Sibongile is a Social Media Manager for advertising agency, BRAND et al. With the advent of remote work being a norm for several companies, employee burnout has subsequently become a matter of concern across various industries. Sibongile shares with us why it’s important for employers to be proactive in combating employee burnout as we adopt to this new way of work. Welcome to Women In Marketing
LET’S GET PERSONAL
THANK YOU FOR TAKING THE TIME TO PARTICIPATE IN OUR WOMEN IN MARKETING SERIES, SIBONGILE. LET’S START ON A LIGHTER NOTE. WHERE WERE YOU BORN? WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR MEMORIES GROWING UP?
Many of my favourite memories include my family, good food and lots of dancing. I was born and raised in Mamelodi West, Pretoria. Kasi girl who spent most of her time in the suburbs at school and after-school activities.
I grew up in a tight-knit family, Christmas was the best time! Each year after our church service, we would visit our grandparents’ place alongside my other twenty cousins. We would devour AMAZING Sunday-kos style food and have dance parties. These moments were truly special!
WHAT WERE YOU LIKE IN YOUR HIGH SCHOOL/COLLEGE YEARS?
I kept myself pretty busy in high school with a few extra-murals. College was a blast, I dedicated most of my time to school (learning and serving on the student body).
High school is when I realised my passion for helping others; I dedicated my years to service and exploring that side of myself.
I joined the Peer Counselling Committee in grade nine and helped support my fellow peers through their issues and offer advice and guidance. I was later privileged enough to be the Head of Peer Counselling and led my group of counsellors towards a more active approach to helping others by focusing on their self-esteem and team-building.
I was also on the basketball team for five years. I was the shortest player on the team but could nail a lay-up and free-throw :).
In grade eleven, I had the pleasure to visit the Union Buildings as part of the Bring a Girl to Work initiative. I wrote an essay to the office of the Presidency and motivated my willingness to be selected. At the time, I was convinced that I would be the first female President of South Africa. My spirit for helping and serving people grew and I wanted my influence to be national.
I had the opportunity to meet former President Zuma and speak with Minister Lindiwe Zulu, who was the President’s political advisor at the time. This experience was truly incredible. I couldn’t believe the opportunity presented to me.
Throughout high school, I stayed in the same friend group and made life-long friendships.
I was far more academically focused in my college years. I graduated with distinction and served on the Student Liaison Body in my first and third year. I later received the Student Leadership Award at my Honours graduation ceremony.
IF YOU COULD BE ANY ANIMAL, WHAT WOULD IT BE AND WHY?
I would be an octopus! These beautiful creatures are intelligent, unique, nurturing, and strong. These are all the qualities I want to be associated with.
Their ability to change colours, squirt ink when they feel threatened, lift things beyond their weight and manoeuvre through tight and tricky spaces is evidence of their problem-solving skills and evolutionary intelligence.
An octopus can also build its own shelter using shells and rocks secured by its tentacles.
Aside from its brilliant mind, octopuses are maternal. The female octopus dies shortly after their eggs hatch. During the incubation period, the mother stops eating and only focuses on protecting her eggs from danger.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE MEAL? THAT ONE MEAL YOU WOULD FEEL NO SHAME FOR NOT SHARING!
I’m a glutton for seafood. Anything from sushi to a delicious spicy mussel curry… Pure happiness.
IMAGINE WAKING UP $10 MILLION RICHER TOMORROW, WHAT WOULD YOU DO WITH YOUR FORTUNE?
I would live my life like it’s golden!
I would pay off my parents and my own debts. I would also buy my dream home and have a property portfolio. Travel all of Africa and Europe. Continue my studies overseas. Top-up my parents’ retirement fund and donate a sizable amount to UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) and StreetSmart South Africa.
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 write a lot of songs. I wouldn’t call myself a songwriter – that would be too official but, I write a lot of rap and worship songs as a way to destress.
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 pretty much fell into it. My brother was studying a rather interesting degree at Vega School; I applied for the same thing. I also applied to study various fields like architecture and political science.
I chose to study a BBA in Brand Building and Management because I could work in any industry after the completion of my degree. I felt like there were way more opportunities in marketing.
GIVE US A SNEAK PEEK OF HOW YOU TYPICALLY START YOUR DAY. ARE YOU #TEAMCOFFEE OR #TEAMTEA? OR BOTH? YOU BEAUTIFUL REBEL!
