Great leadership listens, and my definition of listening involves not only acknowledging, but following up with action.Noluthando Nojaja
When she’s not on the platforms as a Social Media Manager at Right On The Line, Noluthando also dabbles in creating her own garments. Born in the Eastern Cape, she takes us on her journey for this segment of Women In Marketing. Enjoy!
LET’S GET PERSONAL
WHERE WERE YOU BORN? WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FONDEST MEMORIES?
I was born in a small town called eNgcobo, in the Eastern Cape. I remember the June and December holidays when I’d get to go to my father’s birthplace, Mount Ayliff, to visit my late grandmother. This for the longest time has been the definition of coming home for me.
SHOW OFF TO OUR READERS. ANY HIDDEN TALENTS THAT MOST PEOPLE WOULDN’T KNOW OF? A CLARINET STAR IN THE MAKING PERHAPS?
I am actually really good with my hands, a talent I have mostly used to make clothes for myself. I enjoy designing the clothes and sewing them, and I don’t think I’m too bad at it either. Below is my attempt at making a bigger version of a denim bag made from my old jeans.
WE WOULD ALL LOVE TO WIN THE LOTTERY RIGHT? IF YOU WON $10 MILLION TOMORROW, WHAT WOULD YOU DO WITH YOUR FORTUNE?
I’d give some of the money to my family and friends for whatever they need, get myself a beach house, and get my NGO off the ground with the rest of my earnings.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE MEAL? THAT ONE MEAL YOU ABSOLUTELY WOULDN’T SHARE WITH ANYONE!
I absolutely love umvubo, but I would share it though because I think everyone deserves a taste of heaven.
YOU OBTAINED YOUR BCOM IN ACCOUNTING FROM DAMELIN (GIRL YOU FANCY!). ACCORDING TO GLASSDOOR, IT HAS BECOME SEEMINGLY EASIER TO APPLY TO WORK FOR COMPANIES LIKE GOOGLE, APPLE AND STARBUCKS AS THEY DO NOT REQUIRE APPLICANTS TO HAVE A DEGREE. HOW CAN YOUNG WOMEN UTILISE THE INTERNET TO UPSKILL THEMSELVES PARTICULARLY IF THEY CANNOT AFFORD TO OBTAIN A FORMAL EDUCATION?
Thank you, I realized early enough though that accounting is not my passion. I then got an opportunity to do a learnership at Umuzi, and this is where I first understood just how much you could learn off the internet without having to obtain a formal education. I obtained my certifications in Digital Marketing, Analytics, Inbound and Content Marketing online and these have subsequently opened doors for me.
I absolutely encourage women to use the internet to their advantage and learn the skills that they need. Find something you’re interested in and research what qualifications you need to get started. Google and Coursera have really great online courses that cover almost everything. Use that to your advantage and flourish.
WHAT MADE YOU FALL IN LOVE WITH THE WORLD OF MARKETING? WHAT PARTICULAR MOMENT IN TIME PUSHED YOU TO PURSUE THIS CAREER? AFTER ALL, WE ALL WANTED TO BE DOCTORS GROWING UP, RIGHT?
At first, I wanted to be a lawyer, until I joined my primary school choir and all I wanted to do was be a singer. I started writing songs from a young age, which then became poetry, and it hit me, I wanted to write.
But I couldn’t figure out where to start. My life was changed the day I discovered Copywriting, granted, I didn’t know what it meant then, but I wanted it, solely because it had the word writing in it. It was only when I got into it that it hit me that all the commercials I’ve been seeing all my life were written by actual people, and I could be that person.
From there came Digital Marketing, which I gravitated towards because there was a science behind it. You could create content and obtain insights into people’s behaviour, which you then apply. I have been a goner ever since.
YOU HAVE ACCUMULATED AN ENVIOUS AMOUNT OF EXPERIENCE HAVING WORKED FOR TOP-TIER COMPANIES SUCH AS FCB AFRICA, HELLOCOMPUTER AS WELL AS JD GROUP. WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM THESE ROLES AND HOW DO YOU APPLY YOUR EXPERIENCES IN YOUR CURRENT ROLE AT RIGHT ON THE LINE?
