We are super obsessed with the world of Crypto and it’s an honour to have Roopa Ramaiya as a candidate for our Women In Marketing feature. Roopa is the Head of Global PR for Crypto exchange Luno. She shares with us her journey into marketing, despite wanting to venture into journalism. Also, if you ever need a recommendation for the finest restaurants in London, Roopa is your go-to lady. Her friends say she’s a walking restaurant encyclopaedia.
LET’S GET PERSONAL
THANK YOU FOR TAKING THE TIME TO PARTICIPATE IN OUR WOMEN IN MARKETING SERIES, ROOPA. LET’S START ON A LIGHTER NOTE. WHERE WERE YOU BORN? WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR MEMORIES GROWING UP?
I was born in a small village in South Wales surrounded by rolling green hills and sheep! My family left there when I was 18 but I remember how green it was when compared to the cities I ended up living in after that.
WHAT WERE YOU LIKE IN YOUR HIGH SCHOOL/COLLEGE YEARS?
Very academic – I always threw myself into subjects and just really enjoyed learning. I developed my love of writing and literature during those years which impacted my choices later in life.
IF YOU COULD BE ANY ANIMAL, WHAT WOULD IT BE AND WHY?
A giraffe – I got to spend some time with a few when on safari. They are the most calm and peaceful creatures and I like the idea of having a perspective from so high up. Plus they are herbivores and I’m a veggie!
WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE MEAL? THAT ONE MEAL YOU WOULD FEEL NO SHAME FOR NOT SHARING!
Pizza from my local Italian place – nothing fancy but, I love it and make sure I have one to myself! Also Mauritian / Indian street food from a few of the hidden gems in London
IMAGINE WAKING UP $10 MILLION RICHER TOMORROW, WHAT WOULD YOU DO WITH YOUR FORTUNE?
Rather than create something from scratch – I would funnel it into a series of organisations. Like a VC for social enterprises. There are so many great projects and businesses out there that need financial help and struggle to get it. I’d love to also get involved and help them plan their PR and marketing strategies.
I’d also go on a well deserved holiday!
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!
My friends call me an ‘encyclopedia of London restaurants – haha make of that what you will!
CAREER AND WORKPLACE
WHAT ENCOURAGED YOU TO PURSUE A CAREER IN MARKETING? AFTER ALL, MOST OF US GREW UP WANTING TO BE DOCTORS, RIGHT?
Marketing is a hybrid of several disciplines these days and the variety is what really appeals to me. I initially thought about becoming a journalist and during some voluntary placements I secured in magazines, newspapers and the BBC, I got to review some really interesting products as part of my role . it was during this time I decided it would be great to support the growth of some of these brands (which I thought would have a real impact) and to help them bring the products to more people. Going down the PR route also meant I still got to write and stay close to the media and current affairs and I couldn’t imagine a job without doing that.
GIVE US A SNEAK PEEK OF HOW YOU TYPICALLY START YOUR DAY. ARE YOU #TEAMCOFFEE OR #TEAMTEA? OR BOTH? YOU BEAUTIFUL REBEL!
#Teamcoffee 1 million percent! (but I do like fancy herbal teas too 🙂 )
I recently splashed out on a nice coffee machine to treat myself to good coffees during our various lockdowns. I simultaneously need coffee to function as well as just for the pure enjoyment of it.
HOW BEST DO YOU MAINTAIN A WORK-LIFE BALANCE?
I’m not great at it, but I am trying to get better. I get pretty absorbed in work because I genuinely enjoy what I do. I am guilty of responding to emails while cooking or on the exercise bike, or worse before I sleep! I also have a notes app on my phone and when ideas and thoughts come to me I scribble them down there.
I’ve started to be stricter with it, and I never check my phone when socialising with friends or family over a meal for example.
YOU HAVE A GREAT RESUME. YOU’VE WORKED FOR COMPANIES SUCH AS AXA, BARCLAYS AS WELL AS HSBC. 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 part of building my network and brand but the hard work won’t be solved by any one platform. It’s about identifying the areas you are truly passionate about and have something to say on and finding your voice in that space,. For example, I’ve been involved in the startup ecosystem. I’ve volunteered my time and I’ve written opinion pieces / spoken at all kinds of events.
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?
Incredibly important. I’ve been a mentor and I can honestly say I got as much out of it as I hope my mentee did. I think both from imparting advice and navigating challenging situations, there is an opportunity to coach softer skills and open up a wider professional network for the mentee.
WHAT’S YOUR SMARTEST WORK-RELATED SHORTCUT OR PRODUCTIVITY HACK?
Don’t check emails for the first 30 minutes of the day. Use that time to tackle the things you didn’t manage to cross off your list from the day before or review what you need to give more time to.
Also, create a space where you can work at home. The environment matters so much. That includes having an ergonomic chair and a set-up that won’t hurt your back!
Plants, a tidy desk and a diffuser just make it that much calmer an environment and I have the tiniest of spaces.
JOB HOPPING IS A COMMON PHENOMENON ESPECIALLY IN THE DYNAMIC WORLD OF ADVERTISING AND MARKETING. WHAT’S YOUR OPINION ON JOB-HOPPING? DOES IT HURT OR AID ONE’S CAREER?
