Jack Owigar is a force of nature. In this interview, he takes us on the interesting, often hilarious journey of his career from a stint with software design to a full-on career in Marketing spanning many years.
Tell me about your background:
Cool. I began this journey in 2012, I believe. I remember I got my first job on April 12, 2012. What I did on campus (university) was computer science. So a lot of coding, a lot of database management, networking, stuff like that. So, usually in Kenya what happens is after your fourth year, when you’re about to finish campus, you’re supposed to do a project. So in that project, I was meant to code, so I built a website because you’re supposed to build a website and take it to your supervisor and then you’re graded. During that process, I just realised I did not want to do this job ever again in my life. Coding was just not for me. I did not like it. You could spend 2 days looking at a line of code for an error.
So when I cleared campus, I had a lot of guys who could basically mentor me and tell me what to do from their own experience in the industry (I’m the last born of 6 kids). So I have a brother who is very big in marketing. Because of my background, I was looking for IT-related jobs but knew I didn’t have the passion for it, per se. So my brother who is about 9 years older, told me about digital marketing and encouraged me to try it. I already had the IT background; all I needed was the marketing angle. Locally there were a few schools that offered these courses. So I began digital marketing, got a basic understanding of it, finished it and then got into CIM (Chartered Institute of Marketing).
At this time, I was still not working. But one of my friends had begun working at a security firm. We used to be roommates in school. So he told me in one of our conversations, about an opportunity to supply drinks to working-class people, who didn’t have time to go to the supermarket to buy drinks. So I went to a company here that sells alcohol. I negotiated a discount, and then I set up a Facebook page called Seller Inc, and then my friend who worked at the security firm would get the orders and call and tell me where to go to deliver the drinks. So we started, and I started meeting a lot of people in the space. Something else happened that was important. My brother came across a gentleman called Shazad Khan. He was the head of digital sales at Nation Centre East Africa (for digital). At that time, he was looking for sales guys to get on his team. So he heard about me. My bro told me that someone called Shazad would reach out for my CV. First, someone called me and had an Indian accent. And I was like, who is this person calling me? He introduced himself and asked me to send my CV. I was like, yeah whatever. When he sent me his email, I saw the name of the company at the end of it, but I didn’t think anything of it. So I take my sweet time, eating lunch and just going about my day, not bothered about anything. Then my brother calls me and asks me if I’d sent my CV, and I said no. I thought it was a con, so I didn’t bother. And my brother says no. He’s the real thing. So I go to one of the cyber cafes in Nairobi that evening and sent my CV. Shazad calls me back and asks me to come in for an interview on a Friday. Note: Fridays were the peak days for my alcohol business. Seller Inc business, because everyone wants a drink for the weekend, and Happy Hour in Kenya is from 12 pm to 2. And Shazad fixes the meeting for 11:30 am.
In my head I’m thinking, I’ll have alcohol in my bag and I’ll have to go for an interview. So I go to Nation Centre. It’s a very big building in the centre of Nairobi, and there’s a security door. At the door, the guard says I should open my bag for a security check. And I had a duffle bag. So they open the bag and see bottles and bottles of alcohol lol. I had to explain that I was there to see someone, but the booze is for delivery, and not for me. So I’m entering an interview room with bottles touching each other in my bag and making a bit of noise. It was quite an experience.
Lol. Anyway, we had a very good chat, me and Shazad, I think for less than 15 minutes. And then he takes me to the next floor where he tells the HR Manager to kindly give me a contract on probation. I did not know anything about the brand at this point. He asked me questions about the brand and I got them all wrong. I don’t know why he had such faith in me. But anyway, that’s how I got into Sales.
So I worked for Nation from 2012 up until around October 2014. From there, I began of course building my own client base, and one of the clients called Brighter Monday liked what I did for them. I used to be their account manager at Nation, and so I worked at Brighter Monday as the Display Sales Manager for 9 months, from October 2014 to around August 2015, and then Nation came back calling. So I went back to Nation as a Senior Sales Strategist, but I grew in the ranks and became Business Manager basically for the whole group. I was there for 3 years, and in that time I started training people in Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania etc. So it gave me a lot of exposure.
Around 2018, my boss left. He moved to a company called Citizen TV to be the Commercial Director. We were not close, but we were cordial. We got along. I remained in the Nation for a while. And then he reached out to me around June 2018 and said “I’ve been meaning to call you” and I told him “I’ve been waiting for your call.” Lool. So we met at a cafe. I did not think that he would ever think to work with him. So he told me about the project. Citizen was very big on TV and Radio but very poor on digital. I also felt that I had stagnated and plateaued at Nation. So I wanted a new challenge to see if I’m really good at this. So I said yes, as long as I was reporting to him directly. So between June and August, I finalised at Nation and moved to Citizen TV as Senior Business Manager. I was there for 3 months. It gave me a lot of exposure around VODs, traditional media and video production. It also helped me sharpen my sales skills. In my former employment, the product mainly sold itself, but here, revenue from digital was nonexistent and we had to build from scratch. So the first year, we did 28 million Kenyan shillings against 2 million from the previous year. We started talking about how to increase the revenue, and our offering.
I was there for 3 years, and finally, Pulse came calling. Now, the funny thing about Pulse is that my strategy was picked heavily from Pulse. I liked what Pulse did, I liked their content, and most of my strategy was designed around what I saw off Pulse. So when they came calling and I was doing my interview, I even had a plan for how to increase the revenue, content, etc. It was something I was already passionate about. So I went through the rigorous interview process with Moritz, Wamuyu, and other HODs, and luckily they were able to see that I was a good fit for the company, and I was able to take up the role. And I’ve been here since October. I was just telling someone recently that it’s weird that I always seem to move companies in October; I don’t know why. Lol.
So what’s your current role at Pulse?
I always say that my role at Pulse is to sell hope and make magic. It sounds like a joke but it’s true. Because you’re trying to convince a client that you hope the campaign works out the way you have planned for it to work, and at the same time clients want to see magic from what you execute. So you’re selling a dream, an idea, a concept. And also out of it you’re supposed to create magic whereby you generate emotion, awareness and engagement. So day to day, that’s what my job is. I’m Head of Marketing at Pulse Kenya, and in a nutshell, my job is to monetize all our assets and see what we can bring in for the brand. In addition to that, and for the marketing aspect, I’m constantly asking myself, how can I push the brand out there, and how can we leverage off of who we are to bring in more revenue, to bring in more partners who are like-minded, etc. So I’m constantly conversing with people and constantly in their faces, and networking and trying to push the Pulse name out there. So that’s what I do day-to-day, so I primarily work with ad agencies, I also work with what you call direct clients, pushing a lot of media sales, a lot of marketing sales, it has also helped me learn a lot about production, media management (which I did very little of, in my previous roles), but the team now in Kenya have been very helpful in guiding me. We’ve got a very strong team here. I keep on saying no man is an island, so it’s always good to ask. I always tell my team that inasmuch as I’ve been in this industry for up to 10 years, I always remain teachable, because you learn something every day. And I’m not an expert in all these other things, so I always try to remain humble, try to learn something.
So that’s what I do daily. Most of the time, my day begins with looking through my email, checking through Slack, looking through my meetings planned for the day, looking through clientele, new product launches, new entrants to the market, also a bit of competitor analysis, who is doing what, are they competing with us, are they copying us, are we staying ahead of the curve, etc. We’re also in a very dynamic industry. I was once told “it doesn’t matter how big you are; it’s how fast you respond to the consumer that matters the most. So that’s what we decided to strive to do here in Kenya.
In the first few months, it was a baptism of fire, if I’m being very very honest. But I like the challenge. At Pulse, it was everything I’ve always wanted to do. Every day it’s something interesting, something cool, trying out new formats, and I’m really enjoying it. Every day is a new challenge. And I like the fact that within every challenge we always find solutions. That makes you better as a person and as a leader.
