Thursday, April 30, 2009

Why I Am in Marketing

I had got into B-school without really knowing what it entailed, without knowing what it was going to prepare me for. Yes, I was  terribly ill-informed and na├»ve.

Once I got in though, I was fascinated. And in spite of my Economics degree, what interested me most was(not Finance, as I'd expected - in fact I barely scraped through my Finance classes, but) Marketing. It was creative yet analytical, fun yet seriously important.

So while I was excited to have a job in research by the end of my course (and if you had asked me to choose, the job I got was exactly the job I would have picked out of all that were offered on my campus), what I loved most about the job was probably that I mostly worked on consumer goods projects which were somewhat related to marketing. So it should be no surprise that I left, ten months later, for an actual Marketing role.

I have had doubts sometimes, but no real regrets. This is what I love. Here are a few reasons why:

  • I believed then, and do now, that Marketing is the single most important function in a business. You might have a great product, but unless you communicate it well, unless you try to create a good (at least) customer experience at each step, it’s not going to get very far. 
  • It’s creative. I get to write, to work with words and spaces and colours. (Okay, I’m not very good with the spaces and colours part.) You need to think of ways to attract, to surprise.
  • It needs enough analytical skills to keep my left-brain involved. You can’t – or shouldn’t – work without reason, without metrics, without planning. I draw up marketing plans (that get changed drastically as we move on), I follow website and email metrics, I argue over why we need to use this phrase instead of the other.
  • I am an intensely private person and I love my solitude. I can’t much stand noise, and while the occasional party is thrilling, I prefer to spend much of my personal time alone or with the Guy. (Or online. That counts as ‘alone’, right?) Yet it’s very different when I’m at work. I love meetings, discussions, arguments. I worked for nearly two years in a largely solitary role, working directly with just one or two people, and it bored me. Now I work with people in different functions – Sales, the different functional practices my company has (such as applications and infrastructure services), Design, even HR – and of course my bosses, who are the ultimate decision-makers. Meetings seem a waste of time sometimes, but most of the time you can learn so much from other people, and it brings in much needed conversation and life into a day otherwise spent working at my desk.
  • I need to continuously read and update myself on what’s happening. There is so much marketing going on all around: a marketer needs to continuously analyze what’s changing, what’s new, what working and what isn’t. I’m not saying I’m great at this (or any of the above, really), but I try, and I love the journey. (Now this is arguably true of all fields - but reading about Twitter or blogging seems more like fun than work!)
  • As enough marketing and self-help gurus have pointed out, each of us is a marketer. We market ourselves to prospective employers or spouses. We market ourselves every day, to our bosses, colleagues, friends. We want to be respected and admired. So I get good practise - and perspective! - doing that for my company as well as myself. 
What about you? Why did you choose your line of work? I tag Chandni, the Mad Momma, Alankrita and Praveen to answer. 

Saturday, April 25, 2009

On Ads: Skin Care and Hair-removing Products

What's with these ads implying that the only reason women don't show skin is that they aren't hairless enough?

First there was Katrina Kaif in a Veet ad, apparently feeling 'confident' about tearing off her dress sleeves before walking on the ramp only because she had remembered to use Veet to get hair off her arms. 

Worse, there's Kareena Kapoor for Anne French who reveals her shoulders and arms while other women pull at their sleeves and scarves: "Twacha ho khoobsurat, toh darr kaisa?" ("Why be afraid when you have beautiful skin?" or something to that effect.) 

I suppose the reason she doesn't walk about naked is that she has a hairy torso, and Anne French only works on arms and legs?

And did anyone catch that one where a tennis player wears long pants and long-sleeved tops because her arms and legs aren't pretty enough? And she's told she has to wear a tennis dress for the actual match because, don't you know, it's not about how you play, it's about how much (hairless and pale) skin you show?

And of course she wins the match, because hallelujah! her skin is pretty and she can wear a dress now!

Edited on 26 April 2009: I just saw the ad again, and it's for some Vaseline body lotion. Apparently, the reason she didn't show her limbs was because they weren't the same colour as her face! So Vaseline comes to the rescue and ensures her legs are as white as her face. Now, I not only wonder why she doesn't use Vaseline all over her body, I also wonder how Vaseline knows exactly what colour all of our faces are! Does it magically take on the colour of the face of whoever uses it? Or can only women whose faces are a certain shade of white use it? 

