It’s a Sher Thing was lucky enough to have a Q&A session with Michelle Steyn from Bateleur. Bateleur is a market research company and Michelle works in the sales and marketing division.
Michelle’s biggest asset is her ability to problem solve. She looks at challenges like a puzzle. All you need to do is look at all the pieces and see how they fit together. We really respect her view on mental health, where she gives a great perspective – if you are job hopping every few years for the same issue, you should probably start thinking about the common denominator. Is it the industry that makes you unhappy? Or perhaps the type of work do you do? Understand your barriers and make a change, be it within yourself or your career path.
On a personal note, we love her outlook on working from home and the benefits it offers to working mamas. We also liked her view on power dressing, out of all the women we’ve interviewed this month, Michelle is the only one who has said that she does not believe in power dressing, instead she says ‘ Go to work, be comfortable, save yourself some money and focus on your work.’ Focus on your work being the key takeaway.
If you would like to learn more about Michelle and the marketing research industry, please see more below 🙂
What type of work do you do?
I am in the market research industry; I oversee sales and marketing.
How did you get into this line of work?
I got into market research straight out of school; a close neighbor introduced me to market research industry, and I was hired as a temporary worker. Since then, I was captivated by the endless amounts of data that gives you key insights into people’s thoughts.
Is your industry female or male-dominated, and how did you stand out?
I would say it is more female dominated. With a field background, I’ve observed that many of the people I’ve worked with are female, too. When I started as a temp, I believe I stood out because I took a keen interest in the industry. I always wanted to see the outcomes of the data. I ensured that I did not box myself into a specific job description. I asked questions. I wanted to learn. I offered to help with anything I could to learn more.
How long have you been at this company for and what has your career progression look like here?
I’ve been at Bateleur Brand Planning for almost 16 years. During that time, I’ve been exposed to almost every aspect of the business, from editing and coding when I started to managing a field force and now marketing and sales. That being said, there are so many more subcategories of the industry I’ve been involved in, such as data analysis, moderating and client liaison.
What recommendations do you have for other young women looking to enter your industry?
Be humble. It’s alright to start at the bottom. There is no shame in that. Get your foot in the door and then learn, learn, and learn by being available and ready to help.
What is the one thing you absolutely love about your organisation?
We are not seen as numbers in our organisation. We are a relatively small group of people who care about the well-being of each team member. We make sure that we all work together for our own benefit and the company’s benefit.
Why should other women join your industry?
As women, we tend to care about people and what they say; it is intrinsically a part of who we are. Market research is perfect in this regard as it allows us to listen to what people are saying and express it in a way that has a meaningful impact and changes how things are done within an organisation. There is great satisfaction in seeing change happen as a result of a research project that you were involved in.
What motivates you?
I can’t pinpoint one thing that motivates me; it is a multidimensional mix of ambition, family, and work. For example, I love being tasked with challenging tasks as it allows me to learn something new and apply my mind. Then I have personal goals for where I would like to see myself in 10 years; working towards those is also a great motivation. As a mother, I’m motivated to do the best for my children so that they can succeed in life.
What do you do differently to give yourself the competitive edge?
I’m not afraid to try new things; I make sure that I never tell myself that I can’t do something unless I have tried it and given it 100% effort plus more. I tend to find that I can do most things I set my mind to.
As a mother, how do you balance being a full-time mother and leader?
I am a mother of three. Two of my children are primary school age. I am also a single mother working full-time and caring for the family. If anyone tells you that achieving a balance between work and family is a breeze, I would be inclined to have a bit of a debate. I feel like the balance is like a double-pan balance scale. On one end, you have work; on the other, you have a family. Sometimes the demand will be heavier at work than with family and visa verse, and that’s life. It is unavoidable. The trick to balancing it is to ensure that you have a routine and try your best to plan; if you know you have a hectic deadline on its way, make sure you spend more time with the family before most of your energy is needed to meet the deadline. Make sure you use every moment wisely at work and with your family. Be wise when choosing what you want to spend your time on, don’t take on things that will offer little value to you and take up a lot of your time.
