How I became a marketer.

By Judith Mugeni

6 January, 2018

Below is my personal journey to how I became a marketer. I use my experience to illustrate how I got to where I am to day and how am still growing as an individual. I am hoping that it will help you in your marketing journey.

Looking back 13 years later, I would like to say that while studying in primary school or high school or even university that I was one of those students who always knew what they would be when they grow up, I would be lying.

In high school, I wanted to be a chemical engineer (hmm my marks just didn’t go with this dream). In varsity I wanted to study psychology (and I did, for a whole year).

Personal Qualities

One thing I have always known about myself though was 1. I love people.

The other qualities that I know I have include (not in ranking order) 2. I am a curious individual. 3. I love to solve problems 4. I am fascinated by how people behave 5. Am not afraid to try new things 6. Super Competitive (not sure if this qualifies as a quality for marketers). 7. I am constantly learning about new things. 8. I love to travel. 9. I love to meet new people. 10. I have a creative mind.

Do I need a degree?

If we must talk about education (I know many people who have built their companies, using marketing without a marketing qualification), I studied a Bcom Degree. I took Law, Marketing, Business Finance and Management as majors.

I didn’t start there though, I started with a BA degree and the following three subjects were absolutely useful to my marketing career: Sociology, Psychology and English Literature.

I furthered my studies by completing a Bcom Management Honors Degree (part-time, while studying)

I recently completed a Masters in Management in the field of Strategic Marketing ?(part-time, while studying).

Outside of university, I am attempting to finish my portfolio of evidence in the Chartered Marketing Program offered by the Marketing Association of South Africa.

Experience, where do you start?

Shopper Floor: I started off the shopper floor (that’s the bigger picture view when you are doing jobs that would be considered by others as not real jobs), since it is experience that the working world is always looking for. But it is on the shopper floor that you gain a lot of insights into people. Worked at McDonalds, Foschini, American Swiss, Jet while studying.

Qualitative Research: During our final year, we got introduced to Kaufman Levin Associates (KLA) who were offering final year students an opportunity to learn about research. I jumped on the bandwagon and got trained as a Focus Group Moderator (where I learnt context and language are key) and as a Note Taker (where I learnt to not put my views but take down notes as they are happening). This brought me closer to my first passion – I love people and qualitative research brought me closer to finding out more about people.

Internship: After graduation, I got accepted into the Kantar graduate program (intense selection test, a job advertised in the newspaper, I did not know anyone in the process who could have given me a little push). We would intern at three major research companies in an 8 months rotation namely Millward Brown, Added Value and Research International. I am not going to lie, the dream sold in varsity was that I would get a job at Unilever (I tried), Procter and Gamble etc as these were seen as the marketing universities of practice. However my internship at these three companies taught me about consumer insight ~(it all starts here), taught me about brand value and how to build brand equity (lo behold, I would work on the Unilever account after all and other brands such as Master Food, Cell C take a Girl Child to work, to name a few. I also got to work with employees from all levels (hello interns, it does have perks), from juniors to senior management and most excitingly to CEOS (where I truly learnt to be confident). You see the cool thing about starting from research is that you get to work on different brands and different brand challenges (hello more passions being ticked off my list).

Research and Brand Building: I would be employed at Millward Brown as a Research executive after my internship working on the Unilever account (hello world). Again since we are being honest, I finished my 8 months stint at Millward Brown, Added Value and only did about 3 months at Research International (where I realized I now knew what I wanted to do and was ready for the world). I gained numerous experience at Millward Brown and was afforded many opportunities to grow, from heading up own projects, client presentations, free will to edit my presentations, presenting a co written paper with an amazing person whom I learn a lot from, Matthew Angus at SAMRA (hello world, paper being accepted to SAMRA was awesome, standing in front of practitioners is truly an invaluable experience). Millward Brown invested in me by sending me to training such as Presentation Skills and presenting in front of Eric himself and the MDs (Charles and Christine), absolutely awesome). It is in this company that I would travel on the African continent, work on projects that introduced me to consumers from all different walks of life or in LSM (living standard measure) terms LSM 1 to 10, what is categorised in marketing as rural to middle class to high net worth individuals. I would also get an opportunity to publish a chapter in the global brand book and do a road tour with one of the great marketers Nigel Hollis and Matthew Angus (hello world).

Consumer Engagement and Relationship Building: 2010, FIFA World Cup to be exact was coming for us in South Africa and it was an opportunity I could not miss. In comes an awesome recruitment agency who would connect me to Octagon Marketing South Africa. They were looking for someone who would work on the World Cup. Using my experience I remember saying in that interview that I have a wealth of consumer knowledge and I would bring this experience to connect brands to consumer passions. It is in this company that I would fully grasp the concept of strategic marketing (hello problem solving passion), the concept of consumer engagement (not activations but how to truly connect to consumers), long term customer relationship building and solve manner brand challenges. It is at this place that I would now truly connect to the target audiences I would have analyzed in my research days, from rural to high end markets, from the International to the African consumer, consumers in B2B and in the B2C space. It is also at this place that I would move into the Integrated Marketing Space (a concept I would have learnt in my research days at Millard Brown) and the importance of synergy. It is at this company that I would have now horned my skills in Advertising, Consumer insight, PR, Digital Marketing, BTL marketing, Brand Building and more.

Though long, this is just a synopsis of my journey to becoming a marketer (it is not at all the one and only way to becoming a marketer).

The story is long but I hope that I have demonstrated that in becoming a marketer:

  1. Personal Qualities: you have to have certain personal qualities, marketing is about managing profitable customer relationships (you must love the concept of connecting people to brands)
  2. Education – while I might have marketing in my belt, I studied other areas of business, I have also known many marketers from science degrees, from engineering degrees, from Arts degrees etc. In my view its a great foundation to have some marketing qualification but it is your passion that matters most.
  3. Experience: as illustrated above start somewhere. Others would have began their journey straight into brand management, others in research etc, Marketing is a huge field, start from somewhere.


Should you have any questions re your marketing journey, email me at







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