What’s your typical day like?
My typical day is madness lol. It’s constant madness. It’s an unstructured structure. So the things you can plan for are not very many. I’m dealing with people. It’s not like a factory; I’m dealing with different aspects of them, be it emotion, be it understanding, etc. So every day is a new challenge. It’s how you are able to navigate those challenges and also make everyone aware that you all have a common objective, and it’s better if we work together and have an understanding so that we all reach that goal that we all want to reach. So that’s how my typical day goes. It’s a lot of listening, understanding, giving solutions, of course, meetings and whatnot. And once in a while, a guy called Kelechi will call me up for a People interview (lool).
What is your inspiration for showing up every day?
I think the thing is that this is my passion. I remember in early 2018, I was not at Pulse yet. I was at my former employer’s job, and I was at an event, and the event was a launch. I remember telling someone, “I want to do something that will impact people’s lives, something that I’ll look back on and say to myself, ‘Wow, I actually did that, I actually created a difference’.
So in my previous roles, I didn’t feel I was having any impact on anyone’s life, not because of the companies themselves. I’m just speaking for me. I was churning out revenue, but when I would go back home, I could not say oh, I did that, or ‘that was me’. So when I came to Pulse, they are very heavy on content creation and telling stories, which is what I’ve always wanted to do, that was already a passion for me. Of course, there are days that I’m not at 100 per cent, granted, but I sit back and say ‘why am I here?’ and it’s to make a difference, using my passion for storytelling to make a difference in someone’s life, not only for me but also for my team. They look up to me to guide them. I keep telling my fellow HODs how we manage the team, will determine what kind of leaders they will be in the future, and even what kind of person they will be in the future. So I don’t look at myself as just one person, I look at myself as somebody who will be a benchmark or a reference point for somebody else in their career or in their lives. Because I have scenarios whereby, when I’m going through tough times, I have reference points, either my older siblings or my former bosses, or my current boss. For me first of all, it’s my passion for the job, and my reasons for doing this, which are my team, myself and for anybody else.
I think I’m lucky enough to be doing the role I’ve always wanted. I’m sure if I was in a design role, chances are that I would burn out really quickly.
What do you do to unwind?
So there’s something I like to do every Sunday for 2 hours. I like to play football with my friends. What happened was when COVID happened in 2020, one of our friends found out he had a clot in his leg, and the doctor told him that he needed to change his lifestyle or risk a stroke. There were about 6 of us in total. So we bunched up and decided to play football. We all liked football, but also it was the middle of COVID, and there was not much else we could do together. We found a very nice 5-A-side pitch, and we started playing every Sunday. When we started, I had not played football for maybe 5 years. Now, we’re over 42 dudes that show up every Sunday; people have just told their friends and told their friends. It has become a very good reliever of stress. I don’t do the cliche things like read a book or go to the gym. So for me, what I look forward to is Sunday from 9 am to 11 am. So when the game is over at 11, I’m already looking forward to the next one. So if we lost a match, I’m like, next weekend, I’m going to get revenge. Lool. My job is very engrossing, from Monday to Saturday, so Sunday is what I call Jack Time. That’s the time that I go out and play ball, have fun with my friends, and meet up with family once in a while, but I think the constant is the 9 to 11 football time, where I can just unleash the kid inside me. You know, some people say that whenever you’re stressed, just remove your shoes and socks and walk on the grass, and you’ll get a relaxing feeling. I think the pitch is good for me because there, you can shout, you can scream, you can do all these things and just release tension and at the end of it all, you’re a lot more relaxed.
Pulse People – Kwabena Oppon-Kusi
One recurring thread in our Pulse People interviews is how most people start out in very different professions from the ones they eventually end up with. For the people who dare, they find their way out of their initial interests and toward opportunities that give them the freedom to exercise their creativity.
Kwabena Oppon-Kusi realized his interest in digital creativity very early on, and simply followed it. In this Pulse People edition, we talk with him about how he went from a degree in Real Estate to Photoshop, and how his poetic background has translated into a mastery of client presentations.
Tell me about your background.
I studied Real Estate at university, but I’ve always loved to be in the arts, always loved to draw, design and such. So while I was in university, I taught myself how to use Photoshop. I started with a few other apps but then I ended up on Photoshop. And I started designing for people in uni, election candidates who wanted posters, and things like that. At that time I was doing design properly as a passion, so I was experimenting a lot, picking things on the internet and trying to replicate them in Photoshop.
So at the end of school, when I was doing my national service, I got a call from an old friend. Back then I used to perform and do a lot of spoken word presentations, and I was quite known for that. So this old friend called me, asking for a logo design after they had seen a few works of mine online. She happened to work in a marketing agency that needed more designs, and finally, I started working part-time with the agency, and right after my national service, they wanted me to come in full time. So I got into this whole industry really as a graphic designer.
I started off doing graphic design for digital deliverables, things like banners, social media posts and such. Naturally, because I am somebody who writes, I took an interest also in going beyond the artwork. I was working on captions first and before I knew it I was working on content calendars, and then the content strategy. I also then realized that my background in speaking in front of people was a great foundation for presentations and pitches, and it made it easy for me to go and pitch the ideas I had to my team and to clients. So through that, I switched from the digital team to the business development team, where there was a lot more pitching. That’s when I fully understood that that was where I wanted to be and finding that spot between design and business was great, and that’s how I ended up doing what I do. And then from there, I moved to Pulse to be Head of Creative Strategy.
Tell me about how you got into Pulse
Well, I was approached. I think at that time, Moritz (Pulse MD) was in Ghana, and Sena (Director of Sales, Pulse Ghana) was also looking for someone to assist him on the creative side of things. A mutual friend introduced me to Sena, and we had a call, after which he had an offer for me, and I liked it. After that, I had a few meetings with Moritz, and Sena, and then right before I joined I was to have another meeting with a new MD for Ghana, so I had the final meeting with Katharina, and I got in from there.
I had already taken a gap month to figure out a few personal things, and during that gap month, Covid happened and everywhere was on lockdown. So I started my career here in April, at home, basically. Spent a few months working from home, not meeting anyone, and then finally started coming back into the office. I was probably one of the first few people to come back in because I was the one who needed to see people and see the office.
What’s your current role at Pulse Ghana?
Yeah, that’s the hard part. Lol. So the current role is Head of Creative Strategy. When I came in, it was the Head of Pulse Studio. I wasn’t too comfortable with that. I just felt like it was hard to speak about it whenever I step out. There’s still a strong sales element to that role, and I just felt like it was harder to explain to people what I want to do for them so I pushed for us to use the term Head of Creative Strategy. What I do is basically sit between the account managers and the sales team. The sales team wants to sell, but they need to sell concepts, ideas and strategies, and those have to be put together in a nice presentation. Account managers need to create exciting content, and that needs to also be presented in a format that allows them to upsell to their clients, and that’s where I come in. I offer creativity but also an understanding of the business. So we are the conduit between the two departments, putting together the decks for complex strategies and all the ideas that come up during our play (brainstorming) sessions. So we either give it to the sales team to sell to their clients or we make the presentations ourselves.
Another thing is also not waiting for briefs to come in. We also do our own conceptualization for things that we think would be good for Pulse Marketing, so that’s video concepts we can sell, and also content that we can put together to help promote the brand itself. So yeah, working with briefs, working with account managers for their content, yeah that’s basically a summary of everything that we do.
What does your typical day look like at the office (or at home)?
