We love and respect Serah Katusia and as you read her interview with us, you will understand why. She currently carries a double portfolio with she executes with grace and the touch of excellence she is renowned for. Read more about Serah in her own words and enjoy our interview with her!
“I have a deep love for communication, for data, for using insights to develop solutions that build brands and help businesses unlock growth. In this new era of tech, digital, and connectedness, communication is a critical piece in connecting with consumers, building brands, and unlocking growth. I love coaching, impacting people, and building excellent teams, beyond just teams that deliver, to teams that love working together. I believe in PEOPLE FIRST, if we invest in building great and diverse teams, the KPIs will be met. I am a gender equity champion and have attended GroupM Walk The Talk in 2018 and 2019.”
Tell us about what you do as the Managing Director of MediaCom and GroupM East and Central Africa. How did you begin?
I run Mediacom and GroupM, this means wearing double hats.
At Mediacom, I am responsible for the delivery of media excellence to all our clients across Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). I work with a team of experts in Data, Strategy and Planning to take client challenges and convert them to media ideas that will impact their brands and their businesses. In today’s world, media is not just about buying space in media channels, it is about delivering growth for businesses with media solutions that cut through the clutter of our world today.
As the GroupM MD, I work with our affiliate network across 35+ markets to ensure smooth delivery of work at the market level, building sustainable partnerships and capabilities with our affiliate network is critical. I spend most of my GroupM time on this. Africa is complex, but we can finally say as GroupM we have figured it out – we have the people, the network and more so, we are investing in data to guide our media investment in some of Africa’s most data dark markets.
How did I Begin? I started in client service, at TBWA/Redsky, but this agency was great in strategy. I loved learning. I love the system they used to develop brand solutions. I loved Client Service, until I didn’t, (laughs) so I got really bored. When media came calling, it was not a resounding yes; it was, “Okay, let me try.” 10 years later, I love it. This is what I was always supposed to be doing.
I moved to McCann to manage Coca-Cola Strategy team for East Africa, then to Tanzania to set up the Vodacom Media unit. I has a stint in Ghana setting up the Vodafone media unit, then later I was the Country Manager of Scanad and JWT Tanzania, and then in 2016, I came back home to Mediacom. 10 years spent crisscrossing the continent, learning the markets, the people, the brands, the media partners – all that has come in handy in my role at Mediacom and GroupM
Can you share a few things you love about working in the communications field?
I love the speed of advertising, the dynamism, the need for innovation and thinking differently every other day.
The way one little data set can be the beginning of a Pan-African campaign, and that can help build brands and grow businesses. I love using media to grow brands, to build businesses to change communities. Also the impact comms and content can have on people and communities. I love that we can be working on a telco brand this morning and move to a healthcare brand in the afternoon. That diversity feeds by curious mind, it keeps me sane I would say.
Looking back at your journey so far, what are some of the achievements you are proud of?
Well, I think it is always hard to speak about my achievements, but I am learning.
I am very proud of some of the mentees I have had in my journey, seeing them grow, being a part of their growth, and supporting them as they keep rising is one of my proudest achievements. Some work with me, others are clients or media partners, and the joy of their success gives me the fire to keep going.
Secondly has been building team Mediacom and driving excellence for our clients as a culture, and having a team that loves to work together. My teams, from Kenya to TZ, I have worked with some of the best minds and best humans in this industry.
In terms of brands, I am proud for the work we have done on Coke Studio Africa, Safaricom Fuliza Launch, KCB Lions Den, Central Bank of Kenya new currency campaign, TIGO Pesa launch in 2015, Vodacom Tanzania launch of data product for youth in 2012. These are not the only ones, but these are key campaigns that I am really proud of.
In 2021, I am most proud to be part of building media capability in the continent through GradX, a GroupM Africa initiative that seeks to recruit and train graduates in media. We started in 2020 with South Africa, extended to Kenya and Nigeria in 2021 and we plan to increase the markets in 2022. This program is designed to get graduates ready to be all rounded media planners.
Any tips for younger communications professionals who are still trying to find themselves within the industry?
BE YOU. Don’t let the industry change you.
Work hard. Work harder than anyone you know.
Get support, a mentor, a coach, you need it.
Learn to ask yourself, is this working for me, do I need to pivot?
Leave – learn to leave, this is so critical.
What book or podcast has had a huge impact in your professional journey?
Many, I read a lot, a lot. Like a book a week or so, but some definitely stand out.
Books: “Designing Your Life” by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans.
This book is so key for me, it has taught me to embrace my choices instead of anguishing over them. It has helped me in designing a life that I love, that is not all about work but about the things that I love.
Podcast: Brene Brown and Mediacom lead on that list.
I listen and watch loads of Ted Talks, and definitely Brene Brown makes for the best Ted Talk out there.
What professional advice would you give to your younger self?
Leave toxic people and environments as soon as you can. Call them out, do not allow yourself to sit it out. Because above all things, you need peace of mind.