working from home with zimbini peffer

Zimbini Peffer is a wife and mom of two kids, she grew up in Port Shepstone on the South Coast and currently lives in Cape Town. I met Zimbini on the first day of my first corporate job at Procter & Gamble (she probably won’t remember this). It was January and most people were still on leave, so the office was pretty quiet until Zimbini walked in. She walked in greeting people, chatting loudly and if you know her, you will know her signature laugh was part of those conversations too. When she saw me and didn’t recognise me, she introduced herself and asked me about myself, I told her and she proceeded to introduce me to everyone that was sitting around me. Seeing her being able to be fully herself in the work environment, made me feel more comfortable and confident.  She is a force of nature and a unicorn marketer but I will let you decide that for yourself as she shares her working from home experience with us.

WHAT IS YOUR OCCUPATION AND/OR HUSTLE?

I am the Head of Marketing & Digital at Phillip Morris which is one of the biggest tobacco companies in the world. I joined the organisation because they have introduced a new product into the market called IQOS which is a heat not burn tobacco consumption product. I was intrigued by the opportunity of bringing to market an alternative to cigarettes that would be less harmful to people and change an entire category’s behaviour.

WHAT DOES YOUR JOB ENTAIL? A BRIEF SUMMARY OF YOUR ROLE

My role is to develop a marketing strategy that commercialises the business strategy. So if the business wants to sell a certain number of items to make certain amount of money, Marketing then builds a strategy that will assist the business to achieve the objectives that have been set. We consider the following areas:

  • Who is the consumer that we are talking to, what is their need and how can we fulfil that need
  • We also need to understand the competitor landscape that our product plays in, how our product performs in comparison to other products so that we understand the product benefits and differentiators

This then helps us to create a campaign and messaging that we bring into the market to stimulate demand. In summary my role is to orchestrate the different functions within marketing portfolio (content creation around the brand, digital marketing within the brand and trade marketing) towards the implementation of a marketing strategy.

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HOW HAS THIS PERIOD IMPACTED YOUR INDUSTRY?

From the moment that lock down was announced, tobacco was banned. The impact has been significant because we haven’t been able to sell. There has also been an illicit market that has always been in play and when we were banned, they had an opportunity to thrive. People were buying cartons of cigarettes at ridiculous prices. The challenge ahead for us now is about getting back into the market & getting our consumers back from unregistered brands that they were getting from the illicit market. On the upside, the lock down period has given me and my team a chance to focus on some of the fundamentals of our business.

HOW HAS THE TRANSITION TO WORKING FROM HOME BEEN FOR YOU AND YOUR FAMILY?

It has helped me realise that my personality at work is quite different to how I am at home. I am quite an extrovert at work, very passionate, energetic about getting things done and delivering results. That takes a lot of energy out of me so by the time I leave work and go home, I am actually quite tired and drained. I then fold into more of an introvert at home and enjoy watching TV and cuddling with my kids. The house is not as fast paced and as highly energized as my work environment, the energy at home is quite chilled and relaxed. So bringing those two worlds into one space was firstly very shocking for my kids and somewhat my husband as well because they had never really seen what I am like at the office. There was an acknowledgement that whilst I bring my full self to the office, the way I get things done at the office is quite different to how I am at home

I started to think that maybe I am putting on a façade at work but I also think that it is what I have developed as my socialising capabilities that support me in achieving business results. So I bring that part of myself to work because it fuels my deliverables, whilst a home doesn’t quite run like an organisation, so I cannot sustain the same energy levels when I get home because I would burn out.

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HOW DO YOU START YOUR DAY?

I turn on my work phone to check emails. One of the mistakes that I have made in the past is to use my personal number for work purposes but with this role I decided that I would keep it separate. So I have my own personal phone and my work phone. So depending on my mood that morning, generally I check Instagram and then check my diary to see what my day looks like. Initially when lock down started, I had back to back meetings and my kids actually said to me that they now know exactly what I do, my job is to be in meetings and talk all day. 🙂 As a management team we discussed this and decided to set up boundaries about when meetings start and end. This enables me to juggle what I need to do from a work standpoint and to also support my team.