So a typical day would be me coming in and checking through my todo list which I would have already prepared at home, checking my calendar for any meetings, but most of the work that is being done is creating new decks for new clients that are coming in. So, for example, my Director of Sales could tell me that he has just had a quick meeting with a client and they want a social media plan. I start with research, I do some research on the brand itself, see what they are about, see what their communication is like, see where the loopholes are, and then schedule a play session with everyone involved. From there, I pick up the notes, convert them into a strategy document and send it back to the salesperson who is interested or send it to the client. So that’s a very typical day of work. Other things also come up, like joining meetings, sharing updates and so on. We also look out for tenders or public briefs from clients. We would also get involved with video projects where relevant. On other days, you’ll see me acting as the second to my director in meetings, international sales meetings, leadership calls, and giving support to Sena. Yeah.
Joining Pulse just as the pandemic began, has that affected your work, or the way you go about it?
Yeah definitely. Starting, it was very difficult. It changed a lot of things. It took me longer than usual to get to know people, so I worked a lot by myself in the first few months, couldn’t put faces to names for so long, didn’t know who to call, and all that. I’m usually the type of person who likes to know everybody. But it took a while. And as per the job, because of the pandemic, there were a number of exits that threw the work off balance a bit. So I was coming into a job where the work style was very different and added to that, some people had to leave because of the pandemic. It made it harder.
But after a few months, we recovered nicely. Also coming into a department that was fairly new, the most important thing was to set your own policies and work style so that you are also sure of how you’re being measured and all of that, building a team etc. So that was the difficult part for me, but I think after a while, we all got into the groove of it, and now things are moving as they should.
What’s your daily source of inspiration? As someone whose work involves a lot of creativity and coming up with ideas, how do you keep churning them out?
On a very typical day, I spend a lot of time early in the mornings on social media.I do that because I just want to catch up with everything that everyone is doing and saying. I want to see what’s the coolest thing now, what’s trending, I use that a lot. But I also then find that I switch to other types of content, not your typical social media pages. So, I spend a lot of time on Pinterest; I do a lot of searches on Pinterest. That’s for a working day. When I want to relax, it’s mostly going to be outdoors in nature; I have a spot I use, and that’s where I recharge. Also, the biggest inspiration would be my wife, of course. She inspires me to be more creative every day, so those are the three things.
So when you’re not working, you spend time in nature?
When I’m not working, I’m working. Lol. Okay but I do relax a lot. I like movies a lot. At home, we just watch movies a lot. And I feel like, in another life, I would definitely be forcing my way into Hollywood, to go and work as a director or something, just to be in the production of those movies. So I watch movies a lot. I find it to be intriguing. It’s just intriguing to see how people think, and I’m fascinated by how they come up with such ideas.
I do watch a lot of sports too. I watch football a lot. It’s proper entertainment for me.
How do you stay on top of everything? Producing valuable documents for several clients and all within a deadline?
First of all, this is to assume that I am on top of everything; I am not. Lol. But adding the marriage part to my life was not as difficult for me; maybe because I’ve not added kids to the mix. Sometimes we get home and we’re watching movies, and sometimes we get home and we’re all on our laptops working. I’m not the most organized person, but I try. If there’s one thing that Pulse has taught me, it’s to use your calendar and Google Tasks a lot, and that’s what I really try to do, become better organized. Actually, that’s what I have in front of me right now: a long list of tasks that I try to cancel before the end of the week. Sticking to deadlines is not as easy but we try. Everyone knows their pace of work, so you should be able to engage it and know when to do what. I had a deadline today at 2 pm. I made sure that I wrapped up by 11 am. You just have to use the tool that you have been given as much as you can. For someone like me who did not like to organize anything, it’s the best thing that has happened. So that’s really my way. And for balance, I think that life is balanced enough. Pulse is really not as restricting. They allow you to find time for yourself and get the breaks that you need. When I close at 5, I close at 5. When I want to stay back, I stay back, and so on. So it’s okay.
Pulse People: Motolani Alake
Without this intro, one thing you’ll quickly pick up about Motolani is that he goes against the grain. As we discuss, and he talks about his background and his career growth, you’ll see a young man who is ruthlessly resilient, holding tight to his deepest passions and has no qualms about stating his opinion, regardless of who’s listening.
In this edition of Pulse People, we talk to Motolani Alake, Entertainment Editor at Pulse Nigeria and one of the more remarkable custodians of music and popular culture in Nigeria.
Tell me about your background.
A lot of it has to do with my dad. As much as he had a problem with the way I used to consume music, like always with headphones, he was the one that pretty much got me those things. And he always said something: he told me that my generation was going to be filled with people who were going to study one thing and then practise the things that they are passionate about. So he pushed me to read a lot as a kid, even though I didn’t like it. I wasn’t exactly about the books. I was more interested in weird stuff, and stuff that satisfied my curiosity.
When I got into high school, I wasn’t very good at math. So my dad moved me to art class, seeing that I was very practical. I wanted to be a lawyer. It was a grand idea. I met Mr. Molese, who saw a lot of potential in me and made me editor-in-chief of the press club at 13. So that was how a lot of it got started. But by the time I was studying law, I didn’t enjoy it as much. So I started producing music. I really wanted to be a music producer. I got to a level where I got a gig with a record label in Detroit, and they were paying me about $100 for a beat, but I didn’t see it as a long term thing, because I knew that most music producers had very ephemeral careers; it wasn’t something I could do for a long time.
For the best part of my late teens and early twenties, I really wanted to create a tech company. And I did. I created some things, but they just never got off the ground.
So by 2013, when I graduated from uni, a friend of mine who used to work at Pulse, Segun Akande, told me about a platform called Column. Column was this new platform, and they wanted me to come to write for them. He had never seen me write (even though we went to the same uni), so I was curious as to how he knew I could write. So I joined Column at the time, but the platform closed down within 6 months, then I went to law school, and stopped writing for a while. Immediately after law school, he called me again to work for another platform called Turnt. This had a longer spell. I wrote for Turnt for about 6 months. But 4 months into that spell, he joined Pulse. So I was writing for Turnt until Turnt closed down.
In 2016, I was trying to start another company. I had sent proposals to the Central Bank, they were interested in it, but all of a sudden, they shut it down. They said we couldn’t create a non-bank led fintech. And so everything got shut down, my dad got sick, I got depressed. And then the following year, I started consulting for a sub-company of USAID called HFG. Another friend of mine called me (his name is Kwame) and said we should start a platform called Urban Central. So we pooled all the money that we had and started this company. We didn’t really want to start a website, so we started on Medium. All of a sudden, before we knew it, it started growing. That was when a lot of people got to know me as a writer. Before Urban Central, people knew me as a sports guy. But with Urban Central, I could really explore more niches because I was the Managing Editor of the platform. I was writing across a lot of topics, and I was editing a lot of content. We had problems managing the team as we were all remote, in different parts of the world. As we kept going, it got to a point where I got a bit confused and lost. I knew I wanted to do media, but still, I was not settled. I wasn’t sure I was doing what exactly I wanted. Everyone thought I was opinionated and strong-willed. I heard more than once that I was special, but over and over again, people seemed to focus on the negative, grating parts of my personality. I remember when I was working as a lawyer, my boss at the time, (he was very helpful in shaping my own writing), he
At Pulse for the first time, I found something I wanted to do, for one, and I also met people who saw the positive and negative sides of my strong personality, and they chose to focus on the positives, and even see the positives in the negatives, and found a way to marry both of them together, and create a professional. That’s what Pulse gave to me.
How did you get into Pulse?
I decided I wanted to go into media. I’m Christian. So I prayed a lot in 2017 because I was really down bad. I reached out to my friend Kwame. I think I had sent out another proposal and it was turned down. In that year, I actually contemplated suicide. I just knew that there was a lot I could do with my life, but it just didn’t seem to be coming together. So I decided I would chase the media path. I got a job in Abuja, for a Company Secretary/ Legal Adviser role in a financial advisory firm. The money wasn’t bad. It was great, in fact. But the problem was, my boss and I had a number of differences and a fundamental misunderstanding about my role. I was asked to do a lot of sales, which was not my strong suit at the time. I was still looking for funding for Urban Central at the time, I met Mr. Tosin Ashafa, who was really interested, but we didn’t quite have the requisite structure to attract the investments we were looking for.
