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We@PS Podcast

Researcher by Day, Designer by Night

- Welcome to another episode of "We@PS." I'm Halley Marsh, and joining me are my co-hosts, Nadine Bennett, and Nick Easlick. We are all part of the global talent acquisition team, and come together each month to give our listeners an inside look at the people behind Publicis Sapient. As usual, we're gonna start with our bites section where we share with you some of our reflections on recent news articles. Nadine, what do you have for us this week?

- Yeah, so I am discussing an article that was published by Ohio State University, which I'm told is a really good university in the U.S., right?

- Oh, woo-hoo, yes, I live right near there, so, and, Nick, it's like a rival for him, so well done, Nadine. I'm very pleased with your choice.

- Good job.

- I did some research on it. So the article is about women being better leaders. It opens with a quote by Barack Obama. And he was speaking at a private event on leadership, and he says, I'm absolutely confident that for two years if every nation on Earth was run by women, you would see a significant improvement across the board on just about everything, living standards, and outcomes. Now, as far as I'm concerned everything Barack Obama says is gonna be fact so I'm taking more into this. And whilst his statement, obviously, might be controversial to some, it may not be that far-fetched because leadership researchers have decades of data from actual leaders to support this. And so we ask the question why are women better leaders? And if you define leadership it's one's ability to influence others to achieve common goals. And to accomplish this leaders need to possess the skills that include communication, motivating others, helping others improve, and giving support when needed, and ensuring the well-being of their subordinates. Then it would suggest that these are synonymous with female characteristics. Again, I caveat this by saying these are controversial claims to some, and survey results have actually dictated that, or suggested, excuse me, that supervisors, and subordinates showed that people believe that female leaders are better at communicating with others, and showing consideration, but, of course, we've still got massive disparity within female leadership. So it's still a world dominated by men, certainly, in leadership roles. And we are still, I'm in the U.K. as you all know, and I'm still in the confines of lockdown 'cause COVID has not been managed that great in the U.K., but that's a separate podcast. And if you look at some of the countries that have really nailed this experience, you're looking at Germany, Taiwan, New Zealand, Iceland, Finland, Norway, Denmark, all of them have female leaders. So I guess I'm sort of putting it out there for discussion that do you think that we should be doing more to, or how do I rephrase this? Where do you think it's demonstrated in your experience that women running the show are doing an amazing job, or women that you've worked for, for example, would you call out any particular role models that you'd say this is a great example of female leadership, and I'd like to see more of it?

- Yeah, I'll jump in there. So all of my best bosses, if I've reflected in my 13 year plus career, all of my best bosses have been women, and it's because of many things, but one thing that really sticks out to me is that they always seem to have mine and the team that I work with their best interests at heart, that it's this selfless, like, betterment of the team type of mentality that they've done such a great job with. And so shout-out Halley, who was a boss at one point of mine.

- Awe.

- I didn't know Halley was your boss.

- Right, yeah.

- A little bit of doing.

- Yeah, yeah, honestly from the first moment I met her, far before she was even my boss that I felt that in the office of the Merchandise Mart when we met.

- Awe, thanks, Nick.

- When you were coming from Cleveland.

- That was a long time ago.

- I know, yeah, I had no idea who you were, actually. I had never met you. I had no idea that you were even coming into the office, but, again, I felt this, like, level of warmth, and this, like, again, team focused, selfless type of approach that you had, and a lot of other female leaders that I've had, and bosses that I've had, so, yeah.

- That's so good to hear. What about you Halley?

- I'm blushing a little too much to talk right now. I feel like that's.

- It's such a compliment.

- No, it is, it is, thank you, Nick, thank you. Yeah, I do think that there is a different perspective that women bring to the world, especially, when they talk about the caring level. I know that sounds so, and so part of me, like, being real here, part of me feels a little bit like, well, I do more than care. Like, I also am just as good at analytics and analysis, and all of those other pieces. Like those are all still requirements too, right? But there is a lot of research that I've read talking about the best leaders are the ones who have the highest level of emotional intelligence, period. And I'm not saying that men can't be emotionally intelligent, they can, but I do think that's something that tends to be more developed in women, which could even be some of the stuff we talked about, like, on our last episode, right? Where we were talking about gender norms, and the way that the overall history of women, and having to have that empathy, and emotional intelligence to even get to where they are. So I think it all fits together, honestly. So, thank you, Nadine, for bringing that.

- Yeah, that was great.

- That was great. And, thank you for bringing something from the Ohio State University.

- No problem.

- Just to like, just to know. Anyway, Nick, what do you have for us?

- Yeah, so I read this article from the Washington, or excuse me from "The New York Times" by Jenna Wortham. And it was about the rise of the wellness app. And it was a really interesting article. It talked a lot about the pandemic. And we also talk a lot about the pandemic, but rightfully so, it's one of the biggest, most universal things that we have been through, and have in common across the globe for all walks of life. So right now in particular, though, mental health is top-of-mind for most people. I was getting my hair cut the other day. Someone next to me was talking about her friend, and how she lives alone, and how she's been going through a tough time. And the hairdresser, salonist, whatever you want, she talked to the customer and said in a very genuine, serious manner, like, how is her mental health? It was so it took me, like, a bit by surprise, but, also, it's just something that nowadays is a very normal thing to ask, but five years ago that would have been, like, maybe in a joking tone, or something. So I just thought that was super interesting, but 2020, now 2021, has given us a plethora of mindfulness apps that have hit the market and accelerated. And why wouldn't it? We spend our days in front of a screen scrolling from work, to news, to Twitter, to email, to work documents, to your bank balance, to recipes, to kid's homework, back to news, to sports highlights, to back to Twitter, and on and on and on and on, but wellness apps like "Calm" and "Headspace" and "Fabulous" and "Rootd" they give us another app in the rotation of daily or hourly tip-tappin' on our phone to encourage us to take a break, or meditate, or just do a breathing exercise, or something of that nature. And "Calm" in July of last year, launched a Dream With Me story read by a sensual, drowsy, Harry Styles.

