE?
It’s simple. Monday to Friday is dedicated to working. Therefore I’m usually very flexible and can work till late. Saturday is set aside for shopping and mingling with friends, Sunday is family day. You can actually call it a routine.
WHAT APPS/SOFTWARE/TOOLS CAN YOU NOT GO A DAY WITHOUT UTILISING?
Whatsapp for communication
Google for research
LinkedIn and Instagram for social.
HOW BEST WOULD YOU DEFINE GREAT LEADERSHIP?
A great leader is someone who puts the needs of others first, cares about their interests, opinions and wellbeing. A great leader possesses a clear vision and helps people reach their goals. She must also possess traits such as integrity, courage and humility.
YOU OBTAINED YOUR BACHELORS DEGREE IN BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION AND MANAGEMENT FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF SUNDERLAND (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?
Various companies with strong online presence such as Google have free online courses in digital marketing that young women can take advantage of to upskill themselves. Their certificate is also recognized by most companies.
However, once they secure a job, I will still encourage them to obtain a formal education towards achieving a degree. Formal education allows you to experience a variety of wealth of knowledge that can’t be achieved online or on the job. It also guarantees job security.
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?
In my opinion, job-hopping is a no, no. You need to gain job experience to shape your career. I would say, spend a minimum of two years in a company before moving to another one. Job hopping does hurt a career as companies will perceive you as unstable and may be reluctant to invest in you.
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?
It’s simple, genetically, women are designed for the marketing profession. A few examples, women are great researchers as we apply a holistic and intuitive approach towards generating insights from the market. Therefore, understand the market and real needs of our customers. Women are also agile and are quick to react to any changes in the market or with the competition. Also, we are more empathetic and therefore able to create a strong bond between the customer and the brand.
COVID19 HAS BROUGHT WITH IT AN UNPRECEDENTED DISRUPTION TO THE WORLD. SEVERAL COMPANIES ARE NEARING BANKRUPTCY WHILE OTHERS HAVE BEEN FORCED TO SHUTDOWN OR LAY OFF THEIR STAFF. WHAT SHOULD THE BEST COURSE OF ACTION BE ESPECIALLY IN THE MARKETING CONTEXT AS WE ADAPT IN THIS ENVIRONMENT? HOW HAVE YOU AND YOUR DEPARTMENT COUNTERED THE EFFECTS OF THE PANDEMIC?
Aviation has been the hardest hit by Covid-19. However, a smooth sea never made a skilled sailor. The best course of action for marketers is to invest in research and data as Covid-19 has completely changed consumer behaviour and needs.
My department and I spend a lot of time researching and collecting data to help us make informed decisions. I also spend time engaging with peers in the industry, attending webinars to network, engage and be updated with the new trends in the industry. Social media has also helped with understanding the sentiments of our customers. All these are helping me in shaping strategies that will see SAA 2.0 thrive in Africa post covid.
SYSTEMS AROUND REMOTE WORK AND VIDEO CONFERENCING ARE INCREASINGLY BECOMING STAPLE IN MOST ORGANISATIONS. ACCORDING TO THE INFOGRAPHIC CREATED BY VISUAL CAPITALIST, ZOOM IS NOW WORTH MORE THAN THE 7 BIGGEST AIRLINES IN THE WORLD AT A WHOPPING MARKET CAPITALIZATION OF JUST OVER $40BN. SUFFICE TO SAY, REMOTE WORKING IS AN ASPECT OF MODERN-DAY WORK THAT HAS BEEN LONG OVERDUE. IN YOUR OPINION, WHY HAVE MOST ORGANISATIONS STRUGGLED TO CONVERT TO THIS WAY OF WORK?
I would link it to organisational culture. The culture of control and lack of trust towards its employees.
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 enforce their working policy (i.e.8am-5pm with coffee and lunch breaks etc..) now more than ever and discourage meetings which go beyond working hours unless necessary to encourage work-life balance for their employees.