My parents’ generation was all about having a job for life. I don’t think that concept exists anymore. Things are so fast-moving in tech – particularly at a start-up / scale-up phase that after a few years, the role might no longer be right for you. I think most people in disruptive industries do recognise this. Also – there is no shame in leaving a toxic environment for a better one. People are starting to wake up to this too, the concept of hard work now applies to becoming a success in your professional life as well as working hard to protect your mental health and wellbeing.
If a candidate applied for a role in my team and on paper appeared to ‘job hop’ it wouldn’t put me off speaking to them for more context.
FOR ITS 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?
Partly because marketing is seen as one of the accepted C-Suite paths for women which is a shame – it should be one but not the only one.
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?
There is a wealth of data that still suggests women are not compensated fairly against their male counterparts in the same space and this is industry agnostic.
It’s all well and good to be levelled up. But we need more gender parity with salary benchmarking as well as opportunities to be promoted.It’s not enough for organisations to talk about how they value diversity and then have huge disparities across pay and promotion.
This is just one challenge but there are many many others.
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 still think presentism exists. Some people think that you need to be physically present, head down for however many hours to show you are putting in the work – this is severely misguided and the way people have adapted during the pandemic is a case in point.
There are, however, genuine and more reasonable concerns about creating a company culture which is more challenging to do if people never see each other or work together in the same space. But we need to get more creative here! A space to collaborate could be many things in the future and not necessarily mean everyone getting into an office after a commute to sit in a meeting room.
WORKING FROM HOME IS AWESOME! MOST OF US CAN AGREE. HOWEVER, IT IS NOT WITHOUT ITS 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?
There needs to be some boundary setting. That means not being expected to respond to emails late at night or take on new tasks (unless urgent) right at the end of the day when you are trying to switch off.
Having said that, I think it’s also about how you choose to manage your time whilst not letting your responsibilities and accountability to your work drop and hopefully, your employer supports that.
For example, maybe starting a little earlier or finishing a bit later to fit in a longer lunchtime run or attend a fitness class. It’s flexibility and accountability working in harmony.
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, the definition of innovation is to disrupt an existing category and to solve a very real-world problem in a better way. Taxis existed before Uber for example.
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?
Marketing has evolved to include being a vehicle to foster brand advocacy as well as highly data-driven insights that will fundamentally shift even things like product decisions.
2020 AND BEYOND
IF YOU COULD GO BACK IN TIME, WHAT WOULD YOU TELL YOUR YOUNGER SELF?
There is no shame in walking away from something that doesn’t feel right and not all managers/teams will have your back. Put your own needs first where you need to, and respect everyone on the journey.
Also never take a “no” from someone who doesn’t have the power to give you a “yes”.
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?
As head of a global function – it’s ensuring I support every geography with both my time and the time of my team. When you have multiple markets to be accountable for, it’s a challenge to ensure you apply the same levels of creativity across each with a tailored approach. As well as supporting your team members across the globe.
Also – getting more comfortable with delegating tasks. When you are the first person in the door and then subsequently build a team out but are used to doing everything yourself, it is no easy task!
ANY BUCKET LIST ITEMS?
Take a company to the stage where it exceeds all expectations (and see the northern lights!)
WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR SHEROES?
Alice Walker, Bozoma Saint John, Malala Yousafzai, Oprah.
WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?
I am reading all the time, something is wrong if I don’t have a book in my hands! I’ve just finished ‘The Vanishing Half‘ by Brit Bennett and ‘The Midnight Library’ by Matt Haig. I am also listening to an audiobook, ‘Luster‘ by Raven Leilani. I’ve also just ordered a book called ‘The Reading List’ by a new author called Sara Nisha Adams.
Although I have an e-reader that I use for travel, you still can’t beat turning the pages of a book. I have so many books I’ve run out of space!
WHAT WOULD YOU COME BACK AS IN THE NEXT LIFETIME CAREER-WISE? DO YOU THINK YOU MISSED A CALLING?
Maybe a therapist or a psychologist – There is finally an authentic dialogue around mental health; people are at last beginning to respect how important these jobs are and I would love to play a part in helping people on this journey.
I also wanted to be an actress when I was younger – something about playing all different kinds of characters and having to get into role would be a great and immersive learning experience!
WHAT IS ON YOUR NETFLIX WATCHLIST?
I have just finished Never Have I Ever and it was one of the most delightful things I’ve watched.
WHO HAVEN’T YOU SEEN OR TALKED TO IN A LONG TIME AND HOPE THEY ARE DOING OKAY?
The friends I made on my first solo trip around Asia. I was 19; it was the most amazing experience of my life.
A UNIQUE MESSAGE FOR ALL YOUNG PROFESSIONALS IN THE MARKETING INDUSTRY
Diversify your experience earlier on; it will serve you well further down the line. There may be a particular area of marketing you are more interested in over others. However, you should never underestimate the value of being ‘a generalist’ and having exposure to a broad range of skills will have.
Also, it’s a cliche but grow your network. It doesn’t need to be forced or awkward, but attend events, put your hand up to get involved and meet people in your industry.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME ROOPA. WE HOPE THIS INTERVIEW WILL INSPIRE FUTURE LEADERS AND OTHER WOMEN IN MARKETING. HOW CAN PEOPLE FOLLOW YOU AND YOUR COMPANY ON SOCIAL MEDIA?