- I'm liking that immediately.

- I asked Kristen about that this morning, and I'm like, did you know about this? And she sheepishly said, "Yeah, I knew about that. I've listened to that before." So, yes, similar to you Nadine, I will be downloading that as well. So corporate sponsorships, though, of "Calm" have increased 100%, and adding 10 million new users to their platform, so. And there's a Harvard study that was conducted a few years ago showed that wellness programs that employers were buying into had a six to one ROI. So every dollar that they spent, they were getting back $3.27 in reduced healthcare costs to their company, so I thought that was interesting, yeah.

- That's impressive.

- So wellness, though, the way our culture chooses to define it it's become synonymous with productivity, and self-optimization, but wellness isn't really something that can be downloaded, or consumed. So, Jenna goes into talk about in a very funny way how she attended some dharma talk, and she references by attend, I mean logged into a Zoom call at the designated time, which I thought was funny. And she said that it started, the session started with a 10 minute sit. And she goes on to say, though I've sat in meditation for much longer periods of time my brain itched, and did the electric slide, and pretty much whatever else it wanted to except dissolve into nothingness. And it was impossible to become a pillar of peace while sitting in front of the void of the screen I use for work and entertainment whose invisible and silent pull was irresistible. I just thought that was so, like, poetic the way she described that. So, Halley, Nadine, do you guys use a wellness app? And if so, which one, and has it worked, or helped you?

- So I do, I actually have two. I don't know if one counts as a wellness app. I use "Headspace" for meditation, and I also use an app called "Centering Prayer," which has a similar, but it's like a very focused meditation based on the contemplative practices. I use both. I totally get it though, right? Like, especially, some of them kind of like, gamify it, right? So it's like, you get your number of minutes, and your number of points. And so then it's, like, I get too competitive. And then I'm like, is that really what I'm supposed to be doing here? But the thing that stood out to me that you were just talking about that I hadn't thought of before was, so I've started to go to church online in all of this, right? 'Cause my church is closed because we don't want to spread COVID, so, but it's hard 'cause I'm at my computer at my desk trying to do something like be quiet, and then I'm like, oh, wait, I got this email pop-up. So I'll flip over in the middle of a service, and I'll be like, oh, look, check that out be like, or it's, like, announcement time. Like I don't have to pay attention to that. So I'll go and send an email. Like I totally have done that, which is not what I want, right? And so I totally relate with Jenna on this. Now I'm, like, rethinking all of my wellness tricks, and how I have to revise, thanks, no.

- What if like relaxing and unplugging is to do just that, and go somewhere that you're not at, or be in front of something that you're not typically at. And that I think helps. And so when you're tethered to your phone for this wellness app, although, with great intentions, it almost just further sucks you into being in front of a screen, and taking in information, or gamifying it. I think that's what we play.

- That little red dot still is too easily accessible, right?

- Yeah.

- That little, like, oh, wait, I just got to go check and see what that is real quick.

- Right, Nadine, what about you?

- What about you, yeah.

- Yeah, Halley, what you just said about gamifying these apps and how it turns competitive. It kind of is a blessing and a curse for me that I am competitive because I do want to consume it. And because I'm competitive, I'm only cheating myself if I don't do it properly. Like it's not all, like, racking up the minutes, like I'll go and do it, but it's something I've been reflecting on a lot recently. And I deleted a ton of apps because I was like just use what actually sort of nourishes you mentally, spiritually, emotionally, whatever it may be. And now I use "Headspace." There's a lot of soundscapes they have. One's called Lighthouse Bluff. And I have it on in the background for a couple of hours when I don't have any calls, and it's actually focus music, so I love using that, but what I use most, which has been a bit of a lifesaver for me within Sapient we've got incredible benefits, and they've really looked after us as individuals. And I've definitely felt that. And one of them is a mental health pathway, and it's with one of our insurance providers. And as a result of that mental health pathway, you can talk to someone just for talking therapies, and counseling if you need it, and you don't need to have a doctor tell you that you need this, or that you've got a mental health issue. So I've taken this opportunity to have an hour a week with a counselor who I speak to about anything, and everything because I live on my own. And living on your own with your family living abroad can have its benefits 'cause I can control my own space, if you will, but it does get very lonely, and you start to sort of be, you're just in your head all the time. So this hour a week has just been absolutely, like, fantastic it's a bit of a release, and a bit of a chat. So, yeah, I've tried to sort of steer away from the apps, and actually kind of use the tools around me, and the resources around me to try and create a sort of better sense of wellness for myself.

- I love that, Nadine. I'm such a big proponent of things like that, so well done.

- Thank you.

