Welcome to the 2021 segment of Women In Marketing! We had a chat with Salma Hegab who is the Public Relations & Communications Manager at Seera. Although she wanted to be a journalist, the digital bug bit her and has never looked back since! Let’s learn more about her
LET’S GET PERSONAL
THANK YOU FOR TAKING THE TIME TO PARTICIPATE IN OUR WOMEN IN MARKETING SERIES, SALMA. LET’S START ON A LIGHTER NOTE. WHERE WERE YOU BORN? WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR MEMORIES GROWING UP?
I was born and raised in Cairo, Egypt. My memories growing up include a lot of hustling, a lot of hope, and some community service. I always attribute my resilience and ability to adapt fast to having grown up in “Al Qahira” (The Conqueror in Arabic). You should always be attentive and ready when you live in a city of 20 million people!
WHAT WERE YOU LIKE IN YOUR HIGH SCHOOL/COLLEGE YEARS?
I was quite a social nerd in school.
I had the highest grades while participating in all the school competitions. I obtained a scholarship at a prestigious university in Cairo. I managed to achieve this due to my performance as well in various community activities.
My college years were somewhat different, though.
I made use of my college experience to learn about different things. Such as, starting my career experience, and to participate in a lot of community service. I did not care about high grades as much as I cared about actually learning.
IF YOU COULD BE ANY ANIMAL, WHAT WOULD IT BE AND WHY?
I think I’m happy about being a fish so I can breathe easily underwater! A fluffer fish, maybe!
WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE MEAL? THAT ONE MEAL YOU WOULD FEEL NO SHAME FOR NOT SHARING!
I love seafood! It’s the meal that I don’t mind eating every single day, but I ALWAYS share.
IMAGINE WAKING UP $10 MILLION RICHER TOMORROW, WHAT WOULD YOU DO WITH YOUR FORTUNE?
Since I always dreamt of having my startup one day, I guess I could already fund my projects. It’s the best thing when you believe enough in your ideas enough to invest financially in them. Other than that, I’d like to be able to travel anywhere and maybe get myself some real estate like everybody does!
WHAT IS THE ONE INTERESTING THING ABOUT YOU THAT WE WOULDN’T FIND ON YOUR LINKEDIN PROFILE? ANY HIDDEN TALENTS PERHAPS? PREVIOUS WOMEN IN MARKETING CANDIDATE, DR. LIEZEL BYGATE SAID THAT SHE IS AN EXPERT HULA-HOOPER!
I just got my open water diving license in November so I’m quite proud that I was able to conquer some of my fears. I can carry on a conversation about movies, series, or music for hours non-stop!
I used to have a photography project called Humans of Cairo in which I took +200 portraits!
CAREER AND WORKPLACE
WHAT ENCOURAGED YOU TO PURSUE A CAREER IN MARKETING? AFTER ALL, MOST OF US GREW UP WANTING TO BE DOCTORS, RIGHT?
I grew up wanting to become a journalist.
Marketing was not on my radar when I chose multimedia journalism as a major in college. What encouraged me were the opportunities I got from a young age. I was quite active on social media in 2010. I managed to get my first paid internship because of this. Subsequently, this led to my first part-time job as a social media executive for one of the leading internet service providers in Egypt in the same year.
Between 2010 and 2013, I used to look at the opportunities I got in digital marketing as a phase to obtain real-life experience, connections, and financial independence. I was still determined to pursue a career in journalism when I graduate.
After I graduated in 2014, I witnessed that reality is different. I started applying for jobs in journalism but found that the quality and the number of opportunities for me in Egypt were limited. However, when I applied for jobs in digital marketing (with already some experience on my CV), I found out that I had already established some credibility and skills that would allow me to continue in this career.
That’s why I started working for Awakening Records’ operations office in Cairo as a PR and Online Media Manager in 2014. It was here that I managed the social media and PR for all their faith-inspired musicians like megastar Swedish Maher Zain, American-Egyptian Raef Haggag, or Egyptian singer Hamza Namira.
I have continued building my career in online marketing ever since. I continued working in managing some celebrities’ accounts on social media; from the GCC, Egypt and Morocco for another year before I decided to pursue new challenges by working in content marketing.
GIVE US A SNEAK PEEK OF HOW YOU TYPICALLY START YOUR DAY. ARE YOU #TEAMCOFFEE OR #TEAMTEA? OR BOTH? YOU BEAUTIFUL REBEL!
