Women In Marketing 2021 Edition ft. Kesagee Nayager from Bombela

Joining us on this segment of Women In Marketing is Kesagee Nayager who is a Marketing & Communications Executive at Bombela Concession Company. Having worked 3 jobs during university, her tenacity and work ethic have set her up to be the leader that she is today. We are definitely taking a page from her book! Let’s learn more about her

LET’S GET PERSONAL

THANK YOU FOR TAKING THE TIME TO PARTICIPATE IN OUR WOMEN IN MARKETING SERIES, KESAGEE. WHERE WERE YOU BORN? WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR MEMORIES GROWING UP?

I was born in Merebank, a small coastal town in KwaZulu Natal.

I would spend time with my grandmother in her makeshift garden while she taught me about life through her love for gardening and telling stories. I enjoyed singing as well as classical dance.

I used to play classical musical instruments, mostly to fulfil my grandmother’s love for music and, in hindsight, perhaps her youthful dreams to sing and dance and make music. I used to run around in the dusty streets whilst playing different games with my younger brother.

I’ve always enjoyed reading. I would read anything that I could get my hands on, mostly old copies of the Reader’s Digest that my father had a collection of and tattered old western novels. Reading gave me magical powers to sneak out of our humble home and travel to any place in the world — mostly the wild, wild west!

WHAT WERE YOU LIKE IN YOUR HIGH SCHOOL/COLLEGE YEARS?

I was an introvert in high school. I was studious, shy, and a person of few words. My college years were busy. There was a lot of commotion in my mind and all around me as I became increasingly politically aware and active through various campus organisations and others.

In the midst of all of that, apart from my full-time studies, I miraculously held down three different part-time jobs to financially support my studies.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE MEAL? THAT ONE MEAL YOU WOULD FEEL NO SHAME FOR NOT SHARING!

No meal (no matter how good) could ever be enjoyed without sharing it! I like simple foods prepared with great love. Therefore, there is no meal more enjoyable than what one’s mother or grandmother would prepare.

IMAGINE WAKING UP $10 MILLION RICHER TOMORROW, WHAT WOULD YOU DO WITH YOUR FORTUNE?

I will build a couple of schools for underprivileged children. Wait, is that a Dollar sign I see? In which case, I would build up as many schools as possible. Each school would have a canteen that serves free, nutritious meals for the learners — all cooked with lots of love, of course!

Nothing could make me richer than empowering young people. My mother used to tell my siblings and me that education is the one thing that no one could steal from you. So, I would invest my overnight fortune in education for underprivileged children so that they too could get a form of wealth that no one could rob them of.

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, ANASTASIA HAMEL SAYS THAT SHE CAN BREATHE FIRE!

I am ambidextrous. I was left-handed but, my grandmother would not have it. Instead, she would put an old sock over my left hand to force me to learn to write and eat with my right hand. When I became good at using my right hand, I removed the sock off my left hand and by then, I was ambidextrous. So thanks to my grandmother, she unknowingly helped me to become ambidextrous.

The lesson from this for me is that when life hands you a sock, use it to strengthen your weakness! Being ambidextrous served me well at school and on campus, especially during exam times!

CAREER AND WORKPLACE

WHAT ENCOURAGED YOU TO PURSUE A CAREER IN MARKETING? AFTER ALL, MOST OF US GREW UP WANTING TO BE DOCTORS, RIGHT?

But of course, hence most of us are closet marketers. Marketing chose me more than I chose marketing! I started my career in communications in the mining industry. I spent many years working underground, and when I surfaced, I saw the light and transitioned into marketing 😊

GIVE US A SNEAK PEEK OF HOW YOU TYPICALLY START YOUR DAY. ARE YOU #TEAMCOFFEE OR #TEAMTEA? OR BOTH? YOU BEAUTIFUL REBEL!

I start each day with prayer. Every day begins with some quiet time to meditate and reset. Then #teamtea.