SHERYL SANDBERG MADE AN INTERESTING REMARK IN HER KICK-ASS BIOGRAPHY ‘LEAN IN: WOMEN, WORK, AND THE WILL TO LEAD’ THAT “SEARCHING FOR A MENTOR HAS BECOME THE PROFESSIONAL EQUIVALENT OF WAITING FOR PRINCE CHARMING”. SHE IS ILLUSTRATING THE NOTION OF WOMEN HAVING TO SEEK APPROVAL OR VALIDATION, ESPECIALLY FROM MEN WHO ARE AT MOST TIMES THE MENTORS. WHAT’S YOUR TAKE ON MENTORSHIP?
Mentorship is crucial, especially in helping young women grow and become impactful in their line of work. Regardless of the mentor’s gender, if you choose your mentor wisely, the experiences and knowledge derived can help you shape your career and build networks.
It’s important for mentors not to perceive this process as a favour but as a duty towards the mentee.
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? HOW DO YOU DEFINE INNOVATION AT SOUTH AFRICAN AIRWAYS?
Innovation is when the idea, product or service is unique and has a positive impact on your customers. Innovation at SAA can be defined through its current re-modelling of various structures within the organisation intended to remove barriers to pave ways for a more dynamic, agile and customer centric airline post covid.
AT THE TIME OF PUBLISHING, THE DIGITAL MARKETING INSTITUTE ESTIMATED THAT THE INFLUENCER MARKETING INDUSTRY WILL HIT THE $10BN MARK BY 2020. WHETHER B2B OR B2C, IT’S EVIDENT THAT BRANDS AND ORGANISATIONS HAVE HAD THEIR SUCCESS WITH THIS MODEL OF MARKETING. HOW WILL THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC AFFECT THIS INDUSTRY GOING FORWARD AND DO YOU BELIEVE THERE IS STILL A PLACE FOR INFLUENCER MARKETING?
Covid-19 has validated influencer marketing. More people are now spending more time on social media and are drawn by celebrity content. However, Brands need to continuously measure to gauge if it’s working for them.
HOW DO YOU LEVERAGE DATA TO INFORM YOUR DECISION-MAKING?
Data helps me identify my customers value propositions and has enabled me to continuously offer practical solutions that benefit them. This in return has helped with increasing the bottom line.
WHAT’S YOUR SMARTEST WORK-RELATED SHORTCUT OR PRODUCTIVITY HACK?
I create templates that I use for reports and presentations for quick turnaround.
2020 AND BEYOND
WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?
I’m reading ‘Making Africa work‘ by Greg Mills et al. A great read about growing economies through job creation. I prefer paperback, I guess it’s the old school in me.
WHAT IS ON YOUR NETFLIX WATCHLIST?
The crown, I love that series.
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?
I would introduce a fist bump; I find this to be the closest to a handshake and is safe.
WHO HAVEN’T YOU SEEN OR TALKED TO IN A LONG TIME AND HOPE THEY ARE DOING OKAY?
I haven’t seen my aunt and brother for almost a year now, I hope they are okay and will see them soon.
A UNIQUE MESSAGE FOR ALL YOUNG PROFESSIONALS IN THE MARKETING INDUSTRY
Be on top of your game, mistakes make you better and always be confident.
IF YOU COULD GO BACK IN TIME, WHAT WOULD YOU TELL YOUR YOUNGER SELF?
Don’t surround yourself with people who don’t add value in your life.
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?
My challenge has been to overcome the frustrations brought by covid-19 that has affected my professional life. I have decided to focus on activities such as learning, exercising and cooking to improve my mental health.
ANY BUCKET LIST ITEMS?
Grow my start-up in beauty by 2022.
Take up farming as a hobby by the end of 2021.
WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR FEMALE HEROES?
My female heroes are my mum and my sister.
I admire their positive outlook of life despite the challenges they encounter. I draw life lessons from them. My mum always reminds me, ‘nothing will defeat you if you believe in yourself’ and ‘always keep calm, don’t let anyone know what you are thinking’. These gems of advice have helped through my challenges both personally and professionally.
HOW CAN PEOPLE FOLLOW YOUR COMPANY ON SOCIAL MEDIA?
They can follow South African airways on Twitter and Instagram @flysaa.