So, in February 2018, I saw a vacancy on Pulse for a music writer position on Twitter, and I came in for it. I got the email to come in for the interview two days prior to the interview, but I didn’t see it until the evening before the interview. So I had to take the night bus from Abuja to Lagos because I couldn’t get a flight at that time. So I got to Lagos and came for the interview. I remember I wore a red jacket. I stuck out like a sore thumb. I was looking dapper! Lol. Everyone was dressed fairly casually, but I was a lawyer, and I didn’t quite remember to switch from corporate to informal. So I got in, and my confidence was oozing during my conversation. I was very ready for it, you couldn’t tell me anything. I aced the interview, actually, but the problem was, they thought I would be out of control. I remember Ayomide Tayo asked me who I thought was the greatest rapper of all time. I said Kanye West, and he was trying to give me reasons why he thought it was Jay Z, and he had a good angle. But at the time, I just did not know how to accept other people’s opinions, so I got very argumentative and even confrontational. So I didn’t get the job.
I went back to my job in Abuja, but by May of the same year, I was really fed up with it. So I resigned and came back to Lagos and was freelancing a lot, and also writing for Urban Central. Then in July, on my birthday, I got an interview at Heritage Bank. Almost everyone in my family wanted me to go back to practicing law, but I really did not want that. I intentionally lied on my cv, because I knew they would see it and not hire me. On my way back, I prayed that I would not have to go back to Akure without getting a job. Shortly after, I heard that my friend Segun was leaving Pulse. So I applied for his role, and this time, I was offered the job on the spot. So that’s how I got into Pulse.
What’s your current role at Pulse?
I am currently Editor on the Entertainment desk, and I also lead the Pulse Podcast Network, so content strategy, talent acquisition, and all that. I also requested to be involved in a little bit of Partnerships work. But the job is sort of expanding because I do events, advisory (sometimes), sales. So the job has expanded beyond the initial scope. My primary role is to write stories for Pulse. Stories, breaking news, and similar stuff.
But the best thing Pulse has done for me, especially someone like Ben (Pulse Nigeria Editor-In-Chief) understands that I could do more than my initial job description, to give me a little more freedom to do the things that I could do, and I think it is mutually beneficial to myself and the brand, as I’ve done this over the years, to create valuable content and products. Throughout 2020, I was trying out different creative initiatives here, and I was allowed to experiment with content and find stuff that worked and caught on with the audience. That to me is the biggest blessing, and no matter what happens next, that will be the biggest takeaway from Pulse, that creative freedom. It took me a while to conform to the writing style here at Pulse. I was coming from a place where I used to write a lot of long-form pieces. But now I have to control that. Some of these pieces may not be as necessary or relevant here.
What does your typical day look like?
My typical day, these days is hard to describe, because I do different things on different days. Let’s take yesterday for example. I woke up, came to the office, wrote 2 stories, and then had editorial meetings, then I had a meeting with TikTok to finalize a sales pitch, then shot the video for an episode of Facts Only, then we talked about podcasting. I had a meeting to discuss equipment, what day to record, which podcast to bring back, and all of that.
Then I wanted to do a PowerPoint presentation, a pitch I’m working on, to pitch an idea to a client, and after that, I conducted an interview. So just back-to-back activity on all the different topics I’m involved in.
What inspires you to show up every day?
People on social media. Just the fact that there’s a raging, ravenous audience out there waiting for this content is enough inspiration. Lool. I’ve been burnt out for the past few weeks, but the fact that there are people that hold you accountable for these things, and the fact that someone out there will send you a message from a random place like Louisville, Kentucky to say thank you for what you’re doing, that really inspires me a lot. I’m also inspired even by messages from people that strongly disagree with my opinions on articles or on a podcast. The sheer size of the audience, and that vibrant, engaging interaction that the audience has with the work we put out, it’s amazing.
What do you do to unwind?
I drink a lot. And I’ve had to stop myself recently. I haven’t had any alcohol since January 1. My throat got inflamed in December and that was where I drew the line and decided to really start looking after myself. Other than that, I don’t really go out much, except for work. And when I say this, people just don’t believe me because they see me out a lot. Lol. If I didn’t have to go for any of those things, I wouldn’t. I’m literally a homebody. Stay at home, watch a movie, eat when I can, drink wine, have someone over, that’s it.
When I really want to go out, I want to go out with people that I know and have real relationships with. I don’t like clubbing, it’s a stupid concept. It’s a lot of noise, too many people and it’s also so noisy. My favourite place is an open-air lounge. That’s my kind of thing. I don’t really have cravings. I’ve lived through times when there was nothing to eat. So I’m functional with food. Lol.
Pulse People – Kadidja Diallo
In this edition of Pulse People, we’re talking to Kadidja Diallo. Her bubbly, energetic and exciting personality carries over the virtual meeting and infects me, as we talk about her journey through university, changing courses, picking up volunteer work, and then her work within Pulse.
Tell me about your background.
I studied Accounting and Finance. I was studying this for about two years, but by the third year, I just realized that I was kind of passionate about marketing. So I just moved from accounting to marketing, so that I could get a bachelors in marketing instead. At this time, I gained skills in marketing from the volunteering work that I did with different organizations and associations. It was the volunteer work I did in these places that made me discover how much I liked marketing.
So I had to change school because of the school where I was specialized in accounting and finance. But my mom didn’t want me to, though; she really wanted me to become an accountant. So of course it was a problem at home for some months, but I knew what I wanted. So eventually I changed school and became responsible for my tuition and other personal expenses for a year. Then, I started working with a friend to help pay the bills.
Eventually, someone I met as part of my volunteering work invited me to work at his new marketing startup, an agency. He would help me promote the business I did with my friend, and in turn, I would help him by working at his marketing agency. So now, I had an office to receive my customers on the business with my friend.
Most of the experience I got in digital marketing came from working in that startup. I worked there for about 1 year, part-time, while also taking other marketing jobs on the side. After a year, I felt like my work was done there, and I started looking for other opportunities. And I found a role in another agency where I was Digital Unit Manager and also head of operations.
Let’s talk about getting into Pulse
I didn’t leave the last agency I was working for, but they had some problems and they had to close for a while. So I was home and decided to take time to relax. I did not intend to look for any new opportunities for at least two months. But after the first month, I got bored. So Eid (a Muslim celebration) was close, and I told myself I’d start looking for new opportunities after the celebrations.
Just before the end of Ramadan, I started looking for opportunities. I went on Expat Dakar and saw that an agency was looking for a key account manager. So I sent in my resume. I also sent my resume to other companies, and then I waited. About one week after, the HR team of Pulse called me for our first interview, and after that, there was a second in-person interview. So I came to meet the manager and do the interview.
It was kind of stressful because I felt like she was asking me too many questions. It was the first time for me in an interview, being asked so many questions. She explained that she needed to know if I had responsibilities at home that would require me to frequently leave early. But it went well. The last thing she asked was about my weaknesses. She said my resume and everything else I’ve described, seemed okay, so she wanted to know about my weaknesses. Lol. So I told her that most of the time, I’m not very punctual.
The day after, She called my previous managers to ask about my competencies, and she got the same responses. A few days later, HR emailed me to let me know I was successful. And that’s how I was hired as Key Account Manager and Head of Operations. When I came in, Caroline (Managing Director, Pulse Senegal) had a talk with me and told me that if I wanted to really lead the team, I had to be on time. So I accepted it as a challenge and started.
Do you still come late sometimes?
