Playing the Long Game: 20 Questions with Sonya Aboudargham

In this episode of Plugged In, Switched On, we invite you into the conversations that matter in B2B tech marketing when our host, Barrie Seppings fires 20 Questions at Sonya Aboudargham from Dicker Data. Sonya is one of Australia’s most experienced marketers: working for the likes of Microsoft and IBM, then pioneering the ‘fractional CMO’ role as a consultant for many years before joining Dicker Data. In this interview, she explains why the most dangerous idea in tech marketing is quarter-to-quarter planning.

“Oh, quarterly campaigns just kill me. I think that’s the one thing that’s gone on far too long. Marketers thinking very much on a quarter by quarter basis and delivering plans and campaigns that need to be briefed in, executed and results within three months, I think that’s gone on far too long.”

The interview format at Plugged In, Switched On is very simple: we ask every guest the same 20 Questions and invariably we get 20 wildly different answers. Here are some of our favourites from our interview with Sonya Aboudargham:

  • What’s the one career move you wish you could go back and undo?
  • Who have you learned the most from in your career?
  • What’s the one thing in this industry that has gone on for too long and needs fixing?
  • What’s the most overhyped buzzword in tech marketing right now?
  • How different are you in ‘work mode’ compared to when you’re off the leash?

About our guest

Sonya Aboudargham has almost 25 years experience in the B2B tech marketing industry, and in her current role as Senior Marketing Manager for the Microsoft Business at Dicker Data, she’s helping this Australian tech powerhouse make the most of its relationship with one of the global giants of the industry.

About our host

Barrie Seppings is the Executive Creative Director of The Splendid Group and the host of Plugged In, Switched On. Connect with Barrie on LinkedIn.

Listen to the podcast episode 2

Full transcript of the podcast episode 2

Sonya Aboudargham (00:00)
Oh, quarterly campaigns just kill me. I think that’s the one thing that’s gone on far too long. Marketers thinking very much on a quarter by quarter basis and delivering plans and campaigns that need to be briefed in, executed and results within three months, I think that’s gone on far too long.

Barrie Seppings – Host (00:28)
And welcome back to Plugged In, Switched On, where we pull you into the conversations that matter in B2B tech marketing. I am your host, Barrie Seppings. And that quote you just heard was from Sonya Aboudargham, who is the senior marketing manager for the Microsoft Business at Dicker Data. More from Sonya in just a moment.

Now, if you are new to the pod, let me show you around. Now, we do three things here at Plugged In, Switched On. First, we get some of the most interesting people like Sonya in the B2B tech marketing space to tell us how and why they do what they do. Secondly, we also look at some of the core skills the marketer needs, partner marketing, ABM, content production, those sorts of things. We pull them apart, we have a little look in forensic detail and find out what’s going on. Finally, we also have special episodes where we pull back the curtain on how these teams and these leaders operate. We look at their day to day, see if we can steal a few ideas for our own operations here at Splendid. And of course, you are more than welcome to listen in and steal a few ideas for yourself.

We do not try and do all those three things here at once in a single episode of the pod. We like a bit of focus and today’s focus is the interview with Sonya. We also like rules, so we try and keep things a little bit consistent. We ask every guest the same 20 questions. Inevitably, we get 20 very different answers.

Sonya Aboudargham, you are the senior marketing manager for the Microsoft Business at Dicker Data. Your very first Plugged In, Switched On question as always is the elevator pitch. If you could tell us about Dicker Data, who they are, what they do, and why would anybody pay good money to do business with them?

Sonya Aboudargham (02:13)
Okay, so Dicker Data is a distributor here in Australia and New Zealand. They are actually the only Australian owned and ASX listed distributor in market, and they’re 100% owned and operated by local teams. So that’s a really great differentiator for us. We work with over 7,000 partners across the region and service a large number of hardware, software, technology partners. And being a distributor, we are really the heart of the industry. So we work with vendors obviously to distribute their product, but we also service over, like I said, over 7,000 partners who deliver those technology solutions to their end customers.

