5 minutes with… Mpume Ngobese

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For the past seven years Mpume has been a key figure at Joe Public in South Africa and was recently announced as the managing director of Connect, the company’s specialist digital agency
5 minutes with… Mpume Ngobese

Mpume Ngobese is an influential figure if there ever was one; she is part creative, part lecturer and part board member of the Association for Communication and Advertising in South Africa. Despite all of this and a career spanning over a decade she has never seen herself as a powerhouse, but instead a “determined, obsessed, willing to fail forward, courageous, funny and dynamic black woman”.

 

As a self-proclaimed dreamer and optimist, Mpume has huge hopes that her seat on South Africa’s advertising board will attract and retain the next generation of young black talent in the country. To Mpume, inspiring and showing others a path they never thought they could take is a reminder for her to always stay true to herself.

 

LBB’s Natasha Patel spoke to Mpume about her incredible career path and a job offer made on a pinky promise.

 

 

 

LBB> We're all about championing women here at LBB. How do you feel to be such a prominent figure in what is stereotypically a male dominated industry, particularly at senior levels?

 

Mpume> Firstly, I really appreciate platforms that recognise the importance of championing women because, as we all know, the world is naturally biased towards supporting males, whether intentionally or not. That is the case.

 

Having carried the burden of being the first-born child all my life, I do not and have not had the luxury of comparing myself to any man, but rather I am carrying the responsibility of being the guiding light to those who look up to me, both females and males.

 

I believe if I’d compare myself to men that it would be comparing apples with oranges. As women, we have different ambitions, different strengths and different perspectives. My focus is to continue forging down a path that I have created for myself in pursuit of growth.

 

 

LBB> A very interesting perspective…what would say to those who would call you a powerhouse?

 

Mpume> There are so many females I consider to be powerhouses, for example, Tarana Burke, Serena Williams and Misty Copeland; I am not there yet – I will get there one day.

 

I consider myself as a determined, obsessed, willing to fail forward, courageous, funny and dynamic black woman who dares to try out new things. What is most important to me is to grow through my experiences, whilst inspiring the young, black child to realise their wildest dreams.

 

I get inspired by the random emails and texts that I often receive from my past and present students and from the young people in the industry thanking me for being their inspiration. That makes me feel rewarded and help to continue to be true to myself.

 

 

LBB> How does it feel to have so many people looking up to you both at work and on a personal level?

 

Mpume> Being a leader is not about serving yourself. Leadership is about inspiring others to grow by growing yourself, and this is achieved by constantly being excellent in everything that you do. And by excellence, at Joe Public United we mean, “be better than your best, then better”.

 

 

LBB> What are some career highlights for yourself?

 

Mpume> I have enjoyed a nonlinear career path that has enabled me to touch most areas of communication. After graduating from university, I started my career in 2002 at Johnnic Publishing, working in the group editorial office where I interacted with the most incredible journalists and editors across sectors.

 

I then moved to agency world, where I was involved in both trade and customer marketing, then branched off to brand strategy and design, which then led me to the above-the-line communications space at Joe Public United, where I got to work on amazing campaigns for various clients. I then stepped into a managing director role at Joe Public Ignite, the beyond-the-line specialist agency within the agency group, where I worked on experiential and integrated accounts. I am currently the managing director of Joe Public Connect – the specialist digital agency.

 

My moves have not always been calculated, but rather considered. I approach everything in my life with the same level of intensity and consistency, all because of my drive for being better and always willing to learn more.

 

I have had a lot of standout moments throughout my career, but one that I will mention is when I was approached by my group CEO to be MD of Joe Public Ignite. I was due to go on holiday to Thailand the next day, so I was doing my handover status meeting with him when he just launched into a conversation about an opportunity that has come up within the agency and that the shareholders would like me to fill that position. I did not think twice before saying “yes”, then he made me pinky swear, and we adjourned the meeting.

The next time I got to think about my scary commitment was in Bangkok, but I knew then that I had made the right decision.   

 

 

LBB> You’ve worked across so many brands from financial services to hospitality to retail, would you say these are reflective of your interests?

 

Mpume> I am a naturally curious and inquisitive person who, according to Gallup’s CliftonStrengths, has Achiever, Learner and Input as top three personality traits. 

 

There is no information I consider useless information.  My personality traits and interests have shaped the way I view the world. I have dabbled in many brands across various categories and I have approached every brand with a keen interest and have delved deeper to understand drivers and nuances in each of the categories. So yes, my brand portfolio does reflect my interests in many ways.

 

 

LBB> Aside from working at Joe Public you lecture at Boston Media House, by doing this do you hope to inspire the next generation?

 

Mpume> Absolutely. The biggest driver in my passion for teaching is to lead and inspire the next generation of leaders in this country. I’ve been lucky to have been surrounded by people who have inspired me to be better than my best, so now I am paying it forward.

 

 

LBB> What is your advice for them?

 

Mpume> Know yourself. Have a passion. Be brave. Dare to grow. Always be kind.

And success does not come overnight. It is a by-product of hard work, relentlessness, selflessness and great attitude.

 

 

LBB> Tell us a little more about being a board member for the Association for Communication and Advertising?

 

Mpume> The ACA is the official representative body of South Africa's advertising and communications profession.

 

I did not wake up one day and became a board member of the ACA.

The journey started a little over five years ago when I began lecturing at Boston Media House. My passion for teaching then led me to become a committee member on the Education & Training Portfolio committee at the ACA, where we developed various strategies of transformation in the industry, with the main focus being the attraction and retention of young black talent within the industry.

 

After having served on the committee for some time, I was then elected as a board member of the ACA. This will be my second year serving as a board member. At the ACA, I also serve on the South Africa Effie Awards committee.

 

 

LBB> On a more personal note, what do you hope to achieve in the future?

 

As a constant dreamer an eternal optimist, there’s a lot that I am personally hoping to achieve in the future. I have a long road ahead of me that will be full of laughter, hard work and love.

 

I will quote Maya Angelou – my muse: “my great hope is to laugh as much as I cry; to get my work done and try to love somebody and have the courage to accept the love in return”.

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Joe Public United, 1 month ago