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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.