- So for our last bite today I wanted to share an article that I read in "The Wall Street Journal" recently. And it's called, "What's Keeping Black Workers From Moving Up the Corporate Ladder?" It really summarizes a lot of in-depth research that McKinsey recently did. And some of it was shocking to me. So I wanted to share it with you guys, and I'm still reflecting on it, and would like to continue that reflection with you. So some of the things they said when you look at the early careers jobs they actually do a pretty good job right out of school. There are, it's like 12% of the entry-level jobs tend to be black employees. However, when you go one step up in the career stage, it's only 7%. And what I found even more shocking is that they said it would take nearly a century, 100 years, for every level of the corporate pyramid to mirror black people's share of the population if we keep on our current trend. 100 years, that's just crazy. They did say with significant interventions, which I'll share the highlights of what it would be, that we could potentially accomplish it in 25 years, which by the way, still feels like a really long time.

- Yeah.

- Yeah.

- And so the things that they outline that would need to be done is first of all, creating an inclusive environment. So it's a lot of things that both of you have been talking about throughout the course of this whole podcast, and all the different episodes, but the main thing that's happening is really high levels of attrition because they just don't feel like it's an inclusive environment. They're like people don't, whatever, they're like, there's so many reasons why they don't feel included, and they don't feel safe to talk, and to be who they are. The second thing is creating the right opportunities, and providing the training that's needed to get from level one to level two, or even to get into level one, right? There are lots of different organizations that they outline in the article that I won't go into that talk about programs that they're creating to get more people at the entry level career stages as well. The next thing is having a really clear sponsorship program, and how important it is for black employees to have a sponsor, to know how to get one. There were lots of examples throughout the story of people being, like, I have all the potential, and I don't know how to get there. And then the last one, which is one I'm particularly interested in is they said, you might need to recruit in a different location. They said, stop saying it's California, Seattle, Austin where the percent of the black population is so much smaller than everywhere else in the country. 60% in the U.S. 60% of the black population lives in the South. So if you don't have enough offices in the South, and you're not recruiting there, you're not going to tap into this huge opportunity to increase diversity in your workplace, and to create the equity that we need, so. I recognize that we've been talking, that we spent more time on your great bites at the beginning. So I know we're kind of at time for this episode, but so do you guys have any quick thoughts on that before we wrap up?

- I think one of the big things that sticks out to me is just the need for a, like, executive sponsor, or a champion within a company to really drive this initiative forward because as recruiters we have a lot of influence, but not as much without an executive sponsor, or some sort of champion to really rally around any issue, this, or others. And so that's, I think, where a lot of companies lack the ability to really drive this is when they lack a champion, or executive sponsor.

- Absolutely.

- Yeah, really great points. And until you go into the office, and the office looks like the same pool of people that you've gone past on your commute, and you've seen in your day-to-day life, you're not there yet, right? Your office community has got to represent what real life is. So I think that's a really great point, Halley, on location.

- Yeah, great, too, yeah, well, it was awesome.

- Well, thanks everybody. Yeah, this is another great bite section. And now we'll transition into the interview, thanks.

- Thanks.

- Today, Nick Easlick, and I are joined by Hiba Mojabber. Hiba is an associate creative director located in our Dubai office, and she specializes in the creation of effortless digital experiences with a human centric approach. And this led her to the production of several award-winning digital products. She's also a scholar of medieval art history, and working on finalizing her PhD dissertation on 15th century illuminated manuscripts in the Duchy of Burgundy. Hiba, welcome to the podcast.

- Thank you so much. It's a pleasure to be here.

- We're so looking forward to getting to know you, and part of that is understanding what you were like as a kid, and where you grew up, because we believe that this shapes who you are now. So tell us, where was that, and what were you like as a kid?

- So I was born in Beirut, Lebanon in the '80s in 1986. And I was born in the midst of a civil war. And that's very important for me to highlight because it's not a normal situation to be born in. I was born after 12 years of marriage. I was really like a very precious child to my parents because they had given up on the hope of having a child. And I came in the middle of a civil war, this miracle child, if you wish. And it was a very particular childhood that I had 'cause we were in the midst of violence, people killing one another, it was a guerrilla war. It was a war in the streets. It wasn't like an organized military war. So it was pretty frightening. It was a pretty frightening thing to go through, but it's fascinating because as a child you really don't understand that this is violence. So one of my earliest memories is clapping to the sound of cannons, to the sound of what do you call it, like, shooting. When I was hearing the guerrillas shooting in the street I used to clap 'cause I was excited by the sound, which is hilarious and very sad, but that was one of my earliest memories. And as a child, I was a very dynamic child. I was fearless. I was never afraid of anything really. And I was super social. I grew up in a neighborhood without a lot of kids. So my friends were the adults, and the elderly of the neighborhood. And I had a natural connection with all these adults. So it was a pretty particular childhood, but an interesting one, nonetheless, in the midst of a civil war, in a neighborhood without a lot of kids. And these were my earliest years. Yeah, this is how I started in life really.

- How long was that civil war going on while you were growing up?

- So the civil war started in 1975, and I was born in '86, 1986. And it stopped, officially stopped in 1990, but the repercussions of it remain. They still remain to this day, you know, but in 1990 the shooting stopped, and then the country had to recover, but the country was decimated. I remember in 1991 when the shooting stopped. My father took us in the car, and we went around downtown Beirut to just look at the scale of the damage, everything was on the ground. There were no buildings, there was nothing. It was apocalyptic really. And then the country started recovering a little bit by bit, but it still hasn't recovered. And I'm sure you guys have heard about the massive explosion in Beirut that happened in August. So it's a never-ending cycle of violence. And when you grow up in such an atmosphere, you become fearless. Like you're not afraid of anything really, like whining, moaning about the simple things in life. This is not part of who I am, 'cause I've seen what death really is, and what violence really is. And that has stayed with me and has shaped my character, and my attitude towards life really.

