Women In Marketing 2020 Edition ft. Sabra Mwaura from Disqus
Sabra is Disqus’ Marketing Manager and has close ties with Kenya as she was born there. A Citizen of the World, if her passport could talk, it would probably share some of the best stories about her travels. For this segment of Women In Marketing, Sabra shares with us why it’s important to have more women across the whole C-suite level and not only occupying CMO roles. Let’s dive in! 🇺🇸
I think organizations that either struggled or are struggling to transition to remote work should take the opportunity to reevaluate their processes and internal communication channels.
LET’S GET PERSONAL
WHERE WERE YOU BORN? WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FONDEST MEMORIES?
I was born in Lamu, Kenya, but later moved to the US Virgin Islands with my family. To be honest, I don’t have many memories of being there when I was younger since we moved when I was still a toddler… but some of my fondest memories from childhood were swimming in the ocean every single day (even on school days!), hunting for the perfect mangoes in our backyard trees, and taking boat rides with my family.
SHOW OFF TO OUR READERS. ANY HIDDEN TALENTS YOU CAN SHARE WITH US? A CLARINET STAR IN THE MAKING PERHAPS?
Hidden talent? Let’s see… I played the flute when I was younger (channeling my inner Lizzo right now). Oh, and I may also make the world’s tastiest banana bread! 🍌 But that’s pretty much the extent of my baking skills.
WE WOULD ALL LOVE TO WIN THE LOTTERY RIGHT? IF YOU WON $10 MILLION TOMORROW, WHAT WOULD YOU DO WITH YOUR FORTUNE?
I’d like to think I could buy my mom and dad new houses, but $10 million doesn’t go as far as it used to! I would also probably take a nice vacation, invest some, and save the rest (2020 has taught me to always plan for the worst!)
I also live in San Francisco where I see a massive amount of homelessness, addiction, and mental health issues. If I had the resources, I would want to contribute in some way to help create and maintain programs to help people in these types of situations.
Lastly, our oceans are a mess. There are currently 5.25 trillion macro and micro pieces of plastic in our ocean & 46,000 pieces in every square mile of ocean, weighing up to 269,000,000 kilograms (593,043,485 lbs)! So with that being said, I would take some of that money and distribute it to organizations like 4Ocean, who have pulled 4,668,092 kilograms of trash from the ocean since they were founded in 2017.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE MEAL? THAT ONE MEAL YOU WOULDN’T SHARE WITH ANYONE!
When answering this question my head started spinning with different dishes, desserts, and snacks to choose from, but my favorite meal is funnily nothing too special (well, not in Kenya at least!). The meal that makes my mouth really water is my father’s coconut chicken curry with chapati and coconut basmati rice. It’s fresh, flavorful, and full of tastes from home. To me, it reminds me of family, heritage, and my culture. Plus, it’s delicious!
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?
Ha! Yes, I think we all were planning on being doctors and lawyers at some point in our lives, but we all took a turn somewhere. Long story short, I was working in sales and realized I was not waking up every morning with joy, but rather quite unenthused.
I wasn’t totally sure what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to create and flex my creative muscles. We’ve all seen too many bad marketing campaigns or social media fails, and most of the time we just dismiss it and keep scrolling by, without putting too much thought into it. I remember seeing a digital campaign for a probiotic that was just very poorly crafted, and instantly thought of 10 different ways to improve it. That moment sort of made me sit up and go, “Hang on, could I be qualified to do this? I have some ideas!”
It became harder and harder for me to ignore digital campaigns that I felt I could contribute to, and it got to a point where I could feel that small peak of excitement in my heartbeat when the ideas started flowing.
Finally, I decided to start building out my portfolio and applying for marketing roles! And I am so glad that I did because I am now in a role that satisfies not only my creative appetite but also my desire to track my success.
IF YOU COULD BE ANY ANIMAL IN THE WORLD, WHAT ANIMAL WOULD YOU BE AND WHY?
Because I grew up on the beach and love the ocean so dearly, I would have to say a flying fish!
