Taffy L. Gotora is an integrated marketing communications leader who heads Barker McCormac Ogilvy & Mather’s digital department. The company is the largest advertising agency in Zimbabwe. Affectionately known as “Digital Bae”, Taffy is also a part-time digital marketing lecturer at the Marketers Association of Zimbabwe. She previously sat on the board of the Rotary Club of Harare CBD and currently sits on the Grassroots Cricket Board of Trustees. Taffy is a highly sought-after speaker, passionate about women empowerment and is a mentor to many. In addition, she has co-authored two books.
We wanted to know more about Taffy and her journey to becoming the phenomenal woman she is today.
Who is Taffy?
I am a multi-faceted individual who happens to also wear many hats, so I will try my utmost best to capture that in one sentence. I am a digital marketing thought leader and part-time digital marketing lecturer at the Marketers Association of Zimbabwe. I also head the digital department at Zimbabwe’s oldest and biggest advertising agency, Barker McCormac Ogilvy & Mather. I love all things digital, and I am also a digital literacy advocate.
I am a published author, speaker, mum of one, sport and music lover and was the first Zimbabwean to contribute to the Huffington Post platform. I also sit on the Grassroots Cricket board and was on the board for Rotary Club of Harare CBD.
What inspired you to pursue these ventures?
My passion for communicating and business inspired me to venture into my career.
How do you manage all you do: being a head of department, lecturer, trainer and women empowerment advocate?
Striking the balance of being a career woman while raising a child alone is not easy. I have arrived late at a speech day when my daughter was getting first prize because of work emergencies, and I have also missed critical work deadlines when my daughter gets sick, etc. Sometimes I have at least forty assignments from my students to mark all night and still have to get up and go to my day job.
The promise I have made to myself is that I should never let one area suffer more than the others. So if I miss a school consultation day, I make sure to attend the next school event, likewise with my day job and digital marketing training.
Tell us more about the books you co-authored. What motivated you to be part of it?
The internet is a game-changer. It has linked me to so many opportunities. One day, an American publisher that I was following on Twitter made a call for African authors, speakers and life coaches to co-author a book titled “20 Beautiful Women Africa Edition: 20 Beautiful Women: 20 Stories That Will Heal Your Soul, Ignite Your Passion And Inspire Your Divine Purpose (Volume 1).”
I jumped at the opportunity because I had realized that my blog had a greater following from the U.S. This co-authoring opportunity also opened doors for all the 20 authors to contribute to the Huffington Post platform. Although I didn’t really make much money from the book, it opened great doors and connections for me. I also co-authored a book titled “People of Zimbabwe” where we profiled some luminaries from the business sector.
The myriad of tragic events that I have been through allow me to be able to connect and empathize with different people who have been through similar experiences like I have. I can inspire and identify with rape and sexual abuse victims, orphans, people who have lost siblings, single mothers and people who have had a lot of pain and tragedy in their lives. I understand now that there was a higher purpose in everything that I have been through because now I am able to help other people find healing through sharing my story.
How have you dealt with loss in your life and the death of your relatives?
When my dad died, I had lost a parent. When my mom died, I lost a family…Mom was the one who kept my siblings and me together and made us feel like we still had a home and a parent’s love, and in a way was the link to most relatives. When she went, so did that feeling.
There’s no word to describe the loss of a sibling. If you lose a spouse, you’re a widow or widower. If you lose your parents, you’re an orphan. But if you lose a sibling, you just become the girl who lost her sisters.
When a sibling dies, it is like a dark deep hole implodes inside of you. It’s as if the hole penetrates you and leaves you gasping for air. And I lost two siblings in different years but in the same month of May.
I have had to join a support group for loss called GriefShare and also turned to blogging to manage the pain. There is no statute of limitations on grief. There is no time limit to waking up crying or having to leave the supermarket because you see your sibling’s old friends. There is no special cure for those dull aches in your heart that don’t seem to ever go away.
But, coming from a sister who thought she would never find the light again, know there will come a day when the thought of that loved one brings a smile to your face instead of leaving you gasping for a breath you cannot find. There will come a day when you find yourself talking about your loved ones and you do not feel uncomfortable, and that is where I find myself today.
What keeps you going on tough days?
On tough days, my faith in God is what keeps me going and knowing that many people, including my 10-year-old daughter, look up to me. Just knowing that I have survived the worst before emboldens me.
Tell us more about your motto “I do not break down; I break through.” How does it relate to your life?
I lost my parents within a year of each other, and the day that my mum died is the exact day my half-sister died. I couldn’t even attend her burial because I had to bury my mother. I have had many other moments, but now as I retrospect, these moments are the ones that have strengthened me and given me capacity in pursuing my purpose. I have survived child abuse and rape, rejection, being an unwed mother who is unemployed, and I am still standing. I have triumphed over these tragedies and emerged victorious.
What do you consider to be your keys to success?
Faith, passion, confidence and owning my success.
Do you have some advice for women who want to pursue your passion?
For a long period, I was the only female among the digital marketing lecturers at the Marketers Association of Zimbabwe. I have since been joined by two more females, but I can’t wait for the day we exceed the number of male lecturers and for the female students to outnumber the males in class.
As a digital literacy advocate and women empowerment advocate, I am disturbed by the ample evidence of a widening digital gender gap in sub-Saharan Africa, with only 18% of women with access to the internet compared with 25% of men, according to the International Telecommunication Union. Similarly, women’s participation is low in Africa’s digital industry as end-users and as developers – women form a mere 30% of content creators, coders and entrepreneurs. And yet in contrast, women’s presence is evident in the informal economy, which constitutes between 60% and 80% of Africa’s total economic activity.
I encourage women to come and take a seat at the digital table and milk the opportunities that are available. Seek more knowledge about digital marketing and social media and find your niche. There is room for ALL of us.
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