Joining us on this edition of Women In Marketing is Verah Ouma, who is the Business Head at SCANAD Kenya. On the topic of mentorship, Verah believes that it is an important exercise as leaders are able to provide the necessary guidance to future business leaders. We agree!
LET’S GET PERSONAL
THANK YOU FOR TAKING THE TIME TO PARTICIPATE IN OUR WOMEN IN MARKETING SERIES, VERAH. LET’S START ON A LIGHTER NOTE. WHERE WERE YOU BORN? WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR MEMORIES GROWING UP?
I was born in Nairobi, Kenya but moved around quite a bit as my dad’s profession called for it. I ended up having a chunk of my childhood in Kisumu; it’s a city in the Western part of Kenya. It was a good childhood; most of mine was spent running away from chores and tucking myself in a nook to have some reading done.
I was quite the nerd and a bit of an introvert (okay, a lot of one). And I love to read, watch movies and mostly stay in my thoughts. My family will, however, tell you that I am the centre of any juicy story.
I love to make them laugh.
WHAT WERE YOU LIKE IN YOUR HIGH SCHOOL/COLLEGE YEARS?
Well, in high school, the nerd was still there, did well in class, was a leader in many spheres, never quite hit it off with the boys (sob) but generally focused on my studies. In my college years, however, the nerd stayed and the fashionista, as well as the party animal, awoke!
I had a lot of fun discovering facets of myself that I never knew existed, made lifelong friends, and became an OG in the club scene. As for the boys, let’s just say they knew my name.
I made honour roll but I also met myself… those were some of the best years of my life 🙂
IF YOU COULD BE ANY ANIMAL, WHAT WOULD IT BE AND WHY?
I would be a cat (and I don’t even like cats, lol).
I have been through some very challenging times in my life, but I have always come back up, reinvented myself, pivoted and bounced back. I like the idea of having nine lives like a cat. I am sassy, I am classy, I am a clean freak and curious about life and the people around me, just like a cat.
Disclaimer: I am far from being selfish… I think cats are self-centred.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE MEAL? THAT ONE MEAL YOU WOULD FEEL NO SHAME FOR NOT SHARING!
Anything that has chicken, coconut beans, rice and avocado. I am getting hungry just thinking about it.
IMAGINE WAKING UP $10 MILLION RICHER TOMORROW, WHAT WOULD YOU DO WITH YOUR FORTUNE?
I would make sure my nanny’s kids school fund is set up and that she owns her own home. I would pay the best doctors to give my dad experimental treatment for Parkinson’s. I would get my own home, secure my kids and investment they would cash in in the future, travel the world with my husband and give some to some children homes very close to my heart.
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!
I am a woman of many talents, I can plait my hair.
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 grew up wanting to be a doctor ha!
But my grades didn’t permit sooooo, I had to look for alternatives. My parents knew a cousin of mine who had made it in the marketing field and encouraged me to pursue it. Turns out I was good at it 🙂 So I went with the flow.
GIVE US A SNEAK PEEK OF HOW YOU TYPICALLY START YOUR DAY. ARE YOU #TEAMCOFFEE OR #TEAMTEA? OR BOTH? YOU BEAUTIFUL REBEL!
Hahaha, love the question… I am neither!
I am not a morning person. I typically struggle with waking up, so you will find me dragging myself off my bed at 8:00 am. I start my day with devotion (I never used to do this until 2020 taught me some lessons about integrating God into my day). Doing this has turned around a lot of things for me.
I then go ahead and have cereal and a fruit or no breakfast at all (I know….dododon’t come at me!) and start my day- With the youngest baby girl on my case about something she wants that morning.
HOW BEST DO YOU MAINTAIN A WORK-LIFE BALANCE?
This has been the biggest struggle for me…
Especially with working from home. I have barely been in any sort of balance. I don’t know if any balance will ever be achieved but, I have some pretty solid anchors. I work out as often as I can, I am actively in therapy and I rely on God to be centred. My husband and fantastic two girls have been such a blessing in allowing me space to recenter myself when I need to.
YOU OBTAINED YOUR BACHELOR’S DEGREE IN INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION FROM THE UNITED STATES INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITY-AFRICA. 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?
Someone did their homework! There’s a lot of opportunities for learning now as opposed to many years ago. I would say adopting the attitude of being a sponge. Learning can happen anywhere; all you have to do is allow yourself to be in a position to receive it. I am currently pursuing a course in Life Coaching – something I have always been intrigued about but never knew how to start. I was on UDEMY and signed up for a program. I have never looked back.
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?
To go further in life, you need the knowledge and wisdom of those who have gone before you. I believe that you don’t have to make the same mistakes in life if someone else made them. Learn and MOVE! Mentors give the gift of foresight. They are fundamental for exponential growth.
