Joining us on this segment of Women In Marketing is Victoria Semb who is the Regional Marketing Manager at Temenos and also happens to be our very first candidate from Germany to feature on the series. With a passport that anyone would be envious of, Victoria travelled quite a lot and immersed herself in different cultures along the way – quite important if you are a leader. Let’s learn more about her.
LET’S GET PERSONAL
THANK YOU FOR TAKING THE TIME TO PARTICIPATE IN OUR WOMEN IN MARKETING SERIES, VICTORIA. WHERE WERE YOU BORN? WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR MEMORIES GROWING UP?
I was born in Heidelberg in Germany. Even though Heidelberg is comparably smaller, it is a very inspiring place. It is home to the oldest university in Germany and full of academics. My family values knowledge and intelligent conversations a lot. The good memories I have were long discussions at the family table.
“What are the neighboring countries of China?”
“Who was Marie Curie’s partner?”
We would always get the atlas or encyclopedia from the living room next door. Today we just Google.
WHAT WERE YOU LIKE IN YOUR HIGH SCHOOL/COLLEGE YEARS?
My favorite subject was English. I loved learning the language as it granted me access to an international way of thinking – I started watching films only in English and listening to British music very early. I also liked politics and history. One of the best opportunities I had in school was taking part in Model United Nations (MUN). It is a program in which young students are encouraged to reenact a UN conference.
Everyone plays a delegate. We were encouraged to be delegates of countries far away. It was important to learn all about the country’s politics to be able to represent them authentically. We learned all about the structure of the UN and also how diplomacy works and how to debate. All of it was in English. With my MUN group, we went to Istanbul and I was exposed to many complex conflicts in the world and met so many interesting people from all over. At the time I represented Kuwait. I continued with MUN in my university and would recommend it to everyone!
WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE MEAL? THAT ONE MEAL YOU WOULD FEEL NO SHAME FOR NOT SHARING!
Everyone who knows me well knows I am a cheese fanatic (I hardly discriminate but, strong cheeses are my favourite). If you asked me about my “death row meal”, the answer would be easy: cheese board!
IMAGINE WAKING UP $10 MILLION RICHER TOMORROW, WHAT WOULD YOU DO WITH YOUR FORTUNE?
I would split the money in three.
I believe in living in the moment and enjoying life (I don’t have a problem going over the top). So here is the idea:
⅓ Spending it on good food, my house and anything that makes a dolce vita.
⅓ Giving it to a charitable cause. I already support UNICEF, so I would probably help them more.
⅓ Give it to the professionals and make it grow. And then, start all over again!
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!
My mid-twenties were a bit experimental in terms of living. After travelling solo in Central/South America for a while, I lived in a car in Portugal for a minute (still travelling) before moving onto a boat in London. It was always quite funny to walk along the canal in the mornings, knowing I would go into the office in the financial district while most other boaters live a life dedicated to art and freelancing.
The best thing about it was getting to see the birds with their chicks when it gets warmer. They swam past our “bedroom” window every morning.
After 2,5 years of bouncing around, I now am settled down again and happy about all my experiences.
CAREER AND WORKPLACE
WHAT ENCOURAGED YOU TO PURSUE A CAREER IN MARKETING? AFTER ALL, MOST OF US GREW UP WANTING TO BE DOCTORS, RIGHT?
My father is a Marketing Professional.
He is a great role model and knows how to strategize and lead negotiations to success while being firm but friendly. He is my advisor for all things life AND career. I have also always been strong in communicating what I want and convincing people. I debated at school and am outgoing – finding friends was rarely a problem for me.
At uni, I studied business and economics. While it helped me to understand how business works, I felt like marketing was more exciting than other parts. Naturally, I felt at home in marketing. With the experience that I have accumulated, one area that particularly excites me is to be creative in bringing together market needs and product offerings.
Often it’s not about making a new product but re-strategizing the way we communicate, sell and go to market.
GIVE US A SNEAK PEEK OF HOW YOU TYPICALLY START YOUR DAY. ARE YOU #TEAMCOFFEE OR #TEAMTEA? OR BOTH? YOU BEAUTIFUL REBEL!