Barrie Seppings (02:54)
So distributors traditionally grew out of a physical distribution, but a lot of the solutions and the products now, software, cloud-based, there’s no cardboard boxes and packing tape for a lot of it. In that sense, what role does the distributor still have in the value chain?

Sonya Aboudargham (03:11)
Yeah, absolutely. I mean it’s beyond distributing the box. Although we are a hardware distributor as well, the value that we add is in helping partners manage their cloud business with the software platforms to help provision and deliver those services in a cloud-based model. So distributors still play a very significant role in that supply chain and really take the burden and the admin from partners from having to manage multiple software licenses for their clients.

Barrie Seppings (03:42)
Sonya, did you grow up dreaming of being in technology and marketing? What was the thing that you thought you were going to be in?

Sonya Aboudargham (03:49)
No, that wasn’t the dream. As a child, I always imagined myself to be a school teacher. And actually, probably around about 10 years ago, I decided to have a career change, Barrie, and I started doing a master’s of primary school teaching, which was abandoned, believe it or not. But I did actually go down that path. Yeah, I never dreamed of being a technology marketing manager. It’s something that I fell into and it’s an industry that I’ve stayed in. I’ve been doing this for around about 24 years now. But I think if I had my time again, I’d probably want to be doing something that involves travel. I love traveling and I love visiting new cultures and meeting people. So if I had my time over again, I reckon I’d probably be a tour operator or a tour manager and be able to combine the love of travel with my work, so maybe in another life it could happen.

Barrie Seppings (04:38)
Question 3, I’d do this for free. Which part of your job do you just naturally enjoy, Sonya? Which part do you find probably spending more time than is warranted just because you get lost in it, you enjoy it?

Sonya Aboudargham (04:51)
I’m a naturally curious person, Barrie, so I like asking a lot of questions and learning a lot. So I think the aspect of the job that I enjoy the most is really talking to subject matter experts. And generally, their tech people who know a lot about their technology but don’t necessarily know how to communicate it well to their customers. So what I really enjoy is spending time with people who really know their craft and being able to pull out of them the key messages and nuggets of information that are really going to translate into really compelling campaigns.

I might sound a bit like an old school dag, but I really enjoy writing briefs. I love the process of actually asking all the right questions and pulling out those nuggets of insights that exist within people, but they may not necessarily be able to communicate them. So I am a bit old school in that I love writing briefs. I love getting into people’s minds and being able to extract the information that they already know but just may not be able to communicate.

Barrie Seppings (05:47)
And out of the whole B2B tech marketing ecosystem, who’s got the worst job in your view? Who’s got the job that you couldn’t do or don’t want to do?

Sonya Aboudargham (05:57)
People who do social media marketing have got the worst job in the world. It’s the one thing that I try and stay away from, like writing content for LinkedIn. I did a little bit of consulting, Barrie, in my last gig and I was actually a social media manager for one of my vendors, so one of my clients. That was the one thing that I hated. I just would put it off and put it off and put it off. But building out content calendars, getting posts across LinkedIn, yeah, it’s not my bag. I think I’m just too old for it. I think it’s definitely a generational thing.

Barrie Seppings (06:31)
Question number 4, Control+Alt+Delete. What’s the one career move or moment that you wish you could go back in time and undo?

Sonya Aboudargham (06:41)
I thought hard about this question, Barrie. It’s a good one. And I think for me, there was a point in time where I shifted, and the situation was, in my younger years it was very easy to go to my manager with problems. I was, I guess, very good at pointing out what some of the issues were in the workplace. And I got some really great feedback from a manager who I’m still friends with actually to today. She suggested to me that rather than coming to her with the problems, to actually think through what some of those solutions to those problems might be and come with solutions to problems rather than problems per se.

I think that was a real sort of shift for me career wise to kind of transition from being someone who saw the glass half empty and pointed out the issues in the workplace, to being somebody who looked at issues as opportunities and rather than complaining about what wasn’t working, really step up and try and make some solutions to problems rather than perpetuating the problems that exist. And it may not sound like a revolutionary moment, but it really changed my outlook in terms of the way that I approach problems and opened me up to be a little bit more creative rather than being the complainer, being somebody who helps solve problems. And I think that that’s something that has stayed with me since then.

