The FCDC was at BrightonSEO in April and we had an insightful conversation with Azeem Ahmad.
He is an award-winning digital marketer and international conference speaker – recently his talk at the International Search Summit in Barcelona was voted the best talk of the conference by attendees from over 30 countries. He was chosen by Google in 2023 to feature in their video series discussing my thoughts on AI and search marketing.
Name: Azeem Ahmad
What He Does: Digital Marketing Lead
Company: ASSA ABLOY Group
Noteworthy: He also hosts his own digital marketing podcast in his spare time, rated amongst the top podcasts globally, called “Azeem Digital Asks”, and he has previously been a judge at many search awards across the globe, including the Global Digital Excellence Awards and both the European and US Search Awards.
💡Azeem’s Career Journey
Azeem shares his experience of working in retail as his first official job after university. He highlights the challenges of finding a job with no prior experience and his determination to save money to eventually move to London, which was considered essential for his desired industry.
💡How to stand out from the crowd.
Azeem emphasizes the need for job candidates to go beyond the traditional approaches of having a website and social media presence. He suggests that candidates should take creative risks to make themselves visible and stand out for the right reasons.
💡The significance of connections.
Azeem acknowledges the importance of networking and having connections in the industry. A friend from his university course played a crucial role in getting him an interview opportunity at a renowned agency. This emphasizes the value of personal connections and referrals in the job search process.
💡Balancing hands-on work and strategic thinking.
Azeem discusses the balance between hands-on work and strategic thinking in marketing. He uses the analogy of driving a car, where the hands-on work represents the technical execution (e.g., PPC) and the strategic thinking represents understanding the mechanics and strategy behind it. He suggests that marketers should aim for self-sufficiency in executing tasks while also developing strategic thinking skills.
💡Finding Your Own Table.
Azeem and Chima discuss the importance of finding spaces where you are accepted and appreciated, rather than trying to fit into spaces that may not welcome you. They encourage individuals to create their own platforms and opportunities, focusing on spaces where they can contribute and make an impact.
💡Leveraging Visibility to Advance Career.
Azeem highlights that being visible, knowledgeable, and reliable in one’s field can open doors for career advancement. By establishing oneself as an expert or a go-to person in a specific topic or skill set, individuals can increase their chances of being considered for opportunities.
💡Recognizing the importance of multi-channel marketing.
Azeem shares his experience of realizing the value of integrating multiple marketing channels for clients. He explains how he identified the disconnect between PPC and SEO efforts and proposed a more holistic approach to clients, combining different channels for better results. This highlights the need for marketers to think beyond individual channels and consider the broader marketing strategy.
Visibility and Networking.
Azeem emphasizes the importance of being visible in one’s field by attending conferences, networking, and engaging with industry professionals. He believes that building relationships and making oneself memorable is crucial, especially for people of color who may need to work harder to achieve the same results.
Lessons in standing out.
Azeem’s unique presentation approach made an impression on the interviewers. This underscores the importance of showcasing one’s individuality and creativity in a competitive job market. It highlights the value of being memorable and authentic during job interviews.
Advocacy for shorter workweeks.
Based on personal experience, Azeem advocates for a shorter workweek and shares his positive experience of working four-day weeks without a significant drop in productivity. He believes that shorter workweeks can contribute to overall happiness and well-being, suggesting that it could benefit a broader range of people.
The significance of creativity in marketing.
Azeem believes that creativity plays a crucial role in marketing. He mentions that brands need to find inventive ways to sell their products and engage their audience. He emphasizes the importance of capturing the attention of an evolving audience and cites examples of FMCG products that sell variations of the same product by appealing to different consumer preferences.
Connect with Azeem
Chima Mmeje 0:05
Hi, this is our final guest for day one of BrightonSEO, you and I have Azeem here. Finally, finally, I’ve also tried to get a zoom on the FCDC stories because I feel like as if it’s what we need to have one of the, I don’t want to say crazy, I don’t want to presume.
But I know that he’s going to have an exciting background into how he got into marketing. So as in thank you so much for doing this on short notice, because I really like talk to him about this today. And he was like, yes, instantly. So thank you for doing this. And just gonna dig right in, and then go straight and actually, what was your first ever job?
Azeem Ahmad 0:40
First ever job? Well, before I answer very quickly, I just want to say look, thank you for having me and hello to your community. I’m very glad to be a part of this. And like Ciara said, she didn’t have to ask twice if she asked me. Yes. So 20 questions, a very, very first job I had straight out of uni.
Chima Mmeje 1:02
I was waiting tables after uni. Like stuff before? 15. Yeah. And
Azeem Ahmad 1:11
I was a caterer delivered papers and stuff. So
Chima Mmeje 1:14
that’s a job. That’s what I that’s what I mean by your first job.
Azeem Ahmad 1:16
Okay, fair enough.
Chima Mmeje 1:17
So yeah, tell me about delivering pizza
Azeem Ahmad 1:18
delivered papers when I was younger, and it was something like maybe nine pounds.
