Monday, May 19, 2014

When opportunity comes a-knockin'

I'm currently in my third and last year of studying Integrated Brand Communications at Vega School of Brand Leadership. It's been one hell of an experience. I've come a long way from not having a clue what to study after matric, to doing odd jobs and then a stint in the tourism industry, to knowing which industry I'd like to venture into and the companies I'd like to work for. 

I'm grateful that my Mom always instilled a hard working attitude in me. Back in the day when we had market days in primary school, she would always encourage me to make things with materials we had lying around, and sell them at school for pocket money. I was an avid baker too, so one day we came up with a way of making money from my efforts. My little sister and I made peanut butter biscuits, packaged them (along with our own "logo") and went door-to-door armed with goodies to sell. This was when I stayed in Wellington, and the quiet, safe neighbourhoods around us were the perfect place to act out out entrepreneurial ideas. I won't ever deny that I found the whole experience quite daunting, as I was a painfully shy kid back then, but I like to think that it helped me shape who I am today.

My point is that, even now, when I don't have my mother nagging me to get up and do something, I try to take advantage of every opportunity that is presented to me. When I moved to Cape Town, I decided that I wanted to do an internship with an advertising agency. My Mom knew an old colleague who was the MD of a well established retail agency (a bit of nepotism never hurt anyone!) and I managed to intern with a company that is part of the well-known Ogilvy group.

The first few months of my internship we horrible. I was fully prepared to start making coffee for the big dogs, but weeks went by and no one had even said a word to me. I actually had to go up to people and ask them if they had work for me, no matter how menial it was. I was so desperate to make a success of the internship, but every day I came home depressed and demotivated. As always, with everything, my expectations exceeded reality and I ended up disappointing myself. 

But slowly, things started to improve. I tried to put my fears and insecurities aside and actually went up creatives in the Studio and executives in the Client Service department and basically begged them to give me work to do. I also hung around the bar after 3pm every Friday and introduced myself as the new intern. I remember how shocked I was when I saw that the company had a fully stocked, free bar. And apparently this was the norm in ad agencies. How naïve I was back then. It's not as hectic as Don Draper whisky'ing it up at 11:00am, but once that email went out to signal that the bar was open, people didn't delay. But in all honesty, I knew that if I didn't try to connect with these people and make my stay enjoyable, I would in the end only really be disappointing one person - myself.

Fortunately, there was a vacancy in Traffic and I got to work alongside the Project Manager there, managing the different accounts and jobs coming in and out. I had never even known what a "job bag" was before then. I got to sit in on status meetings and attend pitches with real clients. I even got to accompany the Production Manager to the recording of a radio ad. Finally, things were looking up.

I look back on that time now, and I can't help but smile. It reminds me to keep pushing forward, no matter how hard things get. Sure, I had family and friends who encouraged and supported me throughout that period, but I could have given up. I could have quit. But I would never have experienced the organised chaos and stressful deadlines of an advertising agency, and also never connected with some really cool people, had I left.

I extended the internship, simply because I was loving it there and I could see that whatever assistance I offered, was appreciated. I went in not even expecting to be paid, but received a small stipend that I was grateful for. It was during this time that I decided to apply to Vega. After witnessing how an agency functions, I was not so sure I wanted to work in one. If I had, I would probably end up being an Account Executive, which sounds like a fancy title, but I saw it as basically doing a lot of admin work for the client. I wanted something more in the Communications/Strategy field, and that is how I came to choosing to do the Integrated Brand Communications Diploma at Vega.

When it was time to leave, many people came up to me and asked me why I didn't just stay at the agency, as they would have kept me on. I thought about it, but I really wanted to apply myself properly and earn a qualification. I stayed in contact with the friends I made there, and it's also how my relationship with someone blossomed into something more than friendship. I was also fortunate to get some wonderful references from people I respected immensely.

Throughout my time at Vega, I had this idea that I would try to do a small internship every holiday. Yeah, right... After working myself to the bone with homework, assignments and studying, working during my break was the last thing I wanted to do. Although I have a job as a sales assistant at a boutique in town which I love, I felt that I needed more experience at companies I could someday work at. I sent my CV to a number of places at the beginning of my December holidays, but all of the companies politely said that this was their least busy time, and they just didn't need any interns. I was disappointed, but after a while I was able to get into something else that suited my timetable. I contacted the World Design Capital team last year and have been helping them with various projects since then. It feels really great to be involved with a cause like that, and of course it helps that I love this city! 

Recently, I was lucky enough to help out at a local PR/Communications agency and develop a marketing campaign for a production that will be staged at the Artscape later this year. My friend Natalie and I got to think up ideas for experiential & guerilla marketing, activations (think flash mobs, etc.) and we had to present this to a team of professionals. Nerve-racking stuff! We also attended various meetings, took minutes and compiled reports for them as well. Fortunately we had experience in this department, as last year we were involved in Vega's annual Brand Challenge, where we get put in groups or "agencies" by a panel of lecturers, are assigned to real brands and have to come up with solutions to their problems. We have it again this year, and I must say I'm pretty nervous. I don't know if I'll get along with the people in my team, or if I'll even like the brand I have to work with (not that it should matter, as we are always reminded...)

