During Women's Month, we're celebrating women in digital. Those who pioneered, those who perfected, and those who make a difference every day. We'll feature one woman per weekday for the month.
Today's featured woman in digital is Lana Strydom. She's the Executive Head Digital, Content and Social Marketing, and all-round digital doyen.
Lana started working on her first digital projects in 1998, developing some of the first websites in South Africa that were database-driven and therefore functional. During the time, she owned and managed a small advertising agency Trilogy Advertising and Digital. Running a business isn't for the fainthearted, and learning functions like HR and finance while managing a rapidly changing environment with employees and stakeholders proved to be the biggest challenges she had to overcome at the time.
Since then, Lana worked with big names including Paracon, MTN, ABSA and FNB. Then, in 2014, she was appointed Executive Head of Online and Self-Service at Vodacom, and moved into the role of Executive Head Digital, Content and Social Marketing (similar, but much more focused on accelerating digital marketing than her starting role in the business).
One of her greatest lessons and take-homes in these roles has been about the importance of deciding early on in one's career whether one wants to be a generalist or a specialist. She says "I chose to be a specialist rather early in my career, what that means is that I have no ambition to run a company or a division in which I am not an expert. This means that there is a ceiling for advancement in a single company, which means that it is more likely that I’ll move industry and company than up the corporate ladder just for the sake of advancement."
On what she loves most about digital marketing, Lana's notes her love of working with some of the smartest and most creative people in the industry, the constant challenge to find new solutions and become more efficient; as well as the opportunities to experiment with new technology. One of her current goals experimenting with new technology is to implement an AI engine to replace 60% of the creative production capability currently delivered by an agency.
On how she achieves work-life balance, Lana has learned to be disciplined with her time over the years. Each week brings specific objectives that span her personal and professional life, and she believes that one needs to manage every day and every week as a measurable unit, which allows you to allocate time to everything that is important to you. Attending industry events is important, especially for networking, so she can stay in touch with the industry and its people. She also reads like a maniac (at least one book a week) and everything else in between is industry-relevant reading. Lana runs 30km a week, flexes her artistic fingers by painting, drawing and writing.
We asked Lana what she would suggest to girls and young women looking to work in digital marketing. She offered the following point:
- Know that you always need to learn to stay relevant, curiosity and a hunger for knowledge is critical in any digital field
- Firstly be an expert in marketing, know as much as any other marketer and you’ll have a good foundation
- A deep knowledge of business in general is absolutely critical. Digital is measurable and providing a tangible return is now a primary objective for digital marketing activity. Knowing which business metrics to pursue for which marketing activities has become a critical skill
- Invest a lot of time and training into understanding and interpreting data. Digital marketers are fundamentally going to become data scientists in the future
- Learn the technical fundaments such as HTML and Java coding, database structures, reporting principles and technology, serving, tracking and tagging technology, automation technology and tools – too many “digital” marketers know nothing about digital
- Understand the fundamentals around project management, knowledge on how to manage a basic SDLC will stand you in good stead