I need two black espressos before the head machine starts working. Workwise I always start the same too:
- Start computer
- Open: CRM, Linkedin, Outlook Calendar, Marketing Campaign Calendar and Website
- Start replying to emails – and from there, the day is rolling.
I highly recommend using a campaign planner for tracking progress and budget and using Outlook calendar for day to day planning. When I have a meeting, I make a note in my Outlook about what I want to say or ask. It helps me to always be prepared!
THE PANDEMIC DISRUPTED OUR ROUTINES AND DAILY COMFORTS. HOW BEST DO YOU MAINTAIN A WORK-LIFE BALANCE?
I started going on walks during the day more. Before C19, I stayed in the office from morning till evening and sometimes did not get any fresh air/natural light throughout the day.
Instead of slowing down when things got tough at work, I also used more time to learn more. I figured that if the company needs to restructure, I want to be the best employee I can be to help.
I started making time for more research and demanding more training from work. It felt good to know that I am bringing new knowledge to the table. I think it was noted that I am driven and don’t give up too quickly. I also feel like my continuous research makes me feel more professional and will help me in the future and other roles in my career.
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?
I lived on a 30 sqm houseboat in east London when the pandemic started. My partner and I both started working from home with hotspots from our mobile phones. It sounds crazy but it worked quite well considering it was nothing like an office. I enjoyed spending more time on the boat. I used to be exhausted after work and would not want to do much.
With “WFH”, I started feeling so much more energy and took up running. I also started missing my friends and family more. So like everyone else, we started an online family pub quiz and group chats!
All in all, the pandemic mostly made me more aware of what’s important to me and how fortunate I am. We all started to have more time to reflect on our lifestyle pre C19, and I am happy about that!
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?
In my eyes, this is not a new problem.
I believe that the global health crisis has accelerated a problem that was already there. Women don’t have access to flexible working conditions, are asked to work the same way as men to be equal but often also need to take care of kids on the side. Workplaces have no flexible part-time schemes for young mothers, they have no daycare options, there is no support for homeschooling. The pressure of teaching kids and working must have been immense.
I feel some companies have recognised the stretch of being a career-driven woman from 9 to 5 and at the same time bringing the kids to school before that and making it to a dinner with friends in time after work. So they introduced flexible hours and stopped asking their employees to come to the office every day.
I feel another part is women empowering women. Women should be advocates for their fellow female colleagues and show empathy! I have great female role models in my life and feel empowered by them every day.
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 have had a good year. I was promoted to Regional Manager in my Marketing Team and have moved house. All in all, I may say the year started well. I was always an advocate for more digital and innovative Marketing. With Covid, we were forced to move faster in this direction.
I am happy to see my initiatives finally coming to fruition in the company. We are now focusing more on social selling and moving away from industry events every two weeks!
I am also happy to report that the new WFH rules in my company allow me to spend more time abroad.
It’s great because I get to see my family way more. At the moment of this interview, I am a German living in Britain, working from Spain!
KNOWING WHAT YOU KNOW TODAY AND IF YOU COULD GO BACK IN TIME, WHAT WOULD YOU TELL YOUR YOUNGER SELF?
I would probably try to make myself as reflected as I am today. What makes others happy or is important to others doesn’t need to be important to me – and that is okay. It helps me understand and read people better and ultimately address them in a better way. If you speak other people’s language and show compassion for their situation, you can also get what you need faster and work will become easier.
Live and let live.
ANY BUCKET LIST ITEMS?
Personal: I would like to go travelling again. I am a fond traveller and on top of my list is a long trip to Japan! I loved watching the documentary “Wild Japan” from National Geographic and cannot wait to visit Hokkaido.
Professional: Growing a Team – I would like to see myself as a leader that strategies with a bunch of team members. Also, I would like to learn more about growth strategies in companies and how Marketing can complement that.
WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR SHEROES?
#1 Sheroe My Mother!
She is a boss lady through and through.
She is a role model. She has a wealth of knowledge and has discipline like no one else. There are also my everyday sheroes: My wonderful friends, the wider family and my colleagues. I think there is always something we can admire in one another. I am lucky to have role models so close in my environment.