I’m #TeamCoffee first, and #Teamtea second. My social skills don’t start to kick in the morning unless I have my cup of coffee. My colleagues make that conclusion about me pretty fast in any workplace I join!
HOW BEST DO YOU MAINTAIN A WORK-LIFE BALANCE?
I am quite lucky that I started my career early on. I noticed by my mid-twenties that work-life balance is crucial to my wellbeing for the long haul.
The more I give myself time to relax and recharge, the better I do at my day-to-day tasks and projects. To clear my head, I like going to the beach over the weekend or travelling somewhere new.
YOU OBTAINED YOUR BACHELOR OF ARTS FROM THE AMERICAN UNIVERSITY IN CAIRO. YESSS GIRL! ACCORDING TO CNBC, RESEARCH CONDUCTED BY GLASSDOOR FOUND THAT COMPANIES LIKE APPLE, GOOGLE, AND IBM (AMONGST OTHERS) OFFER WORK-FROM-HOME JOBS THAT DO NOT REQUIRE ANY FORMAL EDUCATION. IN YOUR OPINION, HOW CAN YOUNG WOMEN UTILISE THE INTERNET TO UPSKILL THEIR CAREERS PARTICULARLY, IF THEY ARE NOT ABLE TO AFFORD A FORMAL EDUCATION?
That’s a great question.
Honestly, I find myself quite privileged in the opportunities I received. I have to credit some of them to my formal education background. I believe that women should use the many incredible online learning options available to upskill their careers. You can find a sea of courses in many fields like entrepreneurship, graphic design, data analysis, costume design, digital marketing, talent recruitment, and many more.
The internet provides vast opportunities for free learning like on YouTube, Khan Academy, Udacity, Coursera, Udemy, LinkedIn Learning, and many others. All it takes is the determination to learn and the willingness to put time and effort into it.
YOU HAVE A GREAT RESUME. YOU’VE WORKED FOR COMPANIES SUCH AS IBM AS WELL AS SEERA. HOW IMPORTANT HAS LINKEDIN BEEN FOR YOU AND WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR YOUNG WOMEN LOOKING TO ESTABLISH THEIR PROFESSIONAL BRAND FOR NETWORKING PURPOSES?
LinkedIn has been crucial for me throughout the years. I started my account in 2010 when I was in college, as part of my curiosity about all the new social media platforms.
Over the years, I worked on adding my work experiences, certificates, and skills. And it worked! Three of my job experiences have been through LinkedIn (including when I got headhunted to relocate to Dubai!).
I’d advise anyone to put the time and effort into developing their profiles. Explain your job responsibilities and projects and ask for recommendations. Interact with your network and share things you find interesting. I cannot emphasise enough how my LinkedIn network has been helpful and encouraging, especially after relocating.
SABRA MWAURA WAS A FEATURE FOR OUR WOMEN IN MARKETING SERIES. SHE MADE A FEW GOOD POINTS ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF MENTORSHIP FOR WOMEN. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON MENTORSHIP?
Mentorship has been important to me throughout my career.
I always look up to my managers and their different leadership skills as a source of inspiration. LinkedIn has also provided me with ways to approach mentors asking for guidance when needed. There’s always a chance to learn from others when you have the curiosity and the eagerness for it. I am also quite excited about starting the new year as a mentor in Abdullah Al Ghurair Foundation for Education mentorship program. Starting January 2021, I’ll spend around 64 hours over 4 month on one-to-one mentorship with a student to give a few tips on career exploration and job readiness. It honestly feels good that I’m ready to give back and to be part of a new community.
WHAT’S YOUR SMARTEST WORK-RELATED SHORTCUT OR PRODUCTIVITY HACK?
Make a to-do list at the beginning of every week. I ensure that by Thursday, it has updates. I love using Google Keep. It feels rewarding when ticking off the week’s tasks. Having big colored sheets with each week’s to-do lists also brings me a lot of joy!
JOB HOPPING IS A COMMON PHENOMENA ESPECIALLY IN THE DYNAMIC WORLD OF ADVERTISING AND MARKETING. WHAT’S YOUR OPINION ON JOB HOPPING? DOES IT HURT OR AID ONE’S CAREER?
