“To me, feminist means being an advocate for the equality of women in all aspects (political, economic, personal, social etc). However, it is to be stated that being an advocate doesn’t mean that you are trying to bring others down in any way.”Yolanda Makhubele
Yolanda is a Content Marketing Specialist for IT company, Tarsus Technology Group. A wordsmith of sorts, she lets us into her world for 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 Tarsus Technology Group?
I officially started my career as an intern at Meropa Communications, while I was busy with my master’s degree. Working for one of the biggest PR agencies in the country really helped kickstart my career.
As an intern, I was exposed to various aspects of reputation management including PR, videography, events management and content creation. I quickly learned how to navigate within a fast-paced, high-pressure environment. After my internship, not only did I receive permanent employment, I was asked to facilitate the agency’s internship programme. This entailed managing, mentoring and providing support to all interns who followed.
As a Publications Production Consultant, my role was to assist in the management of the production process of client publications. This entailed the planning and writing for various audiences using several platforms as well as sourcing relevant imagery, liaising with designers as well as the client.
Additionally, I was given the opportunity to conduct client relationship management (CRM) interviews that formed the basis of my master’s research. To feed my ambition, I went out of my way to ask for more roles and responsibilities within the agency.
From then on, I was responsible for managing the agency’s online presence through traditional PR as well as by using social media. This included managing Meropa’s social media platforms. I went on to create and design a monthly internal newsletter that was an accountability and governance mechanism for management but it also gave employees a voice.
Over and above that, I managed to plan and execute the agency’s year-end function in 2018. I also made it a point to advocate for the young professionals around me. I can’t even express my gratitude for all the lessons I learned at Meropa Communications
My qualifications in strategic communications allow me to understand that my roles and skills are transferable onto any industry. So, after my time at Meropa, I decided to do some exploring and worked within the mining sector as a marketing and operations coordinator. This included understanding how the sector itself operates as well as taking into consideration the effect the sector has on the economy, the environment and on the surrounding communities. After a few months, I stumbled onto Tarsus and found my new home.
In my current role as a Content Marketing Specialist, I’m given the opportunity to be a storyteller, strategist and project manager. Being a comms professional during the coronavirus pandemic is forcing me to adapt and learn faster than ever before. I’m faced with daily challenges and I’m empowered to rely on my expertise as well as that of the people around me to navigate this uncharted territory.
What have you learned at Tarsus Technology Group that you had not learned at previous companies?
Having capabilities is better than having skills. Skills are more job-specific, like project management, and can be learned and improved. Capabilities like critical thinking and creativity are the inherent abilities that you are born with and are then developed. As comms and marketing professionals, we need to identify our capabilities and showcase that rather than our skills. Leveraging our capabilities makes us indispensable.
Several studies reveal that women account for the majority of purchase decisions including traditional male products such as automobiles, consumer electronics as well as home improvement products. Despite this, surveys show that advertisers still do not understand women. Why do you think this is the case and what should change?
The feminist in me wants to say that advertisers don’t understand women because they aren’t trying to, even though research shows that they should be targeting women as the purchasing decision-makers. Maybe we just need more women to be included and heard when it comes to the conceptualisation, execution and feedback stages within the production of adverts. For the record, I would love to explore advertising when the time is right.
What does the word feminist mean to you?
To me, feminist means being an advocate for the equality of women in all aspects (political, economic, personal, social etc). However, it is to be stated that being an advocate doesn’t mean that you are trying to bring others down in any way. In every situation, I feel that it’s necessary to fight for what you believe in, without disrespecting or disregarding the beliefs of others.
Who are some of your female heroes?
Women who support other women are my heroes. Society keeps trying to pin women against each other by implying that there isn’t enough space for all of us at the top so we need to fight for our spot. We are all stars, there’s enough space for all of us in the sky. You really lose nothing by giving someone else encouragement and support, even constructive criticism can have such a positive impact on one’s life.
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?
I like to understand how people work. I even considered studying psychology after high school. But before that could happen, I was introduced to marketing and fell in love. The fact that people are programmed to think they are saving money when they buy things they don’t need and in large quantities just because there was a sale is fascinating to me. If I can make you spend money, change your perception of someone/something, and change or influence your behaviour, I’d like to use that power for good.
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?
I’m a tea kinda lady but I need to start my day with a strong cup of coffee.
Every day is different for me. Working through this pandemic has made working from home a reality for most of us and it’s great. The only issue I have would be too many video conferences. But other than that, the only thing typical about my day is working at home, everything else is exciting, varied and filled with new challenges.