Corporations in South Africa have come a long way in empowering mothers to have a better family/work balance. Many corporations have started embracing working from home. Working from home is particularly advantageous to mothers as it allows us to work while watching the kids. The amount of pressure this relieves is incredible and benefits mothers, businesses, and children. Before the move to working from home, many mothers were left stressed out when something unexpected happened to their child; they were tasked with the dilemma of picking between their child and work. This sort of stress offers absolutely no benefit to anyone. Work becomes difficult because you are worried about the child, and looking after your child becomes difficult because you are worried about work; nobody wins. Working from home removes this dilemma completely.
How do you manage criticism?
Criticism isn’t exactly an easy thing to deal with, it often hurts, and that is okay. It is what you do with it after that counts. I listen to what I am being told and take it in. I make sure that I listen more than I speak. Then I reflect on what has been told to me and how I have played a role in the situation. To establish your role in a situation, you need to reflect on your part without the intent to defend, reflect openly and honestly with yourself, be kind to yourself and realise that it is alright to make mistakes. Once you have figured out your part, create actionable steps to correct what was wrong and move forward.
How do you motivate and inspire your people?
By letting them know that it is alright to make mistakes, by making mistakes, you will learn, and if you are learning, then it is fantastic. Learn from the mistakes and do a better job next time, that’s all.
What has been your biggest failure in your career, and what did you learn from it?
A few years ago, I got into a bit of a pickle that I was largely oblivious to until somebody told me there was a problem. It hit me hard. I had to sit down and think seriously about my part in the problem and acknowledge that I had messed up. I took a very long self-reflection journey and ensured I would not repeat the same mistake twice.
Is there anything you wish you had done differently on your journey to success?
Nothing, I am where I am today because of my achievements and my failures.
Do you believe in power dressing?
No, I do not, although I have worked from home for about ten years, so perhaps I have a very biased view. I think that power dressing is nice to do occasionally but not as a regular thing. I believe it serves no benefit. I understand that every woman wants to look good. Still, it serves very little purpose when it comes to getting completely dressed up every day to go and sit at a desk and most likely see people you see every day. I feel the amount of money and time spent on clothing would not produce a benefit that is worth it. Go to work, be comfortable, save yourself some money and focus on your work.
What advice would you give to young people entering your industry?
Learn, learn, and learn, don’t be afraid; ask those around you if you can help with something to learn something new, even if it is small.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given regarding your career?
If you are going to try something, try properly, don’t do it if you are not going to give it your best shot.
How did you master your skillset?
With time and dedication. You don’t become good at something overnight; you stay committed and learn from your mistakes.
What is your leadership style, and who taught you how to lead?
I lead with I would rather know the truth, so we can move forward and fix the problem by finding solutions.
What are your three biggest assets that you bring into your role?
I am very good at problem-solving. I look at it like a puzzle. All you need to do is look at all the pieces and see how they fit together.
Has load shedding affected your industry, and if so, how so?
To a small degree, yes. Our company invested in inverters almost a year ago for each home office, these days load shedding has no real impact on our ability to work except when the inverters need to be maintained.
We see that millennials and Gen Z’s are job hopping every 2-3 years citing mental health and toxic working environments. What advice do you have for someone who is unhappy in their organisation or struggling with their mental health due to work related pressures?
I don’t want to downplay mental health issues; they are very serious. However, suppose you are job hopping every few years for the same issue. In that case, you should probably start thinking about the common denominator. Is it the industry that makes you unhappy? The type of work do you do? The people? Do you have any responsibility in the situation? Understand your barriers and make a change, be it within yourself or your career path.
Contact Michelle and her company should you wish to find out more about their offerings, over here:
Corporate website: https://bateleurbp.co.za/
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/BateleurCorporate
LinkedIn page: https://www.linkedin.com/company/bateleur-brand-planning