A great leader is one that brings their team long with them. They set a clear vision, with defined goals, and they leverage their team’s strengths to get there.Zehra Raza
With a marketer for a mom, the marketing bug definitely bit Zehra at a young age! She is the Senior Marketing Manager for Hershey’s Canada. Her journey is as much interesting as it is inspiring! Welcome to this segment of Women In Marketing.
LET’S GET PERSONAL
WHERE WERE YOU BORN? WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FONDEST MEMORIES?
I was born and raised in Karachi, Pakistan. My country is home to some of the most beautiful cities, delicious food, historical architecture, majestic mountains, magnificent rivers and mesmerizing lakes. That is where some of my fondest memories come from.
One of them is when my family and I took a trip to explore the northern areas of Pakistan when I was about 12 years old. We saw beautiful glaciers, ate mouthwatering kabobs made by the local families, and swam in fresh waterfalls. I am eternally grateful for all of the memories from my homeland.
SHOW OFF TO OUR READERS. ANY HIDDEN TALENTS THAT MOST PEOPLE WOULDN’T KNOW OF? A CLARINET STAR IN THE MAKING PERHAPS?
I was 8 when my father gave me a box of magic tricks for my birthday. Hence, growing up, I loved to surprise my friends and family with magic tricks. While I haven’t done it in a while and am certainly a bit rusty, I feel I can do some fun magic to make your jaw drop!
WE WOULD ALL LOVE TO WIN THE LOTTERY RIGHT? IF YOU WON $10 MILLION TOMORROW, WHAT WOULD YOU DO WITH YOUR FORTUNE?
Wow! This itself is a million-dollar question. I would take the money and split it in three :
- Logical Investments: Logical Investments would include buying some real estate (never a bad idea!) and also getting a financial advisor to do some long-term investments in the equity markets.
- Splurging for Self: I would book myself some nice luxury vacations and visit the many countries on my bucket list.
- Sharing With Others: I would either, start a charity, or make ongoing contributions towards charities to benefit others for many many years to come! I am incredibly passionate about educating future generations to ensure they can continue to support themselves and their families while bringing value to society.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE MEAL? THAT ONE MEAL YOU ABSOLUTELY WOULDN’T SHARE WITH ANYONE!
Does dessert count? Not a fan of sharing my dessert, especially if there is cheesecake involved!
YOU OBTAINED YOUR EXECUTIVE MBA IN STRATEGY, MARKETING AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP FROM THE QUANTIC SCHOOL OF BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY (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?
We are living in such wonderful times where you have a sea of knowledge at your fingertips.
You don’t need a degree if you can’t afford it, or do not have the time to commit to it. I encourage everyone to BE CURIOUS, and then, find ways to gain new knowledge and skills in the most cost-efficient manner. I would recommend checking out Udemy and Coursera for courses under $100 if you want more structured learning. Otherwise, YouTube can frankly be your best friend.
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?
Actually, I like to say marketing is in my blood!
My mother was a marketer at Unilever for many years, and growing up, I was absolutely fascinated by the work she did. It involved cool events, fun campaigns, world travels, and lots and lots of ice cream (yes, she worked on the ice cream portfolio).
With that being said, my love for marketing came back whilst I was in university, I had one of the best professors teaching us Brand Management. Listening to her talk about consumer psychology, their preferences and ways to win them – wow – that was love at first sight! I love the idea of understanding how my consumers think and how I can influence them to choose my brands. From there, I never looked back!
YOU HAVE ACCUMULATED AN ENVIOUS AMOUNT OF EXPERIENCE HAVING WORKED FOR TOP-TIER COMPANIES SUCH AS KELLOGG’S AND CAMPBELL’S. WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM THESE ROLES AND HOW DO YOU APPLY YOUR EXPERIENCES IN YOUR CURRENT ROLE AT THE HERSHEY COMPANY?
Great question! Each experience, and each company, has taught me something different and valuable! If I can share 2 valuable lessons I’ve learnt, they include: Be Consumer-First and Be a Strong Leader.
– Be Consumer-First: While self-explanatory, is often one of the top things that marketers forget. It is so easy to develop what is easy to manufacture (operationally) or launch products with the healthiest gross margins. But at the end of the day, a good marketer puts their consumers first, at the heart of every innovation and every campaign. And that is how you get a successful launch. Start with the consumer, and work backwards to make your financials and operations work in your favour.
– Be a Strong Leader: There is a difference between a good manager and a good leader, over time, I have learnt tips and tricks to become a strong leader. This includes being a really good listener, being present, and ensuring you are able to bring a strong vision to inspire your team.
AS A WOMAN IN THE MARKETING AND COMMUNICATIONS ENVIRONMENT, WHAT CHALLENGES DO YOU FACE WITHIN AND OUTSIDE THE ORGANISATION AND/OR INDUSTRY AT LARGE? WHAT MESSAGE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHER FEMALE PROFESSIONALS IN THE MARKETING AND COMMUNICATIONS FRATERNITY?