I hope to keep posting things like this on my blog, because it's therapeutic for me but I also hope that people can learn something from my own experiences. It's certainly helped me to come to some realisations about myself and what I want for the future.

High fives and air punches,

Monday, May 5, 2014

Lately - a personal post

My closest confidante at college, my rock and regular advice-giver friend Natalie, inspired me to post something a little more personal on this blog (which I have been neglecting terribly).

Writing has always been my favourite outlet but I've never dared to publish what I've written. I didn't want to show my vulnerable side or any sign of weakness, and blog posts are far more intimate than just a couple of emotional tweets now and then. I hope to post more regularly about the goings-on in my life, but also stuff that's on my mind that requires a little more than 140 characters... I don't know if anyone will read this stuff but it helps me somehow, to put it out here on the interwebs.

I recently went through a really horrible break-up, the likes of which I have never experienced before. I won't go into too much detail, except to say I learnt some lessons about myself and relationships, which I will hopefully carry with me throughout my life. There were good times (some amazing ones actually) but ultimately we were not following the same path and had completely different dreams, goals and ambitions - as clichéd as that sounds.

The one regret I do have is airing my relationship on social media. I knew in my gut it was a bad idea in the beginning, because what if it bit me in the bum later on? Turns out it did and it has been incredibly hard to try to get better when there are reminders everywhere. But when you're head over heels in love with someone, you don't care. You want to show that person off. You want absolutely everyone to see how happy you are, the places you go, the people you see. And I think that's normal. It's just that when things don't end up as planned, it gets awkward. Because you've built up this "couple persona" - I don't know how else to word it.

I've seen it happen to other people and everyone just gets so involved in it. It's like entertainment for the rest of us. Maybe not for everyone. I know there are those who couldn't give a rat's ass, but I've felt like I've "known" these couples. You get to see all the parts of their lives, including the bad parts when they don't hold back on the nasty subtweeting.

It's so hard to accept that the person you imagined a life with is just not there anymore. You still expect that "good night" text and that message asking if you got home safely. The routine that you developed with that person is gone, and it takes some time to readjust to your new (single) life.

Sometimes I feel like I'll never feel whole again, like there's a part of me that really is missing. I see couples in the street holding hands, doing their thing, and I suddenly envy them. Then I give myself a pep talk and realise that I'd never really be content if I depended on another person for my happiness. I want to take this time to live my life the way I want to, and to just enjoy being on my own, doing my own thing. It sounds petty, but it's the truth.

I've been trying to constantly busy myself with things I enjoy, like my hobbies; reading and drawing, going out with friends, watching movies, etc. It may seem obvious but I know that when I'm feeling low I just want to hang out in my bed and sleep the day away. And that's the worst thing to do. Yeah, you've got to mourn and grieve in the beginning but that is one road you don't want to venture down for too long. Having these healthy distractions has really helped me to get out of my mind, which can be a very morbid place if I let it be.

One of the things that has been helping me get through this, are the personal stories that my friends and acquaintances have shared with me, about their own experiences and previous relationships. When you're all emo and fall into a dark pit of guilt and self-pity, you feel like you're the only one in the whole entire world going through this particular "trauma". It just takes chatting to a friend to put it all into perspective for you. You learn that it will get better. And during this time, I don't know what I would've done had it not been for the support of my family and friends.

Also, I know some people are completely averse to inspirational quotes and that sort of stuff (my pet peeve are Tumblr posts, you know the ones with rain drops on windows and some "artistic" quoted font) but to be perfectly honest, some of the stuff I've seen other people post has really helped me. I'm an optimistic person after all.

Every day is different. Some days I wake up all sprightly like it's going to be "civvies day" at school, and some days I dread the day like I have a looming Maths test and my insides feel all loose and gross. I just know I've just got to push through.

To quote one of the greatest songwriters of our age, Bob Dylan:

"The only thing I knew how to do
Was to keep on keeping on like a bird that flew
Tangled up in blue."

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Giemba's Guide To The Best Take-Aways In Cape Town - Amra's Take-Aways

My sincere apologies for not having posted anything in such a long time. To be honest, I got very lazy this holiday and found a million other things to do, than blog.

Anyway, a while back Rameez and I went to Access Park to have a look around, and we were peckish so we just decided to get something there rather than trek further. There's a little takeaway place called Amra's that serves pretty delish burgers, with a variety of yummy sauces to choose from, and you can have chips as well if you prefer. The onions are so yummy!

I can't remember exactly how much this was, but I know it was pretty reasonable, and went down very well with a Steri-Stumpie.