Currently, and this changes sometimes, I also admire these Sheroes:
Ruth Bader Ginsburg – She is the symbol for strength and sticking to your principles. I have so much respect – #NotoriousRBG
Michaela Cole – A Smart woman, great writer/producer/actress – I always am humbled when I find out people are good at more than one thing!
WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?
Currently reading….Yeah, this comes up a lot.
I don’t read – except for work. And I know this sounds like I am not intellectual, but I just don’t enjoy it. Instead here other mediums I consume:
- 1619 – The New York Times – The history/situation of black people in the USA
- Witness – BBC World Service – Bite size history with a personal twist
- Verbrechen – Zeit Online – If you know German and you don’t know it – quick get your earphones in
- Song Exploder – Radiotopia – Ever wondered how songs get produced?
- Das Ende von Eden – arte
- Wild Japan – National Geographic
- Explained – Netflix
WHAT IS ON YOUR NETFLIX WATCHLIST?
This changes constantly.
I just finished a documentary series on Jeffrey Eppstein and am looking forward to the final series of Casa del Papel. I think Netflix has some great documentaries. The kind that makes you think – how could this happen or, is this even real?
- Wild, Wild Country
- Going Clear
- Behind the curve
Some other great stuff on Netflix
- The Talented Mr Ripley (film)
- Criminal (series)
- Das Leben der Anderen (film)
- Chef’s Table (series)
WHAT WOULD YOU COME BACK AS IN THE NEXT LIFETIME CAREER-WISE? DO YOU THINK YOU MISSED A CALLING?
I am content with where I am today! That was not always the case – there was a time, and I am sure many Millenials feel the same, where I had no idea who I wanted to be. Before studying business and economics, I almost studied history – who knows what I would have become with that.
I always say Long-time German Chancellor Angela Merkel is a physicist, not a political scientist.
I think one of the reasons I am in Marketing was pure luck of knowing someone, who knew someone, who was looking to hire someone. I guess my message here is: There is no point in planning out your career.
WE 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?
I think we are at a point where society changes a lot. I am really happy to see some old standards breaking up and my generation demanding more from a job than a paycheck. We want work-life balance and for our companies to support our values. This change is something I want to be a part of.
I want to help companies address structural racism and inequality, reduce the gender pay gap and make work something worth people’s time. That is why I lead an employee resource group looking at Race, Ethnicity and Cultural Heritage (REACH).
So my legacy should have an impact on people’s lives – and not only the company’s revenue.
WHO HAVEN’T YOU SEEN OR TALKED TO IN A LONG TIME AND HOPE THEY ARE DOING OKAY?
My high school girlfriends. Due to me moving around a fair bit, I have lost touch with some of them and hope that they are doing well. I am already looking forward to the ten-year reunion.
WE ARE ALWAYS LOOKING FOR AMAZING WOMEN IN MARKETING TO PROFILE. WHO WOULD YOU LIKE US TO GET IN TOUCH WITH? (YOU CAN PROVIDE US WITH THEIR CONTACT DETAILS ONCE YOU’VE OBTAINED THEIR PERMISSION)
My dear friend https://www.linkedin.com/in/melou-jean-juvane/
She is crafting her career path all while still in uni! It could be interesting for young professionals to see that you don’t have to wait.
A UNIQUE MESSAGE FOR ALL YOUNG PROFESSIONALS IN THE MARKETING INDUSTRY
Once you are in a company – follow your goals by proving you are worth it! I went out of my way to help the teams I wanted to be a part of. Picking up extra work and making yourself essential for delivering is the best way to climb the career ladder. In the end, I moved departments and got promoted fast! Relationships are everything.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME VICTORIA. WE HOPE THIS INTERVIEW WILL INSPIRE FUTURE LEADERS AND OTHER WOMEN IN MARKETING. HOW CAN PEOPLE FOLLOW YOU AND YOUR COMPANY ON SOCIAL MEDIA?
Slide into my DMs! I am always happy to talk: https://www.linkedin.com/in/victoria-semb/