WOMEN’S MONTH: Empathy is one of the most powerful tools, says Volvo’s Charmagne Mavudzi
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PRETORIA - Being a woman in the fast-paced marketing industry can be a daunting experience, but it is also a valuable one. Starting out was certainly scary for me! I was surrounded by powerful personalities who were all jostling to be heard. I soon realised that – if I wanted to be successful and relevant – I needed to find my own voice. To do that, I had to ask myself: “What do I want to achieve?”
In order to find the answer to that question, I had to turn to my childhood. I was raised an empath by my mom. My strength is understanding people, and it's there that I found my answer. I discovered that I wanted to make brands matter by approaching them from the perspective of their consumers. Instead of singularly focusing on brands and products, I focus on the people who use them. I invigorate brands by understanding their consumers and how the brands fit in their lives.
Empathy and compassion are central to the way that I operate. If you're not customer-centric you're shooting in the dark. For me, a customer-centric mindset starts with the people around me, colleagues, agencies and stakeholders. We've all gone through such a difficult time now with COVID-19, we have lost loved ones. During times like these, as a leader, you can't remain uninvolved. I need to create a space for my team to feel safe, appreciated and secure.
Knowing my own voice has guided me throughout my career. While working at Ogilvy & Mather, I ran the graduate programme. I started building relationships with and mentoring young post graduates entering the agency. This led to speaker engagements and more formal mentor relationships. This provided me with the opportunity to draw on my work experience, use it to assist others, and also be inspired by them.
So now I find myself in motoring, which is traditionally a male space. I celebrate my femininity but, at the same time, I bring my own flair to the table. I owe a lot of my self-belief to male influencers in my life. One of them was my father, who taught me innate strength. I have also had the privilege to work with male leaders, who have always judged me on merit. Furthermore, they have demonstrated a belief in me by giving me certain responsibilities.
In conjunction with my current role as Head of Consumer Experience at Volvo, I'm now studying digital transformation through a US-based university, as well as lecturing at the Johannesburg Business School. Part of my responsibility is creating their own digital marketing programme aimed at corporate business. In all of these areas I'm seeing my original intention flourish. I'm celebrating the individual in the corporate environment, both by working directly with their consumer journey via the digital space, and by teaching the dynamics of this to others.
In all of these spheres my message is still the same as that instilled in me by my mother and father: Believe in yourself. Develop the skill of intuition and self-awareness, so that from your gut you can trust who you are. When you have self-awareness, no one can shake you, and obstacles are springboards, not dead ends.
Contribution by Charmagne Mavudzi, Head of Consumer Experience and Marketing Communications at Volvo South Africa for IOL MOTORING.