Chima Mmeje 1:24
Let’s see. That is that is the first job. That is the first job you did. How did you like doing that?
Azeem Ahmad 1:29
I hated it was routine. But I’ll tell you something, actually thinking about it now. And I’m glad this isn’t scripted. Because you’ve taken me to places that I’ve just thought I’d forgot. I one of the stipulations was, I had to be up very early, and I had to deliver the papers. I think it was before 7am. Okay, so that when people were awake,
Chima Mmeje 1:52
the first thing to do is get a fever. Yeah.
Azeem Ahmad 1:55
And I remember, because I had so many to do. I tried to figure out how long it would take to get it done before seven o’clock. And way back there. I didn’t have any interest in fitness or anything else. But I just mentally told myself, I need to put every newspaper in the satchel and get it all done in one go. The other paper boys and girls would bits and come back.
But mentally I was like, I want to go back to bed. So I would carry the heaviest bag. On one side. I’ve genuinely convinced when I got a little bit older and walked with a bit of a lien purely because of how much but ya know, mentally I was like, I need to get it all done and dusted. And it’s funny that you say that because now I love I genuinely love waking up at like four o’clock. We’ll be
Chima Mmeje 2:42
back then. Because that was what was required of you.
Azeem Ahmad 2:44
Yes, yes. But now I choose to do it. That teach you anything
Chima Mmeje 2:47 about what culture?
Azeem Ahmad 2:50 It taught me a lot of honest. Yeah, those. In all seriousness, when I was younger, I’m very happy to say I was only thinking about the money that I would get at the end of the week. And like what, what I could buy, I used to enjoy football magazine. So I try and save the money. For for two. Yeah, for for two. Yes. I used to really, really enjoy that because he’s to give away loads of stuff. And like a typical young boy, marine was full of football courses. But in all seriousness, I think looking back, it taught me a lot about discipline, and how you can’t really sort of take shortcuts and to try and cut corners to get things done. I just wanted to do as much as possible with as least possible effort, but it hurt a lot. So a lot of it probably is transferable now in terms of like optimising how you do stuff. But way back then I didn’t think of anything like that. I was just like, how quickly can I do this in the least amount of time. But I didn’t consider the amount of pain that would be. So stupidly, for example, at the end of the week, I’d be really tired and fatigued, to excuse me to enjoy the money that I got. And I think there’s a weird humour a sense of irony. It looks very much a lot like life here. Now. Everybody’s working nonstop. When they’re paid, there’s not enough time to enjoy it. And I think there’s two reasons for that one, because people are not paid enough back.
Chima Mmeje 4:12
When do you get
Azeem Ahmad 4:16
to I think the way that the working culture is over here, I can only speak about over here because that’s all I know, the way that the working culture is over here is we spend the biggest chunk of our lives working. So I say for example, elderly people, ridden elderly people in my own family, who were full of regrets, as I wish I did this. I did that.
And I often look at them and say, internally think, right, I don’t want to go down this route. But the more the way that the working culture is in the world of work is I think we’re all been shaped to go down that route as it is. Personally speaking. I’ve experienced this myself, but I think We’ve just had a break over here, whether to bank holiday. So as a result, we have two full day working weeks.
I, again, personal experience, I did two, four day working weeks, and I genuinely didn’t feel that the amount or quality of my work suffered. Because I worked for a shorter duration genuinely think that four day weeks should be long across the board. But it all seriousness and if we can’t take the filter off, I will genuinely say that would make too many people happy. And I think perpetually in this country. We just want to continually suffer. We just inflict suffering upon ourselves. Like I said, the filters were all for
Chima Mmeje 5:42
Vice, you know, I used to the first night he was at UK, British people like to queue. Yeah, there’s nowhere else in the world where you see people who enjoy queuing but and you have to be like some of the worst protesters I have the absolute TTS protest by going back and study now, okay, you’ve graduated, you have your first official job, what was that?
Azeem Ahmad 6:11
So my first official job, I worked in retail,
Chima Mmeje 6:15
how did you even get a job, because I know it’s always hard getting a job straight out of university with zero experience.
Azeem Ahmad 6:22
I’m I’m very open and transparent in that when I was out of university, I, at the time, they basically made it sound to us that to get into the industry. And at the time, that was the wider media industry, you have to be London. So I was conditioned throughout the end of my course to save an amount of money to try and get into London, which included commute in job interviews and everything else.
But I didn’t have enough by the time that I finished uni to immediately go to London. So I thought right I need to get a job. That’s going to give me some income with the ultimate goal of moving to London. So I did that I worked in retail. It was okay, I’m a people person I liked talking to people are thought Fair enough.
I can do this led to got a very, very long story short, I think it was about maybe, let’s say 18 months, I can’t remember the exact amount of time not relevant. I spent a lot of money. I was travelling to London a few times every other week. for job interviews. I was very, very fortunate that I had a friend on the same course as me.