Barrie Seppings (07:56)
Who have you learned the most from in your career, and perhaps even if it was learning what not to do?

Sonya Aboudargham (08:02)
I was working as a part of a global team at IBM. And my manager at the time, Corinne Bird, who is a really good friend of mine now is someone I’d like to shout out to. Corinne was a really great leader. She was very clear on her vision and the direction she wanted the team to go, but gave me the freedom to then pick up that idea or that vision and actually turn it into reality. And Corinne saw her role as somebody who cleared the path, so didn’t get in the way, but actually forged, opened the roads to help deliver on that vision.

And so for me it was really an opportunity to stretch myself and learn and do new things, but have the support of somebody who saw her job as someone to clear the path and help me make the vision real. Corinne was really hard manager to work for, and she knows that. I’ve spoken to her about it before. She’s very tough, but she was very fair. It wasn’t necessarily in the world’s most popular person, but I think people could see that her toughness was very fair. She wasn’t unreasonable and she supported her team and made sure that they cleared the path to success. I learned a lot working under her, but I also grew as a professional and as an individual. And as I said, years of working together, we’re now really great friends and she’s someone that I still go back to for advice and friendship.

Barrie Seppings (09:20)
Question 6, the only constant in marketing is cliches. So the rate of change in our world is accelerated and some would even say celebrated. But humans, naturally, we just actually hate change. That’s the dirty little secret of it all. How do you convince yourself, Sonya, to get up every morning and lean into change when it’s not the thing we want to do?

Sonya Aboudargham (09:41)
I just view it as an opportunity to learn. I’ve been in the industry for 24 years now, Barrie. And so I was there when Microsoft announced that they were going to move all their software developers from developing for on-premises to cloud. I was there as IBM sort of transformed and shed its PC division and then its server division. And so, all these things make you uncomfortable, but I sort of have tried to lean into that. So not view it as a threat, but view it as an opportunity to learn. It’s actually these moments of great change that offer the biggest opportunity to learn if you’re not scared of it and accept that you can be uncomfortable. And that feeling of being uncomfortable is where you grow the most.

As I said, I’ve had some really great managers along the way who’ve really helped me navigate that change. There is the possibility when something big happens, that changes the environment. It’s that whole analogy of when the Titanic sank and all the people fell in the water and they’re all sort of flapping around in the water trying to stay afloat. And I had some really great advice once, which is do not stay in that water flapping around trying to stay afloat. Find a boat, get in the boat and row away from that carnage and mess and charter your own territory. And so for me that’s really stuck with me, that change is an opportunity to grow and not to be afraid of it, but to actually sort of ride that wave and see where it takes you.

Barrie Seppings – Host (11:08)
Question 7, here’s to your health. We’ve got really kind of desk jobs, brain jobs, thinking jobs. Do you have a routine? Do you do things to keep yourself active and healthy and to keep that work-life balance? What’s your routine for that, Sonya?

Sonya Aboudargham (11:23)
So I’m a single mom, Barrie. I’ve got a little girl who’s at school. One of the things I’m very grateful for at Arrow is the flexibility that we have. And I think one of the great outcomes of the pandemic has been the rate of change around work-life balance and flexibility that workplaces offer, particularly in the tech industry. We’ve always really enjoyed that. So for me, work is just a natural part of life. My routine, I sort of swim in and out of work and life during the day. I drop my daughter at school, I get into the office. I pick her up from school, I get her dinner ready and in the bath and then I’m back at work. And so I’m very fluid around my work-life balance. I guess the downside of that is sometimes it’s very hard to switch off, but I live by two rules. The first is sleep. I make sure I get enough sleep. That makes me a naturally happier person, so I make sure I’m in bed at a reasonable hour every night.

And the other rule is I tend not to work on weekends. I’m happy to work as late as necessary during the week, but for me, weekends are really holy. It’s family time, it’s time spent with my daughter, with my parents. So I do make it a rule to try not to work weekends. Obviously the rule is bendable, but as a general rule, it just sort of keeps me sort of healthy and balanced and not leaning too far into the work in the balance.

