HomeReal PeopleTalent Profile: Jenifer Hole (nee McKenzie), McDonald’s

Talent Profile: Jenifer Hole (nee McKenzie), McDonald’s

By Lita Currie

Jenifer Hole meets me in the McDonald’s Offices in Sandton, where the well-known McDonald’s arches grace the reception area.  She works in Marketing for McDonald’s and has been with the company coming on 5 years.  “I basically sell a lot of burgers!” she jokes.  Her particular focus is “My Store Marketing”, which focuses on developing a more granular approach of marketing to the consumer.  “We have diverse cultures and consumer needs in South Africa,” she explains, “and my department focuses on identifying a customised approach to these consumers, entrenching the brand in the surrounding communities, based on where our restaurants are positioned.  A McDonald’s in Sandton has a very different consumer than one in Soweto, so how we engage these customers should be different too.”

It’s a job that she loves, and you can clearly see the passion when she talks.  “A job is a job, right?” She laughs.  “But I am very lucky to enjoy what I do.”  The marketing department in McDonald’s allows her to have wide exposure to different facets of the company, not only Marketing. Instead of only focusing on specialization, the organisation allows employees to get involved in various aspects of the business, by building cross-functional teams. It keeps people interested and engaged.  “There’s never a dull day at the office!” Jenifer assures me.

Jenifer studied organisational psychology at UCT.  “I wanted to heal the world,” she chuckles, thinking back. “After completing a post-grad in Marketing, I joined an agency to learn the ropes.  I was fortunate to have a manager who made my growth and development a priority.”  After a couple of years at an agency working on McDonald’s as a client, Jenifer joined the marketing team at McDonald’s.  “It was tricky to be on the other side of the table with agencies who used to be my peers.  Suddenly, I was in the position of a client and making that change was sometimes challenging.  However, I believe that having authentic relationships with people helped me to claim the space.  And, they couldn’t pull the wool over my eyes because I had been there!”

A theme that is important to Jenifer is authentic relationships.  She believes that to build a strong team, and having a positive influence on people, you must be authentic.  “To me this means being interested in the person, and being true and real to both yourself and them.”  One of her values is being true to herself, something that she tries to mirror to her team.  “It’s important to bring your own uniqueness to the work place,” she says, “because that’s what makes us human.  Fortunately, the culture at McDonald’s allows people to be themselves.”

Jenifer keeps up to date with consumer trends by reading articles online.  “It’s also important to surround yourself with knowledge partners as it is impossible to be an expert in every single field.”  she says.  “However, you can also learn a lot by just keeping your eyes open and paying attention to what happens around you and being a scholar of the business. I am continuously learning something new working at McDonald’s.”

Earlier in her life she spent time working on a yacht in Europe, which allowed her to travel    During her time overseas, she completed a chef’s course close to Bath in the UK.  “Good food – and good wine – are passions of mine.  I love cooking. Ironic that I ended up in the food industry!”  She recommends using superior quality olive oil because of the difference that it makes.  “And always peel a boiled egg under running water,” she advises, “it will make the shell come off easier!”

The most influential book that she has read is Gary Zukav’s “The Seat of the Soul”.  “I was going through a tough time in my life when I read it, and it really helped me to put things in perspective.”

On my question on what her best characteristics are, she becomes pensive.  “You don’t really think about it, do you?”  She muses.  “Well, until someone asks you that in an interview!”  Jenifer was lucky to have had a mentor in her career who identified and promoted her strengths.  “I’m good at “building” things – I can see the outcome that needs to be achieved and put the blocks in place to make it happen.  Almost like building with Lego.”  She promotes her own team’s development by having the same strengths-based approach.  “Interestingly, my peers have had as much influence in my career and growth as my managers.  I think it speaks to the inclusive and engaging way that people interact in this company, and I am lucky to work with some incredibly talented and inspirational individuals”

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Lita Currie has over 20 years’ experience in learning and development, with expertise in management and leadership.  She has trained and consulted in Africa, the UK and north America and has been instrumental in designing and implementing global development programmes across a variety of disciplines, in particular Human Resources, Finance and Corporate Affairs.  She is an expert in visual learning and performance management, using graphic facilitation to ensure that the learning is effective.


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