From the UAE, we chat with the German-born marketing powerhouse Nathalie Viranyi who is the Senior Director of Marketing at Seera. With ambitions of becoming the next Anna Wintour, Nathalie shares how she pivoted from the world of fashion journalism into PR and marketing. A lady of many talents! Welcome to this edition of Women In Marketing
LET’S GET PERSONAL
THANK YOU FOR TAKING THE TIME TO PARTICIPATE IN OUR WOMEN IN MARKETING SERIES, NATHALIE. WHERE WERE YOU BORN? WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR MEMORIES GROWING UP?
I was born in Hamburg, Germany. My parents had a severe case of wanderlust, so I was fortunate to travel far and wide in my early years. When we visited Florida in the early ’90s, my parents fell in love with the Sunshine State; we ended up living there for a few years before we moved back to Germany.
Some of my fondest memories revolve around exploring Orlando and its theme parks (still one of my huge obsessions) and visiting our family members in South Africa, Australia, and beyond. My parents are immigrants with diverse cultural backgrounds, so our family is spread all over the globe.
WHAT WERE YOU LIKE IN YOUR HIGH SCHOOL/COLLEGE YEARS?
In a nutshell – a very social nerd.
I was the one people hated for getting good grades with minimal effort whilst making sure I attended every party out there. I knew very early on that writing, communications, and fashion were deeply rooted passions of mine. Naturally, I was psyched to get accepted into a fashion journalism school before graduating high school.
I still love everything related to fashion. However, I realized that there’s a whole big world of marketing & communications beyond it.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE MEAL? THAT ONE MEAL YOU WOULD FEEL NO SHAME FOR NOT SHARING!
Anything my mom cooks! And since she lives in the same city, I get to eat her amazing meals fairly regularly. I am 36 and love it when my mom cooks for me – zero shame!
IMAGINE WAKING UP $10 MILLION RICHER TOMORROW, WHAT WOULD YOU DO WITH YOUR FORTUNE?
I would take care of my family and closest friends, throw a massive party (I love hosting), save up a bunch for my twin’s future and then invest the rest into something with great potential.
Since I am the opposite of a numbers person, my first spend would probably be on a financial advisor.
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!
I remember people and situations by outfits – not exactly a superpower, but a very vivid and visual way of recollecting events. Ask me what my best friend wore for her 18th Birthday, and I’d know. (It was awful, same as my look, because well, it was the early 2000’s.)
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 wanted to be the next Anna Wintour. My high school yearbook even states that. Turns out, I like eating proper (preferably deep-fried) food and the editorial offices of fashion magazines don’t seem to resonate. In all seriousness, I ventured out of the fashion world as a result of my relocation to the UAE, where I started my hustle in a PR agency – a training ground I can only recommend to any marketing or communications professional starting their career.
I was still in my comfort zone dealing with fashion and retail clients until one of them poached me for his startup. I was immediately infatuated with the startup culture and the autonomy of building my own creative and comms team. Eventually, three startups later, my marketing expertise evolved: I had a more mature 360 view of what it means to be a marketeer. So I guess it wasn’t encouragement per se. I just kind of ended up here and am happy I did.
GIVE US A SNEAK PEEK AT HOW YOU TYPICALLY START YOUR DAY. ARE YOU #TEAMCOFFEE OR #TEAMTEA? OR BOTH? YOU BEAUTIFUL REBEL!
6.30 am – negotiations with two 6-year-olds who are not impressed with waking up early. Get them dressed, get myself ready, head downstairs for breakfast (them, not me, I can’t eat before 9 am) and drop them off at school. At this point, I have probably answered a few emails (with one eye open). Once I get to the office, I have whatever breakfast delivers the fastest and crack on with my day.
THE PANDEMIC DISRUPTED OUR ROUTINES AND DAILY COMFORTS. HOW BEST DO YOU MAINTAIN A WORK-LIFE BALANCE?
To me, time with my kids is holy.
I am used to working late nights or whenever work demands and being a bit of a workaholic, I don’t complain. But when I am with them, I try to focus and keep the phone away. I guess I have learned to prioritize even within my work schedule, and how to evaluate urgency levels (real urgency vs. drama).