Barrie Seppings (12:43)
Question 8, unique snowflakes. So every market or industry or territory thinks they’re different, that they’re a little bit special, but which one in your opinion really is? Who’s the one that you came up against that went, “Okay, this group or this niche is a little bit different, needs to be treated differently?”

Sonya Aboudargham (13:03)
I’m going to be controversial and say in my experience, and with that sort of technology lens, I don’t know that anybody is that different to be honest. I spent most of my career working in technology companies, but I did a short stint at a financial services organization a few years back. The one thing that I learned working there is that every company at the end of the day is a technology company. It really shocked me, to be honest, having always worked for tech companies thinking that we were a unique industry. But moving into a financial services, and this was a large Australian company, the conversations that I was hearing every day was really what are the technology platforms that we need to build to deliver our services. And it really gave me a lovely insight into how our customers, being in a technology company, really see technology as core to their business. It’s not just something on the side, but it’s an enabler to the way that they deliver their services and their technologies.

So maybe I’m a little bit biased towards the tech industry, but at the end of the day, I think every organization is a technology company. And if they’re not thinking that way, then there’s something not quite right there. Something’s missing.

Barrie Seppings (14:17)
They’re in danger, you think?

Sonya Aboudargham (14:17)
I think they’re in danger, yeah. Technology’s just become an integral part of I think every organization regardless of the size of company.

Barrie Seppings (14:27)
Question 9, green with envy. As a marketer, you’re working in the creative field. What’s the campaign or event or idea? What’s that launch or something you’ve seen that you really wish that you’d done?

Sonya Aboudargham (14:38)
Look, and it have to be something iconic. It’s ironic that I’m in the B2B marketing space, but it’s the consumer campaigns that really stick out. And the one that probably I wish I’d invented was one that sort of in your vernacular. And I remember the ad for Yellow Pages with Not Happy Jan, and the fact that it’s 20 odd years later and we’re still using… Oh, I’m still using that expression. So I think it’s the opportunity to be able to create a campaign that really lands in the vernacular and people are using all the time. That’s one thing that I’d wish I’d been a part of.

Very early in my career, I worked for LG Electronics, very early when they had first launched in Australia and being part of the group of marketers that brought the LG brand to life and the fact that people thought LG stood for life’s good, they’re the sorts of campaigns that you kind of go, “I’ve really made an impact here.” Traveling to Korea and being in some of those factories and watching all those major brands rolling off the production line was really eyeopening because it sort of taught me how important a brand is, right? You’ve got the same product. One week it’s labeled GoldStar and the next week it’s labeled LG and the perceived value of those products is so different based on the value of the brand. So it was a really eye-opening experience.

Barrie Seppings (15:58)
Question 10, that really gets my goat. What’s the one thing in this industry that’s gone on for too long and, according to Sonya, just needs to be fixed?

Sonya Aboudargham (16:08)
Oh, quarterly campaigns just kill me. I think that’s the one thing that’s gone on far too long. Marketers thinking very much on a quarter by quarter basis and delivering plans and campaigns that need to be briefed in, executed, and results within three months. I think that’s gone on far too long. And often it’s driven by the business, right? So I think as marketers we need to be able to take a step back and say, “We’re going to look at this on a 12 month, six month basis. Where do we want to be in 12 months time and what are the incremental activities that will lead to a result?” It’s very hard to show value as a marketer when you are thinking on a quarter by quarter basis. And maybe you can show value, but that value is often very short-sighted and very short-term related. So what can I do to deliver X number of leads in three months? Whereas there are other elements of the marketing mix you might need to consider that you are not going to see the ROI in a three-month period.

Barrie Seppings (17:05)
Question 11, truth serum. What’s the one question you’d ask an agency if you knew you’d get the truth?

Sonya Aboudargham (17:13)
This was a hard question, Barrie. I mean the obvious answer that came to mind is I’d really love to know what that miscellaneous line is in the estimates that seem to come from agencies. There’s always a kind of miscellaneous line for a few thousand dollars. I’d love to know what that is.

