Building Relationships …

If you believe that being a good person and working hard will get you far in life – this article is for you. Let me tell you a story…

So, I am fresh from college and I just got my first job at TBWA\Hunt\Lascaris. At the time, they had said that they don’t do internships or take interns – I was turned away 3 times before they gave me a chance. I got the job and I was happy because I was told that I was working with the best in the world at that time as well. Now, being a black creative in a white dominated industry was not easy to settle in because we were once enemies and now we all have to be friends and all. I struggled to settle in because of how things worked within advertising agencies and I was new to this notion of a working environment. Now, I was good at what I did and I was a hard worker but something lacked within me – I didn’t have the ability to build relationships. What do you mean build relationships, you would ask?

I would only socialize with my black friends and colleagues and when I wasn’t with them, I’d have my earphones on and drown myself in work. It got to a point where I was just getting shitty briefs to do and that created some frustrations within what I did. This is how I started Studio83. Then came Tumi Sethebe, who is still a good friend of mine, and he changed how I dealt with this issue as well as how to build relationships. Tumi was that annoying new guy at the office who everyone loved. I was better than him regarding work and skill. He would walk into the office on a Monday morning greeting everyone from the gate and having some sort of conversation with everyone. And he didn’t choose whom he interacted with either – black, white, Indian, purple, green he gave no fucks. At the time, I looked at it as kissing ass, but what this was doing was basically showing me how it was done.

So, I was there a year before him so basically I should get promoted before him, right? Sure, because that’s how things should happen right? Wrong! Dude gets promoted before I did and now I have to report to dude on some projects, now you need to understand that my pride at this point is taking an apartheid kind of beat down. When I left TBWA\Hunt\Lascaris I left there a better person. Instead of being mad at Tumi, I learnt from him. I started doing what he did moving forward, I would greet everyone at the new company, I would try to chat to all the people I thought were interesting, I would ask you your name if I bumped into you at the printers.

If you were new, I would go to you and introduce myself to you, I would greet the cleaners and have a chat or two with them because they remind me of my parents (grandmother was a domestic worker and mother is still a cashier at Pick ‘n Pay). At first, when I did this, it wasn’t because I wanted a promotion but more like an experiment of mine (I love human behaviour experiments) and I wanted to see what would happen. Trust me, I was happier as a human being. I looked forward to going to work; everyone knew my name (apparently it helps that I’m not bad looking). I produced the best work, I got away with murder, and I got to understand that that’s how this works. When an opportunity for a promotion came around, it made sense that I got it, it was no hassle. It wasn’t because I was great at what I did but because I was easy to work with – I was still going to get the same training as the next person.

What set me apart were my attitude and my personality. Like Nkuli Makhubela once said during lunch at work while we were having a similar discussion, “if you want to be a worker all your life, good for you, keep doing what you’re doing. But if you want to move up in the world, attitude is everything”. I’m not saying this works but I’m saying this is what I have learnt. People don’t work with your CV, they work with you. So, if you’re easy to work with, the better. If you’re going to always start fights and not contribute towards a solution, things won’t change. So, basically it’s up to you if you want to build relationships or not and this is my story.