PR manager for fashion and beauty at Woolworths Tanya Pangalele shares with us what her job entails, the challenges of black women in the corporate space, as well as her success tips
Take us back to your childhood, what were your career aspirations?
Growing up, I initially wanted to be a TV presenter. Part of that dream did actually come true. Amongst a couple of adverts that I was in, I ended up being a presenter for Craze E. I loved it so much and at the time, it’s all I wanted to do. My parents, though incredibly supportive, wanted more for me and essentially wanted to see me in a ‘real job’ according to their terms and that meant getting an education. So, I took an interest in law, don’t ask me how, that’s still a mystery to me. I then spent a couple of days shadowing a lawyer in town. I recall walking into his office and seeing piles and piles of paper elegantly wrapped in brown files. They were piled so high that some made it all the way up to the ceiling. The lawyer informed me that part of being a lawyer is reading and understanding every single case and file. Shook, I asked him, “did you read every single one of those files?” he said yes. It was at that point in time that I realised that being a lawyer was definitely not for me.
What attracted you to a career in branding, social media, and marketing?
I took a sabbatical after high school and one day I was having a conversation with my late father. He wanted to know how far I was with deciding on what to do. I said, not very far. In fact, I had no clue what I wanted to do. Everything seemed so theoretical, mundane, and rooted in the norm and all I wanted was the opposite of that. He then suggested I look into public relations and said that I would be good at it. I had never heard of PR before that and he explained how it was all about perception creation and the protection of brands, but he urged me to look into it and so I did. And as they say, the rest is herstory. How I got into branding and social media is a completely different story. I felt that PR was moving too slow in terms of how things are done so I decided to study marketing and it was pure love. I was blessed enough with opportunities to work with great brands at a time when social media was taking off and got exposure and experience while building my career.
You were part of the leadership team handling the social media and communications at UCT during the Rhodes Must Fall and Fees Must Fall, what were the challenges and changes you made for the university during this historic moment?
In terms of changes, we managed to develop a robust crisis communications plan that helped guide us during times of crisis. We also ensured that we engaged constantly with the students and staff to keep them abreast of what the university was doing. Challenges were many and I’d say one of those challenges was convincing the university community that our efforts were sincere and that we were essentially on their side.
You are currently a PR manager for fashion and beauty at Woolworths, what does your role entail, including the challenges and highlights?
My role entails creating publicity for our fashion and beauty brands. The challenges are finding innovative ways to create publicity in a very competitive market. Highlights are being able to work with incredibly talented media and influencers in the industry.
How big is your team and how would you describe your management style?
My team is small and comprises my PR coordinator who works closely alongside me and an external agency who are an extension of us. My management style is one that is rooted in empathy and inclusivity in terms of approach. I strongly believe in empowering and encouraging people to create and work independently without me having to micromanage them. After all, I did employ them because they’re talented and highly capable to do their job.
What kind of a person will thrive in this type of career?
Someone who is assertive, resilient, creative, strategic, and empathetic. This career also requires a strong understanding and appreciation of people and their behaviours. You have to know how to read the room, know what to say, and know when to say it. You also need to be confident enough to stand up and speak up for yourself without fear. Most importantly, you need a thick skin, don’t take anything personally. Ever!
Corporate culture can be very challenging, especially for many black women, who continue to face a wide pay gap, racism, and even sexual harassment, what advice would you give to women striving to climb the corporate ladder with such challenges?
Don’t be afraid to own your voice, stand up and speak out. Part of why these behaviours and challenges are still at play is because we don’t speak up for a number of different reasons. We have to dismantle and disable the structures that were put in place to suppress our growth and success. It requires courage, resilience, and patience but it can and will be done. It will also mean, a lot of the time, standing on your own and being labelled, but if you know for sure that it’s your truth and that truth will change not only your trajectory but also the trajectory of many behind you, then it’s worth being in the fight and being the loner. Believe me, it’s not as easy as it sounds and it doesn’t happen overnight but it’s necessary. All it takes is courage and the will and the determination for things to change for the better, for all black women.
What successful campaigns were you a part of in some of the brands you have worked on?
At UCT, I was part of the first-ever concert held at the university. It was to commemorate 20 years of freedom and the late Johnny Glegg was one of the many amazing acts that we had on stage that night. At Woolworths, I was part of the team that drove the collaboration with Tshepo the Jean Maker around his amazing tees with the line “we the people”, which is the preamble to the constitution that inspired Tshepo to design the tees. Also, Woolworth’s beauty collaboration with Sir John and WBeauty across three volumes has been one of the many notable campaigns.
READ MORE: Africa’s Jean Maker
Describe your busiest day
Back-to-back meetings, strategy planning, influencer selection, putting out fires, campaigns going live, and later starting my real job – being a mom to our incredible two-year-old son. And, generally trying to be dope! LOL!
What are your ultimate career goals?
To run my own business and build my own legacy!
How do you unwind?
I do boxing, which I absolutely love. I also love to take walks on the beach and enjoy a good glass of wine while listening to great music.
What is your definition of success and what are your success tips for young people?
For me, the ultimate definition of success is being and doing better than I did the previous day. My tip for young people would be don’t be afraid to be you and do you. Love and take care of yourself at all times because you cannot pour from an empty cup. Be patient and gentle with yourself as there’s no such thing as fulfilling your dreams by a certain age or time frame. For as long as you are breathing and have life in you, you can work towards fulfilling those dreams. Own your voice, speak up and speak out for what you believe in. And please, please, please do not compare yourself to others, your journey is yours, so embrace it and enjoy it.