Barrie Seppings (17:28)
Spoiler alert, it’s lunch. We go to lunch…

Sonya Aboudargham (17:31)
Lunch for the client. Yeah, exactly. But the other one would be, I’ve worked a lot with agencies and there’s always that kind of double-edged sword when you get presented with a really great campaign or some creative, and as a client you go back and say, “I really like this part of this creative idea, but I also like this part of this other creative idea. So could we get a little bit of that idea added to this idea?” And I’d really love to know what the creative guys think. When you get a marketer who’s trying to take pieces of their ideas and combine them into something completely new, what goes on behind closed doors when you get that sort of feedback? Can you tell me, Barrie?

Barrie Seppings – Host (18:10)
I can tell you the knee-jerk reaction is that we despair, particularly if we think we’ve built two ideas that are strategically different. You know what I mean? If we’ve got one idea that’s kind of blue and one idea that’s green and you say, “Can you get me one that’s teal?” No biggie, right? That’s just a coat of paint. But if we built one idea that’s about shaking off complacency and then we’ve built another idea that’s about raising the perceived value, they’re heading in two different strategic directions and then we’re asked for a mash of the two, then I think we’ve done a poor job of explaining why these ideas are different. They’re not meant to be interchangeable. It’s meant to be presented as two distinct decisions, let’s make one. So it really depends whether or not we’re presenting something that’s in response to a strategic brief. And if I’m being fair, that brief that you put so much effort into writing, it should have outlined which of those strategic directions were going anyway. So sometimes as a creative, we’re trying to work the strategy out through the creative we do sometimes.

Sonya Aboudargham (19:15)
Yeah. Yeah. Let me ask you a question, Barrie. What percentage of briefs that you would get do you think are strong and solid?

Barrie Seppings (19:21)
I would say kind of 50/50. One thing we’ve done in Splendid is we’ve built three levels of brief; concept, campaign, tactical or express. And the idea is really to set expectations for everyone, including the brief writer. If we just know we need to do a set of three emails for an event or blah, blah, blah, put it in a tactical brief and be quite prescriptive about what you want, if you know it’s a bigger piece of work, it’s in a campaign, like we need the actual event idea and all the bits and pieces put into a campaign brief to know that we need a thought that’s going to have to carry through it. And then we’ve got that third type of brief, which is the concept brief, which lets everybody admit that we’re not sure yet what it should look like. And so that brief should really just be about outcomes. What’s the end result? What does it look like in the newspaper after this thing is said and done? What does the press release look like?

And some practicalities around, “Well, we’ve only got this much money. We’ve only got this much time and it’s got to have X, X, and Z in it.” But is it a casserole? Is it a cake? Is it a stir-fry? We don’t know. We just know that here’s some ingredients that have to go into it and at the end we want the diners to enjoy it in this way.

Sonya Aboudargham (20:28)
Yeah, but I think as I’ve mentioned to you before, I feel like these days the creating of the content is almost like… I think there’s a lot more production of content being done by marketers rather than getting a creative angle on it. So I’ve kind of missed the days where everything started with a brief, whereas now I’ve noticed most things start with a, “Let’s just go and create the EDM ourselves without putting in the thinking.”

Barrie Seppings (20:53)
Question 12, better together. How do you make the call between collaborating with someone or wanting someone to collaborate with you or just deciding, “I’m going to let them go do their thing,” or, “I want them to leave me alone so I can do my thing?” How do you work out which scenario is which?

Sonya Aboudargham (21:08)
I am naturally a collaborator. I like working in teams and I enjoy working in organizations where that is encouraged. So my tendency is to try and collaborate more often than not. I think where I sort of start to draw the line is where collaboration becomes inefficient. So if we are collaborating and we’ve got a vision or a direction or a strategic outcome defined, then allowing people to go away and do their pieces make sense. So I guess for me, collaboration is collaborating on the idea, the vision, the goal, the agenda, the output that we’re looking for. And then with everybody being clear on what that is, allowing people to naturally take the lead on areas where it makes sense. And I’m a bit like that as well. When I think about working with my managers, with my bosses, it’s really being very clear and understanding what the direction that they’re setting is and what their expectation of me is, and then giving me the space to go away and make that happen.

