Women In Marketing 2020 Edition ft. Sanelisiwe Mhlati from Sleepwear and Strings
For this segment of Women In Marketing we are joined by Sanelisiwe Mhlati who is the founder of Sleepwear and Strings. The Eastern Cape born creative speaks about the importance of a work-life balance and explains why job hopping shouldn’t been seen through a negative lens. Let’s dive in and read more about her 🇿🇦
LET’S GET PERSONAL
THANK YOU FOR TAKING THE TIME TO PARTICIPATE IN OUR WOMEN IN MARKETING SERIES, SANELISIWE. LET’S START ON A LIGHTER NOTE. WHERE WERE YOU BORN? WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR MEMORIES GROWING UP?
I was born and bred in the Eastern Cape, Mthatha. A few years in, we later relocated to East London. My childhood is full of amazing memories but my fondest one has to be of Christmas day. My mother used to go all out to make it special for us. I also reminisce about the care-free days when I used to play street games such as Upuca, three toti, udushe with my then childhood friends(I always used to get into trouble for that LOL.)
WHAT WERE YOU LIKE IN YOUR HIGH SCHOOL/COLLEGE YEARS?
I was loud 😂 Always laughing and always smiling. I was the student that got put out of class for laughing.
IF YOU COULD BE ANY ANIMAL, WHAT WOULD IT BE AND WHY?
A dog. I’m always amazed at how fur babies can love unconditionally. It is such a beautiful thing to be loved. Both for who you are and how you are.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE MEAL? THAT ONE MEAL YOU WOULD FEEL NO SHAME FOR NOT SHARING!
Ulusu (mogodu) and dumplings. I love traditional food!
IMAGINE WAKING UP $10 MILLION RICHER TOMORROW, WHAT WOULD YOU DO WITH YOUR FORTUNE?
Invest the money and pay off my mothers debt.
WHAT IS THE ONE INTERESTING THING ABOUT YOU THAT WE WOULDN’T FIND ON YOUR LINKEDIN PROFILE? ANY HIDDEN TALENTS PERHAPS? PREVIOUS WOMEN IN MARKETING CANDIDATE, DR. LIEZEL BYGATE SAID THAT SHE IS AN EXPERT HULA-HOOPER!
I had to think long and hard about this one because if I said I could sing or dance, I’d be lying 😂 I have a hidden passion for poetry. I have a book with a collection of my work that I’m hoping to publish at some point in my life.
CAREER AND WORKPLACE
WHAT ENCOURAGED YOU TO PURSUE A CAREER IN MARKETING? AFTER ALL, MOST OF US GREW UP WANTING TO BE DOCTORS, RIGHT?
I am excited by the potential for effective communications to audiences influencing company growth and success. I love to think outside the box and perform well in environments that allow for this.
GIVE US A SNEAK PEEK OF HOW YOU TYPICALLY START YOUR DAY. ARE YOU #TEAMCOFFEE OR #TEAMTEA? OR BOTH? YOU BEAUTIFUL REBEL!
I’m a tea girl. You’ll find every flavour you need on my desk. I’m a morning person, so a typical day for me at the office is: making myself some tea, walking around the office and interacting with colleagues. Once I’m done with the friendlies I’m all about the work.
HOW BEST DO YOU MAINTAIN A WORK-LIFE BALANCE?
If you remember, I said I’m a big believer in working hard and playing hard. I live a colourful life; I need to be present in all aspects of it.
YOU HAVE A GREAT RESUME. YOU’VE WORKED FOR COMPANIES SUCH AS VOICE OF WITS, ELLE MAGAZINE AS WELL AS OGILVY & MATHER. HOW IMPORTANT HAS LINKEDIN BEEN FOR YOU AND WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR YOUNG WOMEN LOOKING TO ESTABLISH THEIR PROFESSIONAL BRAND FOR NETWORKING PURPOSES?
I haven’t even used it to its full potential. I enjoy how it can connect people instantly from across the globe. It gives you instant access to people/brands without the wait of appointments. It is a great tool to market your skills and capabilities and to start a conversation about a potential collaboration.
SABRA MWAURA WAS A FEATURE FOR OUR WOMEN IN MARKETING SERIES. SHE MADE A FEW GOOD POINTS ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF MENTORSHIP FOR WOMEN. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON MENTORSHIP?
I haven’t been fortunate to have one. Hopefully though, one day I will be one to someone. I cannot downplay the importance of having guidance as a young adult when trying to navigate life. Mentors are there to help someone unlock their full potential.
WHAT’S YOUR SMARTEST WORK-RELATED SHORTCUT OR PRODUCTIVITY HACK?
DON’T PROCRASTINATE! When you procrastinate, you self sabotage.
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?
Your CV is your artwork. Make it colourful. It is crucial to know when to leave as much as it is to know when to stay. Professional and personal growth should be paramount factors to consider when making such a decision.
FOR IT’S 2019 MOST INFLUENTIAL CMO’S REPORT, FORBES LISTED 31 WOMEN OUT OF 50 CANDIDATES (19 MEN). IT APPEARS THAT MORE WOMEN OCCUPY CMO ROLES COMPARED TO OTHER C-SUITE ROLES. WHY DO YOU THINK THIS IS THE CASE?
