Righting the CV. Eliminating unconscious biases that lead to women being overlooked during the job recruitment process. This is one of the topics we talked about with Peanut when we had a word with her last week. Peanut is Ogilvy Africa’s Deputy Managing Partner For Strategic Initiatives.
Your name please and your work history?
My Government name is Anne Wanjugu Ngatia. I started work with McCann Erickson in 2008 as a young fresh girl out of University. I applied for a receptionist job after someone told me that there was an opportunity at McCann and I thought you know what, 7,000/- is money for something.
At the time I applied, Betty Radier was the MD and it was just around the Post Elections Violence time. Most people had not come back to work and she was there with an intern. She asked me to get into the account management team and she would let me know what happens from there.
In 2011 I joined CFC Stanbic Bank when they were going through the merger and changing to Stanbic Bank. I worked there for some time and then realized that once you do advertising and then you do corporate, it is like bungee jumping vs a desk job.
I came back to advertising and joined SCANAD where I worked until 2015. During that time, I did the KQ Rights issue, learnt a lot about the aviation industry and actually started specializing in it.
After that I left and stayed home with my daughter for some time, though I was lecturing at ISA at that time. Then I was called back to SCANAD where I was until 2018. I continued with aviation as a specialization and we managed to achieve a lot. We got KQ back on track to some extent even with the losses. That is when we started the job for capital optimization and selling equity for the debts that they had.
After that I moved to Ogilvy in 2018 and that is where I have been ever since. I took up this new role this year January.
Congratulations on that. What does this new role entail?
This is a role that actually exists globally. If you look at most big agencies like Publicis, Ogilvy, WPP, it exists. What has happened now is that we are adapting and modeling it for Africa because it is not a position that existed here.
I am in charge of growth and reputation management for Sub-Sahara Africa, which is markets above South Africa. When we are looking at growth it is also about global alignments in terms of new clients and ensuring that clients get the best out of Ogilvy. From best practices to how we even present ourselves in terms of creativity, innovation, and how we add value and grow their businesses.
When it comes to reputation it is about positioning Ogilvy Africa as the best choice for all the clients and employees. This is something we do not actively do in Africa. I’m sure you’ve seen that. Agencies are good at building brands, but we don’t do it for ourselves.
But of course, now with the digital tech officer called Covid, we are positioning ourselves in the global arena. That is why I took up this position. It is challenging and it has very many things that I find need to be done as I keep moving along.
What informed the creation of the new role at Ogilvy Africa
We are part of a global community. How do we position ourselves to win, not just in Africa but globally? Like I said, it is new in Africa but it exists in more developed markets. Considering where we need to be in the next years, we adopted the role to see how we can make sure we are best place for success.
What does it take to work in a position like yours in terms of education, training and special skills?
Let me start with special skills. It takes grit. A lot of it. These are unchartered waters for us so there is no prescriptive way that we are learning from. You have to be very open to learning new things, something that has been limiting a lot of professionals who have been doing things the same way for a certain number of years. Learn new skills and change the way you think.
You need to have multi-disciplinary skillsets and experience within the creative and advertising space. It also takes a lot of work in bringing different parts of the organization in the region and globally to work together for a certain outcome.
People skills are also very important. You can get the best outcomes out of the people you are working with.
For education, I was in Uni in USIU. I’m currently pursuing my CIM (Chartered Institute of Marketing). What I’m liking about this new world is that you can learn anything online and get the right skillset and certification. Those are some of the things that have really helped me in growing my skills.
I do not like saying that you are limited by where you reach in education. If you are determined as a woman to get somewhere you will get there. It’s a matter of coming up with the right tools and the right associations to get yourself there.
The name Peanut. Where did it come from?
My Kikuyu name is Wanjugu. Njugu is peanuts. And then I was very small like a peanut. People had so many variations of that Wanjugu name so I decided to standardize it and say that Peanut is now the official name. I’ve since been building equity towards the name Peanut. This is a name I use even in boardrooms though a lot of people have a problem adopting it. That is how Peanut became my standard name.
This being the month that celebrates women, what would you say to young girls who are eyeing careers in PR?
We do not just need to look at PR. Any little girl out there can be anything they want to be. If the last two years have shown us anything, we now have an African woman as president in Tanzania and we have a woman Vice President in the US. So, anything any little girl wants to be they can be.
What brings this close to home is my daughter who has no limitations in what she wants to be. When we were growing up it was always a lawyer, a doctor, or a pilot. For my little daughter she has moved from a race car driver to living in Mars, and now she decided she will be a book illustrator. Those are not professions we thought of.
These are exiting times for young girls and women. We have an activist who is driving an agenda for climate change globally. It is fantastic and all I can say is that the road looks very clean and fair and just. There is a clear shift in mindsets in what people see as career paths.
What is the impact of the #RightTheCV campaign to you?
When we started this campaign, I was working with two gentlemen first and the weirdest thing is that I never thought about it. I never thought that bias would affect any of my chances to get a job. It is normalized and it is not the first thing that comes to you when someone writes and says that you were unsuccessful in a job application.
It made me very conscious that it is something that we need to pay attention to and talk about. I think it was such a simple but fantastic thing to do where we say, ‘let me be judged on merit and nothing else’. It is something that we have implemented in all our offices in Sub-Sahara Africa and not just Kenya.
When we bring it to the forefront it makes people aware that it could be happening to them whether they know it or not. And for women to actively take a role in trying to change this narrative and kill our own biases even to each other.
Over the years it has not been easy for women to climb up the corporate ladder and get to where you are today. Why do you think this is so and how do we change it?
Considering that I’m a single mother to a daughter, I firmly believe in hard work, doing the right thing, and making sure my value system is not compromised in terms of what I bring to the table. I feel that is a shift that is happening even within Kenya in terms of women climbing the corporate ladder. In Ogilvy Africa for example, 50% of the leadership team is women. I believe this is changing and I think it can only get better especially with the things we are seeing not only in the workplace but also in the home. I’m starting to feel that the boychild is becoming an endangered species because women are coming out so strongly and being able to be better and more productive.
I know it has been hard and we still have a long way to go, but the correct results have finally started to be seen.