I know the go-to answer may be something quite large with sharp teeth and claws — like a lion, but I would love nothing more than to explore the ocean without the restrictions of human lungs. However, I am sure I would miss the surface too! And since I’m not allowed to be a mermaid, flying fish are a beautiful combination of both. While they can’t fly in the same way a bird does, flying fish can make powerful, self-propelled leaps out of the water where their wing-like fins allow them to glide for impressive distances above the water’s surface! Google them 😉
WHAT’S THE MOST INTERESTING THING ABOUT YOU THAT WE WOULDN’T LEARN FROM YOUR LINKEDIN PROFILE ALONE?
I mentioned I was born in Kenya, but my background is a bit more diverse than that. While my mother is a Jewish American woman from Queens, my father is a Muslim Kenyan man from Lamu (a beautiful island off the coast of Kenya), and the fun doesn’t stop there! We moved to St. Thomas, USVI shortly after, and then when I was around 9, we moved to the most opposite place you can imagine… the desert! Santa Fe, New Mexico has now been our home since we left the Caribbean, but it took some warming up.
I later went to college in New York, where I studied anthropology — that part is on my LinkedIn — but you may not know that I wrote an 85-page honours thesis on Food, Memory, and Identity between Jewish and African culture. I went abroad 3 times throughout my schooling: Costa Rica, Argentina, Spain (you could say I have a love for Spanish), and India, and I now live in California!
So what I am trying to say is, you may see me as a Marketing Manager for a tech company when viewing my LinkedIn, but I’d like to think of myself as an eager, ever-learning, adventure-seeking, global citizen that is always open to new experiences, knowledge, and people!
ENTERING THE WORKPLACE
GIVE US A SNEAK PEEK OF HOW YOU TYPICALLY START YOUR DAY. ARE YOU #TEAMCOFFEE OR #TEAMTEA? OR BOTH? YOU BEAUTIFUL REBEL!
Team coffee all the way!
Since COVID, my routine has been thrown off slightly, but that has also allowed me to create a new one. Typically I will make coffee, sign on, check out my calendar for the day, and then log on to my daily team meeting. Since COVID, we’ve started meeting as a company every day to check in with each other and go over what we’re working on. It’s been a great new practice to keep us connected, and I think it helps us all feel a little less isolated while we’re working remotely.
HOW BEST DO YOU STRIKE A WORK-LIFE BALANCE?
Since we’ve been working remotely, it’s honestly been a bit of an adjustment to maintain that balance. I try to get my work done within work hours. Now, we all know that’s not always possible, but at the end of the day, sometimes you just have to take a step back and ask yourself how urgent your current task is, and if it’s best handled in the morning. Understanding when to log off or simply just stop thinking about work can be tricky, but knowing that boundary can reshape your day and headspace and help prevent burnout.
YOU OBTAINED YOUR BA IN ANTHROPOLOGY FROM UNION COLLEGE (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?
You’ve done your research!
Yes, I am loving how more and more companies are removing the “formal higher education” requirements and just trying to hire the best candidate with the proper skill set.
As you can see, I am not currently working in the field that I studied in school, and that was difficult for me after I graduated because I felt that I needed to stay true to my major. However, I would encourage young women to self-educate as much as possible! I took free online courses, discounted paid online courses, and even attended a few free marketing workshops to start laying the foundation for what I was building towards.
You may remember something while you’re learning that maybe the reason you get hired in your next interview!
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?
If you look at my LinkedIn right now, you’ll see that I switched companies and careers quite a few times before landing here at Disqus. It took me a while to figure out what I wanted to do, and I think that’s completely ok. You should never be penalized for not settling, and continuing to search for your passion.
Millennials tend to job hop when we’re not doing what we love or are being mismanaged, and I think that can be empowering. We don’t settle, nor should we. On the other hand, there tends to be a stigma around having short stints on your resume, so I would make sure to do your homework before accepting an offer and wouldn’t recommend leaving a company until you’ve given it all you have and exhausted all resources or explored every path available to you at that company.
FOR OUR INTERVIEW WITH YAEL TAMAR FROM SOLIDBLOCK, SHE REMARKED THAT WOMEN ARE MOST LIKELY TO OCCUPY THE CMO ROLE AS COMPARED TO THEIR MALE COUNTERPARTS. WITH WOMEN CONTROLLING OVER $20 TRILLION IN GLOBAL SPENDING, WHY HAS IT BECOME INCREASINGLY IMPORTANT TO HAVE FEMALE CMOS IN YOUR OPINION?
