Joining us on this segment of Women In Marketing is Tamara Nerima. She is the Marketing Communication Director and Sustainability Manager at Scania. Even though she opted to further her studies in Economics, Tamara stubbled upon marketing and even went on to hone her skills at the BBC for several years. A powerhouse indeed! 💪🏽 Let’s learn more about her
LET’S GET PERSONAL
THANK YOU FOR TAKING THE TIME TO PARTICIPATE IN OUR WOMEN IN MARKETING SERIES, TAMARA. WHERE WERE YOU BORN? WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR MEMORIES GROWING UP?
I was born in Mombasa but moved to Nairobi when I was still young, maybe 3. I have too many memories. Some of my fondest ones were making breakfast on Sunday mornings with my mum as well as when my mum took my friends and me to watch Titanic at the cinema.
Another memory I have is when we lived in a little gated community of 35 houses where everyone knew each other. Our folks all worked for the same company, the children all went to the same schools. It was an intimate community. Over the holidays, all the kids would play outside together – it was the most fun I had. I used to make crepes and chips for my friends on Saturdays. It’s something I was known for in the neighbourhood.
WHAT WERE YOU LIKE IN YOUR HIGH SCHOOL/COLLEGE YEARS?
I was vibrant!
I think that’s the best way to describe myself. At one point, I attended school in Kenya before I moved to the UK. So life was like a constant adventure. Travelling alone between the two countries as well as being in boarding school afforded me a lot of independence which I didn’t at all take for granted because it was a lot of responsibility and my parents trusted me.
I was very outgoing and willing to try new things, especially when I got to college and hit that magic age of 18. It felt like the world was my oyster.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE MEAL? THAT ONE MEAL YOU WOULD FEEL NO SHAME FOR NOT SHARING!
A good ol’ surf and turf with a side salad for sure. No shame at all!!
IMAGINE WAKING UP $10 MILLION RICHER TOMORROW, WHAT WOULD YOU DO WITH YOUR FORTUNE?
That’s a hell of a lot of cash ey!
I’d buy some properties, buy shares, take my family on a grand holiday, donate to some charitable causes I support, set up a trust fund for my son, do something special for the people that have been there for me and been my anchors over the years. I’d also put some money in trust to always donate to charitable causes.
And of course, I would invest in my dream – to own a rustic organic farm to fork restaurant that will sit on a small organic farm.
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, ANASTASIA HAMEL SAYS THAT SHE CAN BREATHE FIRE!
That’s easy, my cooking. By night I masquerade as a private chef and food blogger. I have worked with some of the country’s big brands.
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 stumbled into marketing.
I studied Economics. For a while, that was my trajectory but I was also working while I was studying. It was through work that I got the opportunity to work in different fields and eventually found myself in marketing. I worked for the BBC from when I finished 6th form for about seven years; it provided excellent opportunities for me to work in different fields.
My final position there came as an opportunity to work as marketing support for the BBC Swahili service. It was a leap of faith for my boss who hired me and a huge challenge because I had no experience working in marketing or radio. At the time social media was just starting to be used as a marketing tool by businesses and it was a journey of exploration for me to pioneer the BBC Swahili service into the use of social media, something I am very proud of.
The work was challenging because I had to learn on the job. Thankfully I had a good work support system. It was while in that role that I realised I enjoyed marketing. I learned that marketing was a lot more than just pushing a product or service to people. It was more about understanding human psychology and business models and leveraging this to be able to effectively market with results.
GIVE US A SNEAK PEEK OF HOW YOU TYPICALLY START YOUR DAY. ARE YOU #TEAMCOFFEE OR #TEAMTEA? OR BOTH? YOU BEAUTIFUL REBEL!
A complete rebel..it can be either.
Sometimes both. My alarm is for 6 am; I typically wake up at 5 am and get out of bed at 6 am then I start getting myself and my son ready for the day. I don’t have brekkie at home. But I do make sure I have a travel mug of either tea or coffee that I sip on my way to work as I sing along to some upbeat music.
I leave home around 7 am. Once I get to work, I typically set up my desk with my laptop, notebook, pens and any paperwork I have for the day. Then, I get another cuppa and for about 30 minutes I will read the news and peruse through the social media streets before I start reviewing my to-do list from the previous day and writing an updated list for the new workday. At about 9:30 am, I take a walk to the cafeteria, pick up some breakfast then go back to my desk. I have a terrible habit of having my breakfast at my desk
THE PANDEMIC DISRUPTED OUR ROUTINES AND DAILY COMFORTS. HOW BEST DO YOU MAINTAIN A WORK-LIFE BALANCE
Funny, but I maintain a routine. It ensures I am productive. When I work from home, I still wake up early, shower and change like I would if I was going to the office, and get right to work with my cup of tea or coffee.