Digital Marketing is a very dynamic, relatively still a new industry. In the past ten years, a wide range of new jobs was introduced and in demand. Jobs such as content marketing managers, content strategists, email marketing strategists, VR developers…etc. Being a digital-first millennial has enabled me to adapt to this dynamic world.
I have had to learn new things on the job and apply them. I also don’t believe that deciding to leave any company that doesn’t add to your personal and professional growth would hurt your career in the long run. People perform much better when they feel there’s a place to grow. They also perform better when they feel valued.
FOR ITS 2019 MOST INFLUENTIAL CMO’S REPORT, FORBES LISTED 31 WOMEN OUT OF 50 CANDIDATES (19 MEN). IT APPEARS THAT MORE WOMEN OCCUPY CMO ROLES COMPARED TO OTHER C-SUITE ROLES. WHY DO YOU THINK THIS IS THE CASE?
Marketing is all about trying to understand people’s needs. It aims to communicate these solutions in a simple as well as empathetic way.
By nature, most women have empathy. That is why women pay close attention to details and other people. Most women don’t feel the need to hide their vulnerabilities. They carry their emotions like a badge of honour. And I believe that this level of caring and resilience is why women excel at being CMOs. But why would we stop there? When women occupy leadership roles, more often than not, they take care of business!
Just look at how female world leaders have been dealing with the pandemic! A TED article shed light on the lessons we can learn from female world leaders this year. Four leadership threads were identified by the study: trust, decisiveness, tech, love.
REPRESENTATION OF WOMEN IN MARKETING, PARTICULARLY, IN SENIOR ROLES IS ON THE UP. IN YOUR OWN OPINION, WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CHALLENGES THAT WOMEN STILL FACE DESPITE THESE CHANGES AND HOW BEST SHOULD THESE BE ADDRESSED?
We can talk for hours about the numerous challenges that women still face in the workplace. In a nutshell, given equal opportunities, most women would get the job done and excel in them too!
ONE OF THE LEARNING CURVES FOR MOST ORGANISATIONS SINCE THE BEGINNING OF THE PANDEMIC, IS THE SUCCESSFUL IMPLEMENTATION OF DIGITAL INFRASTRUCTURES TO FACILITATE REMOTE WORK. FOR TECH PLAYERS IN SILICON VALLEY THE TRANSITION WAS RELATIVELY SMOOTH WITH THE LIKES OF FACEBOOK AND TWITTER DESIGNING A FUTURE WHERE THEIR STAFF MAY POTENTIALLY WORK REMOTELY FOREVER. THE ARGUMENT THOUGH, IS THAT THIS IS LONG OVERDUE. IN YOUR OPINION, WHY HAVE COMPANIES TAKEN SO LONG TO IMPLEMENT REMOTE WORK OPPORTUNITIES?
I’ve been wondering about the same thing!
I believe that it depends on the industry, the company size and a myriad of other factors. Companies that have already gone through digital transformation have the infrastructure and the training to adopt remote-working. There are great tools that help us to stay connected like Slack, Jostle, JIRA tickets, Google Meet, Zoom, and the list goes long. I believe in a future where there will be a mix of remote-work and maintaining physical work environments.
WORKING FROM HOME IS AWESOME! MOST OF US CAN AGREE. HOWEVER, IT IS NOT WITHOUT ITS SET OF CHALLENGES. EMPLOYEE WELLNESS HAS TAKEN A SIGNIFICANT STRAIN WITH PEOPLE WORKING LONGER HOURS AS A RESULT OF EMPLOYEES BEING ‘ALWAYS ON’ AND NOT BEING ABLE TO SWITCH OFF. HOW CAN EMPLOYERS GUARD AGAINST EMPLOYEE BURNOUT OR IN THE WORST EVENT, LOSING THEIR BEST TALENT?
This topic hits home! I have enjoyed working from home immensely! I felt that I control my work environment much better. At some point during the year, I started to feel burnout. I decided to open up to my manager about it, she listened. We talked when she asked me what she can do to help. Having that kind of support meant a lot. I was able to work on my anxiety, to “switch off”, bit by bit till I was able to get back again on my feet.
I think that’s what employers can offer: empathy, listening, and offering help. More and more employers are looking into providing their employers with adequate mental health support, I think this is great!