I don’t think we should limit this question to just why it’s important to have female CMOs, but rather why it’s important to have female CEOs, CFOs, etc. Women are underrepresented among C-level roles in general, so I think the more women we can put into these executive positions, the closer we get to equality in the workplace and also representation in leadership. We need more seats at the table and more opportunities to mentor, lead and grow.
I grew up seeing my mom work hard every single day and it taught me to want to do the same, and be proud of those achievements. We must have a variety of female role models to look up to in the workplace.
SYSTEMS AROUND REMOTE WORK AND VIDEO CONFERENCING ARE INCREASINGLY BECOMING STAPLE IN MOST ORGANISATIONS. ACCORDING TO VISUAL CAPITALIST, ZOOM IS NOW WORTH MORE THAN THE 7 BIGGEST AIRLINES IN THE WORLD AT A WHOPPING MARKET CAPITALIZATION OF JUST OVER $40BN. SUFFICE TO SAY, 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 organizations that either struggled or are struggling to transition to remote work should take the opportunity to reevaluate their processes and internal communication channels. For example, my company experienced quite a seamless transition to remote collaboration because we already all were constantly communicating via Slack, regular daily/weekly meetings (now video calls), shared documents, and project management tools.
Because we check in regularly with daily 15 minute meetings, we’re usually all on the same page about what each of us is working on, or if we need help with something, we can easily tap on someone to assist. Companies that didn’t already have a collaborative system in place before COVID have had to adapt, but I think in the end it will be a change that benefits them.
REMOTE WORK HAS COME WITH ITS OWN SET OF CHALLENGES, PARAMOUNT TO THIS IS THE FACT THAT EMPLOYEES ARE NOW ‘ALWAYS ON’ WITH WORK CARRYING OVER EVEN BEYOND WORKING HOURS. IN YOUR OPINION, HOW CAN ORGANISATIONS MANAGE THIS BETTER TO PROTECT THE WELLBEING OF THEIR EMPLOYEES?
This is such a great question because I am still trying to figure that out myself. I think this requires a combined effort from both employees and their organizations. Managers need to encourage their team members to log off at an appropriate time, break up mundane meetings by hosting “non-work” meetings such as virtual happy hours, and also be flexible with their employees taking breaks throughout the day.
Additionally, we have to own some of that responsibility and log off at reasonable times. Our manager can encourage us to take breaks all they want, but at the end of the day, it’s up to us to take care of our mental health.
SHERYL SANDBERG MADE AN INTERESTING REMARK IN HER KICK-ASS BIOGRAPHY ‘LEAN IN: WOMEN, WORK, AND THE WILL TO LEAD’ THAT “SEARCHING FOR A MENTOR HAS BECOME THE PROFESSIONAL EQUIVALENT OF WAITING FOR PRINCE CHARMING”. SHE IS ILLUSTRATING THE NOTION OF WOMEN HAVING TO SEEK APPROVAL OR VALIDATION, ESPECIALLY FROM MEN WHO ARE AT MOST TIMES THE MENTORS. WHAT’S YOUR TAKE ON MENTORSHIP?
I think this is true… oftentimes we wait around for someone to volunteer their time to us, but we have to go out and find that for ourselves. Especially because men are most times the mentors, we as women need to seek out those leaders who are more relatable to us and our challenges. A straight white boss may not understand something like “imposter syndrome” in the workplace for women of colour… so it’s important to find someone who can relate to that, and be able to give you the best advice/feedback.
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 Disqus?
Innovation, to me, means anything new, useful, and makes you go, “Why didn’t I think of that?” At Disqus, we like to think of innovation as turning an idea into a solution that adds value for our publishers and commenters.
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 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?
Besides people just generally spending less on non-essential shopping, I don’t think COVID-19 will negatively affect influencer marketing. People are spending more time on their devices now more than ever, and probably consuming much more content by influencers, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the influencer marketing industry is stronger coming out of this pandemic.
ANY RECENT/UPCOMING INFLUENCER MARKETING CAMPAIGNS YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE FROM Disqus?