I’m obsessed with tea and chai latte, these are my absolute favourites.
I wake up, pray for a blessed day, make myself a healthy breakfast and dive into work. I spend most of my day busy on my laptop. However, during my mental breaks, I go into my small but amazing vegetable garden and admire God’s work.
HOW BEST DO YOU MAINTAIN A WORK-LIFE BALANCE?
Barely… I try to reserve my weekends for personal time. I’m a priority-based person. When I have a list of tasks, they will be done based on the order of priority I assign to them. This could be a mix of personal activities and work responsibilities in a day. My daily goal is to go to bed satisfied and happy with what I have done.
YOU OBTAINED YOUR BCOM HONOURS IN STRATEGIC BRAND MANAGEMENT FROM VEGA. 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?
The internet is a wonderful place to access information. Women can empower themselves with knowledge through educational tutorials, academic journals and skill development sites such as Udemy.com and Skillscrush.
The great thing about the internet is having a place in which to showcase your skill and talent despite having a formal education. Any skills acquired from ‘internet learning’ can easily be presented to future employers in the form of creative portfolios, such as: creating a Behance account or having an active and structured LinkedIn page.
Exploring the internet and all its free courses will prove to be beneficial for people with or without a formal education. The objective is to learn, develop and hone your skills.
YOU HAVE A GREAT RESUME. 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 connected me to people with impressive backgrounds and professional titles that I would have never anticipated to meet, especially early in my career. LinkedIn creates opportunity. You have to do your part to materialise and follow-through on the connections you make and the neat tools the platform provides.
Consider professional branding as personal branding. What do you want to be known for? What’s your speciality, and how can you add value in your space? Share your thoughts or an interesting article to your network. You can be personal and share your journey and experiences on the platform, or you can be an industry thought-leader by sharing relevant industry updates and information.
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?
I believe mentorship should be standardised in workplaces. Mentorship programmes not only benefit the mentee with regards to knowledge and skill development but, it provides mentees with the professional socialisation and personal support required to facilitate the mentees professional journey.
Women in mentorship programmes can be exposed to leadership responsibilities earlier on in their career, which will help them once they take on larger roles in the company. Mentors help develop a leadership pipeline for others.
WHAT’S YOUR SMARTEST WORK-RELATED SHORTCUT OR PRODUCTIVITY HACK?
Always find out what’s on the agenda ahead of a meeting. Furthermore, do some research on the main points on the agenda. In this way, you’ll meaningfully contribute to the discussion and suggest creative solutions for the problem. Always be proactive and prepared. The more you know, the more you can do!
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 would like to offer an alternative perspective…
Changing jobs the right way, at the right time (organic transition) can help build your career, expose you to different opportunities, expand your network and possibly develop your portfolio.
No one should expect you to stay at a job that you hate or one that is stifling your growth. If you have the opportunity to change jobs, go ahead! But be intentional.
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?
It’s unfortunate that women are still the least represented in C-suite roles. According to Washington State University, women in corporate leadership roles tend to show higher performance, and firms that increase female leadership by 0 to 30% would grow their net revenue margins by 15%. Furthermore, research suggests that women pay more attention to people than men (Forbes, 2020). Successful marketers and leaders are creative thinkers and empathetic. Two attributes I believe women innately possess.
Organically, female CMO’s can see things from the perspective of the customer and their team. Developing marketing strategies that attend to the customers’ needs and speak to their truth will be better executed when marketers are empathetic.
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?
Women, unfortunately, still operate in a patriarchal system. As a female leader, you’ll find that you are one of the few women (if not the only woman) in the room amongst a sea of men. Moreover, you will have the difficulties of building a healthy support network in a male-dominated field all because of the infamous boys-club.
I advise against fitting-in or being ‘one of the guys’. Instead, allow the same skill set and experience that elevated you into your position to continue propelling you further in your career. Confidence is key. Seek connections from both men and women who can mentor you and assist you through your journey. Join professional associations and networking groups, and attend events that support career development.
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?
Working from the office is a traditional way of conducting business. Implementing remote work opportunities can therefore be deemed as relatively progressive and far-fetched for ‘conservative’ companies. Employers may be concerned that remote working may stifle collaboration and communication as well as impede productivity due to at-home comforts and distractions.