BCG PUBLISHED ITS INNOVATION REPORT FOR 2020 AND AT THE CORE OF ITS SELECTION CRITERIA ARE COMPANIES THAT HAVE SUCCESSFULLY MARRIED ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE IN THEIR PRODUCTS AND SERVICES. ACCORDING TO YOU, WHAT MAKES SOMETHING INNOVATIVE?
Innovation comes from simplicity. How to tackle challenges, simplify them, and find solutions that work. I find simple ads, apps that do maybe one simple job the most innovative.
HEMAL THAKKAR, BRAND MANAGER FOR BURGER KING INDIA IS A RECENT WOMEN IN MARKETING FEATURE. ONE OF THE KEY AREAS SHE IDENTIFIED FOR CONTINUED GROWTH IS THAT OF INFLUENCER MARKETING. WHAT DOES THE FUTURE OF MARKETING LOOK LIKE ACCORDING TO YOU?
Well, 2020 has shown me that you cannot predict the future that much. In my opinion, more companies will utilise digital forms of marketing. Furthermore, there will be an increased reliance on data.
More products are becoming purchasable online. People will value customer service more than ever.
2020 AND BEYOND
IF YOU COULD GO BACK IN TIME, WHAT WOULD YOU TELL YOUR YOUNGER SELF?
I would tell her to stay genuine and to keep thinking ahead. “You’re doing great!”
WHAT CHALLENGE IS ON YOUR PLATE? WHAT ARE SOME OF THE PAIN POINTS YOU ARE TRYING TO OVERCOME IN YOUR LIFE WHETHER PROFESSIONALLY, PERSONALLY OR BOTH?
I think this year has taught me some stuff about the illusion of “control” that we all want to have.
I am trying to overcome my anxiety that reached high levels this year when various aspects of my life were “out of my control.”
I am working on practising mindfulness, asking for help, and accepting the different opportunities for growth that life offers.
ANY BUCKET LIST ITEMS?
I would love to have my startup one day.
One of 2020’s highlights is how people came with solutions to problems brought by the pandemic. I have been following all the creative new projects this year and, I have to say that it ignited my passion for entrepreneurship and creativity. One day I’d like to throw myself into that ocean and dare to try.
WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR SHEROES?
Any woman who dares to dream and challenges the norms is my hero. I’ve always believed in the saying “Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History” by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich.
WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?
I am re-reading some Arabic novel-series that I grew up loving by late author Ahmed Khalid Tawfik and Laurel’s book!
WHAT WOULD YOU COME BACK AS IN THE NEXT LIFETIME CAREER-WISE? DO YOU THINK YOU MISSED A CALLING?
Why wait till the next lifetime? I believe in career-shifts and development at any point in time. I could go back to multimedia journalism; through starting passion projects (like a podcast that is being 6-years in the making for instance!)
WHAT IS ON YOUR NETFLIX WATCHLIST?
I’ve spent the “Stay Home” months binge-watching series and movies and tweeting about them. I compiled my Twitter thread here in my blog as my proud achievement of 2020!
WHO HAVEN’T YOU SEEN OR TALKED TO IN A LONG TIME AND HOPE THEY ARE DOING OKAY?
Can’t think of anyone! In the first few months of the pandemic, I made sure to get in touch with all my friends wherever they are to make sure they are okay.
WE ARE ALWAYS LOOKING FOR AMAZING WOMEN IN MARKETING TO PROFILE. WHO WOULD YOU LIKE US TO GET IN TOUCH WITH?
My manager Nathalie Viranyi, Head of Communications at Seera Group, is a great person to engage. My ex-colleague at IBM Samah El-Naggar can give great insights on her marketing campaign management skills.
A UNIQUE MESSAGE FOR ALL YOUNG PROFESSIONALS IN THE MARKETING INDUSTRY
I know the industry is facing unprecedented challenges now because of the pandemic and its consequences. I hope we all come out of this more resilient and more willing to connect with people. I hope we use this time learning and adapting and working on our skills. Networking has never been more accessible than the time we live in now. Use it.
Having empathetic relationships with people always helps in more ways than you can imagine.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME SALMA. WE HOPE THIS INTERVIEW WILL INSPIRE FUTURE LEADERS AND OTHER WOMEN IN MARKETING. HOW CAN PEOPLE FOLLOW YOU AND YOUR COMPANY ON SOCIAL MEDIA?
My company’s accounts are: