Growing up, I wanted to be a hacker.
That sounds a bit strange, right? Who in their right mind would want that as a career? Actually, who would ever consider hacking a career? But thinking back, computers were still pretty new, and my innate curiosity meant I was naturally drawn to them. Add to that the fact that I’d just watched The Net, one of the few films of that era which had a strong female character (played by Sandra Bullock) and you might start to understand why I wanted to be a hacker. Don’t get me wrong, it was never about ‘the forbidden fruit’ - I wanted to be a white hat hacker and use my hacking powers for good.
And that remained my career plan for quite a number of years. At some point, I realised it wasn’t quite so well thought out. After all, it would be a very short-lived career. As I consider myself too pretty for prison, I changed my mind and decided web design was the way forward. So I taught myself HTML and some other old-school programming languages and enrolled in a computing school.
So what happened in between then and now? How did I end up in marketing? I think being surrounded by other kids who were so much more advanced in their computing knowledge made me realise I couldn’t possibly catch up. I like a challenge, but I was in the company of some real prodigies – and it was quite clear I was the odd one out. I kept pursuing my passion for languages though, but in a different way. I studied communication sciences, anthropology and PR. I was fascinated by the way words can affect so much in a person’s life, in a relationship and in a whole culture.
I never forgot my first love had been for computers, though. The more I studied humanities, the more I appreciated that having studied computing helped me structure my thinking, be very data driven and analytical. I’ve always made lists and flowcharts in my mind, which increased my efficiency and developed my problem solving capacity. Compared to computing, communication has that surprise human element in the mix, which was quite intriguing to me. A computer will do what you tell it, but people tend to take information and process it through additional cultural filters before making a decision. This constantly kept me on my toes. Initially, I couldn’t forecast what results I would get for my campaigns, events, strategies and projects. Slowly, but surely, I gained a better understanding of human nature. I took a scientific approach and used the data from previous campaigns to predict future results. Thus, I became more and more confident in my ideas. By applying my somewhat limited computing experience in PR, I became one of the most technical communicators in my professional network. That eventually paid off when marketing shifted towards a predominantly digital approach.
My career so far has been somewhat unpredictable. Because I’m such a curious person, I want to do everything, experience everything and learn everything. I’ve worked in two countries and several cities and in lots of industries – manufacturing, retail, consultancy, FMCG, not-for-profit, training, IT and telecoms. I feel that’s one of my main strengths – having been exposed to so many fields, I’m able to borrow concepts and practices from one and apply them to another, which mostly yields great results.
Since I joined Black Pepper, I’ve had the pleasure of once again being surrounded by computing prodigies and I realised just how much I’d missed that. I like geeks. Even when the conversations get too technical for me (more often than I like to admit), I find it invigorating to try and wrap my mind around complex technical concepts. I’m relishing the creative freedom I get in terms of marketing campaigns, as well as the data driven approach of everyone around me.
Whilst I’m in no way a Java specialist, or a UX expert, or an Agile expert for that matter, I think my particular skill set is well suited to this environment. I am fanatical about innovation and gadgets, I can understand how tech innovations might impact our society and then develop marketing content and campaigns around that. I can’t say the same for a lot of other industries, which is why when I’m at the office I don’t really feel I’m working, more getting paid for pursuing my hobbies. Really, not a day goes by that I don’t think I’ve got the best job in the world. Sometimes, I even say it out loud.
So I’m thinking I might settle down now. I flirted with a number of other fields, but software might just be my ideal partner.