(Laughter) It was not a challenge at the beginning, because that was when we were going into lockdown, so I resumed at home. But when we started coming to the office I did not really have the choice as she was very watchful about it. I noticed the difference between Pulse and the agency I had worked with, almost immediately. At first, I told myself that there were many meetings for me to join, and also I was a bit surprised by how organized everything was. I knew that if I wanted to fit, I just had to put more effort into being organized.
I will never forget my first days at Pulse because I resumed on a Wednesday, and by Friday, at the moment we were having a meeting, I got a call that I had lost my dad. It was a very hard time for me. I didn’t know if I should quit the job to be with my family, or if I should keep working.
I told myself that these people trusted me and gave me this opportunity, but on the other hand, my family also needed me, and I needed them too. Then I remembered The last conversation I had with my dad, he was so happy when I told him that I had a new job and did a lot of prayers for me. So, I decided to keep that job, and also because if I didn’t work, I would get bored, and get even sadder.
Tell me about your current role
I started at Pulse as Key Account Manager & Head of Operations, and after 6 months or something like that, we realized that it was difficult to combine the two roles, and we had to decide if I was going to be Key Account Manager or Head of Operations. At that time, what we really needed was a strong account manager. So I worked as the Key Account Manager. By May 21, I came back to the role of Head of Operations.
Actually, my main role is to manage the operations team and make sure that project KPIs and timelines are going as planned. I coordinate the team individually and collectively by reviewing their work (Social Media Managers, Graphic Designers, Web developers). I pilot the standup meetings, the Ops calls, the international calls, and also work directly with the MD to keep her updated about what we are doing, what problems we are facing on each project, and how we’re solving them. Also, if there is a problem with a client, concerning a project, I set a plan with the Account Manager to solve it. Sometimes, I can do a call or meet the client to accelerate realisations. I also work with the Sales team most of the time to upsell or cross-sell to existing clients where it is relevant.
What’s the schedule at the office?
We come into the office from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm, Monday to Friday. In the past days, due to Covid, we’re used to coming once or twice a week, depending on the need. But every Monday, everyone was at the office. Actually, everyone is here, as we have new members, and I want them to get well integrated.
What’s a typical day like for you?
A normal day always starts with the standup meeting with the Ops team, and then, I specify the urgent tasks and deliverables. After if there are specific conversations I need to have with someone, I can have them after the standup. I always support the account manager, just remind him of pending tasks and so forth. If needed, I speak to the MD about the ongoing projects and give feedback to her. Then I review and approve documents and deliverables before they go out.
Before the end of the day, I check things like the turnaround time for deliverables, and to see if things were delivered on time. Also, if something is urgent, and following the normal process will take time, I do more coordination with the designer or whoever is on it, to make sure that it is delivered on time.
How do you stay inspired?
Three things keep me inspired. The first thing is the challenge. I’m someone who is easily bored, so mostly I like taking on new challenges. When everything is okay, I’m like, that’s not normal.
The second is the satisfaction of the client. When we do great work and we get a testimonial from them or even just a thank you email, it’s just so satisfying, and it’s something that drives me a lot.
And then finally, the team is a great inspiration. It’s a very great team. They are very brave and ready to take on any challenge at any time. Sometimes, when I’m tired, I just look at them, putting in all that effort to get targets met and so forth, and that inspires me again. And when I say the team, it’s not just my team (the Ops team). I’m talking about the whole Pulse team.
What do you do when you’re not working?
So mostly, when I just go back home and I have nothing to do, I just watch movies on Netflix. I prefer watching a series because it’s more interesting for me. I also make time to go out with friends. We just plan an outing, where we want to go, and when. We all have full schedules, so it’s not always easy, but when we can, we go out together and have a good time. I also go out with my husband sometimes to not say most of the time. Lol 🙂
Finally, I love travelling a lot. I have this goal to discover one new country per year. I could not do this in 2020 and last year too, due to COVID restrictions, but I’ve been doing it since 2015 or something like that. Travelling with someone is more interesting (if your travelling partner is actually interested in doing stuff together, and not sleeping all the way, lol), but even when you’re travelling alone, it’s still interesting for me.
Pulse People: Emmanuel Tsekpo – Head, Graphic Design, Pulse Ghana
In this edition of Pulse People, we’re talking to Emmanuel Tsekpo, an interesting graphic design professional who works as Head, Graphic Design out of the Pulse Ghana office in Accra. Emmanuel takes us on an interesting journey from early days in senior high school in the Volta region of Ghana, where he first got introduced to design, to the more fast-paced Accra, the world of computers, Photoshop and graphic design dream jobs in the country’s top agencies. Emmanuel had always loved graphic design, and the tumultuous road to finding meaningful, sustainable graphic design work was not enough to stop him.
Tell us a bit about your background:
Before I went to senior high school, I had a lot of interest in drawings. And funny enough I couldn’t draw. I still loved it though. When I got into senior high, I was a general science student. I told the vice principal that I would like to change to visual arts. The man of course was surprised and didn’t want me to change. In Ghana, after Junior High School, students are assessed and a course is assigned to them according to their aggregate score. So my dad came in. He has an art background; he is a land surveyor and an architect. He took me to the headmaster himself because he wanted me to switch to the visual arts. The headmaster also established the point that art is not of a lower value than science. The headmaster himself was an art inclined person, and his own son was in the arts.
So yeah, at the end of the day, I was able to switch from general science to visual art. When I joined as a visual art student, my favourite subject was General Knowledge in Arts and Graphic Design. It helped me understand the principles and elements of design. My interest kept growing. I gained a background in all forms of art, from weaving, sculpture to textiles, etc. In graphic design class, the teacher would normally mention video editing and sound editing as part of the design. So after senior high school, I wanted to enroll in NAFTI (National Film And Television Institute). I applied and got the offer of admission, but I was required to have a laptop, and at the time, I could not afford one. I couldn’t also afford most of the other requirements, including the enrollment fee. So long story short, I could not attend NAFTI. I moved to Accra from the Volta region to stay with a friend who was a sound engineer. We both finished Senior High School together and wanted to get into NAFTI, but faced similar challenges. We kept exploring sounds and beats which gave me an impeccable taste in music, doing day jobs and so on, looking for a way to survive.
My dad applied for teacher training for me (a 3-year College of education program that trains students with a modest stipend to study further to become teachers) and so I went to the interview, even if it was not what I wanted to do. Before I left Accra though, I got the chance to buy my first desktop, a 4GB RAM Pentium 4 desktop.
The training college was to train me as a teacher, to teach people in basic school. My house wasn’t that far from the school, so I’d routinely run back to the house and tinker with the design softwares I had installed on my desktop. Then I came across Photoshop, and it quickly became my main thing. That’s when I started developing my interest in professional graphic design.
I was able to manage to pass my teacher training courses while still improving myself in graphic design. At some point, the government paid all the arrears of monthly allowances together. The money was huge so I quickly went to grab my first laptop with it, a Dell Inspiron. After the teacher training program was done, I was posted to a village as my first station of work. There was no power or internet in the village. One thing I learnt here was to design without internet access with limited resources.
How did you start working in graphic design full time?
I taught for almost 2 years, and then decided to start a degree in IT and Education, so I had the chance to come to Accra more often. In Accra, I started networking with graphic designers, and I realized some of them are working for advertising agencies. And I started asking questions about it. It was the first time I realized that graphic designers could work as full-time staff and earn a good income. I wanted to go for it, but it was a risky thing to do at the time. The teaching job was a government job, which meant it was pretty much secure till your retirement. But I had to take this big risk and leave. Two of my graphic designer friends told me they worked at a place called Ringier (now Pulse). When they described their roles to me, it sounded like a place I wanted to work at as well, so I asked more questions about how much they earn. I had to be sure that it made sense to leave the more secure teaching job. I found out that the average salary was more than what the average teacher was earning at my level. That was all the confirmation I needed. I started looking for jobs at agencies. Because I was studying IT, I had more interest in UI (user interface) and UX (user experience) design as it was just coming up at that time, around 2015, 2016. So I got into an agency to work as a part-time graphic designer and also help with web development and UI/UX design. I worked with them for 3 months, and I couldn’t manage the pressure with my teaching job and degree school at the same time. I left and focused on the degree and was only coming to Accra for that.
