Susan is Qwib Services’ Brand & Marketing Manager which is based in Kenya. Her work ethic was instilled from a young age and subsequently had a strong foundation coming from a Catholic school. She speaks about the dynamics between the mentor and mentee relationship as well as why its important to stay true to your values regardless of the circumstances presented. Let’s learn more about her on this segment of Women In Marketing
LET’S GET PERSONAL
THANK YOU FOR TAKING THE TIME TO PARTICIPATE IN OUR WOMEN IN MARKETING SERIES, SUSAN. LET’S START ON A LIGHTER NOTE. WHERE WERE YOU BORN? WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR MEMORIES GROWING UP?
I was born in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. I grew up and went to school in the city. However, I can’t consider myself a city girl as I went to boarding school at a very young age from primary to secondary level. During the holidays, I remember my dad taking us to the airport to see planes landing and taking-off:) That was quite an adventure those days.
Also, we had so many games we used to play during the holidays as there was no social media, mobile phones, PlayStation etc. Most kids used to play outside in the soil; My favourite game being ‘Shakes’ where two teams used to compete on various shapes drawn from start to finish. I enjoyed growing up.
WHAT WERE YOU LIKE IN YOUR HIGH SCHOOL/COLLEGE YEARS?
Oh my:) I have been very focused since high school.
Being in a Catholic School, discipline was inevitable. There were rigid structures, routinary activities like; Early morning classes, Church mass, Prayers, Preps, etc. I can categorically say this shaped my character and values towards life.I loved poetry and what people will be shocked about is, I used to recite French written poems up to national levels. I loved learning new languages.
Something else people will be shocked about, I started working from a very young age. Immediately after high school, I got my first job as a customer service executive. I became responsible for my destiny and, from my little salary, I paid for my college tuition as I did part-time classes most of the time. I knew what I wanted to achieve. I had ambition and was a go-getter. Every challenge that I faced as I climbed up my career ladder inspired me to become a better version of myself.
IF YOU COULD BE ANY ANIMAL, WHAT WOULD IT BE AND WHY?
I would be an elephant.
I am very protective of people close to me; both my personal and professional space. My team is like a second family to me. We nurture and build each other to achieve our objectives. I call them, “My board members”.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE MEAL? THAT ONE MEAL YOU WOULD FEEL NO SHAME FOR NOT SHARING!
This one is so obvious:) Coming from the highlands in Kenya, we’re known for loving Bananas so much. Bananas are our staple food. We call them MATOKE. I love Matoke + Fried Liver + Creamy spinach. Any day, anytime. I also cook it very well:)
IMAGINE WAKING UP $10 MILLION RICHER TOMORROW, WHAT WOULD YOU DO WITH YOUR FORTUNE?
Please tell me I am already richer:) With the changing times, the Covid-19 pandemic has taught us so much. It has made us rediscover our strengths, passions, and abilities that we never knew we had. I’ll invest it in my business which I started in July 2020. With the growing demand for Online buying & selling of products, I discovered a gap in the delivery services.
It prompted me to start a Delivery & Courier company working with both Business owners & Corporates. My focus is to provide the service with a feel of excellent Customer experience. Apart from investing in my business, I love travelling. I want to take my family to the Maldives, tour Greece as a country as I hear it’s beautiful and so much history to learn.
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!
Woooo! What people don’t know about me is that I am an aspiring motivational speaker. I love mentoring young people on Lifes’ journey, Career, Personal life, and everything else. From my experiences, I always feel my story is a book that will inspire someone else in similar life situations. In a nutshell, hard work never goes in vain. It always pays back.
CAREER AND WORKPLACE
WHAT ENCOURAGED YOU TO PURSUE A CAREER IN MARKETING? AFTER ALL, MOST OF US GREW UP WANTING TO BE DOCTORS, RIGHT?
First and foremost, when I finished high school, my parents wanted me to study Clinical medicine. I mean, every parent would flock to the KMTC (Kenya Medical Training College) to try and get space for their children who have cleared high school. That’s if you didn’t manage to get enough points to be sponsored by the government to join University. I missed that opportunity by a whicker:)
As stated earlier, I started working immediately after high school. I was blessed to work for one of the best corporates in Kenya. I admired the business executives and the marketing teams for their zeal to achieve goals. I just loved the pressure it came with it to go out there and advocate for the brand.