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?
As a mom, I find working from home challenging. You are constantly torn between work and spending time with your little ones. As for my team, I am not fussed about physical attendance as I am confident that my people are mature enough to manage their work and time efficiently.
All that matters, in the end, is the quality result. But if you ask me, I prefer a lively office environment with lots of coffee chats and fun banter.
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?
Flexibility. Moms are masters at multitasking and organizing their lives. They do not need hand-holding or a boss who is determined to know their whereabouts at all times. Trust women to get the job done and they will surprise you by going over and beyond.
The more you empower them to make their own decisions and offer them the flexibility to strategize whenever and wherever the better the results.
2022 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?
2020 was obviously a tough year generally speaking. To me, it was emotionally draining. I was taking care of all internal and external comms for our Group Holding amidst financial losses, redundancies, etc. but it was also a year that taught me a great amount about resilience and fortitude.
On a personal level, it was the hardest year of my life, since I lost my best friend in the world in April 2020. A shock to the system that I can only describe as heartbreaking. This tragic event put a lot of things into perspective though, on how life is short (cliché but true) and how I need to spend more quality time with people I love.
KNOWING WHAT YOU KNOW TODAY AND IF YOU COULD GO BACK IN TIME, WHAT WOULD YOU TELL YOUR YOUNGER SELF?
Get on that tech train earlier, maybe enrol in a coding class, spend more time with the amazing people in your life, and TRAVEL! Whenever you get the chance.
ANY BUCKET LIST ITEMS?
Professional – CMO doesn’t sound too bad.
Personal – I have two amazing kids, the man, the house, the family, the friends, and the job….I am grateful and have no complaints.
WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR SHEROES?
Michelle Obama – She is a powerhouse with the most contagious smile.
Melinda Gates or any billionaire philanthropist – if you’re making that kind of money – better make your money work for good!
JLO – for very vain reasons of HOT DAMN the way she looks at 52.
EVERY SINGLE WORKING MOM OUT THERE! Or every mom for that matter, they’re all bada%$.
WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?
Paperback all the way but, to be honest, I fall asleep after half a page these days, so I’d be lying if I said I am properly reading anything other than whatever pops up on my phone.
WHAT IS ON YOUR NETFLIX WATCHLIST?
Love is Blind (don’t judge, guilty pleasure)
WHAT WOULD YOU COME BACK AS IN THE NEXT LIFETIME CAREER-WISE? DO YOU THINK YOU MISSED A CALLING?
A dancer. Dancing is something that feels like the ultimate therapy to me. An expression of emotions through movement. I grew up dancing quite a bit and still do at every opportunity I get (including in the kitchen whilst making dinner).
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 MARKETERS, WHEN YOU RETIRE ONE DAY, HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE REMEMBERED AS A PROFESSIONAL?
A risk-taker who was never shy to voice their opinion and came up with creative solutions to any potential problem. A team player, who is fondly remembered as a mentor and mentee.
WHO HAVEN’T YOU SEEN OR TALKED TO IN A LONG TIME AND HOPE THEY ARE DOING OKAY?
So many people, living abroad as an ex-pat makes you an expert at missing people. So I’d say – my homies from back home.
WE ARE ALWAYS LOOKING FOR AMAZING WOMEN IN MARKETING TO PROFILE. WHO WOULD YOU LIKE US TO GET IN TOUCH WITH?
Lisa King, Co-Founder of Heads & Tales.
A UNIQUE MESSAGE FOR ALL YOUNG PROFESSIONALS IN THE MARKETING INDUSTRY
Before you even begin to think of creative campaigns, amazing activations, or some superb storytelling, understand your audience first. Make it your mission in life to fully grasp their needs, desires, challenges, and wants.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME NATHALIE. WE HOPE THIS INTERVIEW WILL INSPIRE FUTURE LEADERS AND OTHER WOMEN IN MARKETING. HOW CAN PEOPLE FOLLOW YOU AND YOUR COMPANY ON SOCIAL MEDIA?
Here is my LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nathalie-viranyi-0aa38257/
Follow Seera on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/seera-group