Geraldine Mamburu Women In Marketing interview series
Women In Marketing

Women In Marketing Interview | Geraldine Mamburu from Accenture

“What can be described as an archaic way of working is an individual clocking in at 8 am and clocking out at 5 pm at the office.”

Geraldine Mamburu

MBA bound Geraldine is a force to be reckoned with. Having cut her sales sweet tooth as an excellent cookie salesperson back in high school, she explains how the storytelling bug bit her. Let’s dive into this segment of Women In Marketing

THE JOURNEY TAKEN 

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your career in marketing? How’d you end up at Accenture?

My journey in marketing dates back to nearly two decades ago. Back in high school, we used to run campaigns to raise funds for our various clubs (picture girl scouts selling cookies). My “stock” never lasted long, and no, I didn’t ravage through the cookies all by myself! I used to outsell my clubmates, and most of all, I enjoyed the interaction with my schoolmates as I tried to offload these goodies whilst telling them all about my club.

I clearly had a neck for selling, but I was not looking for a career in sales. Needless to say, at the time, career guidance sessions typically directed and encouraged students to become doctors, lawyers, traders, accountants and the like. Besides being very squeamish, I didn’t see myself in scrubs and I also didn’t see myself working with spreadsheets day in and day out. 

Geraldine, Women In Marketing
Geraldine
Source: Image supplied

When I enrolled for my undergrad, I remembered how good I was at selling and how I had enjoyed it. However, I wanted something wholesome, something that would encompass more than just selling, and that’s how I found myself doing a Bachelor of Commerce, specialising in Marketing Management.

Fast forward a couple of years on, after performing various roles in marketing and dabbled in various industries, I landed my current position at Accenture. Why Accenture you may ask. I had come to realise that my brain needed constant stimulation and excitement; being in industry was robbing me of that opportunity.

Prior to joining Accenture, I had once attended a business engagement hosted by ‘Business Engage – Leaders Walk‘; an initiative that was created to nurture the development and increase the leadership skills of senior and middle management. At this engagement, Gugu Khazi, an international executive coach, talked about following one’s passion when it comes to careers and also being intentional about working for an organisation that upholds the same principles and values that you do. I had been following Accenture on LinkedIn and their business ethos, particularly their drive for gender parity really pulled on my heartstrings, and today, I find myself exactly where I want to be.

What have you learned at Accenture that you had not learned at previous companies?

I am still in my infancy, having joined the firm in February. However, in this short space of time, I have learnt that one can dream big, and it will manifest. Accenture gives you the opportunity to advance your career and become who you want to be. All you need is to grab the opportunity. 

You obtained an MBA from the Wits Business School (girl you fancy!). 

Drake’s Fancy just started playing in my head ♬♬♬

The MBA is nearly in the bag. Coursework- check! Electives – check! Global Tour – check! With a couple of distinctions already in the bag, I’m awaiting results on my thesis submission; the pinnacle of the course.

In an article written by Glassdoor, it has become seemingly easier to apply for work at companies such as 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?

The advent of the internet brought with it a plethora of avenues to acquire knowledge and upskill oneself. Platforms such as Coursera, that are used even by university students to supplement their learning, are now at the doorstep of students, who might have not been able to afford to go to tertiary. Young women and men alike, now have the opportunity to build their skills based on courses from top universities and fortune 500 companies.

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?

The greatest challenge I have found in my career is that most people do not quite understand what marketing entails. Most people tend to think we are either event organisers or branded t-shirts and pens gurus. These are all but different facets that encompass marketing.

I have found that to be able to have your peers and colleagues understand the value that comes from this profession, one has to speak their language. So, imagine you are having a conversation about budget allocation with someone from finance, you have to speak marketing, using finance lingo; think of it as communicating with them at their “frequency”.    

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?

The pandemic has altered the way we work in a manner we had not foreseen. My typical day of work now entails going through a jam-packed day of virtual meetings whilst juggling motherhood and wifeliness and occasionally yelling at the dogs to stop barking! My rooibos tea with lemon certainly helps calm the nerves. 

Forbes has an annual ‘The World’s Most Influential CMOs’ report. For the year 2019, one of the key highlights from the report was that 31 of the 50 CMOs were women whilst there were 19 men. In your opinion, is this a positive representation of gender equality?

Dr Louis P. Frankel, in her book ‘Nice girls don’t get the corner office‘, discusses the matter around working in stereotypical roles or departments. From the numbers in this report, one could possibly infer that marketing is one of those departments. However, from a gender representation in the higher echelons of the corporate world, I would say it is definitely a great feat. Sindi Zilwa, who was the youngest woman to win the ‘1998 Business Woman of the Year award’ in South Africa, is quoted in Dr Judy Dlamini’s book, ‘Equal but different’, saying, “… there is no easy way to achieve gender representation at the leadership level.” So, to see these numbers in the Forbes annual CMO report is encouraging.

Closely linked to the previous question, 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 further show that advertisers still do not understand women. Why do you think this is the case and what should change if research says that 50 of the most influential CMOs are in fact, women?

I think it boils down to how most of us are raised.