We currently don’t run any influencer marketing campaigns, but we’ve been focusing a lot on user-generated content! Disqus is such a dynamic product and can be used in several ways to accomplish different things, so we’ve been ‘encouraging our publishers to share with us the different ways they use Disqus. Whether that’s creating your custom reactions for your articles or utilizing our star rating feature, we’re always wanting to promote creativity within our network. Additionally, it recognizes our customers and shows that we value their input!
WHAT’S YOUR SMARTEST WORK-RELATED SHORTCUT OR PRODUCTIVITY HACK?
I am a BIG list girl. I have lists for everything! My work tasks, my grocery list, movies I want to watch… the list goes on. But my biggest productivity hack would be to write down your 3 most important tasks of the day. Keep the description concise yet detailed, so for example: don’t say “research social media management tools”. Instead, say “review and compare prices of social management tools from XYZ”. This is important as it will prevent you from drifting to semi-related tasks that aren’t as high priority.
2020 AND BEYOND
WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING? (WHAT DO YOU READ, AND HOW DO YOU CONSUME INFORMATION? PAPERBACK VS EREADER?)
I am BIG on mysteries. Some of my favorites have been ‘The Silent Patient’, and ‘The Couple Next Door’, but at the moment I am enjoying ‘The Winter People’. I love mystery books because it keeps you on your toes and paying very close attention to all of the details at all times…. Oh, and I’m a hybrid paperback/ereader! It depends on availability for me. I try to buy or check out most of my books, but sometimes they aren’t available or I want to read it immediately… enter the ereader!
WHAT IS ON YOUR NETFLIX WATCHLIST?
Every RomCom under the sun! Some great shows include: The Umbrella Academy, Schitt’s Creek, Never Have I Ever (shoutout to Mindy Kaling for giving us more representation!), Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse. And much more!
AS WE LEARN TO LIVE WITH COVID19 IF YOU COULD REPLACE THE HANDSHAKE AS A FORM OF GREETING, WHAT INTERESTING NEW GREETING WOULD YOU INTRODUCE?
I always liked the idea of a universal gesture that gets the message across.
An example would be people in yoga class putting their hands together and close to their chest, similar to a prayer gesture, and quick bow of the head to greet each other. Another is the salute in the military or the famous Wakandan salute from Black Panther. If I could create something similar to these, I think that would be a fun alternative!
WHO HAVEN’T YOU SEEN OR TALKED TO IN A LONG TIME AND HOPE THEY ARE DOING OKAY?
I’m going to cheat on this question because I technically have spoken to my mother recently, but I haven’t seen her in quite a while so I’m giving her a shoutout here!
A UNIQUE MESSAGE FOR ALL YOUNG PROFESSIONALS IN THE MARKETING INDUSTRY
Never stop learning. Ever. As marketing professionals, we’re in an ever-changing digital landscape, and we have to keep our finger on the pulse at all times. The second we stop paying attention, a wildly successful video-sharing app called TikTok could pop up and grab the attention of your entire audience!
IF YOU COULD GO BACK IN TIME, WHAT WOULD YOU TELL YOUR YOUNGER SELF?
I would tell my younger self to continue working hard and continue trusting my gut. When I was younger, I never knew if I was making the right academic or career choices, and I would worry myself sick about it. Looking back on it, my instincts and natural intuition were always right, and I could’ve relaxed a lot more knowing that I should trust myself.
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?
My current challenge is making sure all of our marketing efforts align with one goal. Running social media campaigns, email marketing campaigns, and curating long-form content for our blog… it’s easy to lose sight of your overall marketing goal(s). I’m learning more and more to use project management tools to stay organized and make sure each piece of content we put out has a purpose.
WE ARE ALWAYS LOOKING FOR AWESOME WOMEN IN MARKETING TO PROFILE. WHO WOULD YOU LIKE US TO INTERVIEW IN FUTURE?
Olivia Carroll. She works in PR and marketing and has a diverse skillset and background!
ANY BUCKET LIST ITEMS (PROFESSIONAL AS WELL AS PERSONAL)?
I’d like to continue traveling and learning more about this world and the people in it. Croatia is up next on my list! I’d also like to see the northern lights and visit an elephant sanctuary.
Professionally, I would just like to continue growing in my role, and eventually hosting and leading my own in-person event!
WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR FEMALE HEROES?
Michelle Obama, Yara Shahidi, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, my mother and my big sister :)