WHAT’S YOUR SMARTEST WORK-RELATED SHORTCUT OR PRODUCTIVITY HACK?
Know your 20%.
In the 1st half of the day, tackle 20% of the crucial tasks that you have to do. The remaining 80% is a bonus. If you manage to tackle the 80% you have unlocked the super organized level.
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 say do what makes you grow. I have not stayed in one job for more than four years. But the experiences I have had across different companies have been invaluable…Know your WHY… if the company outgrows you, WHY it’s time to move!
FOR ITS 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?
To be in marketing, you have to think on your feet at all times. You need to be able to handle multiple projects at a time while having your creative juices flowing. Women were created to create. Marketing is the place to create from. We have got this covered!
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?
Women are not allowed to drop balls in any sphere of their lives. We often find ourselves trying to be super boss, super mom, super wife, super friend….it’s just not possible! The world of work is unforgiving to women and fundamental support systems are needed. Like can we get a mandatory leave day when we are on our period and cramping? Can somebody say AMEN?
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?
Micromanaging is to blame.
Most employers still have the mindset that, if I am not seeing you, you are not working. What the pandemic has brought, however, is that most people are self-starters who want to put in the work within the hours they are most productive.
WORKING FROM HOME IS AWESOME! MOST OF US CAN AGREE. HOWEVER, IT IS NOT WITHOUT ITS 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?
Boy, don’t I know this all too well.
I am currently getting out of a severe burn-out; it hasn’t been pretty! Employers can start truly looking at the welfare of their employees by creating new cultures that encourage people to have time for other things. Creating forums for employees to share what is truly going on with them and further getting them support. Mental health experts to help them cope.
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?
Anything that is intrinsically human-centred and can effectively adapt to rapidly changing human needs seamlessly
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?
The future of marketing is one where storytelling is at the centre of any product. If you are not engaging me at my core needs, I will not pay attention to what you have to say.
2020 AND BEYOND
IF YOU COULD GO BACK IN TIME, WHAT WOULD YOU TELL YOUR YOUNGER SELF?
To never lose your spackle, shine your light as brightly as you can. Some people will not like it, and they will want to dim it. Continue shining and do not give them the satisfaction.
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?
The challenge on my plate currently is truly finding my purpose. I am relentless in that pursuit. I am in the middle of transitioning into a badass fashion stylist but it is not as easy as it looks. But oh well, One day at a time, right?
ANY BUCKET LIST ITEMS?
To travel all over the world with people I love.
To see my daughters grow into wholesome human beings.
Finally have my fashion styling business (@LYBL_KE, Follow me on Instagram!) Soar!
WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR SHEROES?
Wandia Gichuru of Vivo… She started her fashion empire in her 40s and has never looked back. She affirms to me that it’s never too late to start.
WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?
I consume information through observation. I have a lot of random information in my mind that springs up when I am having conversations. My last read, however, was ‘Relationship Goals’ by Pastor Mike Todd. It surprised me quite a little bit.
WHAT WOULD YOU COME BACK AS IN THE NEXT LIFETIME CAREER-WISE? DO YOU THINK YOU MISSED A CALLING?
Easy! A very accomplished fashion stylist making some bank!! I think every place we find ourselves in has a purpose to fulfil in us and through us. Life is fluid. Your purpose will meet you 🙂
WHAT IS ON YOUR NETFLIX WATCHLIST?
I finished NEW AMSTERDAM…LOOOOOOVED IT!!
WHO HAVEN’T YOU SEEN OR TALKED TO IN A LONG TIME AND HOPE THEY ARE DOING OKAY?
One of my friend’s Ex’s (stay with me here).
They have made some bad choices. I am hoping they will get another chance to thrive in this life.
WE ARE ALWAYS LOOKING FOR AMAZING WOMEN IN MARKETING TO PROFILE. WHO WOULD YOU LIKE US TO GET IN TOUCH WITH?
Sheba Njagi, a phenomenal woman and a force of nature.
A UNIQUE MESSAGE FOR ALL YOUNG PROFESSIONALS IN THE MARKETING INDUSTRY
Learn from those who have gone before you BUT do not be afraid to think differently and chart yourself. You might just unlock another frontier of marketing.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME VERAH. WE HOPE THIS INTERVIEW WILL INSPIRE FUTURE LEADERS AND OTHER WOMEN IN MARKETING. HOW CAN PEOPLE FOLLOW YOU AND YOUR COMPANY ON SOCIAL MEDIA?
Thank you so much for allowing me to share bits and pieces of myself with you.
Follow me on Linked in
And on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lybl_ke/