THE PANDEMIC DISRUPTED OUR ROUTINES AND DAILY COMFORTS. HOW BEST DO YOU MAINTAIN A WORK-LIFE BALANCE?

Discipline.

I am a strong advocate for being disciplined and forming good habits. Some days I get it all wrong, but the next day is an opportunity to start over.

YOU HAVE A MBA FROM THE WITS BUSINESS SCHOOL. TERTIARY EDUCATION, AS WE KNOW IT, TOOK A DRAMATIC TURN DUE TO THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC. HOW DO YOU FORESEE THE FUTURE OF EDUCATION CONSIDERING THE INCREASING POPULARITY OF ONLINE EDUCATIONAL SITES SUCH AS COURSERA AND GOOGLE SKILLSHOP THAT HAVE DISRUPTED THE TRADITIONAL MODEL OF LEARNING?

Disruption is generally a good thing. It is an opportunity for innovation.

If the pandemic has changed the way we communicate with each other, the way we commute, the way we do business, why not change the way we learn?

Tertiary education (education in general) should not be a privilege. Rather, it should be freely available to all who have the desire to grow, learn, consume knowledge and create knowledge.

WORKING FROM HOME/HYBRID MODEL OF WORKING MAY SOON BECOME A REALITY FOR MOST ORGANISATIONS GLOBALLY. WHAT’S YOUR TAKE ON REMOTE WORK AND WHAT HAVE BEEN SOME OF YOUR CHALLENGES AS WELL AS WAYS YOU’VE MITIGATED THESE?

My view is perhaps not the most common one at this point. Many multinationals are either considering a move in this direction or have already boldly taken strides in this direction.

However, we mustn’t underestimate the power of human interaction as well as the role it plays in driving innovation. Innovation often thrives in spaces where group work prevails, and where discussions (planned and spontaneous) are encouraged. This was one of the fundamental considerations that drove the transition from traditional office environments to progressive open-plan spaces.

Depending on the nature of the firm, adopting a remote working model, in my view, might be regressive, and even more far removed than having people work from offices across from each other.

I don’t think this move would be sustainable. But like most things in life, I guess time will tell. For now, it seems to be the trendy thing to do.

ACCORDING TO A REPORT COMPILED BY MCKINSEY, THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC HAS HAD A NEGATIVE EFFECT ON WOMEN IN THE WORKPLACE. THE REPORT FURTHER ILLUSTRATES THAT WOMEN HAVE INCREASINGLY BECOME MORE EXHAUSTED AND SUFFER FROM BURNOUT AS COMPARED TO THEIR MALE COUNTERPARTS. IN YOUR OPINION, HOW CAN ORGANISATIONS PROVIDE THE NECESSARY SUPPORT FOR WOMEN AS WELL AS MOTHERS?

The question women should ask is how best they can provide the necessary support that they need to be functional in the workplace and as mothers. How best can they structure their lives?

We should not leave it solely up to organisations (or the next person) to do this for us — we owe it to ourselves, and I believe that women are resourceful enough to find tailor-made solutions to their challenges.

Not all women experience the same challenges, and not all women experience challenges in the same way, hence we oftentimes know best what is required in our set of circumstances. Single mothers, as an example, may have less support than women who share responsibilities with a partner. It is therefore important for us to structure our own lives for success. If we wait for organisations to change our lot in life, we will be dead in the water. Yes, organisations should play a support role but, successful women know that they have to take charge, starting with their own lives.

2021 AND BEYOND

ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, HOW HAVE YOU BEEN SINCE THE START OF THE PANDEMIC? ANY PIVOTAL MOMENTS IN YOUR PERSONAL OR PROFESSIONAL LIFE YOU CAN SHARE WITH US?

Fear is perhaps what best sums up how I have been feeling since the start of the pandemic. Fear of contracting the virus, fear of loved ones contracting the virus, fear for our economy, fear for the world. But fear is a powerful emotion.