The only difference is that at home, I blitz through my work taking one 30 minute break so I can finish early. I put in my work hours, and by the time my son gets home, I am done with work. I can then spend more time with him as well as to help him with his homework, something I didn’t get to do before because by the time I would get home, it was bath time for him.
When I do go to work, I do spend a lot of my time having face to face conversations with my colleagues to follow up on work or tasks that need to get done; it’s also an opportunity for them to come to me. It’s a fact that some things do get done quicker when one is physically present.
YOU HAVE A DIPLOMA IN PROFESSIONAL MARKETING FROM THE CHARTERED INSTITUTE OF MARKETING. TERTIARY EDUCATION, AS WE KNOW IT, TOOK A DRAMATIC TURN DUE TO THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC. HOW DO YOU FORESEE THE FUTURE OF EDUCATION CONSIDERING THE INCREASING POPULARITY OF ONLINE EDUCATIONAL SITES SUCH AS COURSERA AND GOOGLE SKILLSHOP THAT HAVE DISRUPTED THE TRADITIONAL MODEL OF LEARNING?
The disruption is permanent. Institutions, as well as teaching professionals, will have to do the most work to make it successful. Teachers will have to learn new skills to complement their teaching and students will have to become more disciplined and independent. Institutions will, in turn, have to make sure that they have the right tools for virtual learning to work efficiently. In the long run, maybe how we examine students’ skills and abilities as well as curriculum content will also have to change to accommodate this new ‘normal’ we’re in.
Having said that, nothing can take away from a physical class session. So, I do think that the way forward will be a mix of in-person classes and online teaching.
WORKING FROM HOME/HYBRID MODEL OF WORKING MAY SOON BECOME A REALITY FOR MOST ORGANISATIONS GLOBALLY. WHAT’S YOUR TAKE ON REMOTE WORK AND WHAT HAVE BEEN SOME OF YOUR CHALLENGES AS WELL AS WAYS YOU’VE MITIGATED THESE?
Remote working came as a whirlwind adjustment to the pandemic and everyone jumped on the bandwagon. Unpopular opinion: in the long run, working from home is not a sustainable long term business model for many businesses.
There was the initial excitement of being independent and being able to manage one’s schedule freely. Over time, most organisations, businesses, and employees have realised that there is still a need for face to face human interaction.
Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix, was one of the first business leaders to come out and openly say that he doesn’t advocate for working from home. He put forward quite a strong argument which I agree with.
As we are inherently social creatures, the initial euphoria of working from home has waned and has revealed the issue of mental health all over the world.
I do believe though, that a hybrid model of working is more realistic and in many cases, it yields better productivity and results for many businesses. We need to create a culture of trust. We need to ensure that in instances where people are working remotely, that there is no burnout and unhealthy productivity.
My initial challenge was how to coordinate and get the best out of my team and myself especially when it came to communication. Being together in the office meant communication was easy but being remote meant communication wasn’t always easy. To counter this, I made sure to speak to my team every week and to always ask them if they needed any support for their work.
I believe this to have encouraged a culture where my team was comfortable enough to call me not just to report work but to share ideas and seek help.
The second challenge was proving my productivity. When the pandemic hit, our company was transitioning to a new way of working. At the time, the HR function came from a culture where productivity was linked to being physically present in the office, basically policing. Because of this I initially fell into the pit that is toxic productivity which made me feel like I am being productive, I had to always be available for work and indispensable.
I managed to navigate this by speaking to my manager who outlined what his expectations were which gave me clarity. From there, I was able to find a healthier way of working while ensuring I achieved timely results.
ACCORDING TO A REPORT COMPILED BY MCKINSEY, THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC HAS HAD A NEGATIVE EFFECT ON WOMEN IN THE WORKPLACE. THE REPORT FURTHER ILLUSTRATES THAT WOMEN HAVE INCREASINGLY BECOME MORE EXHAUSTED AND SUFFER FROM BURNOUT AS COMPARED TO THEIR MALE COUNTERPARTS. IN YOUR OPINION, HOW CAN ORGANISATIONS PROVIDE THE NECESSARY SUPPORT FOR WOMEN AS WELL AS MOTHERS?
First, it has become increasingly important for organisations to recognise the dual roles we play as women. Aside from being career women, we are caregivers (this isn’t just restricted to mothers). We are someone’s daughter, wife, partner, mother and all these roles call for us to be caregivers in one way or another.
