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Staff Interviews – Ashraf Vachhiat
Hi Ash! Great to finally sit down with you! How are you today?
Pretty good thank you! And yourself?
I’m well thanks. Let’s get started then shall we? How long have you been working at Vital Certificates?
I started on January 26th 2015, so just over two years now!
Talk about a photographic memory! And what were you doing before that?
I tend to remember dates quite well for some reason, even ones that don’t matter that much! Well, I’d finished my degree a few years prior and was working as a freelance journalist for a number of different publications. It wasn’t really going the way I’d like though. I’d studied English and Creative Writing at university so I had no formal journalistic qualifications, which made it quite difficult to find well-paying work. My idea was to work and get to a point where I’d be able to afford a Journalism M.A. which would drastically improve my prospects, but after a few years of struggling along I decided to pursue other avenues.
I went for two or three interviews without success, and had numerous other applications rejected, which wasn’t particularly good for morale as you can imagine! I’d also turned down some high salary sales positions because the environment and the hours were just too crazy for me. There were times I was kicking myself for doing that even though I knew it wasn’t right for me. Then, my brother sent me an ad on Gumtree for a job at a local business, for a part time customer services advisor position. The ad was written in a very friendly and down-to-earth way, and actually challenged me to write an interesting and unique cover letter which other companies tend not to do. I submitted the application and that was that!
I see! So you said you applied for a customer services position? What happened during that interview to get you employed as a marketer?
A lot! My first point of contact with Matt (Managing Director) was a telephone interview, in which we discussed my past experience as well as the specifics of my university degree. The line was quite bad so we couldn’t hear each other very well, but he ended up calling me in for a face-to-face interview just a few days later. I remember it was snowing and bitingly cold that day, and I had to penguin-shuffle down the hill on my way to the office because the ground was frozen! But once I got there, I was given a warm welcome, and ended up chatting for about an hour with Matt and Nicola (Office Manager). Over the course of the interview, we established that my skills were best suited to a role different to what I had applied for, but I was in luck because a Marketing position was opening up at the company at that time. Marketing had been something I’d looked into in the past, so I was more than happy to talk about a role which helped me make the most of my creative skills while still allowing me to develop and learn. A few days later I got the call from Matt and started work on the following Monday! It all happened very quickly.
Sounds like it! And what was it that made you want to start working at Vital?
A number of things honestly. Firstly, it was the fact that from beginning to end, everyone was very friendly and down to earth and made me feel extremely comfortable in my surroundings. And like I said before, the way the ad was written compelled me to apply for this job. Due to some mix up, Matt hadn’t even seen the CV I attached and called me in based on my cover letter, which he said was the best he’d ever read! All of that made me feel like it would be a great place to work for me on a personal level, much more so than some of the overly competitive sales offices I had applied to before.
Secondly, the challenge of the job itself was alluring. I knew very little about Marketing before stepping into the role, but Matt had faith that I could use my writing skills to good effect in this field, and that I would pick up the rest of it along the way. So I was excited about being able to use my skills in a different way, as well as pick up new skills which I’d never thought I’d have.
That’s great. So, let’s talk a little bit about your role. What is it you do on a day-to-day basis?
Where to begin! Well, as the Marketing Coordinator, I’m in charge of all the marketing activities we take part in on a day-to-day basis. That ranges from sending out specially tailored emails to our clients, to creating blog posts with interesting tidbits to share, to engaging with people on social media and responding to their reviews. I’m also in charge of our email automation system, and making sure our customers are being sent the right correspondence when following up on a quote to maximise our chances of doing business with them. I design documents both for digital and print – things like attestation guides, corporate rate sheets, and anything we create to announce new services. I also handle the day-to-day running of our websites, adding or removing products where necessary, amending prices or text, trying to keep us in line with best SEO practices, and making sure everything keeps running as smoothly as possible!
That sounds like a lot! What are some of the biggest challenges you face in your role then?
