Phenomenal Women of AltoPartners – Renee Moodie
Meet Renee Moodie, the woman behind much of AltoPartners’ content. A journalist by profession, Renee is a writer, editor, content strategist, grammar geek and media trainer. We love her for her quick wit and even faster turn-around time, and her unerring nose for a great angle. She talks to us about childhood career dreams, superpowers, and power-napping.
What was your childhood career dream?
I grew up in apartheid South Africa – and among many much more important issues, there wasn’t a lot of outside entertainment. So my family went to the drive-in once a week, mostly to watch Spaghetti Westerns. For a long time, I wanted to be a cowboy.
Later I thought it might be nice to be a librarian since I loved to read so much, but I discarded that as a teen, thinking it was unsexy. If only I’d known that the novels of Terry Pratchett would make librarianship a cool occupation (the librarian in Pratchett’s books is a very powerful orangutan).
Did you study after you left school? If so, what and where?
I did a BA with three majors at what was then known as the University of Port Elizabeth followed by English Honours at the University of Cape Town. At the end of that year, I knew I wasn’t cut out for academic life. As the Indigo Girls sing in Closer to Fine: “I spent four years prostrate to the higher mind, got my paper and I was free.”
Are you currently studying?
Not formally, but I set myself a learning target every year. In 2022 I took the exam to become an accredited text editor with South Africa’s Professional Editor’s Guild – and passed it! This year I am going to learn to use WordPress’s block editor if it kills me.
What was your first job?
I was so lucky! I applied to be a reporter at the Cape Times (a morning newspaper in Cape Town) and was accepted – which meant doing in-house training at a cadet school. I subsequently learned that there were hundreds of applicants every year and that getting in was a big deal. Thinking back on it, I know what got me the job. The interviewer said: “I’ve just had a reporter on the mountain all night, covering a search for a dead body. Do you think you could handle that?” All of 21, I gave the best response to what struck me as a stupid question: “I don’t know till I try, do I?”. It was that bolshie attitude that got me in. It still serves me well.
What motivates you to do what you do?
I guess it is about “rightness”. In my personal life, I believe in doing the right things – that is, things that align with my own sense of personal integrity. That then means “doing right” by my family and friends. And in my professional life, I like to get things done right, whether that’s in writing or editing or training.
Did you have a mentor? And if so, what was the best piece of advice they gave you?
I’ve had several, particularly in my journalism career – mostly to do with the technical aspects of my work. If I think back on it now though, I did not ever connect with a mentor in my management career. I wish that I had been more aware of that.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Start saving for retirement early!
How do you relax and unwind?
Reading, doing quilting and crocheting, vegetable gardening, body boarding with my son, listening to Bruce Springsteen and drinking craft beer with my husband.
Do you have a superpower?
I can untie any knot in the known universe.
As a journalist in South Africa, you must have covered some interesting stories. Is there any assignment that really sticks out for you?
Something that was both a highlight and lowlight of my journalism career was covering the death of Nelson Mandela. I got the breaking news of his death up on the new website I worked for three minutes faster than our biggest competitor. Then I made live all the pre-prepared material we had and went to bed at 3 am. Because I was the deputy editor and in charge of production work, I was back up at 7 am and at work by about 8 am (having cried in the car all the way to work). Everything I had ever done as a print and online journalist fed into that hectic time, right through to the funeral a couple of weeks later, which I live-blogged. The mixture of feeling that we were covering the event properly plus all the emotions around it will stay with me always.
Tell us one thing about yourself that not many people know.
I take a nap every working day. The time slot between 1 pm and 1.30 pm is just never available for meetings because I walk away from my desk and my phone and lie down and close my eyes. It is the life-saving trick that gets me through long days.