How did you get into Pulse?
When I got to my final year, I spoke to my old friends who still worked at Ringier (now Pulse). One of them had become the head of graphic design by then. He told me there was an opportunity for someone to design for the team. I went for an interview to join the team as a designer for the marketing team, but I didn’t get in. I was so sad. I was tired of the teaching job already, and I really wanted to get into Ringier. A month later though, another opportunity came for a graphic designer in the Pulse Content team. Luckily for me, I got in. I met Moritz (Moritz Boullenger, currently Pulse MD, was MD of Pulse Ghana at the time), who went through my portfolio and thought it was good, and he asked me when I could start. I was so excited to begin that I said I could begin the next day. Lol. But he was kind enough to ask me to start the next Monday.
It was my first time landing a full-time graphic design role where I had to be at the office all week. The struggle I had was fitting in. The dress code was relaxed and coming from a strict teaching job where you had to tuck in your shirt and generally be more formal, it was a bit of a struggle. Most of the girls that worked in agencies in Accra at the time were sort of bougie looking. They all had mixed or foreign backgrounds. Their lunch was very fancy.
After some days working at Pulse, the Head of Video approached me and asked me to start designing for the Video team as well. And then my friend who was the Head of Graphics was also sharing some of his design tasks with me, so I was now designing for the Content team and the Video team. I didn’t realize how much work I was taking on. At a point, the Content and Marketing teams both wanted me to design on their teams. It got tough. It came to a time where the Head of Marketing eventually stole me away and then they assigned me some accounts.
As I continued with the Marketing team, the work got really tough, around 2019. I was facing the most difficult time. I hadn’t finished paying my rent, and I didn’t even have enough money to commute. I was also working on big accounts at the office, e-commerce accounts that were running promotions (for which they would need quite a number of design deliverables) on a daily basis.
I wanted to quit. I wrote my resignation and went to Moritz. I had already spotted other agencies looking for a designer, so I went for those interviews and had even negotiated salaries. But Pulse decided they wanted to keep me. They wanted to match what I was offered, and so they gave me an increment. That was when I knew I was never going back to teaching. So I improved and mastered my UI skills and some parts of motion graphics last year 2020.
In this time, I got some other offers, but the thing with Pulse is, Pulse is more of a family. Anytime you need help, someone is there. And I knew from some of my friends from other agencies was nothing close to the kind of culture we have at Pulse, and the creative teams were exposed to gruelling hours. So while I was getting great offers, I knew I wanted to work in a place where I would be happy. I decided to forgo the offers that I got. I feel there is a family in Pulse. They are always there for you even if it’s not office related. And just after I decided to stay, they surprised me with the new position as the Head of Graphic Design, and it also came with some benefits as well.
What does your current role look like?
With my current role, I oversee the growth of the designers that I manage, organize trainings for them, Oversee all design projects, from conception to delivery and also make sure that we are on-brand by giving creative direction and some corrections on their work, and also come up with content ideas and brainstorm with them about ideas that we want to pitch to clients and so forth. So yeah. Basically, managing the graphics team, work output and then training.
What’s a typical day at work for you?
It’s quite stressful, but the motivation is not to fail. The first thing I do in the morning is to start revisions and corrections for the work I did the previous day that has received feedback. And then I schedule time with the AMs (Account Managers) I work with directly to talk about their accounts and feedback from clients. After that, in the afternoon, it’s lunchtime. I walk around, get some food and so on. Then back to the table. Design, design, design. I help, assist with creative direction sometimes, or help other designers do research and come up with mood boards, etc till the day ends. I also do some OVH (overhead) work where I create designs sometimes for internal use, say a Pulse t-shirt, mugs, notepads and ID cards for instance, or for events.
What inspires you every day?
The goal is not to fail. What I do every day, maybe I read an article or watch a YouTube channel or do something new about design, something to keep me going and motivated. For motivation, we have our sources. We have Behance, Dribbble, Pinterest. Sometimes, it’s not related to what I’m doing, but it still helps me relax. I also get inspiration from looking at competitor brands sometimes, or the projects that some of my freelance designer friends are working on. I still have fun, which is graphic related, but not necessarily work. So yeah, that’s what keeps me going.
What are your hobbies?
Well, I play video games a lot, especially Mortal Kombat, and then I do a little FIFA. I also swim a lot and watch lawn tennis, which I don’t actually play (Lol). But it’s part of the goal. Maybe I’ll eventually learn how to play it. I enjoy table tennis as well, but I don’t get to play it often.
I also go on trips with friends and some designer friends, just travel somewhere out of Accra for weekends or something. And I watch movies a lot, especially a lot of African movies on Netflix and Youtube. I really admire how the art of filmmaking is growing in Africa alongside the cinema culture.
Pulse People: Ben Bassey – Director of Content, Pulse Nigeria.
If you have been following Pulse Nigeria on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, then you’re already familiar with the work of Ben Bassey, Director of Content at Pulse Nigeria. Ben’s story seems to be underscored by one word: options. After dabbling in a bunch of creative and entrepreneurial endeavours, he decided to pursue his editorial career full time, and within the editorial niche, he has also dabbled in a number of disciplines. These days, he’s charged with managing the skilled, diverse, and very creative 30-man content team in Lagos, Nigeria, leveraging social media and the web to inform and engage millions of young people who are part of our digital communities.
In this edition of Pulse People, we speak to Ben Bassey, Director of Content, Pulse Nigeria.
Tell me a little about your background, and how your career came to be:
I have what I like to call an entrepreneurial hustler background. I used to own a fish farm, a music studio, traded forex, and created digital products for sale. Content then was something I did as a hobby or to promote my products. I occasionally did a few projects for some clients. Plus I wasn’t sure which area of content I wanted to focus on, so I trained and practiced as a music producer, animator, graphic artist, video editor and after effects specialist, etc. It later turned out to be a hidden advantage in my current role.
What is your role at Pulse?
I manage the super talented and crazy people (which is the default setting with talented people) that create content for Pulse Nigeria. Together with the various content leads, we chart the content direction, execution, quality, and operations of a 30-man content team. I am tasked to oversee this process.
What does your typical day look like right now?
I start my day by visiting the Pulse pages to ensure we have the latest trending stories while also making sure the quality of the posts are on point. I then monitor other media platforms and what is trending on social media. Check my emails, have meetings with my team to chart content direction or whatever project we are currently working on. In between, I do some day-to-day operational stuff.
What was your path to Pulse? And what has your journey been within the organization?
When I finally decided to pursue content as a career, I told a friend who works here that I was interested in joining Pulse. He told me there was an opportunity but the role was for RSS management, not writing. The JD (job description) fit some elements of selling digital products, so I took the role. It was basically me publishing news wire content in Nigeria, Ghana, and Kenya. After a while, I was promoted to lead the Content Hub, where I was still in charge of news wire content, but now had a video and social media team. We created and distributed content across the various Pulse markets in Africa. In 2018, I was promoted to Head of Operations for the editorial team and was in charge of quality assurance, client requests, media partnerships, inbound sales, onboarding, and day-to-day operations. In 2019, I was made Editor in Chief and later, Director of Content.
What inspires you to work every day?