Women continue to face challenges in the business world, especially in organizations that are more male-dominated. I have been at companies where my team was predominantly male, and that meant I was often not included in team outings, or they would have their inside jokes that could be offensive to women. I also felt that being a woman of colour put me at a disadvantage.
The biggest thing I learnt is to SPEAK UP. Ensure my voice is heard. Remember, your opinion is equally as important as anyone else in the room. They will learn to respect you for it.
ENTERING THE WORKPLACE
WHAT DOES THE TYPICAL DAY OF WORK LOOK LIKE? ARE YOU #TEAMCOFFEE OR #TEAMTEA? OR BOTH? YOU BEAUTIFUL REBEL!
#TeamDrinkWhatYouWant all the way!
Personally, I am a tea person! So my typical day starts off with some warm green tea, followed by a lot of meetings! From agency connections, cross-functional meetings, status updates and more. Besides meetings, I try and take out at least 20-30 minutes to catch up on marketing news, whether it is reading an article on Adweek or Strategy Online, or simply browsing through content on LinkedIn.
HOW BEST DO YOU STRIKE A WORK-LIFE BALANCE?
You have to set boundaries for yourself. Personally, I struggle with this sometimes. Because my day involves a ton of work meetings, I often have to find time after hours to do actual work! However, over the last few months, I have adopted a more disciplined approach. After a typical 9-5 job, I log out and go out for a walk, have some dinner, spend time with friends and family, and once in a while, allow myself to log back in at night and catch-up.
I also have purposeful blocks in my calendar now so I can get work done, during work hours, rather than be bogged down in meetings all day every day.
HOW BEST WOULD YOU DEFINE GREAT LEADERSHIP?
I love a quote that summarizes great leadership for me: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, take others with you”.
A great leader is one that brings their team long with them. They set a clear vision, with defined goals, and they leverage their team’s strengths to get there. It is all about winning together and great leaders do it with humility and courage.
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 support job-hopping if it is the right thing to do given your personal and professional goals. For example, if by switching jobs, you can gain new experiences, opportunities for progression or skill expansion, take it! Your motive should not always be new titles or more money.
In marketing, job-hopping helps your career and allows you to gain exposure to various industries and brands and ultimately, be a more well-informed marketer.
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?
Absolutely. It has taken a while for women to get to these senior positions and get the recognition they have earned and truly deserve. However, this is the first step in the right direction! Let’s continue to do more of this, and as women leaders, we need to support other women to ensure they get the right exposure and opportunities.
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 have been fortunate in a company that is able to get through these tough times and come out stronger. As a marketing team, we did take the opportunity to re-evaluate every piece of creative that was supposed to hit the market and ensure it is relevant and considerate of the tough times we were facing. Our marketing teams also prioritized brands that consumers were seeking (like Chipits baking chips) and ensured we had the right communications to bring relevant recipes to inspire the consumers.
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?
I think it is all about adapting to new digital technologies. It is about ensuring there are the right processes, employee training and sufficient help available to ensure the employees are comfortable using it. COVID just sped the process up for the companies!
STORYTELLING SEEMS TO BE THE NEXT RISING BUZZWORD. WHAT’S THE HERSHEY COMPANY STORY? HOW ARE YOU TELLING IT IN AN INTERESTING WAY?
The Hershey Company story is truly touching.
The Hershey Company founder, Milton S. Hershey, was born Sept. 13, 1857, on a farm in Central Pennsylvania. Milton Hershey started his first candy business in 1876 but failed. He never gave up, and through challenging times, he kept an innovative spirit and a positive mindset. His resilience led to success through chocolate. His biggest contribution to the industry was mass-producing chocolates at an affordable price for everyone to enjoy.
Milton Hershey’s vision of a company town expanded beyond the brick-and-mortar walls of his chocolate factory. He built homes, parks, schools, public transportation and infrastructure, enriching the lives of those around him. And today, that town is called Hershey in Pennsylvania.
His legacy goes even beyond that. When he and his beloved wife, Catherine, realized they could not have children, they founded a Milton Hershey School in 1909 for orphaned children. This school provides full-time education and care for disadvantaged children, to date.
Today, each and every Hershey employee is proud to work for a company with a clear purpose, and that is bringing value to not only our consumers but also our communities.
WHAT HAVE BEEN SOME OF HERSHEY CANADA’S BIGGEST SUCCESSES IN MARKETING OVER THE PAST 12 TO 18 MONTHS?
Hershey Canada has had a ton of success in the last couple of years, from delivering an Oh Henry! 4:25 innovation and campaign, to Hershey Ice-Cream Bars, Jolly Rancher Misfits Gummies, and disruptive Halloween, Easter and Holiday communications and innovations, Hershey Canada continues to raise the bar in the industry.