- Yeah, wow, that is just unbelievable. Now you mentioned you were a dynamic kid, so what do you mean by that?

- Listen, I had a lot of energy and I was very curious, and I was a sharp kid, like, you couldn't lie to me. I have recordings. My mother used to record me in 1986, 1987. I mean, when I started talking that was in 1988, she recorded me singing and I was hearing these recordings. She sent them back to me a couple of weeks ago. I knew like more than 20 songs and I was singing them, and I was very proud of the songs that I was singing. I was very proud and I had an attitude like you couldn't really make fun of me, or belittle me, or just make me feel less of a person in that sense. I was very particular in that attitude, and I still have it until this moment, but growing up I lost some parts of it. And I did a lot of effort psychologically and mentally to retrieve that inner child that lives in me, and use that strength that was innate to me to achieve everything I have achieved in my life so far. So when I'm at my lowest, I remember this fearless little girl that I was, and still lives in me. And I just pull out that strength from that to go through life.

- That is a super valuable resource to lean on, isn't it? It's so important. And what was your first job, Hiba? What was the first role you did?

- My very first job, I was a waitress, so I was going to college. So in Lebanon, I went to a very prestigious college. It's the American University of Beirut. And I was able to go there because my father was an employee in the university, so I got, they offer their employees free education for the children. And I was able to go to the super prestigious college even though we weren't rich at all. We were below middle class, and I had access to this premium education. I was studying graphic design. I started in 2004. In that college it's all the rich kids of Lebanon going to that college. And I was below middle class. I needed to go shopping and buy the right clothes, and I wanted to feel like these rich kids. So I said my dad's not gonna give me the money to do that. I need to find a job. And I went and found a waitress job at the local sandwich shop. And I used to go to classes during the day. And at night I was a waitress to make a bit of money to buy Ray-Ban glasses, sunglasses, that was the dream.

- The important things, yes.

- Yes, yes, I wanted the aviator. That was, like, my ambition at the time. And I worked for, like, two months as a waitress to just get these aviator sunglasses. And I did, and it was the greatest feeling ever. And I learned a lot, you learn a lot by being a waitress 'cause you kind of connect with people who are in this industry for a long time, and you learn the value of labor and the value of money, and the value of working for what you want to get it 'cause no one's gonna come and give it to you. This is one of the major lessons I learned throughout my life. No one's gonna give me anything. I'm gonna go and grab it, claw it, claw my way through it if I need to.

- Yeah.

- But, yeah, that was my first job.

- That's cool. Now you mentioned where you attended school, but you started graphic design. Why graphic design, what made you choose that major?

- I was always talented in the arts, so I always loved to draw, and I took drawing courses growing up, and drawing was my escape. When I wasn't feeling well, I used to draw and draw in color and draw. And I also was in love with biology, and my dream was to become a doctor. I really wanted to become a doctor. And I was torn between these two worlds, the world of art and design, and the world of medicine. Of course, I was encouraged to become a doctor because in Lebanon it is seen as a more stable profession. It's a profession where you're respected, and you can make money. And it's the traditional way of seeing things. And then I had this nagging feeling that I really want to do something creative. And I ended up choosing graphic design for that matter. My parents were supportive to both because they wanted me to do something that I love. And I'm really grateful for them for that. And I went into graphic design and this is how it started. When you're 16-years-old, and you're asked to choose what do you want to do for the rest of your life? It's not an easy decision, and you really don't know much about yourself to make, like, a life-changing decision, but I did it and I'm super happy that I did not go the medical route, super happy. 'Cause I'm super happy with what I'm doing right now, and really fulfilled and being a creative person, and a problem-solver for that matter.

- Yeah, so I want to get to what your current role is, and how you got connected with us, and a few other things, but before I get there I do have a question around your PhD dissertation. As part of your intro, Nadine had mentioned that so your PhD dissertation is in 15th century illuminated manuscripts in the Duchy of Burgundy. So tell us, like, describe to us what that means, but also why'd you choose it? And why the 15th century, not the 14th, or the 16th? So give us more context there.

- Yes, let me start by talking about illuminated manuscripts. So in the medieval times, so let's say 15th century people used to pray a lot. We're thinking of Europe and the Christian word in Europe, and everyone was a fervent Christian, and they had prayer books. They had these books called books of hours, which have a prayer for every hour of the day. This is why they're called book of hours. The book of hour was the bestseller of the 15th century. Everyone had a book of hour. Everyone who could afford it had a book of hours. Artists were invited to draw and illustrate these books. And there was a massive expansion of illuminated manuscripts in Europe that started earlier on in the 12th century. And in the 15th century there was this massive boom of illuminated manuscripts. And you had so many artists painting, and illustrating these books. Now my PhD research focuses on the Duchy of Burgundy, which is a part it's in the eastern side of France that has a lot of interesting artistic activity that not only is limited to France, but also spans a wider geographical area. So we have a lot of connections between the Duchy of Burgundy, and the northern areas of Flanders, and what we call today the Netherlands. And artists were going back and forth between these two areas. And my PhD really focuses on tracing, tracking these artists finding them where they went, where have they traveled? What have they done? And because nothing, I mean, a lot of things were written, but artists did not document where they went, and what they saw. What I do is I rigorously research illuminated manuscripts, and I try and study the style. And I try throughout the style to find the same hand, and the same person who has illustrated several books. And I recreate their portfolio.