I love to see ideas take life whether it is in the form of content or project management. My current role allows me to explore my creative, entrepreneurial, and organisational skills. It can be hectic a lot of times and there is always some new challenge waiting around the corner but most times it does not feel like work.
What’s the best part about working at Pulse?
The opportunities to learn and grow are immense. You constantly need to be innovative and you can’t innovate without learning, so it’s an endless cycle of growth. In my role as Director of Content, there are many things that could clog the flow of work, and I’ve come to see those challenges as great opportunities to innovate. I’m grateful for the work culture and environment here because they allow me and my team to colour outside the lines, and really collaborate and arrive at creative and sustainable solutions. It’s the best part for me.
What do you do when you’re not working?
This changes over time. For now, it’s watching movies and daydreaming. Daydreaming is the constant here – I like to let my mind wander. It helps me reboot, lol. I also like to shoot some pool or hang out with some friends.
Ahmed Beddy Kane – Graphic Designer and Video Specialist, Pulse Senegal.
Welcome to another edition of Pulse People. We’re speaking with Ahmed Beddy Kane, Graphic Designer, and Video Specialist, working out of Dakar, Senegal with the Pulse Senegal team. From being inspired by his reporter father to finding release in music, sports, and video games, Ahmed shares his passion for video with us, and how Pulse has helped him grow professionally.
Tell me a little about your background.
My name is Ahmed Beddy Kane. I am a video specialist, photographer, and graphic designer. My father was a reporter on the national channel. As a child, he used to give me the camera so that I could film certain activities that were going on around the house. That’s why after the BAC (baccalaureate), I decided to do Multimedia training.
I attended the professional world in license 1 in a film production company. I was there as an intern in video editing. But I also participated in film festivals too. I went through vibe radio Senegal and Expat Dakar. It was through Expat Dakar that I got into Pulse.
Let’s talk about your role at Pulse. What does it entail? What do you do on a daily basis? And how do you manage all the tasks?
At Pulse, I am responsible for making videos, photoshoots, montages, animations, and sometimes designs for clients. Every day I come to see the schedule, to see my tasks if there are videos to do or visuals. But I manage all my tasks with technique and zero pressure.
How much have you grown at Pulse? If you have changed roles, also tell us about that.
I grew into maturity at Pulse. Pulse also allowed me to find solutions to problems in my line of work, but also things outside the office. At Pulse I’ve learned a lot; I learned how to deal with pressure and stress.
What is Dakar like?
Dakar is good. Life is good here. We enjoy a quiet and rich nightlife. I am an outgoing person, so I’m quite acquainted with the nightlife in Dakar.
What inspires you at work?I’m inspired by the team spirit and the atmosphere, the work environment. What inspires me in my job is music and sports.
Tell me about your other interests, outside of video.
I am passionate about football, photography, and video games. In my free time, I go to drink tea with friends, train (football) and play the Playstation.
Pulse People: Caren Rotich, Head, Pulse Studio, Pulse Kenya.
The Third edition of Pulse People is here! This time, we’re talking to Caren Rotich. From intern to Head of Pulse Studio in Kenya, Caren Rotich shares her interesting career journey with us and gives us a peep into how she spends her free time, and what inspires her.
Tell us about your background:
I used to love journalism. I wanted to do it on campus (in university). I got into the campus for journalism and I found myself more interested in reporting, writing, and editing.
So after school, where did you work?
Pulse actually is my first place of full employment, but I’ve interned at different media companies in Nairobi in different roles. My first internship was radio reporting and partly a bit of TV and news reporting, and also some video production (sometime around 2014). And then I went back to campus to do my Bachelors (around 2016) and got into Pulse straight after campus in 2019.
Tell me about your role at Pulse.
At Pulse currently, my role is Head of Pulse Studio at Pulse Kenya. My job basically is to manage all our client projects from concept to screen, making sure that what we execute as a studio meets and exceeds the clients’ expectations. So basically managing all that, and also budgeting for Pulse Studio, whatever is needed for success in everything that we execute for our clients. I am also involved in the production of all Pulse studio client projects, making sure that my team; Pulse studio (A big shout out to them for the good work they do every day) have a good working environment and a good working relationship with other team members, coming up with video strategy recommendations (On this I have to work closely with operations, sales and even social) for what’s best for our client videos. This is much of what I do on a daily basis. I still do scripting for our client projects.
You have just launched a new studio building for Pulse Studio in Kenya. Can you tell me about that?
Oh yeah, it’s interesting. I’m very excited about it. Currently, I am in charge of it, but moving forward we hope to get someone who is going to help us manage the studio. It’s quite a big space, and we’re hopeful that we’re going to do so much more in that space. So far we’ve done two client executions in our studio. The first TVC (television commercial) has been completed there for Skygarden, an interesting shoot, and I can’t wait for you guys to see it. We also did the first social experiment there for a client (Diageo). It was quite interesting; we had the best cast, and I just can’t wait to see more client executions that are to be done in that space.
So what’s Nairobi like?
This (July) is one of the coldest months in Nairobi. It’s freezing! We even have heaters in the office. But actually, it’s a good place to live, an interesting place to be. You get to learn different things every day.
I’m just from the countryside, and it’s so warm there. But coming into Nairobi, it’s different. It can also get warm sometimes. The weather is a bit unpredictable.
Tell me about your journey into Pulse.
My career journey into Pulse is interesting. I came in straight after campus in 2019. I just saw a vacancy online. I was one of the student leaders on campus, and we still had our WhatsApp group. One of our lecturers just posted about an internship at Pulse. So, having nothing to do after campus (I hadn’t figured out where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do), I was like, let me just make this application for this internship. If I get it, I can go do some interesting stuff there. So I made the application, and then visited Pulse’s pages on Facebook and Instagram, then I got more interested. It looked like a great place to work, and do great stuff. I had started noticing that digital media was the upcoming trend.
So I got really interested and started praying that I would get the opportunity to join. On January 6, I got an email and a call to join, and I started my internship on the 9th of January. I remember the date because it was a big moment for me. I joined to do video editing for Wochit videos (Wochit videos are a type of video format used in Pulse Kenya at that time) and scriptwriting for News and Lifestyle. I was then retasked with client scripts, so I was handling internal lifestyle and news scripts and at the same time working on client scripts. Slowly I also moved into client Wochits as well.
After my internship was concluded, I was confirmed as the first scriptwriter at Pulse Kenya. I did more of the client scripting as well as more client Wochit videos and less internal script work. I did that all through till around October 2020 when I got promoted to Project Manager/scriptwriter, where, with the team, I managed to pull off one of the first TVCs (television commercial) that we did (for Golden Africa). I managed the project so well that I got nominated for the Employee of the Month once we completed the project. (All thanks to the team that was involved in the shoot)
In February this year, I got promoted to the role of Head, Pulse Studio. It has been a very interesting journey, and I’m just grateful to the team that saw my potential and much of what I can do and challenged me to take up the role. I remember when I was given the role. I spoke to Leonie (former MD, Pulse Kenya) and told her I was not sure I would be able to manage everything tasked to me, but she had so much faith in me, and she kept encouraging me, talking through every project with me.
What is your inspiration for work?
I’m one person who is inspired by a variety of things. I think what inspires me at Pulse is the team spirit and the culture that we have. We have a culture whereby when you have a challenge or a concern, and you reach out to any colleague at Pulse, at no point will they turn you down. They’ll sit down with you and figure out a solution to what you want to achieve, and you’ll leave there satisfied. You won’t be shy to reach out to people, and you’ll not hold back your ideas, and it’s easier working in such an environment.
Also, Pulse gives you the freedom to be you, and they accept you as you are. That kind of spirit is what inspires me daily, and also being able to know that I am tasked with a team, and part of my responsibility is to manage them, to help them grow, and help them become better in their fields. This is also what keeps me going. (Shout out to the team for the great work that they do)
I am also inspired by different people whose passion I look to. An example of this is someone called Dr. Nancy Booker. She was my lecturer. She’s just done so much in the field of journalism and has now moved into digital media. I look up to her a lot.
