Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Story of Baby Blue the Pekitese

If ever you have wondered what would happen if you crossed a maltese with a Pekingese, baby Blue will answer these day dreams! I'm not sure that Pekitese's are a very well known mix, over shadowed by more popular breeds like the Maltipoo (Maltese x Poodle) or the Morkie (Maltese x Yorkie), but hopefully this will change. 

The story of how we happened upon Baby Blue is a good one, but what has come after that is even better. On a trip to Johannesburg for a wedding, my boyfriend dropped his mom and me off at a hair salon in Norwood for some dramatic Hollywood curls. Just when I thought I couldn’t be more delighted with the result, he returned from his “coffee” [read: a pet store across the road] with an unparalleled smile. He told me excitedly about the only puppy in the store, a tiny miniature maltese Pekingese cross. Of course curiosity got the better of me and I had to take a look, so a glammed up me strode into a crusty pet store. Lying in the corner and beyond small, a little boy puppy with piercing blue eyes gazed at us. Completely at home in our arms, he craved attention from the second we met him. Despite our instant bond, we knew we were flying back to Cape Town the next day, and were incredibly worried about flying with a new puppy. Amazingly enough, flying with a puppy is less dramatic than what it sounds. After approximately five calls to SAA, our pet request was through. Their policy is to check pets on as extra baggage, but only on certain flights (presumably those with sufficient space in the pressurized hold) and with advance request. We were able to collect Blue the next day, and head straight to the airport with an extra, tiny passenger. Beside myself during the flight, I had to ask the air hostess for any kind of sedative, worried for Blue’s sake at every bump of turbulence. When we collected him in Cape Town, after asking the pilot to check if he was off the flight yet, we found him next to the baggage collection in his cage. All the way home I had my hand gnawed on by his razor sharp teeth in the back of an Uber, oblivious to pain thanks to the overwhelming relief.

Since then, Blue has become the best part of our lives. He is a gentle companion who is intensely inquisitive with day to day tasks. Putting socks on is of course an open invitation for a game of tug of war (especially when you are late for work). Cooking is THE time to lie underneath the action and hope for a falling piece of carrot. And TV watching is for deep sleeps diagonally across the couch, until Discovery comes on and the primate noises can’t be ignored (in which case Blue watches with the same intent stare). It has been an ongoing journey of deciphering what elements are from the maltese side, and which from the pekingese side. What we have deemed to be his main maltese attribute is his playfulness. He is far more game orientated than what it seems any Pekingese is (according to my advanced research which included signing up to the “Pekinewsletter”). But he is also a sun loving laze about who is incredibly attached and sensitive which is more likely to have come from the Pekingese breed, as is his long back and beautiful tufty hair. The mix makes for a well-adjusted, social creature who demands undivided attention and care, with a quirky personality that commands that naturally. At five months he weighs just under 5kg and is unlikely to get much bigger. 

Follow Baby Blue's adventures on Instagram at @babyblue_pekitese

A necessary word of caution, despite the happy ending, is that I in no way would encourage purchasing a puppy from a pet store. In fact I would encourage against it. Apart from the obvious benefits of purchasing from a shelter, it’s incredibly worrisome that pet store puppies are sold with no home visit and in our case, documents with suspicious vaccination stickers and therefore a major threat of parvo virus. Not to mention we were charged a whopping R1800 for his travel cage which retails for less than half on Takealot. The only thing which half-way covers the guilt of supporting this trade, is that our home is a calm haven he may have otherwise not found. 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

From intern, to digital strategist to Head of Strategy

how I became a digital strategist

When I graduated from my Post Graduate Diploma in Marketing at the University of Stellenbosch, I was completely certain I wanted to pursue a career in digital. One of my lecturers told me that working in TV would be FAR more exciting, but there was something about the small screen that intrigued me then, and intrigues me still.

First of all, we can all agree that the internet is a strange place. One filled with cat memes, kimojis and TAKE THIS QUIZ TO FIND OUT WHICH PLANT YOU ARE quizzes. Downright bizarre. But it is also a quiet reminder that everything is possible – from bloggers who make money from nothing more than content and vloggers driving Discovery Sports (how did I miss that Jay Alvarrez and Alexis Ren broke up!) to amazing crowd sourced philanthropy projects, and cultural explosions online #blacktwitter

It really is a jungle out there in the internet and that’s why it was love at first sight. Anyway, with a healthy amount of dubious enquiry into how one becomes a digital strategist as with most agency jobs (in Cape Town at least) that one has to do an internship. Despite being the most hated word for young job market entrants, I will concede that it served me well. Unfortunately, it’s challenging to be specific about what kind of intern you would like to be, but you soon accept there is really only one kind. It’s a healthy dose of humble pie, mixed with a hunger to learn all you can from anyone willing to teach you. So the minutia is usually irrelevant. Anyway for the sake of accuracy, I was rejected and then later accepted as a Project Management intern at a small digital agency. Despite earning only R3500 a month, I was over the moon to at least be able to sponge up knowledge from a talented team. I soon became known as the Powerpoint expert, and put together a lot of presentations like how WeChat was to be the NEXT BIG THING in South Africa. Whilst not all the trends were on fleek, my company recognized that I would be better suited to strategy. And so I became the only strategist, reporting into the Head of Project Management. I was mainly self-taught, focussing a lot of time on how to set up UTM tracking, how to run paid media, Google Analytics and researching trends on sites like Trendwatching. Five years later, I am the Head of Strategy, overseeing all strategy work done in the company to ensure clients receive the best possible strategies which will have the largest impact on their bottom line.

The most common misconception about being a digital strategist is that there is one University degree or short course which can prepare you. There are just so many different kinds of strategists that it is tricky to find a one stop shop. In the agency world you get: SEO (search engine optimization) strategists, content strategists, social strategists, CRM (customer relationship management) strategists, CRO (conversion rate optimization) strategists, ecommerce focussed strategists and creative strategists. And it’s a double edged sword as I found it tough it inherently KNOW what kind of strategist I would be (and therefore specialise too soon). But fear not – it really is a case of trial and error – as with most things, finding out what you DON’T want is as important as knowing what you do want. But, where to begin?

  1. Job Shadow or undertake a short internship (preferably one with an offer of employment at the end of it)
  2. Have an open mind – just because you love social media, does not mean you will necessary work exclusively in social media as you often end up tailoring your skills to your agency’s offering
  3. Do the short courses which APPEAL most to you – avoid the very generic or the very specific at first. I have done courses where I felt I didn’t get great value, because I either knew too much or not enough about the course matter. Instead make it a priority to ENJOY it as you will learn the most when you heart is in it
  4. Keep a look out for events & talks in your area – some agencies host talks to give their heavy weights a chance to shine, and win over bright young minds (to employ) as well as clients in the field
  5. CHALLENGE yourself. Digital strategy is not something which comes easily to ANYONE. It is harboured over years of, I hate to say it, criticism – but also guidance, team work and getting to know WHAT WORKS!