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WHAT IS YOUR GO TO UNIFORM?

In the beginning it was mostly my pyjamas because I believe that I went into a social withdrawal. Being around people energises me which as a result makes me an extrovert and initially I just felt my energy levels being quite low. The best that I could do was to get out of bed and drag myself to my workstation, work through the day and only shower in the evenings. That was my routine in the first few months of lock down. In the last month though I have started getting dressed up every day and what works for me is selecting a cool sneaker, tracks pants or comfortable jeans. Sometimes I also wear my gym gear with a sweater. If I need to be on camera for a meeting, I try to be semi-casual and I will wear a jersey with ruffles or a denim shirt.

HOW DO YOU STAY FOCUSED AND MOTIVATED?

Instagram took me out of my funk. I kicked off a project called #MoreTruth, where I have conversations with people every week on a Saturday evening on Instagram Live. We are currently in the 8th week. If you look back at the first episode you will see that I was still in my pyjamas phase, I am wearing my purple gown. Then in episode 3 & 4, I started to change my look and put on a little bit of makeup and by episode 5 & 6, I was started to get dressed up and my hair was done. I now had a social event with people to look forward to where we talk, laugh, debate and I get to catch up with people that I haven’t caught up with in a long time. I enjoy being able to share my journey, grow with others and learn from them as well, it has rescued me from my lock down funk.

HOW ARE YOU STAYING ACTIVE?

I think we all went into lock down thinking it would be a 3 week stint or at most a month. I was already doing yoga and I was mixing it with personal training classes. My yoga instructor setup Zoom classes and I was attending them three times a week. That lasted until the funk hit me and I remember when I ordered my one size bigger jeans from Zara. I was body shaming myself as to how did I get here and it was because I was sitting at my computer eating all day. I then started Body 20, it is an electricity supported training program where you spend 20 minutes attached to this machine in a suit and you basically do cardio, strength training etc. They increase intensity of the training and 20 minutes is equivalent to about 2 or 3 hours at the gym. So I have been doing that twice a week and I am happy to say that my size bigger jeans are now loose and I am back to my old wardrobe.

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HOW HAVE OTHER WOMEN IN THE CORPORATE SPACE SHOWED UP FOR YOU?

Every woman that has said yes to be featured on #MoreTruth has shown up in a massive way for me. (Zimbini just finished the first season of #MoreTruth conversations, you can check it out on her instagram profile @zimbini_peffer) I am also part of a WhatsApp group which consists of three amazing females, Khululiwe Mabaso, Nokubonga Mbanga (my life coach) & Lesego Charlie, the four of us call ourselves the Switch On Group. When for example a topic like Black Lives Matter comes up and you have no outlet to have a conversation, it’s been an easy way to just drop a question or a voice note in the WhatsApp group and you have three people that will engage with your feelings and shed light on why you are feeling that way. We think that’s what our friendships do for us but this group is essentially a back office where we have difficult, vulnerable conversations and help each other show up as the best version of ourselves in the world.  Then I also have a group with my friends, we call ourselves the Baby Gals and that is a fun, loving and warm space. All of these women show up for me in different ways.

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WHAT IS THE LAST TV SERIES THAT YOU BINGE-WATCHED? SHARE A BRIEF REVIEW

I have been watching Modern Family with my kids, we went back to the first series. We are now on the seventh series and what we love is that the show brings to life difficult topics to talk about in a very light-hearted way which makes for interesting conversations at home. There is a gay couple on the show who have adopted an Asian girl who is very quirky and there is something interesting about her quirkiness and her difference. My kids enjoy her as a character because I think she validates their own quirks and that they don’t have to fit in or look like anyone else. The show just captures family & societal scenarios and has normalised them for us in a way that they aren’t in our day to day interactions and when we are out in the world.

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