Author and award-winning marketing and advertising maverick Khaya Dlanga shares with us how he worked his way up the corporate ladder, as well as his success tips to young people
From book stands to spearheading marketing campaigns on brands South Africans love; as well as having a following of more than 500 000 on Twitter and Instagram, Khaya Dlanga has many platforms to connect with an audience. He’s smart, funny, opinionated and for someone of his calibre pleasantly humble. Dlanga chats to KDanielles Media about his journey to success, and of course his success tips to young people:
Please share with us what drew you to social media to share your views on issues you talk about?
Social media happened to be a platform that was available, especially Twitter. I was also drawn the instantaneous ability social media provides to respond to and to understand what was happening at that moment. I think that as someone in marketing, it’s important for me to know what people are going through; since I cannot be everywhere nor rely solely on research. So if you are in touch you know what the trends are before research tells you. Also, it was a creative outlet for me to express myself.
You have a huge and engaged following as well, does authenticity have everything to do with it?
It was part of it but I never thought of authenticity. I was just being myself at all times, which I think is very important. Sometimes I post pictures of the village I grew up in and would be asked why I do that. I can’t deny my roots and the fact that it’s where I am from. I always tell people that you should never forget where you come from and who you truly are when you journey towards your future.
Share with us how you started your successful career, after dropping out of school?
It was a long road. And like many kids, I dropped out of school because of financial reasons. I was attracted to advertising from when I was at school. There was a point at varsity where I was homeless. (I would sleep at friends’ places or in classrooms until I got help from someone). Irrespective, I applied for a job as a copywriter at an award-winning advertising agency in Cape Town. I knew I would compete against qualified people who finished their studies and I had to stand out. So I became creative in my CV, which was quite silly. In bullet points I wrote:
- I live in Pinelands, not Gugulethu
- I can use phones, faxes, and computers without breaking them
- I am not a member of Cosatu
- I can swim
- Some of my best friends are white…
I got a call from that agency and the lady on the other side of the phone was laughing so hard and invited me for a job interview. That’s how it all began. I worked very hard in every agency and position I was in. I then worked as a strategist to better understand advertising. I also told the Universe that I want to get to corporate and the next thing Coca-Cola head hunts me and I excelled there as well. I also worked at Heineken for two years and recently left to work at Rain as its Chief Marketing Officer. It’s not by luck but by the fact that I am always putting myself out there, and ensuring that I do extremely well. Faith has also gotten me this far because I always affirm that anyone who hires me, deserves me.
I heard in a radio conversation that South Africa’s education system is not matching the corporate requirements, which makes it hard for young people to break into the job market, from your experience, what is your advice to young people who are job hunting currently?
There’s no denying that you have to have the skills that are required, but sometimes a piece of paper obtained from varsity does not necessarily showcase your other skills. My advice is hone and master the skills you have so well that it makes you stand out and eventually someone will take notice and hire you. School is important but it’s not necessarily an indicator of how well you are going to do in corporate. Be clued up about what you love and be practical about it; standing out increases your chances of getting opportunities.
How do you define success?
Success to me means being proud of who I am, and remaining humble no matter how far I am in my career.
And what are your success tips to young people?
Always commit to excellence in everything you do. Put yourself out there and don’t be afraid to get rejected because success is for those who are able to bounce back from failure and rejection. Passion is not enough, put action to your passion, excel at what you do and opportunities won’t pass you by.
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