“In my opinion marketing should be able to step out of a marketing role and into a sales role at any time to sell their products / solutions”Olivia Ponte
Olivia started her role at DocFox as Head of Marketing right at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. She explores with us elements of the “new normal” for the workplace and shares how she’s DOING HER BEST in striking a work life balance. Get a pen and paper, take notes! Welcome to this segment of Women In Marketing.
THE JOURNEY TAKEN
Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your career in marketing? How’d you end up at DocFox?
I studied Strategic Communications at UJ and since it was such a broad degree it left me with lots of options to choose from. I knew that I wanted to venture out into digital marketing but once I started applying for jobs, I quickly found that my options were not as limitless as I initially thought and that my options were purely based on who was willing to take a chance on an inexperienced graduate. I was very fortunate that someone took a chance on me and I was selected to be part of a sales graduate program at a company called CQS (now CaseWare Africa an Adapt IT division).
Although sales was not in my desired field, I will forever be grateful for the 2.5 years of sales experience, it taught me so much and most importantly it taught me how vital it is for sales and marketing to work closely. I eventually got promoted to a digital marketing role within the company and was blessed with an amazing mentor that taught me everything I needed to know to pull the job off.
After 3 years of working as a digital marketing specialist I felt that I needed another challenge and wanted to try something new. Again I had a lucky break and landed up as the head of marketing at a wireless distribution company – MiRO. I got invaluable experience learning from my team on what it takes to be a leader. I landed up at DocFox as I was drawn to their great work culture and the opportunity to be a part of an up and coming software company.
What have you learned at DocFox that you had not learned at previous companies?
I have already learned so much in just a few months but a highlight for me is that working from home is totally possible with the right structures and tools in place!
I started with DocFox at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, still to this day I have yet to meet half of my colleagues face to face but I don’t feel like it impacted how we work together or how we get things done. The leadership at the company place great emphasis on keeping up engagement within the teams and come up with weekly “team building” activities that keep everyone connected. I must say I still prefer to work at the office with people but having the ability to work from home has been great.
Who are some of your female heroes?
From family, friends and colleagues alone, I have too many to mention. In terms of my female colleagues’ heroes – I have worked with some really remarkable women. In particular, at my first job, most of the management team were women, getting exposed to an environment where having women in leadership roles was the norm, was definitely something that shaped and inspired my future expectations and goals.
As a woman in the marketing and communications environment, what challenges do you face within and outside the organisation? What message do you have for other female professionals in the fraternity?
A major challenge that I have both within and outside the organisation is trying to balance it all. Work life, just work and just life balance in itself is always a tricky subject that has been covered in depth over recent years. However you can read and talk about the tips for a balanced life all you want but it’s up to you to find out what works best for you. Your balance doesn’t need to be the same as anybody else’s.
Trying to plan a wedding, buy a house, be present for all family and friends events, stay fit, eat healthy is all a balancing act on its own, without even adding my career! Being in marketing I find that there’s always going to be a lot to do and learning to prioritise what’s most important (when everything seems important) is super challenging. My message would be that achieving “balance” everyday is unrealistic and puts unnecessary pressure on yourself..
There’s going to be days/months where work will take priority over a lot of things in your life and there will be days/months where you are able to spend more time focusing on other areas. I try to achieve an overall balance by identifying what is most important to me and where possible I try to time block in my calendar so that I can fit it in and keep track of what’s taking up most of my time.
What made you fall in love with the world of marketing? What particular moment in time pushed you to pursue this as a career? After all, we all wanted to be Doctor’s growing up, right?
Close but no haha, growing up I wanted to be an environmental scientist until I got introduced to the world of chemistry and physics :-/ After that I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do.
My passion for marketing became clear when I started getting more involved in analysing and tracking the results of my daily activities. It helped me realise the importance of marketing and the influence that marketing has on a business.
I grew obsessed with understanding how people found us and what their journey to finding the company was. I enjoyed being able to see that the effort I was putting in had a direct impact on the amount of leads coming in – it’s very motivating and fulfilling. I also enjoy the fact that every day is different with new ideas and campaigns to be tried and tested.
ENTERING THE WORKPLACE
What does your typical day of work look like? How does your calendar look and are you a coffee or tea kind of person?
My daily choice would definitely be coffee – I couldn’t live without it, but nothing beats a good cup of tea with a rusk on a chilly winter’s day!
My day usually starts off with me checking mails, my calendar and our work chat groups. I then prepare a to-do list that prioritises what I would like to accomplish for the day. This is then followed by our daily stand up meetings. My calendar has become quite simplified with not too many meetings – I find having the daily stand ups and 1-2 focused meetings during the week help me stay focused on what needs to be done.
COVID-19 has been a disruption to a number of organisations. So much that several businesses, small and big alike either having to cut down on staff or being forced to close down. On the same token, however, several organisations have used this time to regroup and use this as an opportunity for change in structure and processes. How has your organisation and specifically, your department, countered against the impact brought by the pandemic?
Being a fintech company we were in the fortunate position that already prior to the pandemic, we were able to work from anywhere at any time. However, the challenge came in where it wasn’t the same for our potential and existing customers, our target market is very much office orientated and relies on several decision makers to make a decision.
It sounds so cliche to say, but just like everyone else we had to adapt to the “new normal” and change the way we engage with our customers. For example in our email campaigns we had to change our messaging to seek different types of feedback, we had to move from having physical meetings and events to online demos and webinars. We also reached out to our customers to see how we can assist them and we got some great feedback.
