Julie is the founder & director of Guns & Rain, www.gunsandrain.com, an online platform for contemporary fine art from southern Africa which aims to help artists, especially those who are young and emerging, be better represented in the global art economy.
Before that, Julie was head of Google’s communications, public affairs and public relations for Sub Saharan Africa, with a focus on South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, Senegal & Uganda. She led an international team, developing and implementing local and international projects & campaigns to improve internet access, make the web relevant to Africans, and strengthen the online ecosystem. She pioneered an internet education programme to hep strengthen African media and encourage digital innovation in newsrooms.
My Definition Of Success | Over time I’ve realised that success isn’t just what we look like on paper. Success is also about how we’re able to balance and blend our professional interests and commitments with personal growth, and with life’s real priority, namely the people that we love and care for most.
I Am Driven By | Having a clear purpose – and clear goals to work towards. Naturally, this shifts and changes through time, especially for someone like me who’s had several very different ‘careers’ thus far. At the higher level, I’m driven by wanting to make a contribution to society and create positive change in other people’s lives, as well as in my own. More specifically right now, I’m trying to raise awareness about contemporary African art internationally, and get African artists better represented on the global stage.
My Highlights | Probably the work that I did as a doctoral student. Not so much in terms of the product, or the book which came out of it, but the experience which created it. During my fieldwork, I lived and worked in a very rural part of northern Namibia, with people who are incredibly poor and incredibly underprivileged. It was an extraordinary life experience to really see what life looks like from the perspective of the poor – what life looks like when every day you don’t have enough food, you don’t have water, and your community is plagued with social and economic problems. I’m fortunate to have had that opportunity, and I’m proud to have chosen to pursue that experience, because it’s had a big impact on how I see and understand the world.
A Key Talent | Building good relationships with people — after all, people are what make the world go round (or not). Everyone is different but everyone has something to offer or contribute. Building good relationships means getting to know who’s out there, what they bring to the table, listening to what they have to say, how you can collaborate with them, how you can make things happen even when there are differences, being respectful and tolerant even when the going gets tough. This applies to one’s life outside of work too.
The Characteristics Of Success | Hard work, focus and determination, together with making the most of every single day. Making the most of every day usually means being very organised and using my time wisely and efficiently. In turn, good time management, to-do lists and clear communication with others have all helped me a lot.
Principles I Live By | There are probably too many to list here, but here are a few key ones. Respect for others, even if they or their views are different from yours, is absolutely fundamental. Acting with integrity, and being accountable for those actions is also critical. Last but not least, listening is a skill that many of us lack, because we’re too consumed with ourselves. So, take time to listen to others before judging or making decisions too quickly.
Dealing With Doubt | It’s important to get familiar with one’s own doubts and fears; to be able to identify and understand them, but not to let them overwhelm you. This is much easier said than done, of course. I’ve been lucky enough to have strong mentors and friends to help me through challenging times. I think that most of us don’t talk about our fears as much as we should. For example, I was scared to give up my high-flying job at Google to step into the unknowns of entrepreneurship, and it took me a long time to make the decision, but in the end it was totally the right thing to do.
Performing At My Peak | Respecting body and mind by covering all the basics! This means eating and sleeping properly, and getting lots of exercise, even when I’m flat out at work. In addition to other types of exercise like running and boxing, I’ve been doing yoga for 14 years, and it really helps keep the balance in my life. In the last two years, I’ve started to learn about and practice meditation and mindfulness.
The Best Advice I’ve Received | That we can’t please everyone all the time. This is a challenge for people who like to get things done and accomplish things. We want to make ourselves useful and helpful to others. But at the same time, I think it’s important to focus our attention — and potentially have a bigger impact by being selective in what we choose to take on. Ultimately this means learning to say no — even sometimes to ourselves.
The Legacy I Would Like To Leave | Easier said than done! But simply to have made a sound contribution to society in southern Africa, helping give others a step up, in whatever way possible.