- You're a detective.

- I'm a detective it's literally that. I was able to resuscitate a lot of artists that have been forgotten. No one has spoken anything about them, no historian. I was able to find their work, and regroup their portfolio only by studying the style, and say, well, this is an artist that has worked between this period and this period. And they have worked for this patron and that patron because when you study the manuscript, you get to know who commissioned the book. And this is an extra, this is evidence that you can investigate, and figure out which prelate, or which duke, or duchess, or noble woman, or man commanded this book, and who was the artist they worked with. And this is how you start resuscitating people that have been forgotten. And this is really in short what my PhD thesis is about is talking about the work of these artists in the 15th century who were working in the cold in a little studio, and that have been forgotten by history. I'm trying to rebuild their portfolio, and say these are really talented people that have worked together and created this and that. And they were working with a master who have taught them this and that pretty much like designers work with a creative director, and the way the style and the vision of the creative director influences his team of designers. This is how artistic workshops used to operate in the 15th century. We perceive history as this distant, cold thing that we don't really understand, but it's actual people who have fears, and worries and concerns. It's very similar to us. And the structure is not that different. I look at my team and the creative people I work with, and at our creative director, and myself now as a creative director. And I look at how we talk to one another, and how we influence one another. And I realize it's pretty much the same thing that was happening with these artists in the 15th century. So, yeah, this is.

- I love the resuscitation of, like, history. The fact that you think of history as kind of a component part that is there, and that happened, but the fact that it's constantly moving and evolving because we discover new things all the time. Like it feels live then, and it's breathing new life into it, right? I find that really fascinating.

- And there's so much to discover. There's so much that has been forgotten. We think we know, but we don't until we really dig deep, and try and uncover these stories, and these people that have been forgotten. So it's an endless endeavor really. And, Nick, you asked me why the 15th century, and why did I choose these? My answer is they chose me, so I decided to study art history, and I went to college back when I was 28-years-old. And it's the subject that has chosen me. After studying illuminated manuscripts and art history, the subject came to me and I said, okay, I'm interested in this and that. And I want to talk about these people. And then the subject revealed itself to me. It sounds a little ethereal and mystical, but when you work with history this is what happens. You have to empathize with people who are long dead, and magical things happen really.

- Uh-hmm, wow, yeah. So how long have you been working on this?

- My doctoral dissertation, I started it in 2017, pretty much the same time when I started with Publicis Sapient. And I did a masters in art history as well two years before in art history, Duchy of Burgundy again, but I was focused on one artist only. And then in my PhD pieces I enlarged the subject. I expanded, not enlarged, I expanded the subject, and I studied several artists. So since 2014, my travel to Switzerland. It's been going on for quite some time.

- Yeah, yeah, and it's complete, or are you still finalizing it?

- So, Nick, I submitted my manuscript, which is, like, the biggest step when you're a PhD. I submitted it and now it's with my professor, and with a jury, and I'm waiting for the COVID situation to abate a little bit so I can travel, and defend the thesis officially in front of the jury in Switzerland. So that is the last step that is still pending for me to officially get the degree, but all the writing, and all the bulk of the work has been done and delivered.

- That's so cool, wow, what a great thing to have done and completed, but, obviously, looking ahead to defending your thesis. So good luck on that. Keeping how all that goes we'll be so interested to hear.

- Thank you so much.

- Yeah, so how did you get connected with your first job coming out of school? Well, let's go back to you're fresh out of that university in Beirut, and with a graphic design major. So how did you get connected with your first role?

- So my university had a placement program. They connected us with potential employers. So this is how I was connected to the first studio I worked with, which was a small branding shop in the suburbs of Beirut. And it was funded by an alumni of my university, a really nice lady. She's a graphic designer as well. So I was connected to her through the university, and she hired me, and that was my very first job. And, Nick, I'll tell you, I was so adamant on working 'cause I wanted to make my own money after college that we graduated on Saturday. And I started my first day of work as a graphic designer on Monday. I was still tipsy from prom, you know.

- Those Ray-Bans aren't gonna buy themselves.

- No, exactly.

- Absolutely.

- Nice, so I noticed that you spent a number of years from really '09 to about 2016, '17 in design and experience, and then become a researcher at the University of Geneva, and then just recently moved to Publicis Sapient, but what I'm curious about is, you left the call at private sector to go into research. And we talked a bit about that, and why you chose it and how it chose you, frankly, but how did you get back into, call it private sector back into Publicis Sapient? How did you get back into it?

- Yeah, so the truth, Nick, is I never stopped, and I tell you what happened. So between 2008, when I graduated, until 2014 when I decided to become a researcher I was building a skill. They say, follow your passion. I say, build a skill that you can monetize, and then go follow your passion. And this is exactly what I've done. I worked day and night in agencies in Lebanon to gain, to sharpen my design skills, and everything that I know right now that has made me an associate creative director, I have sharpened it throughout these years. In 2014 I said my skills are in a very good place. Now I need to pursue something that is very dear to my heart. Something that I know I won't be able to really monetize because it's very niche, but something that I really want to do 'cause it's my soul's calling. And I went ahead and I applied to the university, but at the same time, I got a job with an agency in the United States that was a remote job. So I was traveling to Geneva, and I was working that remote job. And I was using all the money from the remote job to fund my living in Geneva because Geneva is super expensive.

- Oh, sure.

- Deeply expensive.