Barrie Seppings (22:06)
And are you able to tell them to back off a bit when they want to stick their beacon and you’re just like, “No, no, this is my part where I do my thing”?

Sonya Aboudargham (22:12)
Yeah, absolutely. And being able to have that trust with your manager really comes from being very clear on what their bigger picture agenda is. If that’s not clear, that’s when you can run into strife. And having regular check-ins. Like, working independently doesn’t mean that you don’t check back and update status and progress and get feedback, but feeling the trust that you understand the vision, you understand where this is heading and being given that flexibility in that room to make it happen.

Barrie Seppings (22:38)
Question 14, put your money where your mouth is. Let’s talk effectiveness and ROI right now. Which tactics or approaches are working for you and what do you decide that that’s not worth put money into anymore? Where are you placing your bets right now?

Sonya Aboudargham (22:54)
Well, one thing that we definitely pull back on is virtual events. I mean, I think the world is virtually vented out. Although we try and run webinars, we’re just finding there just isn’t the interest. So what we’re focusing instead is rather than having live webinars that are running at a particular date and time, we’re really investing in video and doing short sharp video that we can leverage across multiple platforms and giving people bite-sized content.

The other piece we’re going back to, and it’s a very cliche technology thing, is live events, face-to-face events. Still seeing a lot of dropouts though. So although people are registering, we asked to seeing high drop ads. And interestingly, what we’re now noticing is we are actually struggling to find the best time to run an event, because of, thanks to COVID, everybody now expects this work-life balance. So for example, we recently organized a breakfast event. We had a lot of trouble getting people to actually come. And the feedback we had was, “Hey, I need to drop my kids off at school. I’ve got to drop them off at daycare.” So the traditional type of breakfast event, for example, just doesn’t cut it anymore because it doesn’t fit into the work-life balance.

What we do try and do with face-to-face events is just try and give them a bit of an interesting twist. So it might be we ran an event where it was a come along and learn a recipe from a chef. So you do your death by PowerPoint presentation, but there’s an interesting activity. So just try to find ways to cut through and differentiate. It’s a really different world we’re living in post pandemic.

Barrie Seppings (24:25)
Question 15, over-hyped and underrated. What buzzword or concept right now do you think gets too much airplay you’re just sick of hearing it?

Sonya Aboudargham (24:38)
I’m going to be controversial again and I’m going to say SEO. Search engine optimization for me is overrated, particularly in our industry. Technology is such a competitive landscape and there are so many large vendors spending a ton of money on SEO and SEM that it’s really hard, particularly for the smaller technology companies, to really cut through from an SEO perspective. So that’s one area and I’ve done a bit of it and been burnt. You can invest a ton of time and money into it with no real results. And so I’m actually looking for that agency that’s got the silver bullet in the SEO space in the tech space. If that’s you guys, Barrie, let me know. So that to me is probably the overrated buzzword.

Underrated is just the old school. The other day I came into the office and there was a little package at my desk. It was just the local printer from the same business park we’re in who dropped off a package. It had a pen and it had a mug with a tea bag in it to say, “Hey, we’re just down the road, let’s have a chat and talk about what we can do together.” And it was nice, right? It got cut through, it was landed on my desk. I’m using the pen and now I know that if I need to do some quick printing, there’s a printer down the road that I can go and see. So I don’t know how direct mail works in the new world and everybody’s working from home, but just that personalization, that kind of remembering that I’m a human being and that I might be interested in having a chat with somebody who is just down the road. And just putting it out there I think is a real opportunity. Just that personalization piece.

Barrie Seppings (26:06)
Question 16, supermodel question. So Linda Evangelista famously once said that she doesn’t get out of bed for less than $10,000 a day. What do you get out of bed for, Sonya? Where do you find your motivation, as you say, you’ve been doing this for a lot of years?