It really was amazing getting to work with so many talented people who created amazing work, and who were really open to teaching and helping me grow. Getting to learn about so many sectors was the other bonus. You get to see the intersections and the human truth that always anchors these stories.
One important thing I’ve learned through all this is to never think that this is it; the best is yet to come. I gleaned this from the Never Finished philosophy at FCB.
Ideas should have no lifespan, they grow, they change, just like we do, there’s no peak because there’s still more to come. This is the approach to learning, and growing as well as to finding my feet it has been working for Right On The Line. Whether it’s the work and ideas, or doing justice to the clients and partners that come into contact with our work, it has to evolve. Something that has especially come into focus during this corona crisis, we’ve had to up the pace when it comes to changing and adapting.
SHERYL SANDBERG MADE AN INTERESTING REMARK IN HER KICK-ASS BIOGRAPHY ‘LEAN IN: WOMEN, WORK, AND THE WILL TO LEAD’ THAT “SEARCHING FOR A MENTOR HAS BECOME THE PROFESSIONAL EQUIVALENT OF WAITING FOR PRINCE CHARMING”. SHE IS ILLUSTRATING THE NOTION OF WOMEN HAVING TO SEEK APPROVAL OR VALIDATION ESPECIALLY FROM MEN WHO ARE AT MOST TIMES THE MENTORS. WHAT’S YOUR TAKE ON MENTORSHIP?
I have never actively bought into the whole mentor/mentee dynamic. I believe we come into contact with so many people that we could learn from, some of those relationships may be close, some not, but there are so many ways we learn from the people we come into contact with.
That being said, I understand the notion of having someone take you under their wing; I have been fortunate to come across people who have helped me along as I navigate my career, and it is absolutely important to have people in your corner who see you and want you to win. I guess I am agreeing with Sheryl, if the mentor she’s referring to is one that fits the boxed description.
We come across people who help us along and lift us up more times than we realise, and those people can also be found outside the box. You might wait forever if you’re waiting for it to look a certain way.
ENTERING THE WORKPLACE
WHAT DOES THE TYPICAL DAY OF WORK LOOK LIKE? ARE YOU #TEAMCOFFEE OR #TEAMTEA? OR BOTH? YOU BEAUTIFUL REBEL!
I always start with coffee and water, then it’s emails, social media check-in, and tackling whatever is on my to-do list.
HOW BEST DO YOU STRIKE A WORK-LIFE BALANCE?
I set clear work times so I get to knock off when the time comes. I’m very strict with myself when it comes to sticking to a schedule, and I reward myself for succeeding. I also try not to guilt myself on the days when I feel tired or unable to work, especially when I have a heavy workload. This works most of the time, other times I just wing it.
HOW BEST WOULD YOU DEFINE GREAT LEADERSHIP?
Great leadership listens, and my definition of listening involves not only acknowledging, but following up with action.
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 think the reasons justify why a person job hops, and, it’s important for one to always choose what will work for them. As a job hopper myself, I believe it can aid one’s career, as long as you’re doing it for the right reasons.
FORBES HAS AN ANNUAL ‘THE WORLD’S MOST INFLUENTIAL CMOS’ REPORT. FOR THE YEAR 2019, ONE OF THE KEY HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE REPORT WERE THAT 31 OF THE 50 CMOS LISTED WERE WOMEN. IN YOUR OPINION, IS THIS A POSITIVE REPRESENTATION OF GENDER EQUALITY?
It’s a positive representation, but there’s still more to be done.
COVID19 HAS BROUGHT WITH IT AN UNPRECEDENTED DISRUPTION TO THE WORLD. SEVERAL COMPANIES ARE NEARING BANKRUPTCY WHILST OTHERS HAVE BEEN FORCED TO EITHER CLOSE-DOWN OR LAY OFF THEIR STAFF. WHAT SHOULD THE BEST COURSE OF ACTION BE ESPECIALLY IN THE MARKETING CONTEXT AS WE ADAPT IN THIS ENVIRONMENT? HOW HAVE YOU AND YOUR DEPARTMENT COUNTERED THE EFFECTS OF THE PANDEMIC?
