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Youth Month Content Feature

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#YouthMonth: Nothemba Belle - From palaeontology to strategy

When her BSc Honours in palaeontology proved too specialised to find employment, Nothemba Belle started a part-time promotions hustle. From in-person to online, from being a ticket sales staff for Howler to doing different alcohol and tobacco activations… she discovered that she had a knack for this industry.
(Image supplied) Nothemba Belle is a junior strategist at VML
(Image supplied) Nothemba Belle is a junior strategist at VML

She also participated in online campaigns involving "nano armies" on Instagram and X (previously Twitter) and this fuelled her curiosity and fascination with the strategic thinking behind these campaigns.

To explore this passion further, she co-founded Simelle Creatives, a digital marketing company.

“This helped me gain first-hand experience in diverse digital marketing aspects, from building small business’ digital presences to influencer management for different agencies," she says.

She also actively sought opportunities to gain more experience in the creative industry. This led her to land a role in the VML Catalyst Programme.

“This allowed me to delve into the strategic planning side of the industry, solidifying my desire for a creative career as a strategist,” says Belle, who was recently promoted to junior strategist at the agency.

The 26-year-old has been with VML for a year and says it's been a challenge, but she is loving it.

As a young person, what do you bring to the table that is unique/different?

My diverse background, encompassing scientific research and business analysis, honed my problem-solving and data analysis skills.

I’m a social butterfly and I feel like I can assist in facilitating collaboration because of my skills. I also think that as a young person, I’m not shy about going about getting what I want and I believe this will work in my favour for the future.

What has been the most difficult learning curve for you?

What proved to be the biggest challenge was to get in touch with the industry itself as I did not know the industry very well. Within the industry itself, it is fast-paced and sometimes the deadlines seem impossible until you complete them.

What has been the biggest lesson you have learnt?

As I stated above, I did not know the industry very well, but I have not let this hold me back. Instead, I am willing to put myself out there and do the best I can. And this is my advice to other young people who would like to work in this industry; do it, you have nothing to lose, just put yourself out there.

Why is this industry a good place for young people and what opportunities does it offer?

This industry is fun and you will be able to get to know yourself much more because of the pressure in the industry. It makes you give it your all. This is also an industry where you will learn valuable skills.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

My recent promotion is part of many small affirmations that show me I am in the right industry and that I am not too bad at what I do.

In 10 years I will be 37, and I hope by then to be in a space where I am a senior strategist, even working abroad and consulting for different agencies and companies.

About Danette Breitenbach

Danette Breitenbach is a marketing & media editor at Previously she freelanced in the marketing and media sector, including for Bizcommunity. She was editor and publisher of AdVantage, the publication that served the marketing, media and advertising industry in southern Africa. She has worked extensively in print media, mainly B2B. She has a Masters in Financial Journalism from Wits.
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