Girls played with dolls; boys played with toy cars. I believe we carry this incoherent partiality with us into our adulthood and despite research proving otherwise, we will tend to lean towards our beliefs based on our past experiences – resulting in confirmation bias in advertising. The change, in my opinion, if it were that 50 of the most influential CMOs were women, would probably not result in an immediate drastic transformation because the cause-effect is probably a deep-rooted psychological one.

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?

Accenture practices a truly human philosophy which helps us stay energized, take better care of ourselves and bring our best to work. Accenture has put out several pieces around an elastic workforce and human resilience. We have great leadership and more so for my department, the ability to be able to openly discuss the concerns and challenges that I face during these unprecedented times makes my days a lot easier. 

Systems around remote work and video conferencing are increasingly becoming a staple to most organisations. To illustrate this, 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. Working from home/remote working is an aspect of modern-day work that has been long overdue. Why do you think most organisations who are seemingly able to convert to this way of work have struggled to convert? Furthermore, how have you and your organisation structured your work since the COVID-19 pandemic? Any key lessons?

What can be described as an archaic way of working is an individual clocking in at 8 am and clocking out at 5 pm at the office. In my opinion, one of the reasons that some organisations have failed to convert to allow remote working could be that the bulk of the baby-boomers generation are still leading most companies. The Wall Street Journal notes that there are very few CEOs under 50 in the S&P 500 companies. For me, this could mean that the elderly leadership in an organisation that was accustomed to the clocking-in and clocking-out and supervisor-hovering-over-your-head way of work, when they grew up, were probably still holding onto the same mantra.

Women in Marketing, Zoom vs airlines info-graphic
Image Source: Visual Capitalist
Data Source: Barchart

A body-in-the-seat was interpreted as equalling productivity; research has now proven otherwise. Due to the advancement in technology, remote working and WFH has become the new norm (more so if the COVID-19 pandemic is anything to go by), however, some of the elderly leadership might still be stuck in the old way of doing things, which has subsequently left their organisations struggling to convert to the new way of working.

Accenture brings world-class technology and integration skills to organisations across the globe. With this in our arsenal, flexibility and remote working had already been in our DNA. The key lesson that stands out for me is that an organisation’s leadership needs to embrace an Elastic Digital Workplace as the pandemic will completely change the way we work.

Over and above this, we all need to be a little bit more empathetic than usual. As most of us are WFH, we are carrying varying loads, juggling proverbial balls be it physically, mentally or emotionally. Some days it is ok to say, “I have tried my best and am grateful to be alive, well and healthy.” 

COMPANY HIGHLIGHTS

At the time of publishing, an article from The Digital Marketing Institute estimated that the influencer marketing industry will hit the $10bn mark by 2020. Whether it is B2B or B2C, it is 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?

The pandemic has fundamentally altered the way we work and operate, including the way businesses engage with their customers.  Businesses need to reinvent the CX by looking at how best they can support their customers in the most human way, given the virtual environment that their consumers find themselves in. With that in mind, influencers might very well still have a place in marketing with the industry set to continue growing. 

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?

Pre-lockdown: Deezer, Waze, Whatsapp, TakeALot, Uber Eats, Endnote, TedTalk

In lockdown: MS Teams, Netflix, Whatsapp, Jabar wireless headphones, wireless mouse (I’ve changed batteries twice in 2 months!)

What’s your smartest work-related shortcut or productivity hack?

“When the reward is the activity itself…there are no shortcuts.” A quote that inspires me by Daniel Pink from his book titled ‘Drive‘ – The surprising truth about what motivates us.

2020 AND BEYOND

What are you currently reading? (What do you read, and how do you consume information? Physical book vs eReader?)

Call me a dinosaur, but I cannot replace the pleasurable feeling that comes from flipping through the texture and smell of a page in a physical book. Physical books serve as a visual reminder of all the journeys I have been on. They are also a great memory keeper. I’m reminded of the random boarding pass stubs I’ve found in my books, taking me back to some of the places I’ve travelled to. 

I’m currently reading a light read by John Kotter – ‘Our Iceberg Is Melting – Changing and succeeding under any conditions‘.

What is on your Netflix watchlist/How do you relax?

To mention a few:

A unique message for all young professionals in the marketing industry

Follow your passion. Don’t listen to the naysayers who do not see value in your career path, instead, educate them so they see the value of what this profession has to offer.

What haven’t you solved? What challenge is on your plate?

How to make an impact that will leave a mark and perhaps even a legacy of my own.

Any bucket list items (professional as well as personal)?

I did a lot of adrenalin sport before I became a mum. I’ve done bungee and skydived, but post lockdown, I want to travel more; both locally and abroad.

Professionally, I currently feel like the world is my oyster and I am just aiming for the stars!

Who are some of your female heroes?

Without sounding too cliché, definitely my mum; Grace Mupudzi. She is the strongest alpha female I know and the matriarch of our family. She has had the greatest influence in my life, and I will always look up to her.

Something you do better than others – the secret of your success?

Authenticity. 

Which superhero/heroine or literature icon exemplifies your personality at work and at home?

Jean Grey from the X-Men!

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Head of Relationship Management at naughtybanana. I am a father to an awesome boy who thinks highly of me; perhaps I'm doing something right after all. When I'm not establishing new business relationships, you might catch me reading a book or of course, being an awesome dad.