Sonya Aboudargham (26:22)
What I really love in my role is I’m a collaborator. I love working in teams. I love being able to manage key stakeholders and get involved in large projects where I can make things happen. And so I think what I love and what gets me out of bed is being in a position where I can do that.

In my role, I get the privilege of being able to work with Microsoft, the vendor, and being able to interact and engage with some really smart people there, but ultimately servicing partners. We have a large number of partners who rely on Dicker Data for operational support, for licensing support, for go-to-market support. And it’s really being that sort of heartbeat of the industry. And that’s what I love and that’s what motivates and gives me the passion to do what I do.

Being at a distributor, you really are that sort of center of everything for the vendor and for the partner and you get the opportunity to collaborate and team with lots of different types of partners and with the vendor. So that’s what I really love and enjoy and that’s what motivates me and gets me out of bed. Not quite $10,000, but equally as rewarding.

Barrie Seppings (27:34)
Question 17, this ain’t happening. What’s the most unexpected or unusual situation you found yourself in, thanks to work?

Sonya Aboudargham (27:44)
When I was at IBM, I was in a global role and there was a lot of travel involved. And probably the most unusual situation I found myself in was going on a business trip to India, meeting the local team and finding myself being dressed in a sari and attending a local wedding. These are the kind of opportunities that happen once in a lifetime. So as I said, I was traveling for work and one of my teammates in Bangalore mentioned to me that her cousin or a cousin’s cousin or somebody was getting married and would I like to come along for the wedding? And so of course I said, “Yes, I would love to.’ So she ran home during the day, grabbed a bunch of saris, brought them back to the hotel room, dressed me up, made me look like a local, and I found myself attending a family wedding that night, which was huge and just an extraordinary experience. And so it’s that ability and that connection for work to take you and give you access to experiences that you wouldn’t ordinarily have. And that’s something that I’ll remember forever.

I mean to me it just speaks to the culture there and the welcoming nature of the people of India and the way that they embraced me even though I was an outsider. And obviously, somebody from overseas with not a lot of understanding of the culture, just to be embraced and to be thrown into a family wedding just like that was amazing.

Barrie Seppings (29:02)
Question 18, home alone. What was the pandemic or the lockdown experience like for you, Sonya? You mentioned you were an introvert, you kind of enjoyed it.

Sonya Aboudargham (29:12)
As you said, I am an introvert and I enjoyed the isolation. I enjoyed the time that I was able to spend with my daughter uninterrupted. The ability to have new experiences like we did camping in the backyard one night and did that sort of stuff. What I then found over time though is that isolation can become really lonely. And so during that time, I was actually working on my own. I was consulting and I had a lot of clients that I was connecting with virtually. And what I was finding during the day is it did become very isolating not having that face-to-face contact. So I think actually what happened during that period of transition is I went from really enjoying it to really feeling isolated, alone, really needing that human contact.

And so off the back of the pandemic actually, I was motivated to stop the consulting and go back to work. That’s when I joined Arrow. And I’ve really enjoyed moving out of that sort of 100% work from home arrangement to the hybrid arrangement. I think what the pandemic did was actually help me appreciate the importance of human contact in the workplace and moving away from just the structured teams calls and conversations to the more fluid conversations that you have when you’re in an office and you can sort of talk to the person in the next cubicle and you can walk over to the kitchen and make a cup of tea and have a chat with somebody who you wouldn’t work with every day. Yeah, so I think it really made me understand the value of human contact.

Barrie Seppings (30:36)
Question 19.
All of me. Lots of businesses say that they want their staff to bring their whole self to work. Is that true for you? And do you feel like the Sonya that we see at work, is that similar to the Sonya at home when you’re off the leash or have you got two different modes?