- Yes, the university is public and it's free. I mean, you pay, like, 500 Swiss francs per semester, which is nothing. University is free, but the cost of living is phenomenal. So I had that design job, and I was studying at the university, and this is how I kept my career in design going while continuing to be a researcher. And I was really lucky because the agency was in Atlanta and I was in Switzerland. So they used to wake up around three to four p.m. in the afternoon. And this is when my courses would be done. So I'd be in the university during the day, and in the afternoon and at night I'm connected remotely to my colleagues in Atlanta and we're working together. And this is how things worked for me. I was a researcher by day and a designer by night. And I remained in the industry. I was designing every day. My skills never got rusty thanks to that. So I never really stopped, Nick. And when I started my doctoral thesis, I got the offer from Publicis Sapient to be a contractor with them. So I remained within that, these two parallel tracks that have kept me going, I was always a designer working and making money. And then I was funding this dream that I had that is to pursue my research in art history.

- Amazing, and describe to us, Hiba, your current role then in Sapient.

- So I am an associate creative director. My role really is I'm a facilitator. So I work on several projects with be it a large, or a small group of creatives. And I work with the client as well. So my role is to act as the glue between the clients, project management, the tech team, and our creative team to deliver the best results that one can hope for. So I do anything really. I can design. I can create a wireframe. I can create a content strategy, or write content if we're short on a copywriter. I would do anything to get the job stable, and up and running. So this is in short what I do. I'm really this liaison, this glue between the various teams, and more particularly the creatives. I have a role of growing people within our team, and also learning from our creative leadership how to become a fulfilled creative leader. So it's a role that goes up and down with senior leadership, and with the internal creative team. And what else do I do? I play a very big role with the clients because in the United Arab Emirates, most of our clients are Emiratis or Arabs. And I am an Arab in that sense that I understand the culture. I understand the language and clients really warm up to me because we connect on that cultural level. And that has helped me really stabilize a lot of projects, and facilitate communication between the various teams, and create the best value for our clients, and our teams at the same time.

- What attracted you about Publicis Sapient, and how did you get connected with us?

- So, Publicis Sapient, I have some friends back from Lebanon who worked in Sapient, and this is how I learned about the branch in Dubai. And this is how I got. One day one of my friends who works in Publicis called me, and said, listen, it wasn't Publicis Sapient at the time. It was Sapient Razorfish. And they told me they need help. They need someone to create wireframes during the weekend. They need a freelancer. They're on a crazy deadline. Would you be able to help them with that? And this is how things started. I said, sure, yeah. I was in Dubai. I was on break from Geneva, and I went and I met the project team and they said, listen, we need a couple of wireframes from you. It's a one week, or two week gig, and then you'll be done with it. I said, great, 'cause then I have to travel back to Switzerland. And this is how I started. I started with these wireframes, and I never stopped. The one week to two week gig now it's been going on for four years, and I couldn't be happier about it, but, yeah, we started with the wireframes, and then we did the design, and then the team really warmed up to me, and the collaboration was amazing. And I was very happy to meet all these amazing people, and the nice projects. And I'm like, wow, this is nice. I really want to work here. Then I was faced with the dilemma of, I have to go back to Switzerland, and I have my thesis and what do I do? And then, again, I found a way, and Publicis Sapient, I mean, the leadership of Publicis Sapient was understanding enough to give me, like, a way out. They said, listen, you can be a contractor. You can work three days a week. Like they gave me a lot of flexibility to be able to work across both worlds. 'Cause now I was between continents. I had to travel to Switzerland, go back to Dubai, sometimes go back to Lebanon to see my parents. So they figured out a way for me to exist within Publicis Sapient, without jeopardizing my current standing, my current academic standing. And I'm super grateful for that flexibility. No other agency has given me that. And I'm very proud to say it 'cause it's important to me. No other agency, or not one employer here was able to understand my situation and accommodate that just for the sake of retaining me. And Sapient has given me that, and I will forever be grateful for it. And it has allowed me to flourish in so many ways because I was so happy doing my job because they weren't restricting me, or limiting me. And they have given me freedom. And I was endeavoring to be at the height of that responsibility that they have given me. So I was working three days a week, but I was doing the work of five days, and three days 'cause I really wanted to deliver. And then I would fly back to Switzerland, and work on my research. And this was going on for, like, three years.

- I mean, how you balance the time zones is impressive enough for me because I know there are only a couple of hours difference, but traveling like that, like, you can really sense that fearlessness that we talked about in the earlier part of the conversation because you're just getting stuff done, hustling, creating opportunity for yourself, and I really admire that. And I mean, you've talked about your current role. You described what you are doing now, and you've actually talked through how that's evolved, but if you were gonna talk to us then about the kind of transformational work that you do in projects that you work on, maybe over the last or recent months as well, that you're most proud of, what examples would you share with us?