We all know the saying, “the only constant is change”, but this has brought into sharp focus just how much that’s applicable. We have had to come up with strategies on our feet while remaining consistent and also leading the way forward for a new normal. As you can imagine, this is not without its challenges, but you get used to it, and we are now not only able to respond quickly but be forward-thinking.
Marketing has to be agile, and the turnaround time quick. Relook consumer behaviour and find the best way to reach them during this time. This has also made us look closely into customer behaviour and the impact of the new virtual world on how they make decisions. What this has taught us is how things can change quickly and how marketing needs to adapt and quicken the turnaround time.
Another thing has been how we communicate with consumers, while we want to inform and offer the best possible solutions to weather the storm, the focus also has to be on how we move forward, and the messaging has to speak to that. This crisis has also amplified why automation is important.
SYSTEMS AROUND REMOTE WORK AND VIDEO CONFERENCING ARE INCREASINGLY BECOMING STAPLE IN MOST ORGANISATIONS. ACCORDING TO THE INFOGRAPHIC CREATED BY VISUAL CAPITALIST, ZOOM IS NOW WORTH MORE THAN THE 7 BIGGEST AIRLINES IN THE WORLD AT A WHOPPING MARKET CAPITALIZATION OF JUST OVER $40BN. WITH THAT BEING SAID, WORKING FROM HOME/REMOTE WORKING IS AN ASPECT OF MODERN-DAY WORK THAT HAS BEEN LONG OVERDUE. IN YOUR OPINION, WHY HAVE MOST ORGANISATIONS STRUGGLED TO CONVERT TO THIS WAY OF WORK?
Most organizations are still traditional in their approach, and the infrastructure, as well as equipment you’ll find in the workplace, speaks to that. We still use desktops and are rather tentative in our approach as far as digital ecosystems are concerned, so even on an infrastructural level, we are still not equipped to give people what they need to work from home. This crisis has shown us that an upgrade is due.
STORYTELLING SEEMS TO BE THE NEXT RISING BUZZWORD. WHAT’S THE RIGHT ON THE LINE STORY? HOW ARE YOU TELLING IT IN AN INTERESTING WAY?
Our story is about using the years of experience we have supporting the IT channel to help channel sales leaders, direct sales leaders, channel marketing and communication executives improve engagement with their products and services. It’s really simple, we create great work and build trust with the people we work with. This is evident in our customer testimonials, and the years they have been with us. We let the work speak for us.
WHAT HAVE BEEN SOME OF RIGHT ON THE LINE BIGGEST SUCCESSES IN MARKETING OVER THE PAST 12 TO 18 MONTHS?
This August, we are celebrating 20 years of being in business. In an ever-changing world like marketing, we are proud to still be here and doing great work for our clients. As we were taking this trip down memory lane, we realized that one of our oldest clients has been with us for 17 years. It’s really affirming to know we’ve been doing something right for so long.
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? HOW DO YOU DEFINE INNOVATION AT RIGHT ON THE LINE?
When you have that moment where it makes sense why something exists, like, huh, I didn’t even know I needed this/that this could be done, but it’s perfect. Sometimes it’s an elaborate thing like a car, other times it’s sliced bread. This is what innovation is: Insightful and practical. We bring this insightfulness and practicality to the work we do: Our deep understanding of the IT marketing and sales channel, matched by the expertise to plan, create and implement campaigns that meet the ROI needs of our customers.
AT THE TIME OF PUBLISHING, THE DIGITAL MARKETING INSTITUTE ESTIMATED THAT THE INFLUENCER MARKETING INDUSTRY WILL HIT THE $10BN MARK BY 2020. WHETHER B2B OR B2C, IT’S EVIDENT THAT BRANDS AND ORGANISATIONS HAVE HAD THEIR OWN SUCCESS WITH THIS MODEL OF MARKETING. HOW WILL THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC AFFECT THIS INDUSTRY GOING FORWARD AND DO YOU BELIEVE THERE IS STILL A PLACE FOR INFLUENCER MARKETING?
