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Companies Using Technology To Engage Staff: Marina Pape, WooThemes

As the rat race of London gets busier and the demands of family life become more diverse the Work/Life balance gets harder to strike.

From the launch of Google in 1998 we have seen the birthing of social media and it's following on multiple platforms: Facebook 1.28 billion users, 540 million on YouTube, 187m on LinkedIn and 255m on Twitter.

With thousands of jobs now online and accessibility being anywhere, it would appear that the Work/Life balance in this field is perhaps harder to strike?

Marina Papa - @MarinaPapaStatus Media interview our friend and fellow colleague in this field Marina Pape, from WooThemes. Marina Welcome!


So Marina, Where are you from originally? And how long have you been in the UK?

I was born in Cape Town and lived there all my life (29 years) before moving to London in July last year. So, I've been a Londoner for 7 months!

What did you study in South Africa?

I finished schooling in 2002 and studied a BA in Psychology and English at the University of Cape Town, followed by a postgraduate diploma in marketing. I also studied some languages along the way, including French, Italian and Xhosa.

What made you desire a role in social media, what aspects appeal to you and how is the scope or opportunities to develop into that role diff between South Africa and the UK? 

When I studied marketing in 2006, the next big thing everyone was talking about was mobile technology (revealing my age here) and social networks were pretty much limited to Myspace and the very new Facebook. After graduating, I worked in advertising, then for a small business and then in 2010 started at Yuppiechef.com as Marketing Assistant. Part of this role was maintaining our brand on any and all social media - it was very much a 'side' part of my role. But, it grew! We were one of the first South African brands to adopt Instagram and Google+ and I got to be part of the first wave of the social media revolution.

Why did you want to work for a company like WooThemes and what do they specialise in? 

WooThemes is a company creating premium products for WordPress, so basically we help people build awesome stuff on the web (business sites, blog, e-commerce stores etc). It was pretty serendipitous that I landed at WooThemes. A week before I left for London - I was planning to find a job upon arrival - I bumped into someone at a dinner who worked at Woo and knew there was an opening I was a good fit for and could fulfil from London (or anywhere) as Woo hire people to work remotely. I started for Woo on 1 July.

As a company what are the employee perks /benefits? 

Goodness me, I feel like I discover new ones daily. The company has been built in a way that enables anyone to work for Woo from anywhere - remote working in its truest form! This means a work life balance is far more possible and also makes for a stellar team as we can recruit worldwide. We're encouraged to pursue hobbies, passions, sports etc alongside working hard for Woo and are supported in furthering studies (I start a course with General Assembly on Monday) and growing personally (we're currently all working through the Gallup Strength Finder Test with a coach). There are amazing travel opportunities, too - last year I went to Bulgaria and San Francisco for WordPress and WooCommerce conferences and had an amazing week in SF getting to meet and know our distributed team on the annual WooTrip ! Did I mention the allowance for gear (i.e. a new MacBook) and monthly Amazon or iTunes vouchers? I could go on...

What would you say their strategy for enhancing employee well-being involves? Any initiatives to help strike a balance between work and life?

Woo let's people be who they are, wherever in the world they wish. There is a lot of freedom and trust, which breeds responsibility and encourages great work. Our culture celebrates individuality, entrepreneurship, independence and working smart. There are various initiatives to help strike the balance, a fun example of which is the FitBit we get sent when we get offered a permanent contract.

The fit bit? Oh tell me about that, what is it? How does it work? 

FitBit’s are activity trackers, designed to encourage physical activity and healthiness. We each get sent one and people compete weekly against one another (and on weekends). Magnus, one of the owners, usually beats us all hands down as he is a golfer!

Ok so walk me through away in the life of you using the FitBit?FitBit

Ironically at the moment, mine isn't charged! But, most of the time it is on my arm and measuring how many steps I take a day, how many hours of the day I am active and how well (and how much) I sleep. 

So, likes, dislikes and overall verdict?

Of the FitBit? I dig it. It certainly makes one aware of how much time you spend sitting behind your computer versus getting up, out and active. My overall verdict of WooThemes is that they are an absolute joy to work for, and if you can get in do it!

If you were to predict the shape or trend for social media in 2015 what would that look like macro, in terms of the market and micro in terms of WooThemes?

Macro, I'd say there's a bit of a trend towards apps that make content the hero (the likes of Plague) and enable your average user to make really great stuff (i.e.  Storie ). People also use social for messaging a lot more these days, so there might be room for some challenges to Facebook messenger. Then of course there are social apps that connect people with complimentary needs (i.e. Borrowmydoggy or Bizby). But don't bet on that, I'm no guru!

Micro and in terms of WooThemes, we'll continue to use social media to build our brand, share content that serves our customers and engage with people. And hopefully continue to find ways to market product sensitively and effectively (i.e. target Facebook campaigns via MailChimp segments, geo-targeted Facebook posts etc).

Thanks Marina!

It's so refreshing to hear of companies such as WooThemes who are enhancing the well-being of their employees with active initiatives using technology such as Fitbit, whose ethos of everyday activity being a way of life adapts with any working routine.

The way it allows you to track, sync, achieve and inspire in the areas of activity, Eating and sleeping makes it foundational to maintaining the baseline of well-being. So much so that from April 2013 to March 2014, 3.3 Million were sold!

The need for striking the Work/Life balance in a city of over 7 million people may be great but the solutions are versatile and advancing.

Could your organisation, large or small benefit from ideas at WooThemes?

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