INTERVIEW WITH  MEQA SMITH –  BRAND EXPERIENCE SPECIALIST, THE UNFORGETTABLE AGENCY

Meqa has done it all. She’s worked in HR and Senior Marketing roles for some of the world’s best-known brands like Ernst & Young and Saatchi & Saatchi, lived and worked abroad, been married, had a baby, been divorced, and created her own business. She’s literally done it all, and she’s a lady I admire and have endless amounts of respect for.

Ladies and gentleman, meet MEQA!

First things first Meqa and most importantly, how many hours of sleep did you get last night, and what did you have for breakfast?

I get plenty of sleep these days for two reasons

1) My son is almost 7; and

2) I don’t work nearly as hard as I would usually be right at the moment because I’ve taken a huge step back to reassess things.

I’m not having breakfast at the moment, although I LOVE breakfast (and food in general), as I’ve put on a bunch of weight and am giving intermittent fasting a try. It’s a new routine. I’m still not quite in the groove. Today was a good day though – woohoo!

You’ve worn so many amazing hats in your career Meqa. Can you walk me through your journey to where you today, at this present moment?

You might regret that question because I’ve worn an unusual number of hats, though many have not been that amazing. Here’s my attempt at a summary …

Way back when I was working in Darwin at an industry lunch for GMs as a waitress, I got offered a job at the Carlton Hotel as an HR Coordinator role and because I just finished a business degree in HR & Marketing it enabled me to kick off my career. I was lucky enough to be running the HR Department for a 400 room hotel, supervising a part-time payroll officer and negotiating with the union to vary the EBA.

From there, I joined the team at Surfers Marriott as an HR Manager, then took an internal contract internal recruitment role at Ernst & Young as in internal recruiter, spent some time at Sitel in various HR roles, did some contracting for Bank of NZ, then landed a role at Saatchi & Saatchi, where I figured out that Human Resources and Marketing were really two sides of the same coin; communicating with people to try to influence them to behave in a certain way.

Fast forward quite a few years of moving back to Australia, having a baby, and finding my groove again, I ended up starting my own thing; “The Unforgettable Agency” in May of 2015.

The last 3 years has been an epic journey but that’s a story for another day.

Not only are you super accomplished in your career, but you’ve also got a fabulous background, aaaand you’re a mum too. How on earth do you do it all? Do you have any #mumhacks you’d like to share?

I don’t think anyone “does it all”. Least of all me. I drop at least one ball every day and often more than one. I think across any given week there are days where I am a better mum and others where I am a better consultant.

I have learned that I need to be ok with asking for and accepting help. After school care, my parents and friends who can help me with my son sometimes. Yes, mum guilt creeps in all the time still but I tell myself it’s important for him to learn to be flexible, have a sense of independence and have varied experiences, so that helps.

Also, I stopped trying to behave like a man who has no children. For a long time, I tried to be this person. I thought it made me seem more professional and legit if I was up early working out, then at networking events early and late, had endless meetings and calls that I ‘had’ to be on.

So my #mumhack on this one would be to decide for yourself when you will be available (as far as your business or career allows) and then work around that.

How has your career and the way you do business changed since becoming a mother?

Oh, how has it not changed?!

I am and have always been a single Mum (although I have tons of support from my parents).

Being physically and emotionally responsible for another human being changes everything.

The biggest change would be the time and mental capacity I have, is drastically reduced overall.

The second biggest would be that my ability to attend networking events is almost non-existent because they’re either 645am or 6pm. *Convenient to mum’s much? (especially single mums!).

I also have so much empathy for other mothers in business or career which I look back and cringe that I didn’t have in my almost ten years in HR, I can relate to the way most men think about this stuff, especially childless men, which is let’s be honest, NOT favorably.

Who inspires you, and what sort of things influence you to be the best version of you in your work and home life?

Genuinely brave people inspire me. Real people challenging the status quo. Not ‘authentic’ people who are actually not being real at all, they’re being ‘fake real’ in a strategic way.

People like Brene Brown and Seth Godin.

And the people around me who are doing things they believe in.

Yes, my son does, when I look at him sleeping and think about the weight of the responsibility to provide for him and raise him well, but not in the same way that Brene and Seth do.

If I exercise regularly and find time to see friends that makes a huge difference.

I’m not the best at this (I’m learning), but I’m a massive campaigner for self-care + best self = great mum and worker. What sorts of things do you do just for you that you think have a flow-on effect to other areas of your life? In other words, what do you do when you need a little bit of “me time?”

I think the whole concept of self-care is misunderstood and like so many things have been hijacked by the mainstream media and women’s magazines and now looks like bubble baths and herbal tea.

Honestly, I think true self-care starts with a hell of a lot of personal development. Because, as cliche as this is going to sound, if you don’t truly know and understand yourself then you will be incapable of doing the things that truly have the effect that true ‘self care’ is all about.

Nothing makes me feel less relaxed and cared about than the idea of having to sit outside for ten minutes sipping herbal tea or soaking in a bathtub with a book. And if it is your thing then yay, but the trick is actually knowing yourself well enough to figure out what your thing is.

I’m sure you’ve faced lots of hurdles (like we all do) balancing motherhood and a career. But in your own opinion, what do you feel is most challenging for mums who want to take a step forward in motherhood, yet still, pursue their career dreams?

The practical reality of being physically and emotionally responsible for another person (or people) and all of its implications.

I think the truth is that while it is possible to do all sorts of things and be a mum, that when your kids are small it is close to impossible for most people (for so many reasons) to make significant strides in business or career.

I feel we need to re-evaluate our expectations on ourselves during these years and not to give up, but to re-frame and give ourselves longer time-frames to achieve them.

Whether you work or not, I’m pretty certain that all mothers feel they should and could be doing more. How do you manage that dreaded mummy guilt?

Ugh *facepalm*. When you find out let me know. I have no idea!!!

Pick one!

You know I’m a Libra right?! Decisions are my nemesis.

Sneakers of heels? Heels

Wine, cocktail or beer? Where is champagne on this list?!

Tea, or coffee? Coffee!

Morning or night? Morning

ERON CASTRO

Who Am I? I’m a proud Digital Recruiter at ‘affix’ in Brisbane and I’ve been hanging out in the Marketing & Recruitment space since around 2010. Aside from that, I’m a wife, a Mumma, and an aficionado of Latte Ristretto’s and 90’s Hip Hop.

Say hi here.