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?
My organisation has been a rockstar. At the beginning of the year, when I started working at Tarsus, I was told that working from home wasn’t an option. Then at the start of the pandemic, that changed even before it was necessary. We implemented new policies and started working remotely a while before the lockdown.
It was inspiring to see our leadership put their people first and adapt so quickly. COVID-19 has given us the opportunity to optimise our operations and processes and to rethink our employee value proposition by putting our people first and offering immense support during this difficult time.
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’ve always wanted to work for an organisation that would allow me to work from home so I am absolutely living my best life. It takes more discipline to work from home but we’re all adults so we know we have to be even more responsible and considerate while working from home.
I’ve found that I work better in the evening and because my role is based on performance, I can work whenever, however, and wherever.
What are the most unique challenges you face in your industry and at the workplace? How do you tackle these?
Being a comms and marketing professional working in the IT distribution industry, I learn new things every day. I am grateful to my colleagues who provide me with advice and guidance but because this is still a male-dominated industry, I sometimes experience man-splaining (the explanation of something by a man to a woman in condescending or patronizing manner). I’ve learned to differentiate between receiving guidance or man-splaining and then adjust my approach where appropriate.
Storytelling seems to be the next rising buzzword. What’s the Tarsus Technology Group story? How are you telling it in an interesting way?
The Tarsus Technology Group story is still being written. We are on an exciting digital transformation journey, which could include rediscovering our culture, which is a great story on its own. I’ll be sure to share it with you when we get there 🙂
What have been some of Tarsus Technology Group biggest successes in marketing over the past 12 to 18 months?
Tarsus is an IT distribution company. The fact that we have gotten the whole company to understand the role and value of marketing and communication is a win for me.
What makes something innovative? How do you define innovation at Tarsus Technology Group?
Innovation isn’t about making something new. It’s about taking something that’s existing and modifying it in a way that has never been done before. That is what we are currently trying to achieve with our processes and operations. Thanks to COVID-19, we’re trying to innovate now more than ever.
What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
Technology has really spoiled us. But, I’m more about functionality than anything else so if it allows me to do my job well, it’s all I need. At the moment Microsoft Teams, Adobe Suite and Google Drive make my life much easier.
What do you see as some of the major trends in digital in the next 12 to 18 months?
“Working from home” and “the new normal” is what everyone is focussed on right now. Businesses have had to learn how to work remotely and that’s definitely something that will be crucial going forward. Now’s the time for entrepreneurs to shine because in most cases, they have been operating remotely anyway so they have an advantage over corporates and larger businesses.
What’s your smartest work-related shortcut or productivity hack?
Do the easy things first then work your way to the difficult stuff. Even if it’s making a to-do list, start with that.
2020 AND BEYOND
What are you currently reading? (What do you read, and how do you consume information? Physical book vs eReader?)
I’m more old school so I absolutely love physical books. I’m currently reading ‘Art of Seduction’ by Robert Greene. I’ve been a huge fan of his work since the ‘48 Laws of Power’. I feel like these kinds of books provide you with insights into how to navigate the real world.
A unique message for all young professionals in the marketing industry
Asking for forgiveness is better than asking for permission. Sometimes you urgently need to get things done and since we all have different priorities, your work won’t be seen as urgent to someone else. When it comes to communication and marketing, everything you do is in the best interest of the company or client you represent and you have small windows of opportunity that open and close so sometimes, you just have to go for it and then say “I apologise, and you’re welcome”.
What haven’t you solved? What challenge is on your plate?
I often doubt myself. It’s something a lot of us don’t talk about but I’ve had to learn that it’s okay for me to be uncertain at times but I need to push through it and get things done.
Tag the one person whose answers to these questions you would love to read
Any bucket list items (professional as well as personal)?
I’ve been told to keep my next moves secret, but opening my own NGO is on my bucket list.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Getting things done is better than getting things perfect. I’m an overthinker so this helps me do what I need to do to get by.
Which superhero/heroine or literature icon exemplifies your personality at work and at home?
I’m actually the embodiment of all the superheroes with hidden identities. Sometimes, I feel like the humble, intelligent and reserved Clark Kent at work. Then in my personal life, I am Superman: the most powerful being in the universe. And sometimes those roles are reversed; I’m Superman at work and then Clark at home. Either way, with these personalities, it’s not about how I am perceived, it’s about how I feel in the moment.