What do you do when you’re not on the clock?
I am one bad introvert (lol). When I’m not at work, I’m probably at my house reading. I do love reading a lot, and I read more novels. I’m not very interested in movies, but it’s something I’m trying to love. Most of the time I’m either reading something or cooking something new, trying out a new recipe. I love doing that. Also, I love going on road trips with my closest friends, outside Nairobi. So those are the three main things I love doing when I’m not at work. When I’m not working I try as much as possible to avoid social media and clear my head with other interesting stuff.
Pulse People: Eben Nana Yaw Berima Kwao, Head, Commercial Video, Pulse Ghana.
Welcome to another edition of Pulse People, where we talk to Pulse team members in all our markets, highlighting their career journey to Pulse, their growth within the company, and other interesting bits about them, when they’re not on the clock.
Today, we’re speaking to Nana, Head of Commercial Video at Pulse Ghana. From fine art in secondary school to graphic design, motion graphics design, and a full career in video production and cinematography, Nana’s journey paints the picture of a creative person whose curiosity has brought him closer and closer to the camera.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’ve always been a creative person. I started my media career as a graphic designer actually. But I often got frustrated when I would hand off designs and the animators would translate my designs and mockups differently from how I had envisioned it. I would do a mockup or a storyboard for a project and by the time it was presented, it would be different from what I originally had in mind. So I got curious about the process, and I moved from still graphic design into motion design. And then in motion design, I ran into the same frustrations with cinematographers and directors. So my journey has really been fuelled by my curiosity, and with each step I was looking for more control of the final result, eventually coming closer and closer to the capturing of content in video.
And before graphic design?
I did fine art (or what you would call graphic art) in secondary school and won a scholarship to study a diploma in design, and from this diploma, I went on to film school.
You’ve worked at Pulse before. Tell us about that
Yes. I joined Pulse in early 2014 when it was actually not yet Pulse. It was AllSports at the time. We had AllSports and then we also had Tissu.com.gh, an eCommerce brand, both businesses under Ringier at the time. So that was when I joined. And then in 2015, we transitioned into Pulse. I was actually part of the core setup team for Pulse. I actually came in as a camera person for AllSports, and by the time I was leaving, I was Head of Pulse TV. I was responsible for everything video (at this time social video and commercial video were not yet separated). I left in November 2016.
Tell us about your current role at Pulse.
Honestly, I like to think that not a lot has changed. To put it plainly, I am still producing videos. That’s still my core task at Pulse. The business’s structure has changed a little, and there is more specialization now. We’re producing our own video content now, and also serving clients with their video needs.
I’m also looking forward to doing a lot of partnerships. Because of my diverse experience with different industries, I kind of have ideas around some of the problems these industries have, and how Pulse can come in to solve these problems. I would not have been able to approach some of the companies and businesses with these solutions as a freelancer for instance, but we can have these conversations now, and it is much easier for these partnerships to be signed.
An advantage of having worked here before is that the conversations I need to have internally are much more fluid since I’m already quite familiar with most of the leaders.
What do you do on a typical day?
Typically, as you would expect, a lot of us creatives find it difficult to conform to norms and so forth. I missed a lot of meetings in my first few days, and I had to figure out a way to stay ahead of that. I now have an NFC sticker on my table such that as soon as I get in, and drop my mobile on it, my calendar for the day pops up. This is typically how the day begins for me, a way to ensure I do not miss any other meetings. I use this to plan my to-do and schedule my activities around those meeting times. I do a lot of ideating, of course, and shooting happens almost every day. I came in as we were about to sign a big client, and immediately got to work on that. Initially, I had to also be the project manager for most of the work the video team was doing, but now we have a Project Manager, and because of her, I have some free time now.
I also keep an open-door policy.
Tell us about the decision to come back to Pulse?
I’ll say it’s a lot of sweet-talking from Katharina (MD Pulse Ghana). What the structure is right now, is actually something I had pushed for before. Now, we have social video separate from commercial video and handled by separate teams. I was attracted by the clarity and separation of work. It’s exactly how I’ve always wanted the structure to be. I was excited about coming back to the video team that I helped build. It’s a great feeling. I was also motivated by the new direction I’ve seen, and the new business focus. I’m hoping it stays like that.
How has working at Pulse impacted you?
Pulse has helped me build a strong portfolio in this one medium (video). Pulse has helped me focus on that and build it. Now I have a solid career path in video. If I did not work at Pulse, I may not have focused exclusively on it for the length of time that I have.
What’s your personal inspiration for work?
It’s just the idea of creating something. It sounds cliche, but it actually is the truth. I love creating something that is tangible and can be appreciated by others. I take that client’s idea, and then make it tangible, and offer it back to the client. If I was not doing video, I would be creating something else. It’s just the idea of creating, regardless of the medium. And of course, the need to make a living. 🙂
How do you spend your free time?
Omo, I still create anyway. 😀
I like to help people, to fix things. Any problem I can solve creatively, I would do that. I’m also very very handy, working with wood, making furniture and so on. It could be me using my power tools or sketching an app idea or something. I also have a hydroponic farm. I’ll just always be found building and making things.
Pulse People: Kelechi Odoemelam, Communications Manager
Welcome to the very first installment of our blog series “Pulse People”. On Pulse People, we will share real stories from Pulse team members in all our markets in Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, and Senegal (with Côte d’Ivoire and Uganda coming up soon), highlighting their career journey to Pulse, their growth within the company, and other interesting bits about them, when they’re not on the clock.
Today’s post is about Kelechi Odoemelam, Communications Manager at Pulse. Read on!
What is your role at Pulse?
I work as Communications Manager at Pulse. It is my job to showcase and highlight the work that Pulse does internationally to an audience of potential partners. This involves some content creation, social media management, press releases, newsletters, website content design, and some internal communications as well.
What does your typical day look like right now?
On a typical day, I’m creating and sharing content on our corporate platforms and reaching out to colleagues to send in content for the internal bulletin. If I’m on a project at the time, I’m also talking to collaborators and preparing updates. It’s also important to touch base with my colleagues from graphic design and web design to probably share an update or a brief. There’s almost always something I need these guys for. I also sit down with the account management team once in a while to discuss a successful and recently completed project, to get the gist of it so that I can write a compelling case study. By the time this is published, it will be our first edition of Pulse People, and I’m also responsible for that.
How did you get here? What was your path to your current role?
Well, my background is in Engineering. But I’ve always found myself writing something right from uni. I got into an assistant editor role right after youth service at a small tabloid in Port Harcourt. From there to an advertising agency, an investment banking group, and now Pulse, Africa’s leading innovative media company.
How did you get into Pulse?
I was looking for other opportunities at the time, and then I got word of the vacancy at Pulse. I sent in my application and then went through two anxious interviews with the decision-makers lol. I really just kept my mind open, and when I got the offer, it was a mix of fear and excitement. You never really know a company is a good fit until you get a taste of the culture.
What inspires you to work every day?
I’m driven by gratitude. I’m grateful to be on a team like Pulse. The one thing that stands out for me is how willing people are to offer help, how flexible the system is, and the fact that it is not a super strict formal environment. Coming from a financial background, it’s easy to understand why I appreciate these things. So I wake up every morning knowing that the team trusts me to deliver on my tasks and that they also support me. In return, I want to put in good work and drive a greater corporate image for the company, a stronger sense of belonging for the teams, and creating conversations with potential partners.
When you’re not working, what are you doing?
My favourite pastime is reading. I’m either reading a novel or a business book or a bunch of articles. Recently, I’ve found that I also enjoy learning new stuff from YouTube.