Friday, April 24, 2009

No, I Did Not Vote.

And I've never voted in my life. 

There, I said it. And I am really ashamed of it. I've never got my name in any voters' registration list: the last few years I have been moving around too often to be able to do so. I really wanted to vote this time, and tried out the www.jaagore.com website. (That's a fantastic website, isn't it? I have to remember to always buy Tata Tea!) 

But you're supposed to have stayed at least six months at the same place before applying, and at the time it had only been a month or two since we'd moved to our new flat. So I decided to wait. I tried again recently, and put in six months anyway. I downloaded my form, but I fell ill just around that time, so forget dropping it off. (I doubt I would have gone to vote even if I had got registered, though, I have no wish to stand in a queue with my health still a bit shaky.)

But I'm determined to try harder next time. I'm aiming to apply to get on the voters' list sometime this year. (And I'm noting this here so that you can shame me if I don't.)

What about you? Did you vote? Did you use the jaagore website? Do you think there'll be more people voting this year because of jaagore?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Heat

The heat is like a third person in the room
Making us shift uncomfortably in our chairs
We can’t have a private conversation
Just you and me.

We glance at our books, and the tv
And wish the time would pass quickly
Till its bed time and we can move
To our air-conditioned bedroom.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Falstaff's Book

I realise I hadn't yet fulfilled my promise of writing about Falstaff's book. I read it soon after writing that post, but I was ill then and for a couple of weeks after. And now it's been so long that I'm afraid my impressions aren't so fresh any more.

To be honest, I was a bit disappointed. But that is probably because I was expecting so much out of it. This is Falstaff, after all, a blogger I have long admired for his sharp wit and sharper arguments. I was expecting something profound and life-changing. 

The book is interesting, though. It has different kinds of stories, which is part of its appeal. Some of them (the Perfect House, for instance, and April Fool) I found a little simplistic or predictable in how the plot unfolds. Some were interesting, to say the least. I think I liked Juliet best, just as I had loved reading it on the blog.

I look forward to reading some of the stories again, when I am not feverish and impatient. Go buy the book. It's definitely worth a read. 

How Do You Know When You're Going Mad?

How do you know? Is it when you hear voices that no one else does? Is it when you are sure something is right that everyone says is wrong? How do you know whether you are insane, or everyone else is?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Photo Blogging: the Sky

And because it's too hot for me to write a proper post, here are some pictures I had taken on a drive with the Guy last weekend. The pictures might have been better if I had had the camera and not just my phone, but they still capture something of that glorious evening sky...






Sunday, April 12, 2009

To the Lady Downstairs

I appreciate that you're trying to bring up your little son
Instead of sending him to playschool
But I am fed up of nursery rhymes
And please don't play 'Lakdi ka kathi' one more time.

I don't want to say you scream
Because that may be just how you talk
But have you ever heard yourself?
Do you know you are loud?

It was entertaining to hear the couple's fight
When my TV wasn't working
But now it's been fixed:
Would you keep that in mind, please?

I know children are noisy
But your child really isn't
I never hear his voice
Except when he responds to you.

And I know it's difficult to get a child to bathe
But do you really - all three of you
Have to shout in the bathroom just below mine
At nine-thirty on a Sunday morning?

Friday, April 10, 2009

A Writer Needs Her Experiences

Hey, I say to the Guy:
How can I write without having different experiences?
I have only ever slept with you,
I say, as I snuggle up to him.
How can I write about different smells,
different bodies,
what some man might do
after he rolls off her
or whether they talk through it
like you and I do...
How can I write
about the exploring fingers
of any other man?

Personal Update

I have been ill for two weeks now - which explains the slow blogging. (Oh, okay, you didn't notice.) The Guy and I were worried and scared for a bit, when I didn't seem to be getting better, but it turns out nothing major is wrong and I am recovering, though much too slowly for my liking. 

Meanwhile, work is piling up, the Guy has been wearing himself out trying to take care of me, and well, things haven't been great. I'm not supposed to eat out or eat anything oily or spicy, the TV has conked off, and I'm too weak to even walk much. Plus the heat, which is back in full force. As you can see, we are going to have an entertaining weekend.