The marketing team is incredibly strong, and continues to bring new news and disruptive campaigns into the market while driving tremendous love and consumer trust in our brands!
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 THE HERSHEY COMPANY?
For me, innovation is all about BEING CURIOUS and asking “WHAT IF”. It is about challenging conventions and thinking outside the box. It is about questioning every “no” that comes your way, and wondering if there is a better, simpler, or more creative way to approach everything. Being curious also allows you to look at other examples outside your industry, learn from them, and apply it to your own work.
At Hershey’s Canada, we like taking risks, and innovation is at the heart of everything we do. We are constantly thinking of bringing value to our consumers while beating our competition. Innovation is all about bringing value to the consumers, but doing it in a unique and disruptive manner. We continue to work on agile innovations so we can learn quickly, fail faster, and improve constantly.
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?
Yes, I think there is still a role. However, I encourage marketers to think about creators more than one-time influencers. Influencers are great for driving short-term messages to drive brand awareness within their communities. But strong creators create authentic content for livelihood. They are more invested in the content and can deliver more longer-term successful partnerships for the brands.
WHAT APPS/SOFTWARE/TOOLS CAN’T YOU LIVE WITHOUT?
WHAT’S YOUR SMARTEST WORK-RELATED SHORTCUT OR PRODUCTIVITY HACK?
One of my personal favourites hacks to maximize productivity throughout my week is colour-coding my calendar! It allows me to organize my meetings in a very visual manner to help me better manage my week.
For example, my critical meetings are often colour-coded in Red, my team and agency status meetings are Blue, and my personal working and thinking time is always Green. For weeks that have too many Reds and Blues, I know I will be swamped, and need to manage my calendar better to make space for the Greens. Otherwise, I will be working overtime, or simply, not get to my priority tasks. It is a great hack that works well for me.
WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING? (WHAT DO YOU READ, AND HOW DO YOU CONSUME INFORMATION? PAPERBACK VS EREADER?)
WHAT IS ON YOUR NETFLIX WATCHLIST?
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?
Fist bump all the way! I think it automatically puts a smile on people’s face as it is almost celebratory!
WHO HAVEN’T YOU SEEN OR TALKED TO IN A LONG TIME AND HOPE THEY ARE DOING OKAY?
While I have been able to keep up with a ton of people, catching up on virtual coffee chats during COVID, I do feel like I may not have kept up with a few ex-coworkers who are really close to me. Specifically thinking of two incredible ladies, from my time at Maple Leaf and Campbell’s, and I really miss talking to them! You know what, I will message them right after this to say a hello and that I hope they are doing well.
A UNIQUE MESSAGE FOR ALL YOUNG PROFESSIONALS IN THE MARKETING INDUSTRY
Start working on your personal brand TODAY. A personal brand is a combination of skills and experiences that make you who you are and it is all about how you present yourself to the world. It will help differentiate you from the competition and allow you to build trust within your community.
IF YOU COULD GO BACK IN TIME, WHAT WOULD YOU TELL YOUR YOUNGER SELF?
Your opinion matters. I grew up in a culture where we were always told to be polite and non-confrontational. However, I have come to realize that it is important to have a voice and share your own opinions. While they come across as bold and provocative sometimes, they may be valuable to start important conversations and challenge conventions. Without being disrespectful, speak up. That is what I would tell my younger self.
WHAT HAVEN’T YOU SOLVED? WHAT CHALLENGE IS ON YOUR PLATE?
I have been wondering what it would mean to be a true entrepreneur – one that is aiming for the skies and willing to fail. It is a scary endeavour because it requires me to take bold steps and possibly, a leap of faith. Won’t lie – it sure makes me nervous, but I really want to take it as a challenge and pursue it, possibly as a side hustle! Let’s see…
WE ARE ALWAYS LOOKING OUT FOR AWESOME WOMEN IN MARKETING TO PROFILE. WHO WOULD YOU LIKE US TO INTERVIEW IN FUTURE?
I would love to see Alyson Griffin (VP Global Marketing, Intel) to be interviewed. I truly admire her, both, as a marketer, and as a leader. She is one of the most insightful women in the industry today with incredible stories!
ANY BUCKET LIST ITEMS (PROFESSIONAL AS WELL AS PERSONAL)?
Professionally, I would like to start a business on a large scale, even if it means I fail. Personally, I want to travel to at least 50 new countries in the next 10 years, and learn 5 languages before I am 35 (I know 4 already… 1 more to go).
WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR FEMALE HEROES?
I am a huge fan of Indira Nooyi.
She comes from humble beginnings and is not afraid of sharing her story because she truly believes her family’s support made her stronger. In her professional career, during her 12-year tenure as chief executive, Nooyi truly transformed PepsiCo into one of the most successful foods and beverage companies worldwide. She is a great example of a leader who was able to create a clear vision for her organization, have the courage to make some bold moves and finally, earn the respect of her people along the way.