It is! I suppose the biggest challenge is managing my time to be as effective as I can be for the business. So many things pop up on the daily that it’s difficult to get around to doing some of the jobs that really need to be done. I may be working on a document or some optimisations to our email automation, and I’ll be sent a message asking me to change something on the website, or amend something here or there. There are also a lot of technical hurdles to overcome to get everything working the way it should. We have numerous pieces of software which link together in myriad ways, and making sure each part of the process is working as it should can be difficult. Things break down and stop working for reasons unknown sometimes! So I guess I could say the biggest challenge is managing my time between being proactive and reactive.
I suppose time management is a challenge for everyone! Have you set yourself any goals then? Anything you’d like to do maybe 3 months, 6 months down the line?
Well, at the moment I’m really focused on helping our Dubai office set up their own email automation processes to correspond better to the way they do business over there. I’ve also been creating Corporate Rate documents and Commercial Document flyers for them to hand out to their B2B clients, and have plans to replicate our brand new About Us page (which can be found here) for the VCUAE website as well. I’ve also been helping Steve (Operations Manager) with the creation of some new onboarding documents for new hires to use in the future. The document should encompass wider topics such as our history and what we do, to more granular things like the systems we use and how to use them. I think that’ll really help anyone new coming in understand the way that we work, because it can be extremely complicated for someone from the outside!
Beyond that, I think it would be useful to get back to doing the background work which gets left behind when you’re pushing forwards so much, such as SEO optimisation. I’d like to take my time and look at every page across our websites, and the funnels we lead our customers through, and work out the best ways to bring them in and maximise the potential of a sale. I’d also like to go in and amend the way we market to our customers by email using the data and the information that we’ve received. These are big pieces of work though and take a lot of time, but hopefully we’ll have a period coming up where I can sit down and concentrate on that. The goal is just to make sure we don’t miss anything as we continue to grow, and make sure we always maximise the possibilities that are in front of us.
That sounds very difficult indeed, but I’m sure you’ll get there! So you’ve been at the company for over two years now. How has the role changed since you got here?
Oh it’s changed massively! My initial brief felt much more in line with a copywriter than with an all-round marketer – I came into the role on the back of being able to write very well, but I didn’t have any wider marketing skills. In the two years since I’ve learnt how to use Photoshop and InDesign, learnt basic HTML and CSS to help shape our websites, and even had a hand in shaping our marketing funnels. I still feel I have a lot to learn in terms of the data-driven side of the role – at heart I’m a creative and get the most joy from creating! But I have come to love the facts and figures much more than I thought I would, and solving all the different logic puzzles to make sure things work the way they should! I suppose the biggest thing that’s changed is the added responsibility and the trust there is after two years in the role. I’ve been allowed to shape the message and the branding of our company and that’s been really rewarding. I was able to shape the website, the graphics we use, and the way we talk to our customers, which I couldn’t have dreamed of doing two years ago. Both I and the business have come a long way, but there’s a long way to go, and I’m excited to be a part of that going forward and seeing how everything continues to grow!
That sounds fantastic! So, let’s talk a little bit about your hobbies outside of work. What do you like to do in your downtime?
Travel! I suppose that’s both my biggest interest and my biggest vice. I love going away and exploring new countries and new cultures. If I stay too long in one place, I get itchy feet and need to get out and explore again. I just came back from Amsterdam a few weeks ago and I loved it! Definitely not as seedy as everyone says it is!
Beyond that, I really enjoy keeping fit and healthy. I love to cook and I like to work out 4-5 times a week, splitting my time between weights, cardio and yoga. I also play 5-a-side football on a Friday night with friends, and enjoy playing tennis when I get the chance. I’m an avid reader, and love to play video games to help me unwind. A good story will pull me in right away!
That’s great! And final question – Do you have a favourite quote?
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Very apt! Thanks for your time Ashraf!
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