Africa to America

table-mountain-from-table-view

More about me, my home, my stomping ground. Where I grew up. And my Journey to America.

A view of glorious Table Mountain, from Bloubergstrand (this means Blue Bay Beach in Afrikaans) where I spent countless days.

I am a true “Xennial”, not a Millenial, or a Gen X’er. I am a Xennial. Born in a time (late 70’s if you must know) where we still grew up playing in the streets with our friends, no mobile phones, and when the street lights came on that was our sign to go home. But later on in our learned life, the internet hit. And suddenly the world evolved digitally.

What is a Xennial SEO Strategist?

As per the Wikipedia definition, and I have not been able to find a better one, we are a generation that grew up with an analog childhood, and evolved into a digital adulthood.

One would think that this may create a generation of confused misfits, but I think it gave us an added edge. As “Xennials”, we are people that can properly communicate with, and understand, both people and machines. Not something you will find so easily nowadays. Then throw SEO Strategy into the mix, and although there are all sorts of technical items to carry out for execution, it is people’s behavior that is at the heart of it all.

SEO Strategy plans to deliver up the results and information that the people are looking for. This is a professional fit like no other, always ensuring that the approach is people centric.

My educational and background

I qualified in 2000 with a Bachelors degree in Marketing. It was a time where Kotler and Armstrong was front and center with their teachings of the 4 P’s (Product, Price, Place and Promotion). Admittedly, if I look back now, and never quite understood the value of it then, one of the subjects that was absolutely compulsory to take was that of Consumer Behavior. Little did I know how this would play into every decision ever made over the following 2 decades of work.

As marketing evolved with the explosion of the internet, so I did too. I completed countless new courses and certifications over the years, ranging from media management, public relations, to content marketing, digital marketing, SEO and much more. I even became You Tube certified because we cannot ignore the explosion of video, and the fact that YouTube is the send largest search engine, that happens to be owned by Google. Click here for a comprehensive list of my qualifications and certifications.

It was my mission to stay up to date, and be able to deliver the best Marketing services I could, whether I was on the agency side of life serving my clients, or if I was the client, working with my allocated Account Management team. I was thriving in South Africa, working in large advertising agencies or for massive telecom companies’. Always putting my best foot forward, making sure I was always coming to the table with new ideas, but that also delivered and impacted the bottom line in a positive way.

And then I wanted to move to America

In December 2013, Nelson Mandela died. I recall sitting watching the funeral, emotional both with the loss of such a beacon of hope, and with the realization that with the loss of the country’s moral compass, the landscape was about to change. And it did. Almost overnight, things were impacted significantly and suddenly unemployment sky rocketed, along with crime, corruption and a number of other things that you are welcome to read about as my blogs come out. We had to leave. And so we began to plan our exit out of our beloved South Africa.

It took 4 tireless years of pushing, working, jumping through hoops, gathering paperwork, running up significant costs and much more before we were allowed to get on a plane and move to America. There were so many sleepless nights, tears, laughter and everything inbetween to be able to get us to this great country. There were times when I was ready to give up, let me just say, the USA is by far one of the most difficult countries to get into to start over. I was looking at options all over, I even flew to Australia for an interview, and there was the options of working towards New Zealand or the UK, where the majority of our friends and colleagues were heading to (there has been a mass exodus out of South Africa since 2013 due to the increased unrest) but we were determined that the USA was our first prize.

The American Embassy Adventure

When we had to have our final interview at the American Embassy in Johannesburg (we lived in Cape Town, and they gave us less than a weeks notice to get there, and it was over an Easter weekend, which is a big deal in South Africa) we knew this was going to be a challenge as all the flights would be full. Driving would take easily 20 hours one way, and we still had to work and get time off between. So we tapped into friends and contacts, ended up standing at the airport at Cape Town International on standby, but there was no space. We shared out story, a call was made to the Captain of the next flight out to Johannesburg, and permission was granted for the two of us to sit in the galley with the staff. This is pretty much unheard of. But I guess they picked up on our desperation.

When we finally got to the Embassy, armed with all our paperwork, after several hours behind massive walls and being watched by armed guards, we had our turn and had to answer our questions and present our case as to why the United States would benefit from having us. By the end of it, we were both sweating as this was the moment we had been working towards for 3 years, and the moment our interviewer said in her American accent (we will never forget) “Well, I think I am going to go ahead and issue this visa.” And she stamped our paperwork, we screeched with pure excitement. Not quite the done thing in an embassy but we could not contain ourselves. And then came the caveat, well you have 4 months to get over there or you will forfeit.

Packing up our life

Four months, four. To sell up your entire life, resign from work, say goodbye to friends and family, get the 2 dogs prepared to fly with us, is not alot of time. But we put our heads down and we got stuck in. We barely slpt, we had the longest running lists of things we had to do, in fact we got the biggest white board known to mankind, listed everything, and worked our way through methodically, taking great pleasure in scratching out completed items.

Arriving in the USA

1 May 2017 was a day we will never forget. We landed at JFK, with 2 bags, 2 dogs, on a one way ticket with no job prospects lined up. No bank accounts, no credit score, no drivers licence, we were invisible. And again, we put our heads down, made yet another list and we went at it. In no time, we both were offered positions, and we joined the American workforce. Although there were moments of complete frustration, sadness, even anger at times, the growth experienced both personally and professionally has been significant.

Since being in the USA, I applied the same sense of work ethic. And I have made sure I keep learningm keep applying, keep improving. The merge of marketing from Africa to America has been a fascinating experience, because in many ways the third world is advanced digitally, than that of the first, and vice versa. So merging the best of both has given me the ability to look beyond what is right in front of me from a task perspective, and yes I am very good at getting things done, but it also allows me the foresight to see what is coming around the corner and to prepare as such from a professional (and in some cases personal) point of view. I

How does all this make a great SEO Strategist?

I do believe that as a Strategist, it is important to be able to see the unseen, as well as what is right in front of you, and to be able to make a calculated decision as to what course of action to take. So with all these years of experience, the change of countries, the ongoing studies and learnings, the strategic services I am able to provide are both unique, and valuable to any business whom I serve. Because do not forget, from analog to digital, the persistance of change with being able to understand people at the heart of it all, makes for a well rounded Marketing & SEO Strategist professional.

For more on my professional background that has led me to become a SEO Strategist, click away. (yes, that’s me!)

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