Regular blogging is expected to resume, but what with a lot of things happening at work even without my long time off and me still being too weak to hold the laptop long, don't expect a lot of action. (Let me fish out a couple of things that I'd written some time ago. If you haven't seen it, it's new, right?)

Sunday, April 05, 2009

On Resumes

We’re doing a series of sessions with some students (as part of Friends of Children) who are due to graduate next year, counseling them on how to prepare for recruitment. (Getting jobs, that is. Just making sure we're clear.) Among other things we discussed today, we talked about resumes. This gave me an opportunity to structure my own thoughts around the subject. So I thought I’d put them up here, to invite comment.

A resume has one specific purpose: to get you to the next step of the hiring process. The resume won’t get you a job by itself, but it will certainly help you get there. It should hint at the interesting, talented and competent person you are, so that you are called for the interview and get to talk about how wonderful you are.

Given that, I think a resume should do three things:

  1. Introduce you: give a summary of your career till date
  2. Highlight your best side: this is the part where your achievements and your interests make you a smart and interesting person
  3. Show that you are a good fit for the job in question: this is the tricky part, where your qualities need to match the company and the job you’re applying for

The third point, I suspect, is one that most of us often neglect. Every job, every company calls for different skills and attitude. The key is to highlight that in your resume (and no, this is not a fiction-writing exercise).

Every single word on that resume should be aimed at showing what a wonderful fit you are for the job. It’s no point just saying, “experience in doing x”: describe how it made you a better, more competent person. That office party you helped organise? “Organising  an entertaining office event helped me hone my coordination skills. Getting everything done satisfactorily on time and making sure that the event was fun for everyone was difficult but very rewarding.” One young man who showed me his resume had ‘trekking’ listed as a hobby. I suggest something like “I enjoy going on treks to fuel my inner nature enthusiast” in its place. Get the idea?

I don’t think a resume needs to follow any particular format, but it should contain these elements:

  • A career objective, that should ideally show how right you are for this particular company and job role
  • A summary of your professional skills and work experience
  • Details of your work experience at each job role (not too much detail, just highlight what will be of relevance for the position you’re applying for): if you're a fresher, maybe you did a summer training, some interesting projects, helped your brother out at his store?
  • Your education and academic performance
  • Your interests, to show what a wonderful person you are
  • Your contact details, so that they can get in touch with you if you succeed in impressing them

Anything I have missed?

Of course, all this has to be keeping in mind that the reviewer is going to have a very short attention span and is just going to skim through the document. So lots of bullets, no long paragraphs, and keeping it short (under two pages is my opinion, though I'm sure this differs) might all help. 

One significant way in which the resume of a candidate with no work experience differs from someone who has at least a few years of experience: in the first case, you have to actively look for things that might add to your value as a candidate. In the second, you have to think carefully of what to keep and what is irrelevant at this point.

And - this should be hardly necessary to point out - but absence of errors, clean and consistent formatting, and a readable font size all help!

Of course, I’m in no way an expert, and I don’t even follow all of the above myself. So I thought this might be a good place to put these points down.

If you think I’ve missed the mark or left out something, hit the comments section. Also, if you have any advice on how students who will hit the job market in another year should prepare, please hold forth. 

Added on 4th April 2009: Praveen pointed to one great tip that I had remembered to talk to our small group of young men about, but forgot to include here: don't include anything in your resume that you are not prepared to defend. The resume should raise topics of conversation in your interview: and you should be prepared to explain anything in it at length. So if you're not confident about that project you did last semester, don't put it in. Put in something instead that you know about and are interested in. Remember, it works both ways - keep out things you are not sure of, and highlight those you are positive about and want to talk about. 

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Summer Heat

The heat is overwhelming. It seeps into everything. The chairs feel warm through my clothes when I sit on them. The sheets are too warm to sleep on. Even the floor, when my bare foot touches it, greets me with warmth.

I sweat incessantly. I think of showering, but what’s the point? I’ll feel the same fifteen minutes after I’m done.

I am surprised that everything hasn’t grinded to a halt. That things go on as usual. Don’t they feel the heat, those people in the buses and the cars and the bikes and walking along the street? How can they talk in this heat, and cook, and work, and make love?

How long will it take for the summer to pass by? If I just sit here in my room, doing nothing for long enough, will it have ended by the time I open my window again?

Previous post on how much I hate the summers here.