Micro-managing culture stops progress and makes employees unhappy. The benefits of remote working outweigh the disadvantages.
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?
This is a multi-dimensional issue. Various factors can lead to burnout or a resignation, including toxic work culture, unbearable workload, unreasonable time pressures, and the lack of communication and support from management.
Employers create the conditions that lead to employee burnout – but they can also prevent it.
BURNOUT IS PREVENTABLE!
Employers need to start asking the right questions and implementing solutions that will motivate employees to take care of their professional and emotional wellbeing. For instance, leaders should investigate why the work environment lacks the conditions for employees to flourish.
The organisation has to collect data from employees, ask personally relevant questions (e.g. what time do you have to fetch your children from school – then avoid making deadlines within that hour). Budget for extra support (new hire or interns, new smarter software, etc.), and communicate expectations and boundaries.
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?
Innovation happens when we start transforming how things used to be done in creative and simpler ways. I’ve been obsessed with biomimicry ever since I was exposed to the concept in school. Turning to nature and combining human-truth and creative design has led to incredible innovative designs and systems.
For example, architects were inspired by termite mounds to design passive cooling structures (youmatter.world, 2020).
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 grounded in technology and emotional branding. The next generation of consumers, (generation alpha – 2010 to 2015) are completely born into technology and have been exposed to it during their formative years. Brands will tap into this digitally-savvy consumer market while building brand-relationships through emotional branding and brand experiences – virtual experiences also count!
2020 AND BEYOND
IF YOU COULD GO BACK IN TIME, WHAT WOULD YOU TELL YOUR YOUNGER SELF?
Don’t think about it, act upon it!
I have hundreds of ideas but executing them is a challenge. I tend to prioritise other responsibilities rather than pushing my passion projects. Truth is, I would probably be much happier doing the things I want to do, than the things I have to do for a cheque.
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 biggest challenge is finding a healthy work-life balance. I tend to prioritise my professional responsibilities over everything else.
To overcome this challenge, I have tried to enforce a bedtime for myself to prevent me from working throughout the evening and I reserve my weekends for schoolwork or passion projects.
ANY BUCKET LIST ITEMS?
- Be a PhD graduate
- Establish a marketing resource hub/think-tank for entrepreneurs
- Own an investment property in each province
- Travel to each African country
WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR SHEROES?
I admire something specific in each woman:
- Nicollette Mashile
- Ruth Bader Ginsburg
- Khanyi Dhlomo
- Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng
WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?
‘What’s your move’ by Nicollete Mashile
Audiobook: ‘The law of one’ by Don Elkins, Carla Rueckert and Jim McCarty
WHAT WOULD YOU COME BACK AS IN THE NEXT LIFETIME CAREER-WISE? DO YOU THINK YOU MISSED A CALLING?
I don’t think I missed my calling.
I’m exactly what I’m supposed to be with a yearning spirit to serve people and transform their wellbeing with the tools I have learnt.
But if I were to come back, I would be a marketer-speaker-humanitarian ;).
WHAT IS ON YOUR NETFLIX WATCHLIST?
- She did that (I recommend this documentary to all aspiring black female entrepreneurs)
- Grace and Frankie
- Dirty money
WHO HAVEN’T YOU SEEN OR TALKED TO IN A LONG TIME AND HOPE THEY ARE DOING OKAY?
My friend who is currently living in England. She is pursuing her studies at the University of Oxford.
WE ARE ALWAYS LOOKING FOR AMAZING WOMEN IN MARKETING TO PROFILE. WHO WOULD YOU LIKE US TO GET IN TOUCH WITH?
My former lecturer Celeste Burger – a registered Chartered Marketer (SA) and the owner and Brand Communications Strategist at Angelcy Brand Messengers.
A UNIQUE MESSAGE FOR ALL YOUNG PROFESSIONALS IN THE MARKETING INDUSTRY
We are greater than our current circumstance and the work that we produce should reflect that. Do better, love harder, speak up against intolerance, create and implement just because you can, not because you are expected to.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME SIBONGILE. WE HOPE THIS INTERVIEW WILL INSPIRE FUTURE LEADERS AND OTHER WOMEN IN MARKETING. HOW CAN PEOPLE FOLLOW YOU ON SOCIAL MEDIA?
Facebook: Sibongile Masemola
LinkedIn: Sibongile Masemola