From fear comes strength and other positive, powerful emotions and actions. Like many people across the world, I have lost very dear loved ones over this pandemic, both Covid-19-related and not. For me, this has been a time of both looking back as well as forward. Looking back on the memories of loved ones who have departed and looking ahead to what life would possibly be like without them.

KNOWING WHAT YOU KNOW TODAY AND IF YOU COULD GO BACK IN TIME, WHAT WOULD YOU TELL YOUR YOUNGER SELF?

Do not take yourself so seriously and your philosophy of duality and dichotomy is nonsense. Life is more complex than that — thankfully!

ANY BUCKET LIST ITEMS?

To summit Mount Kilimanjaro — I started training for it just befolre the pandemic hit our shores.

WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR SHEROES?

Every self-made woman!

My sheroes do not have names — they are millions of faces, all different colours, shapes, and ages. They are every woman who stood up to abuse in whatever shape or form it presented itself. Every woman who has raised good sons and daughters, irrespective of who and what their fathers were. Every woman who contributes to society in any shape or form. These are my sheroes!

WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

I love paperback books. I never developed a love for e-readers and the like. Nothing feels better than turning over a new page. I’m reading ‘Development as Freedom’ by Nobel prize winner and economist Amartya Sen.

WHAT IS ON YOUR NETFLIX WATCHLIST?

I’m not much of a television fan, but I enjoy a good documentary or true-life stories.

WHAT WOULD YOU COME BACK AS IN THE NEXT LIFETIME CAREER-WISE? DO YOU THINK YOU MISSED A CALLING?

I always wanted to be a police officer, to catch the bad guys!

That was my aspiration. But luckily, my father would not allow it. I don’t think I would have enjoyed writing out speeding fines — at least not every day!

But, I prefer to regret the things I do rather than the things I don’t. So in my next life (if he is not my father again), I might be a police officer.

WE LOVE HOW FORBES CURATES THEIR MARKETING-CENTRIC CONTENT. HAVE YOU HAD A CHANCE TO READ THROUGH THEIR CMO NEXT 2021 FEATURE? WHILST ON THE TOPIC OF GREAT MARKETEERS, WHEN YOU RETIRE ONE DAY, HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE REMEMBERED AS A PROFESSIONAL?

Yes, I have. I enjoy keeping abreast of marketing-related features.

I would like to be remembered as someone who developed others, and who was an original thinker as well as a problem-solver. If you cannot think up your own meaningful thoughts and make your own meaningful difference, then your ability to replicate success is limited. Hence, I strive to learn the art of writing up my recipes, rather than merely following someone else’s.

WHO HAVEN’T YOU SEEN OR TALKED TO IN A LONG TIME AND HOPE THEY ARE DOING OKAY?

I stay in touch with the people I care for — that way, I never have to hope they are doing okay.

WE ARE ALWAYS LOOKING FOR AMAZING WOMEN IN MARKETING TO PROFILE. WHO WOULD YOU LIKE US TO GET IN TOUCH WITH?

Santie Botha and Barbara Jensen.

A UNIQUE MESSAGE FOR ALL YOUNG PROFESSIONALS IN THE MARKETING INDUSTRY

Yes, it’s important to know who your target market is. However, it is even more important to know who your target market aspires to be.

And, secondly, even if you speak softly, you could still be heard.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME KESAGEE. WE HOPE THIS INTERVIEW WILL INSPIRE FUTURE LEADERS AND OTHER WOMEN IN MARKETING. HOW CAN PEOPLE FOLLOW YOU AND YOUR COMPANY ON SOCIAL MEDIA?

Our Twitter and Facebook handle at Gautrain. I am on LinkedIn too.

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The Women In Marketing series is our attempt of profiling female marketing executives from across the world and provide them with a platform to tell their story as they navigate issues related to gender equality especially in the modern workplace.

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