Apart from the fact that I knew, I am an inborn marketer, you know; This made me take the business course and majored in Marketing. I believe Marketing gives an all-rounder overview of the business. Creating strategies that will reach the larger audience, Increase Sales, Brand visibility, Brand advocacy, Product development, Outreach programmes and many more. Marketing has increased my appetite and has allowed me to learn more about the business.
GIVE US A SNEAK PEEK OF HOW YOU TYPICALLY START YOUR DAY. ARE YOU #TEAMCOFFEE OR #TEAMTEA? OR BOTH? YOU BEAUTIFUL REBEL!
Being a Mom, Wife, Entrepreneur, and career woman, a day can end up being hectic. I am actually on both teams. It all depends on how the previous day was. If I slept late the previous night and have an early morning the next day, then I’ll need some coffee to give me some kick!
On any other day, though, tea is my go-to morning beverage.
HOW BEST DO YOU MAINTAIN A WORK-LIFE BALANCE?
Has it ever been balanced? That’s my everyday struggle and would love to get someone to coach me on how best to do it. I am so terrible at this. Can somebody please come to my rescue;)
YOU OBTAINED YOUR POSTGRADUATE DIPLOMA IN PROFESSIONAL MARKETING FROM CIM. 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?
Honestly, we live in such great times. Before the internet was more of a luxury component in someone’s life, as compared to today, it’s a necessity.
We must embrace the art of reinvention through; Adopting & Accepting change. I would encourage everyone to leverage digital platforms to improve their skill set. Examples of such platforms are; LinkedIn Learning, Webinars that align to your career aspirations et al. As you do all these, Have a purpose for what you want to achieve and be authentic to yourself.
I would 100% agree with those institutions that allow individuals to showcase their skills as it’s the Attitude and Will to learn that matters. The approach has been exercised by people I admire in the business sphere in Kenya such as Chris Kirubi… (A well known Philanthropist, Business mogul, and entrepreneur).
He doesn’t hire you because of the number of certificates you’ve achieved but the Attitude and Will to learn!
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?
Having someone or something that inspires you is very important in our day to day life. Mentoring is all about picking up nuggets of knowledge, listening, and getting that push in the right direction from someone that you feel their life story is similar to yours and the path they’re taking is similar to what you inspire them to take.
However, we don’t need to do things the same way our mentors did to reach their destination. We all have our unique paths; all it takes is to believe in oneself! Yes, we need mentors in our lives, but it’s crucial to always believe in yourself and, most importantly, being authentic.
WHAT’S YOUR SMARTEST WORK-RELATED SHORTCUT OR PRODUCTIVITY HACK?
Always aim to prioritise activities for the day.
Have a time management manual for each activity. It helps a lot to avoid working late at night in the hour.
Let your week’s objectives be in sync with your teams. Have those informal meetings with your team to understand things clearly on the ground. It is to avoid those awkward moments during the management meetings…… if you know what I mean
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 honestly do not advocate for job-hopping after a short time in a company. Remember, during the interview process, we always mention how much we want to see revenue growth in the company and bring in your expertise to help achieve its mandate.
Before you change companies, especially in the same capacity; Ask yourself;
Have you achieved your purpose?
Have you impacted any lives while in that position?
Does the Brand you’re leaving change for the better than the way you found it?
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 is such a tricky question, especially during these times of equity advocacy in the corporate space. Yes, before we had roles that were stereotyped to belong just to men and some to women.
However, in this day and age, roles are equally dependent on an individual’s capability & capacity to execute and achieve positive output. Look at what recently happened in the USA; First-ever female vice president in US history. I mean, women are at the forefront.
It begs the question again; Have we forgotten about the Boychild? Discussion for another day of course;)
To answer the above question, I would love to understand the criteria used to create such lists. Don’t get me wrong as I am not discrediting the Forbes report. However, we have research companies that you have to register to be nominated and voted in certain categories, just saying.
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?
Regardless of the Feminism & Equality campaigns, I still believe we have individuals who see a woman as the weaker sex.
You know the traditional type of thinking of Women is supposed to be submissive, take care of a home, give birth, etc. It doesn’t settle well with those types of men in the company set-up. It usually ends up in a situation where they may look down or bully this Senior manager who are women.
I encourage such women to channel such complaints through the right company processes. Especially if these challenges hinder you from achieving your full potential.
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?
Most companies embraced the traditional way of working; For instance, going to the office, being in the same set-up with colleagues, and having those one-on-one meetings.
The notion continues to thrive because the supervisor was always in check.