Sonya Aboudargham (30:54)
No, I’m a big believer in bringing your whole self to work. I think it’s really important to be authentic. It’s really important to acknowledge when you’re having good days and bad days. And to me, the person that I’m at work is pretty much 100% aligned to who I am at home. Particularly when you’re working flexibly, people are literally in your home as you are right now. I’m taking this meeting from my kitchen bench, right? So it’s really important that people understand what motivates you outside of work because it obviously impacts what you do at work. And also when you’re working flexibly, it goes without saying that your family is exposed. Sometimes I’ll be on a call and my daughter will walk over and tap me on the shoulder and ask to get her a glass of water or something. It’s not something that I want to hide. And I think it’s really a great transition that we’ve gone through where now people are accepted for who they are outside of the office and it’s an important component of who they are at work as well.

Barrie Seppings (31:49)
Question 20, the secret weapon. Sonya, do you have a secret weapon for how you go about your-

Sonya Aboudargham (31:50)
I do.

Barrie Seppings (31:57)
And will you tell me what it is?

Sonya Aboudargham (31:58)
I’ll tell you what it is. It’s actually quite simple, Barrie.

Barrie Seppings (32:01)

Sonya Aboudargham (32:01)
For me, whenever I’m feeling like I just can’t be bothered doing something or it’s too hard or imposter syndrome, I’m anxious about attending a meeting or doing a big presentation, my whole mantra is just to do it. The only way to get something done is just to do it. So for example, if there’s a piece of writing that I need to do that I’ve been putting off, I find myself just putting myself in the headspace to say, “Just get it done.” And the only way to get it done is just to get it done. If there’s a big presentation that I need to make that I’m anxious about, I’ll just sort of put that aside and say, “Just get it done.” It’s almost like parking your anxiety, parking your lack of motivation on the side and just putting your head down and do it. So it’s not like a secret weapon, it’s not a superpower. It’s more just acknowledging the fact that the only way you’re going to get anything done is just to get it done. Get your head down, put your shoulder in it, and just do the grind.

Barrie Seppings (32:54)
And it feels like you give yourself permission to at least have an attempt that it doesn’t need to be perfect from the get-go, right? I think that’s what prevents a lot of people that inertia or that procrastination.

Sonya Aboudargham (33:03)
And you can get inside your own head. Putting something off or feeling nervous or anxious or unsure about your ability to do something, that actually prevents you from getting the thing done. But if you can park that overthinking to the side and just do it, that’s what I find works for me.

Barrie Seppings (33:19)
Well, that was 20 questions at the interview game we play with all of our B2B tech marketing guests here on the Plugged In, Switched On Podcast. Those answers were from Sonya Aboudargham. She is the senior marketing manager for the Microsoft Business at Dicker Data. And when we were done with all of our regular questions, I also asked Sonya to tell me about her favorite movie.

Sonya Aboudargham (33:44)
This is really embarrassing, Barrie. It’s going to make me look really soppy, but I love Notting Hill. Julia Roberts, Hugh Grant, I’ll watch that movie over and over again. It’s just the old romantic in me. And the other one is Titanic, right? That says a lot about me as a person.

Barrie Seppings (34:03)
Now, before we unplug for this episode, just a few updates from the Splendid Group. We are a pure play B2B tech agency. I’m the executive creative director and we’ve got offices everywhere and nowhere. We are a 100% remote agency born in the cloud, you might say. One day I will get Tim Sands, our founder and MD on the pod to explain exactly how we wound up running a global agency with zero offices. But in the meantime, if you’d like to learn more about Splendid, see some of the work, meet any of our people, just point you [inaudible 00:34:38] at and we’ll see you there.

I have been, and I continue to be, Barrie Seppings, the executive creative director of Splendid Group. And I was talking with Sonya Aboudargham, the senior marketing manager for the Microsoft Business at Dicker Data in what has been a 20 questions episode of Plugged In, Switched On Podcast about conversations that matter in B2B tech marketing. Hit subscribe in your pod helmet. You will hear us again automatically next month. Thank you for having us in your ears.

What's next?

Listen to More Splendid Podcast Episodes on Spotify!

More from this category:

Time to run your B2B technology marketing program with B2B technology marketing experts? Yes, it probably is that time.

Unlike other B2B marketing agencies, Splendid Group has a specific focus on technology brands. We have helped some of the world’s leading technology businesses connect with their customers and get cut-through in an increasingly competitive market. How can we help you?