Remote work and video conferencing have become proverbial overnight celebrities. Some say that it has been long overdue whilst others are struggling to adjust this new normal. What is your take on this and how have you structured your work accordingly?
I am in agreement that it was long overdue. I think working for a software company and being in marketing, with a strategy mostly focused on online marketing definitely helped because there was not much to adjust to. As long as I have a laptop and internet access I can get my job done!
I know it’s not as simple for other departments and businesses but I do think that this was a great opportunity for businesses to assess whether or not they needed all employees in the office, all the time. However to add to this – video conferencing fatigue is a real thing! I think the “could this meeting be an email approach” should still apply and video conferencing shouldn’t be done just for the sake of a “catch up”.
In terms of my structure,I have daily stand ups and a weekly team meeting to ensure we are still on track to meet our goals and to eliminate the need for lots of other meetings throughout the week.
Storytelling seems to be the next rising buzzword. What’s the DocFox story? How are you telling it in an interesting way?
DocFox has an amazing story to tell.
DocFox started when a team of engineers focussed on solving problems, decided to build their own fin-tech solution that could assist financial institutions of all sizes to rapidly and efficiently manage their Know Your Client (KYC) requirements for all types of clients.
In 2016, DocFox attracted Silicon Valley investment from some of the most prominent individuals in financial services and technology, which propelled the company on a path to where it is now. With clients across 3 continents, DocFox is globally transforming how businesses perform client due diligence, helping them to perform better and more responsible compliance, all while on the pursuit to make money laundering impossible.
In terms of telling this story, over the last 6 years DocFox has created an impressive client base and we’re working on giving our clients a voice to tell the DocFox story for us.
What have been some of DocFox biggest successes in marketing over the past 12 to 18 months?
Prior to me joining there wasn’t a marketing team – so I guess you’ll have to keep a look out and see 🙂 #Nopressure
You go girl! What makes something innovative? How do you define innovation at DocFox?
I would say innovation can come in many different forms. It doesn’t always need to be a “stand out” new way of doing things but could also include tweaking existing ideas/processes to make people’s lives easier. At DocFox a lot of our innovation comes from hearing what our customers have to say, so we listen to them and then come up with ways to solve their issues.
What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
There’s a long list! I am a huge fan of Trello and the Google suite of apps (Google docs, drive, forms etc).. Both of these make collaboration within the team easier – I’ve learned over the years that one version of the truth is so important. I also couldn’t live without my mailing, Google ads, analytics and CRM tools that help me get my daily tasks done.
What’s your smartest work-related shortcut or productivity hack?
My to-do list is arranged in an agile approach . As mentioned before, I start my day by looking at my to-do list and then I prioritise it by what are the top things I have to get done for the day and then list the “if I have time” to do. I then time block my diary so that I hold myself accountable to getting it done – for example it’s so easy to get distracted by incoming emails so I also try to time block to only look at emails at certain times in a day.
What are your thoughts on Marketing and Sales alignment? How do you align your Marketing and Sales team at DocFox?
It is so important that marketing and sales are aligned – this is something I am super passionate about!.
Having worked in sales myself I know how frustrating it can be if marketing doesn’t understand your sales process and requirements. Marketing has to have the same knowledge (if not more) as sales. In my opinion marketing should be able to step out of a marketing role and into a sales role at any time to sell their products / solutions. Ultimately as we move more and more into an online world, the sales and marketing roles will continue to blend as marketing is required to sell their products / services online.
At DocFox the sales and marketing team work very closely together and are often included in the same planning and strategy meetings to ensure that everyone is on the same page.
2020 AND BEYOND
What are you currently reading? (What do you read, and how do you consume information? Physical book vs eReader?)
I currently have about 5 different books that I am reading – I’m finding it difficult to stick to one at the moment. I am however more of a Podcast listener and my playlist ranges from spirituality talks, BBC documentaries, Ted talks and “stuff you should know” Podcasts.
A unique message for all young professionals in the marketing industry
You’re not always going to have it all figured out and everyone’s journey is different!
If you had asked me at the end of high school what I wanted to do with my life, being a digital marketer / head of marketing wasn’t listed. Life really is about trial and error and figuring it out along the way. I find it hard to have a 5/10 year plan when I hardly even know what I want to do next week, I find setting smaller short term goals work for me and that this usually allows the longer term things to fall into place.
This has worked for me – other people might have different experiences on this. Another message is sometimes you have to be willing to start “at the bottom” even when you have been at the “top” and be willing to work hard to get to where you want to be. Even if you are not doing your dream job, it is important to put in your best daily effort – if you are going to do something, do it properly regardless of whether you are enjoying it or not, we are always going to have things that we don’t enjoy doing but it’s still important to get it done right.
What haven’t you solved? What challenge is on your plate?
How to keep up with the ever changing marketing trends, tools and industry in general. There’s always a lot changing and it’s not possible to attend every conference, webinar etc. I understand that’s why you have specialists and agencies but I dont think it’s realistic for all businesses to afford a social media, adwords, email marketing etc specialist.
Tag the one person whose answers to these questions you would love to read
Any bucket list items (professional as well as personal)?
I would love to learn more about coding and app creation and in general would like to further my studies. Haha I also would like to be on a game show one day!
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
I have received a lot of great advice that we’ve all probably heard a thousand times but I found that when I took the advice to heart, it really impacted my life. To narrow it down to 3 though:
- It’s not what you say but how you say it
- Don’t respond or react while you are emotional – this is a biggie for me, often once I’ve slept on it and taken the other person’s perspective into account a big issue becomes small!
- Own your mistakes and take ownership for things you have messed up on