I believe there will always be a place for influencer marketing. This is a medium that existed before we even had a term for it, and people will always want to hear about something from another person. Just like all industries have been disrupted by the virus but have found a way to still survive, so will influencer marketing. The content can always be adapted to fit the context.
WHAT APPS/SOFTWARE/TOOLS CAN’T YOU LIVE WITHOUT?
HOW DO YOU LEVERAGE DATA TO INFORM YOUR DECISION-MAKING?
We make use of data to not only understand our customers better but help them understand their customers too. It’s always a constant reiterating and reverting back to analytics at every stage, from content creation to publishing the content and creating reports that inform us what works and what doesn’t. Data is at the core of every decision we make.
WHAT’S YOUR SMARTEST WORK-RELATED SHORTCUT OR PRODUCTIVITY HACK?
Grammarly has been a lifesaver for me. Another great hack, especially for writers, is this word count tool which has a lot of great features like word frequency (this is especially great for keyword optimization), an estimate of the reading time and reading level. I love it for long-form content and blog pieces.
2020 AND BEYOND
WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING? (WHAT DO YOU READ, AND HOW DO YOU CONSUME INFORMATION? PAPERBACK VS EREADER?)
I am currently procrastinating reading ‘House of Stone’ by Novuyo Rosa Tshuma. I really love the cover and I’m worried about not liking it so I’m prolonging it as much as I can.
I absolutely love physical books. I’m slowly talking myself out of being such a purist so I got Scribd, where I’m reading Morgan Jerkins’ ‘This will be my undoing’ and I’m loving them so far; both the book and the app. I balance this out by still buying paperback books because I really love the smell of books, especially old books.
I’m not so fussy when it comes to articles and think pieces and I mostly read those online.
WHAT IS ON YOUR NETFLIX WATCHLIST?
I’m currently watching Good Girls, Schitt’s Creek, Greenleaf and Chewing Gum (it’s my second time but shhh… don’t tell)
AS WE LEARN TO LIVE WITH COVID19 IF YOU COULD REPLACE THE HANDSHAKE AS A FORM OF GREETING, WHAT INTERESTING NEW GREETING WOULD YOU REPLACE IT WITH?
I really like the nod, I know it’s not new, but… 🙂
WHO HAVEN’T YOU SEEN OR TALKED TO IN A LONG TIME AND HOPE THEY ARE DOING OKAY?
My parents. I haven’t seen them since the lockdown and, although we talk over the phone almost every day, I miss seeing them.
A UNIQUE MESSAGE FOR ALL YOUNG PROFESSIONALS IN THE MARKETING INDUSTRY
Trust your instincts, always. Also, let the work speak for itself.
IF YOU COULD GO BACK IN TIME, WHAT WOULD YOU TELL YOUR YOUNGER SELF?
I know it may seem like you’re going out into the unknown and may encounter less than ideal situations, but I want to tell you that you’re doing great, keep following your heart, you’ll know exactly what I mean later.
WHAT HAVEN’T YOU SOLVED? WHAT CHALLENGE IS ON YOUR PLATE?
Getting money without lifting a finger
WE ARE ALWAYS LOOKING OUT FOR AWESOME WOMEN IN MARKETING TO PROFILE. WHO WOULD YOU LIKE US TO INTERVIEW IN FUTURE?
ANY BUCKET LIST ITEMS (PROFESSIONAL AS WELL AS PERSONAL)?
I would love to publish a book, but it’s the writing that I can’t quite work out. But, I’ll get there. Travelling is also something I’d love to do.
WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR FEMALE HEROES?
I’d have to say, all the women in my life. They are incredibly amazing people, smart, funny, and resilient. The people I call my tribe are my heroes honestly, seeing them navigate life with so much positivity and joy makes my heart so full.