In recent times, the pandemic has proved us wrong. Working from home (or anywhere for that matter) can be successful. What matters is the output and results at the end of the day. However, someone can argue that most employees became disciplined and dedicated even though working remotely, due to fear of losing their jobs.
Psychologically, I agree with it as most people had to work twice as hard to be that employee who is outstanding and can handle things outside their comfort zone.
It is the reason most companies have opted to invest in digital solutions to support virtual productivity and the fact that due to the economic downside caused by the pandemic, most companies are managing the costs.
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 believe most companies came up with Business Continuity plans to mitigate the risks that were caused by the pandemic. Remote working is just a change of the environment as most companies geared towards following the WHO directive of social distancing & avoiding crowds.
Therefore, my opinion is for employees to maintain working hours as they did before. With commitment and determination, this may be achieved.
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 dab something as innovative; I’ll view it as something that provides solutions to problems through upscaling, improving, and changing lives. Unfortunately (or fortunately), we have to embrace these technological solutions that enable human capability. Some will argue that AI has improved businesses, increased revenue, and cut cost, however, on the flip side, it’s going to reduce human interaction, increase unemployment (I come from that school of thought), and other cons as well.
I would encourage every career woman out there to acquire tech skills that will help her career adapt. Automation of things is the new normal:)
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?
I still believe in traditional marketing strategies. As mentioned earlier, we have to embrace the art of reinvention. Marketers should leverage Digital platforms extensively to reach out to a larger portion of different communities.
I agree that influencer marketing has grown significantly in the past few years. However, I still believe the best influencers are your Customers. I am a believer in Brand advocacy through Customer experience channels. Your customers will be your greatest advocates. Invest more in those customer oriented channels.
2020 AND BEYOND
IF YOU COULD GO BACK IN TIME, WHAT WOULD YOU TELL YOUR YOUNGER SELF?
Your value doesn’t decrease based upon someone’s inability to see your worth. Focus, Keep on pushing, and never give up! Be resilient with the changing times; Be creative, Be persuasive, Be Collaborative, Adapt to Change as its inevitable, and Lastly Be Patient.
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?
Currently, it’s building up a Solid system and proper Infrastructure for my business. I believe once I have this in place, the rest will follow swiftly in building a great team.
With the economic downside caused by the pandemic, our financial muscle has deteriorated significantly.
ANY BUCKET LIST ITEMS?
Tour Greece, Do a cruise ship with my family (I am not a fan of the ocean though) and finally build a home for the less fortunate kids (Especially those abandoned at birth).
WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR SHEROES?
My Mother – Her unconditional & selfless nature has moulded me into the woman I am today.
My best friend – Angela Koech – Her view towards life, in general, has made me become a better version of myself though still a work in progress. She inspires me and challenges me every day to do better, become better, and ultimately be GREAT!
WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?
Oh, dear; So traditional of me. I am still a paperback kind of person. You know, underlining those great phrases, putting sticky notes in between et al.
Currently reading; ‘Making money is killing your business’ by Chuck Blakeman.
WHAT WOULD YOU COME BACK AS IN THE NEXT LIFETIME CAREER-WISE? DO YOU THINK YOU MISSED A CALLING?
Absolutely NOT! I am doing what I love.
WHAT IS ON YOUR NETFLIX WATCHLIST?
Money Heist Season 5:)
WHO HAVEN’T YOU SEEN OR TALKED TO IN A LONG TIME AND HOPE THEY ARE DOING OKAY?
I try to reach out to people that I care about as often as possible. It’s crucial to keep tabs on people close to you.
WE ARE ALWAYS LOOKING FOR AMAZING WOMEN IN MARKETING TO PROFILE. WHO WOULD YOU LIKE US TO GET IN TOUCH WITH?
Angela Wanjeri – Partner, Aleri Consulting.
I admire her simple yet, strategic approach in the field of anything Brand, Marketing & Communication.
A UNIQUE MESSAGE FOR ALL YOUNG PROFESSIONALS IN THE MARKETING INDUSTRY
Become friends with people who aren’t your age; Hang out with people whose first language isn’t the same as yours; Get to know someone who is where you want to be in life; This is how you grow:)
THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME SUSAN. WE HOPE THIS INTERVIEW WILL INSPIRE FUTURE LEADERS AND OTHER WOMEN IN MARKETING. HOW CAN PEOPLE FOLLOW YOU AND YOUR COMPANY ON SOCIAL MEDIA?
Our company is called QWIB Services Ltd.
IG handle: @qwibke20
LinkedIn URL: www.linkedin.com/in/susanombati