- That's an interesting question. I worked on a lot of interesting transformational projects mainly in Abu Dhabi. So, as you know we're based in Dubai, but most of our clients are in Abu Dhabi, and we used to commute pre-COVID everyday to Abu Dhabi. And it's a one hour drive. I worked with a lot of clients in the tourism sector to sort of help them shift the perception of the United Arab Emirates. These are the European audiences, or American audiences. So there was a lot of effort being put into understanding how the region here is perceived from a tourism perspective, and how can we change the narrative, or own the current narrative, and create the right channels, the right products, the right messaging to really help cities like Abu Dhabi, say for example, or Dubai attract the right tourists in the right way. And in the most transparent and coherent way while remaining faithful to their value prop as a city, and their USB as a city. So there was a lot of work that has been done in the tourism sector to sort of bridge that gap that exists between perception and reality of things. I did a lot of work, and, also that included some collaboration with museums, several museums in Abu Dhabi. And this is really where my art history expertise came into play. And this is where I was able to really create value 'cause I have that massive understanding of the art world, and of the cultural aspect of everything. And then my technology and product design skills came into play to really maximize value for these clients that we had. I also worked in the energy sector. That was such a different engagement as well, again, in Abu Dhabi, but it was a matter of really understanding the end customer, but also understanding the business, and trying to find a middle ground through the creation of a digital product that would create value for the end customer, but at the same time help the business in saving cost, help the business in automating their processes. And that went on for like a year, that was a year engagement, and it was a massive transformative engagement for myself because I learned a lot. The client was very, very difficult. The client was very difficult. I don't want to say a nightmare. And we managed to turn around that client. We had a client that was resistant to having us. We had basically a client that wanted only European people on the project. He didn't want to work with me, or any Arab on the project, but we stayed on the project, and really showed them that we have value, and that we understand you, and we understand your business. And it's not a matter of where we come from, or the color of our skin. It's really a matter of how much we understand you, and how far we're willing to go to solve against these problems that you're giving us as a client. And we started with a very skeptical client, and we ended up with a client that was defending us in front of their senior leadership. And this in my view is the greatest level of success. When you manage to convert the client from super skeptical to being part of the team, that is one of my proudest moments in my life. And that happened last year in the midst of COVID, with everything that was happening, and the uncertainty, that was a major success, a resonating success that we had in Dubai. Yeah, so this is in short a little bit about what I do.

- That's cool. Do you have a specific, like, dream client, or brand that you would want to work with?

- Dream client. I really want to work for any kind of philanthropy that has to do with animal rights.

- Oh, cool.

- That's my dream. Animal rights really is something that is very dear to my heart. And I would love to be able to create value, and help an animal rights philanthropy solve a lot of problems that currently exist.

- That'd be cool, yeah.

- Yeah, yeah.

- Switching gears a little bit, as you reflect on your career, I'm curious, is there like a mistake, or something that you made, or a regret in your career that you wish you could do over again?

- Another interesting question. I don't think I have any regrets, Nick, because everything I've done has taught me something. I think I've done some mistakes. And sometimes maybe I regret being a little naive, or being a little too centered on myself, too focused on myself at times during my growth journey professionally. There isn't one mistake that I regret. Maybe I regret some instances, but now when I reflect back at it, all the hard times and all what I would consider a mistake has made me the person I am today. And for that I'm grateful. So I really wouldn't change anything.

- Yeah, I'm not surprised to hear you say that only because throughout this entire interview you have been, like, exploding with positive confidence, and I'm just so impressed by that. I'm not surprised in the least to hear you say that, because everything that you've talked about so far has come around to where you are now. And that is something that you, your parents, your friends, I'm sure are very, very proud of. We are very, very proud of, so.

- Thank you so much, I appreciate you saying that.

- Yeah, yeah, yeah. So a lot of our listeners, too, are perspective talent, whether they're looking to connect with Publicis Sapient, or just another brand within the industry. What advice would you give them for someone that's looking for a new job either at Publicis Sapient, or elsewhere?

- I have a lot of advice to give. I'll start by saying never take no for an answer. If someone says no they have their own reasons, but this doesn't invalidate someone's ambition, or will to be in someplace. So that is the first thing. Never let anyone break your spirit. Yeah, sometimes as we grow up we are taught to question ourselves, and re-question our value. And I think we are each one of us is born with a very particular flame that is innate to us. And as we grow up, and I faced this, I lived this. As we grow up sometimes society makes us forget how special we are, and we forgot the flame that was innate to us. And I would give the advice to anyone who is willing to pursue a dream, a job, anything really connect with that flame, connect with that inner child, and remember who you are, and don't listen to social constructs of you can, or can't, or should, or shouldn't, this is all bullshit. Vishen Lakhiani, he's an amazing person. He's the founder of Mind Valley. He has written a book called "The Power of the Extraordinary Mind." And he has coined a word for social constructs, and he has called it a brule. So a brule is a bullshit rule, and he has made a word out of it, and I love this word. It's like saying, I don't know we have a lot of social construct. Nothing comes to mind right now, but a brule is something that society repeats that comes out of experience, but isn't always right. And what we keep repeating becomes a reality. And sometimes it hinders our progress, and our ambition and our passion. That's my first advice. I have another advice is I struggled a lot with the fear of failure and fear of judgment. And I realized the only way out of this is to get the job done. It doesn't have to be perfect. Done is better than perfect. So one way to get things going in the right way is to do something instead of having analysis paralysis. That's the worst thing that one can have. And this stems from a fear of judgment, and a fear of failure, and all of these are mind-killers really. These are demons that we have to look in the face, and exorcize out of our minds to be able to succeed. So everything that I have done starting from getting all the degrees that I have to all the work that I have done with Sapient has started with this attitude just get it done. Start writing your thesis, and in a couple of months you'll see that you finished it. Start designing that website, start designing that product, and in a couple of weeks you'll see that it's becoming even better and better because you've laid out the foundation of your creation. So that's really the secret to success. And that's advice that is very dear to my heart. And I hope a lot of our readers would benefit from that.

