On Friday, I shared across my social media platforms a few images accompanied with a caption that encapsulated a few wins from my engagements from the week. One of the reasons why I do this, is to highlight what typically goes on in a week in my career, and the kind of work spectrum from what I like to call Vuyolwethu As A Service (we’ll explain this shortly), as well as with my newly founded company, InnovTel comprises of.
It was overwhelmingly received with great positivity encouraging more of these kinds of post, and as a follow up to my question (which came with a resounding yes) on whether I should unpack what happens in my day/week, I thought it fit so share with you how I manoeuvre being remote.
Over the past few months, I’ve become intentionally aware of the kind of work I do, and the challenge and opportunity that this has presented in separating the offerings and services of my business and that from my personal brand. InnovTel provides services in Innovation Strategy and Monitoring and Evaluation, while Vuyolwethu As a Service (VaaS) is strictly focused on Corporate Moderation, Strategy Consulting and Brand Influence. This has been super helpful in accepting conflicting invitations, and even internal conversations of which umbrella the service desired can be delivered under.
So, with all that said, how does a week in my life really look like?
I’ve segmented this outlook into two verticals (VaaS and InnovTel) with three highlights each of a scenario that will hopefully provide you with a lens of how I spend my week.
Let’s take a look.
Vuyolwethu As A Service (VaaS):
1. Campaign Paused: One of the three ways that I provide a service to clients, is through brand influence with partnerships that are aligned to my verticals of startup advisory, business innovation, gender parity and the lines in between. About a week ago, I was approached by an agency that lead a campaign for a financial services group and once the engagement started, with rates approved on, it was time to send content and get it approved. Unfortunately, a few days earlier before the campaign went live, the client took a decision to put the campaign on pause.
2. Panel Discussion: A client, global technology firm has just launched a partnership with an enterprise technology solution that is seeking to engage on the importance of transformation. Scheduled 5-6 weeks prior, this week was time to shoot and engage on the processes and investments that I have made in InnovTel to insulate and ready it from the COVID-19 pandemic by being a digital business. Using tools like Sage, Payfast and banking with Standard Bank has assisted.
3. Renegotiating a Rate: Everyone wants to get a good price for their service, and beyond that transaction, I focus on the value that can be provided. I recently onboarded a new client who wanted to negotiate my moderating rate, mostly attributed to the fact that they would have to incur costs of taking me out of my home and put me in studio. In keeping with the theme of value creation and exchange, they’ll now also be coming onboard as clients of InnovTel.
1. Competition Preparation: I consulted as a selection committee member from the hundreds of entrants of the student entrepreneurship competition, and this resulted in an invitation to be one of the judges at the invitation of the vice-chancellor of the university. One of the reasons why I love working with universities is the great opportunity to contribute to levelling the playing field in giving all students to exercise the viability of their ideas, as well as an enabling environment and safe culture to cushion failure.
2. Client H2 Expansion Meeting: One of most exciting words that I had heard this week was a client that expressed that they wanted to take our relationship to the next level – and that was to expand our services to them, capacity as well as the region in which they’ll be operating in in 2021. An introductory hour-long conversation that has led to weekly series of mapping and planning the next few years. To say this meeting was the highlight of the week, would be an understatement.
3. Payment, Vendor loading: Business isn’t always sexy, and one of the things that isn’t sexy about business is the payment period and prior to that, the onboarding back and forth of document submission and form refilling. And this week, was filled with a client whom I engaged with doing that for two days (luckily a few minutes in total).
And there you have it, a brief executive summary of what goes on in my week – some highlights, important lowlights and some tactics employed to ensure that value creation is achieved.
How does your week look like, and what services and conversations do you engage in to ensure that you make the most of the value that you trade?
I’d love to hear from you.
One of my earlier experiences of self-promotion was through a mentor (now turned sponsor) of mine who did It on my behalf, and it eventually led me to working with a multi-billion dollar global intelligence and media firm in their first innovation labs in an emerging market and being the first hire. A proud moment (and notice, this is also a showcase of my badassery) that will definitely stay with me for a lifetime. As I began navigating the world of work, never mind that of corporate, I noticed that both young and old professionals (especially women) have a hard task of talking about how badass they were and taking credit in the projects that they were involved in, something that bothered me much, because I definitely saw a part of me in this, and whenever I could, self-regulate.
“I think she sometimes forgets that she’s a junior executive, I feel like she would never work well with other people because she’s always talking about the work that she does.”, a comment reserved about me by a senior executive in industry a few months ago.
While for some cultural, and others religious or spiritual teachings and for another group, a cocktail of all these ways of learning and being, self-promotion is and has always been something associated with vanity. Even with the definitions below, sourced from Oxford Dictionary and Merriam Webster Dictionary respectively, notice not only the structure of the definitions, but also the gender placement per definition.
noun: self-promotion; plural noun: self-promotions
the action of promoting or publicizing oneself or one's activities, especially in a forceful way.
"she's guilty of criminally bad taste and shameless self-promotion"
Definition of self-promotion
: the act of furthering one's own growth, advancement, or prosperity : the promotion of oneself didn't try to disguise his self-promotion
Because self-promotion is deemed more of a masculine exercise, when women do it, it comes across as not only trying to join a boy’s club, but also adopting a swear word. Weird, isn’t it? Or does this sound familiar? This means that we also incur a double cost, socially and professionally. Seen as less likeable, advocating too strongly when we raise our profile but also when we don’t do it, seen as incompetent leaders who won’t see their value and their worth and are passively getting by with their work. There’s also the esteemed professional proverb of “Let the work talk for itself” that cements these values around self-promotion. We’ve ironed out the semantics and politics around this matter, how do we now actualise it?
In her (revised and update) book, Nice Girls Still Don’t Get The Corner Office: Unconscious Mistakes Women Make to Sabotage Their Careers, author Dr Lois P. Frankel talks about the importance of taking yourself out of your sweet spot and highlights that “… It’s important to take yourself out of the women’s safe zone and toward the edge of the field where the winners are playing.”
In recognising that, let’s invest in the power of three, and start with these three marching orders to kickstart your journey to raising your profile and tapping into the badass that you are:
1. Leverage Social Media
Whether Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn, these platforms add value dependent on how you use them. Just like any conversation, it’s a give and take of listening and allowing your community and followers to talk about themselves, and an opportunity for you to talk about what’s relevant to the conversation or one that you want to drive. Share about your work win for the week, a speaking engagement that you participated in, sharing and congratulating the work of your fellow industry peers and/or friends and even a book that you’re reading with a mini review. These small steps and a strategy in place will definitely allow you to start thinking about how you can take the opportunity of the internet and its community to elevate your profile, and serve your community and purpose.
2. Tell your Truth - Authentically
When you have worked on a successful (or not so much) project and were the lead of a team, and post that on social media, that is the truth and whether you share the winnings or losses and lessons behind that, that is authentic content. However, if you’re taking all the glory in something that required the work of 2-10 other people, that’s you being an actual self-righteous and ill mannered non-team player. The only form of self-promotion that’s tactful, is one of truth and truth told authentically. And, as uncomfortable as sharing this may be with the world, remember that you did it and this is your opportunity to move towards operating outside your comfort and toward the edge. Career opportunities, and mentorships also arise from doing this, so if not for yourself, then from the other young and older people who gets inspired.
3. An Opportunity for Mentorship
It’s not always rosy, and as much as we share our successes, I’m a big believer that it’s also just as important to share your losses and challenges. This, because in as much as we may not want to admit it, whenever we have a platform or communities, we have a responsibility with how we use it, because people look up to you. How you drive and use that conversation and responsibility, that is completely up to you. Share your journey to connect dots, and information so that other may be empowered.
This won’t be easy, but I want you to try!
The comment by the senior executive, did it pinch? A little, however after I understood that the core of their reasoning was based on my self-promotion and not the lack of truth or authenticity about my actual work, I opened a bottle of wine and focused on how I could continue connecting the dots for other women, so that more magic and impact may be amplified and badassery be multiplied. This, is also important in the spaces that you allow yourself to thrive in, they become a catalyst in themselves. A recent experience of this was at the launch of The W Collective at the World Economic Forum on Africa. This is a lounge, a community of women who are focused on elevating the profile, high level discussions and networking of industry leaders who are focused on advancing career progression and personal development, and as it says in the name, we're more powerful as a collective. So ladies, get to your marching orders, and operate with what I like to call my "Personal Board of Directors", and cause a shift and change in the world with your badassery!
Images: The W Collective -