Organisations can do a lot including providing for flexible working like,
- Involve women in the planning and decision-making process for any COVID related measures
- Resources to provide mental health support e.g a support line for staff to call, enhanced medical cover, access to a therapist or psychologist
- Additional facilities at work e.g
- a creche
- a mothers room
- Safe spaces at work for a time-out
- Flexible working
There’s a lot that can be done
2021 AND BEYOND
ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, HOW HAVE YOU BEEN SINCE THE START OF THE PANDEMIC? ANY PIVOTAL MOMENTS IN YOUR PERSONAL OR PROFESSIONAL LIFE YOU CAN SHARE WITH US?
I’ve had my ups and downs. A lot of downs to begin with especially because we went through 2 retrenchments at work that had me extremely anxious and that heavily impacted my mental health.
That and having a loved one being diagnosed with stage 4 cancer left me at the edge of a cliff. I sought advice and help that has helped pull me through what I can only describe as a deep black hole. I’m in a much better place mentally. The whole experience gave me a new lease on life with a lot more clarity on what I need to do both personally and professionally.
Not all doom and gloom, though. I was accepted onto the SIMP (Swedish Institute Management Program) for Africa early in 2020 and by God’s grace, I managed to complete the course and was awarded my Diploma a couple of months ago.
KNOWING WHAT YOU KNOW TODAY AND IF YOU COULD GO BACK IN TIME, WHAT WOULD YOU TELL YOUR YOUNGER SELF?
Money doesn’t grow on trees. Lol, I went through a time in my life where I did the most. While I have no regrets, I do wish I had handled my money better.
ANY BUCKET LIST ITEMS?
My bucket list is swimming with sharks, doing a travel tour of all the South Pacific Islands (I’ve always had a fascination with their culture and ways of living as well as the almost untouched beauty of the islands), and doing a food tour of Africa, South America and the Caribbean.
Professionally, to have the opportunity to sit on the board of companies where I will contribute towards strategy (advisory roles), CMO of a Global 500 company and to retire from formal employment having achieved CMO in a Global 500 company by age 40.
WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR SHEROES?
Sanda Ojiambo, Christine Lagarde, Bozoma St John, Vanessa King’ori, Indra Nooyi, Jacinda Arden. These women, in particular, stand out for me not only for their accolades but also for their open activism in creating more gender-balanced workplaces
WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?
‘Who Fears Death’, Nnedi Okorafor. I’m old fashioned. I love the feel and smell of a book. To be honest, when it comes to books, I’d much rather read an actual book over kindle but, for things like articles, journals, reports etc, I read online.
WHAT IS ON YOUR NETFLIX WATCHLIST?
Cuba Libre, The Good Doctor, Start-Up, Rotten, Fantastic Mr Fox, Working Mums, The Final Table, Street Food, Somebody Feed Phil, The mind Explained, Sex Education etc.
I have quite a bit and as you can see, my list is quite eclectic lol.
WHAT WOULD YOU COME BACK AS IN THE NEXT LIFETIME CAREER-WISE? DO YOU THINK YOU MISSED A CALLING?
An engineer. I always wanted to be an engineer. But, I lost my confidence in high school and then pivoted to Economics because it was easier. As a kid, and even now, I like to tinker with things. I made my son’s bed, and I thoroughly enjoy DIY and complex Lego kits. I like knowing exactly how machines work, how buildings stand, what the inside of my mobile phone looks like….
My dad is an engineer. If I could, I would make it back as an engineer.
WE ABSOLUTELY LOVE HOW FORBES CURATES THEIR MARKETING-CENTRIC CONTENT. HAVE YOU HAD A CHANCE TO READ THROUGH THEIR CMO NEXT 2021 FEATURE? WHILST ON THE TOPIC OF GREAT MARKETEERS, WHEN YOU RETIRE ONE DAY, HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE REMEMBERED AS A PROFESSIONAL?
Inspiring. I would like to be remembered as someone that inspired others.
WHO HAVEN’T YOU SEEN OR TALKED TO IN A LONG TIME AND HOPE THEY ARE DOING OKAY?
Ms Tracey Stone, an amazing woman who was pivotal in my life in many ways.
WE ARE ALWAYS LOOKING FOR AMAZING WOMEN IN MARKETING TO PROFILE. WHO WOULD YOU LIKE US TO GET IN TOUCH WITH?
Samantha Almon – Adeluwoye
A UNIQUE MESSAGE FOR ALL YOUNG PROFESSIONALS IN THE MARKETING INDUSTRY
Don’t forget about sustainability. Consumers are becoming more aware and conscious about this topic; it cuts across products, services and practices. So consider this in all you do.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME TAMARA. 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 find us on our website www.scania.com/ke and our social media pages at FB, TW, IG and LinkedIn.