The increasing number suggests that the industry is making progress. Companies are now taking the importance of increasing diversity and representation at the most senior levels more seriously. This breakthrough in the industry is long overdue. Seeing what once used to be a Boys’ club now excel under female leadership is groundbreaking.
REPRESENTATION OF WOMEN IN MARKETING, PARTICULARLY, IN SENIOR ROLES IS ON THE UP. IN YOUR OWN OPINION, WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CHALLENGES THAT WOMEN STILL FACE DESPITE THESE CHANGES AND HOW BEST SHOULD THESE BE ADDRESSED?
Representation does not always mean fair.
The gender pay gap is still a challenge in the workplace. The labour market continues to be favourable to men. Addressing this gap is a crucial step toward income justice.
ONE OF THE LEARNING CURVES FOR MOST ORGANISATIONS SINCE THE BEGINNING OF THE PANDEMIC, IS THE SUCCESSFUL IMPLEMENTATION OF DIGITAL INFRASTRUCTURES TO FACILITATE REMOTE WORK. FOR TECH PLAYERS IN SILICON VALLEY THE TRANSITION WAS RELATIVELY SMOOTH WITH THE LIKES OF FACEBOOK AND TWITTER DESIGNING A FUTURE WHERE THEIR STAFF MAY POTENTIALLY WORK REMOTELY FOREVER. THE ARGUMENT THOUGH, IS THAT THIS IS LONG OVERDUE. IN YOUR OPINION, WHY HAVE COMPANIES TAKEN SO LONG TO IMPLEMENT REMOTE WORK OPPORTUNITIES?
We have been slow to adapt. The birth of a new concept kills the old. Most companies are uncomfortable with change. However, with the benefits that remote work has proven to have, more companies will inevitably catch on.
WORKING FROM HOME IS AWESOME! MOST OF US CAN AGREE. HOWEVER, IT IS NOT WITHOUT IT’S SET OF CHALLENGES. EMPLOYEE WELLNESS HAS TAKEN A SIGNIFICANT STRAIN WITH PEOPLE WORKING LONGER HOURS AS A RESULT OF EMPLOYEES BEING ‘ALWAYS ON’ AND NOT BEING ABLE TO SWITCH OFF. HOW CAN EMPLOYERS GUARD AGAINST EMPLOYEE BURNOUT OR IN THE WORST EVENT, LOSING THEIR BEST TALENT?
Being part of a company that encourages work-life balance is crucial. You can only perform at your best when you feel good. Employers need to set-up regular “catch-up” sessions with their employees and make benefits easily accessible. Incentives are another great way to keep a winning team.
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?
Innovation means generating new ideas to create a better experience for customers. Being innovative is crucial to the continuing success of any company. Furthermore, it requires knowing your audience and their needs.n
HEMAL THAKKAR, BRAND MANAGER FOR BURGER KING INDIA IS A RECENT WOMEN IN MARKETING FEATURE. ONE OF THE KEY AREAS SHE IDENTIFIED FOR CONTINUED GROWTH IS THAT OF INFLUENCER MARKETING. WHAT DOES THE FUTURE OF MARKETING LOOK LIKE ACCORDING TO YOU?
The future of marketing is in the hands of its consumers. It is of great importance that brands understand what their consumers are going through and to align their strategies to those needs.
2020 AND BEYOND
IF YOU COULD GO BACK IN TIME, WHAT WOULD YOU TELL YOUR YOUNGER SELF?
Be conscious about the things you manifest over your life.
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 challenge is creating a secure and comfortable future for myself and my family. I’m doing my best to live a healthy lifestyle.
ANY BUCKET LIST ITEMS?
Properties, travel Africa and the rest of the globe. Also, have an internationally recognised brand and start my own little family.
WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR SHEROES?
The women in my family. From my gran to my mother and her siblings. I’m always in awe of the mighty force they possess.
WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?
I’m halfway through ‘Year of Yes’ by Shonda Rhimes. I’m a scribbler. I prefer the old fashioned way of reading.
WHAT WOULD YOU COME BACK AS IN THE NEXT LIFETIME CAREER-WISE? DO YOU THINK YOU MISSED A CALLING?
Career-wise, I wouldn’t change a thing.
WHAT IS ON YOUR NETFLIX WATCHLIST?
I’m a Showmaxer😊 I’m currently catching up on The River. They have the best local content.
WHO HAVEN’T YOU SEEN OR TALKED TO IN A LONG TIME AND HOPE THEY ARE DOING OKAY?
My childhood best friend, her name was Sibongiseni ❤
WE ARE ALWAYS LOOKING FOR AMAZING WOMEN IN MARKETING TO PROFILE. WHO WOULD YOU LIKE US TO GET IN TOUCH WITH?
Siyasanga Akhenime Mfenyana
A UNIQUE MESSAGE FOR ALL YOUNG PROFESSIONALS IN THE MARKETING INDUSTRY
Always be passion-driven. Do what makes you feel alive.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME SANELISIWE. WE HOPE THIS INTERVIEW WILL INSPIRE FUTURE LEADERS AND OTHER WOMEN IN MARKETING. HOW CAN PEOPLE FOLLOW YOU AND YOUR COMPANY ON SOCIAL MEDIA?
They can follow me on @sanelisiwe_m on Instagram to catch glimpses of my life. They can also browse my sleepwear brand catalogue on @sleepwearandstrings. The website will be available soon. I’ll also be making a return to my YouTube channel BlackInk.