- Yeah, that's so awesome. Thank you so much for that advice. I'm sure that they appreciate that. We appreciate that too, so, thank you. So this has been so awesome. I'm going to move to our final segment, and that is our Sapient seven. So it's seven rapid fire questions, and some are fun, some are more work-related, but I'm gonna ask you those, and I want, like, the first thing that really pops into your brain. So, are you ready?

- Let's do it.

- Okay, cool.

- Yes, let's do it.

- All right, all right. So the first question. What is something new that you've learned in the last 30 days?

- I learned about the process of buying a house in the United Arab Emirates because my husband and I are trying to buy a house. It's a pain.

- Yes, it is here in the states, too. The real estate market is crazy.

- And the U.K.

- And London, too, oh, my gosh, I can only imagine.

- Yeah.

- Yeah, oh, goodness, well, hey, good luck with that.

- Thank you, thank you.

- The second question. What is one trend you're paying attention to?

- Artificial intelligence.

- Oh, yeah, good one.

- Yeah, I'm very fascinated to see how artificial intelligence is gonna change our lives, the ups and downs of it, and how it's gonna live and develop in relation to human consciousness. That's something that fascinates me, and I've been watching it very closely, be it in my day-to-day work and activities, and briefs that I'm getting, but, also, on a global scale with regard to the general advancement of technology, especially in COVID era in this COVID era, yeah.

- Cool, what is something on your bucket list?

- Skydiving. Skydiving is on my bucket. I'm not outdoorsy at all. I'm a bookworm, I like to stay at home and cook, and read my books and I'm not outdoorsy at all. I don't even know how to ride a bike, a bicycle, sorry. And I have that dream of jumping off of a plane 'cause I think that will make me feel so alive. I doubt that I will do it 'cause I'm a coward in these things, but I would love to do it. So let's see if I muster the courage to do it.

- There you go, cool. So growing up, did you have a nickname and what was it?

- A nickname? That's a good one, I think. Let me just try and figure out one that is not embarrassing.

- No, give us the embarrassing one.

- I'll tell you a hilarious one. It wasn't a nickname, but it was my very first email. You know when hotmail started my email was hotlips@hotmail.com

- That is brilliant.

- We all had these weird names.

- Oh, for sure, absolutely. Mine was Slick Nick, so, yes, very cool.

- Thanks, Nick, for saying that, I feel less embarrassed.

- I had a number of other really, really bad ones, but that one was the only maybe appropriate one. All right, so moving on. What was the most valuable thing that you learned from your parents, or your family?

- The value of education, and that education gets you anywhere. It's not social class, it's not money. It's not where you're born, or who you are, or your talents. It's education. The more educated you are. And I don't mean academic education. It's how much you work on your intellectual life, on how much you grow your brain by reading, and by absorbing information, and by analyzing every aspect of your life. That is the most important asset that can get you anywhere.

- Yeah, cool, very good. All right, two more. If you were on a deserted island, what album would you take with you?

- Musical album?

- Yeah, yeah.

- I'll take the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I love their music, it's so energetic. And I saw them in concert in Beirut a couple of years ago. And it was amazing. I think I'll take an album for the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

- So, Hiba, I'm gonna bring us home on the Sapient seven. Final question, what book are you reading right now?

- So I currently just finished reading "Dune" the first part by Frank Herbert, which it's the father of all science fiction books really. I highly recommend that book to all our listeners. It's a science fiction book about, like, a desert planet where people have to survive. And there are a lot of action that happens there. And it's really the book that inspired modern science fiction from "Star Wars" to "Harry Potter" to "The Matrix." So I was very keen on picking it up and reading it before the new movies come up. And it's a fascinating read, Nadine. I highly recommend it. Part of it, what really spoke to me in that book is there is this part that is called the litany of fear, that the main hero keeps repeating to overcome his fear. And I talked a lot during the podcast about being fearless, and being fearless doesn't mean not feeling fear. It's feeling fear and still doing it anyway. And this is something 'cause I struggled with anxiety, and that's something that has got me past the fear, is feel it and do it anyway. And if you allow me, I would just love to read that litany against fear for our listeners 'cause now I repeat it like a mantra and it's so beautiful. So the litany against fear. Litany is like a prayer and it goes like this. I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me, and when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

- Hiba, what a way to close this podcast. It's been so great to talk to you. We thoroughly enjoyed it. And thank you so much for approaching this with such openness and eloquence and being with us today. What an asset to Publicis Sapient you are. And before we let you go, where can our listeners find you if they want to connect with you, or learn more? Are you on LinkedIn?

- I am on LinkedIn under my regular name, Hiba Mojabber, people can find me. I'm on Instagram under Madame Curator, that's my handle.

- Brilliant.

- People can also follow me, I'm on Facebook. I'm everywhere really, I'm on Twitter. I'd be more than happy to connect with people, and even talk more about my story if people are interested. And thank you, Nadine, for your kind words. It's been an absolute pleasure to tell my story this way. So thank you so much for giving me the platform to share my story.

- My pleasure too. I know you're also writing a post on our PS Thrive blog, which our listeners can find at our careers site on publicissapient.com So we'll look forward to reading that as well.

- Sure, yes, absolutely. Thank you so much, Hiba.

- Thank you.

- Thanks again for listening to another episode of the "We@PS" podcast. Don't forget to subscribe in whatever app you choose, and check us out at careers.publicissapient.com Until next time, I'm Halley Marsh.

- I'm Nadine Bennett.

- And I'm Nick Easlick.

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