He was poached out of university to work in television. And he got me into an agency who were hiring. I can’t believe I’m going to tell this story on recorded but he he got me into an agency and he basically said, I can get you I can get a foot into the door for you. But you have to perform and stand out for them to give you a job, I could not get your job as I was like that’s fine.
Get me in because it was a company that was very, very well known and notoriously hard to get into you have to know somebody. So it’s a measure of how successful he was at university. He produced a short film about anti life crime, which was picked up by Channel Four, it blew up for him in all the right reasons. They took him he said I can get you in contact us anyway, long story short, this interview process was the moment for me that I knew that London was not for me.
So they got me into the door. Basically, it was a couple of days. And it was a cut out the boring parts of story. But there are maybe nine of us in the room. And we were all there in the initial stages of the interview. So again, lots of delight, I’ve built a really with a lot of us. And at the very start of the day, the first half of that was all presentations, talking about the company talking about agencies talking about media, etc, etc, etc. They told us very first thing in the morning, that after lunch, we would all be doing presentations.
And I think I was six or seven, something like that. And he was quite late on every other person got to see every other person’s presentation. So there were three people there, it would have been my manager, the head of HR, and then the Senior Director of the departments or senior people, all their very official buckets. It was like something of a TV show.
And the question was something like what makes a good media agency that’s it we had to do something like five or 10 minute presentation and I kid you lot every other presentation before me and bear in mind back then I didn’t do a lot of presentation and I don’t think that I was as good as I am now. But I just had to feel every other presentation before they were saying things that they thought the recruiter wanted to hear a good agency must do this was put its audience first must be there.
It just sounded like monitoring us robots. And in my head. Allah you load me in my head I thought I need to make these people remember me. So firstly, Apollo Is your voice full of hay fever? I did what as he would do. Got there got in front of the whiteboard. And I was like, I’ll cut out the boring parts. Good agency leads to be futuristic. And I spoke for five minutes about being futuristic. And I just wrote f on the whiteboard leads to be unique.
You have to stand out from your competitors, blah, blah, just beat you. But you have to deliver creative solutions for you first, started talking for five minutes, you can see where I’m going to see let me just stop and look to level white people got even whiter. They weren’t their mouth was open. I was like so right. You can see where I’m going. Right? I’m talking about being futuristic. Being unique being creative.
I was like, that 75% of the word fuck, we can’t get around that the second I said the word fuck no. And I and I was like, sometimes you just want to be fucked, don’t you, and then a put a D. So it made FEC D. And I was like, none of that is any good, big and futuristic, unique and creative. If you don’t D which is deliver, right. And then there was like a box.
I could see where I was going to remember you for that. Yeah. And I thought they’re gonna remember either the right reasons or the wrong reason. So anyway, fast forward. They were like that was very bold and brave. But that’s what we like. So we’re going to invite you back to the next stage.
Chima Mmeje 11:13
You know, I just want to pause there. While we’ve been while we had with Christina, well, we just have a money about taking risk. Sometimes it pays off. So does it but it is what
Azeem Ahmad 11:25
doing? Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. And certainly in today’s job market, for example, I was having a conversation about this this morning. There, the amount of candidates going for the jobs is incredible. The market right now is not even a word for it. So there’s
Chima Mmeje 11:41
Blendtec, the 20,000. layoffs. Yeah, the market is just so crazy at recruiters market right now. Oh, yeah. 100%. If your recruiter doesn’t make it right, now, you’re laughing.
Azeem Ahmad 11:53
But from the candidate point of view, you’ve got to do something else. To stand out, like I always used to say before this boom, you must have your own website, you must have your own social media presence, you must be active, you must be visible.
But I think you’ve got to be even more than that. You have to look at taking creative risks, making yourself visible and being that person but for all the right reasons. I’m not saying doing something that’s like illegal or like a crime. But here’s what you have to do something that might be let’s say, on LinkedIn, for example, it will say,
Oh, over 200 applicants for this job on that screen as a candidate, you are a number to them. So you have to look at what you can do to stand out and get your application. Get your CV even see a read properly, not just did I mean? Yeah. So that’s what we’re,
Chima Mmeje 12:53
that’s, that’s really good advice. That’s really good advice. So what was what were the key things that you learned both skill wise, and otherwise, in this first rule,
Azeem Ahmad 13:04
I think creativity is absolutely massive. If you don’t have creativity in any sense of the word, and it’s probably been mentioned, by my colleagues and friends previously, but genuinely, you have to be creative. And as a practical example of that, let’s say, what sort of very oblique butter, right, you want to put butter on your toast, for example, we know what butter does, companies have to sell butter.
I can’t think of a better advert where they’ve literally just said, this is stuff you put on toasted globulins. Nobody cares about that. You have to kind of be creative and think of inventive ways to to sell this product for review audience and make them think I want to buy this particular brand, as opposed to everything else.
And if nobody believes me on that, or wants to challenge me on that, if you watch a list, by all means, do go into any supermarket, look at how many types of brands of butter there are, you could le FMCG product, for example, anything, they will sell essentially, variations of the same product, largely, they all want a slice of that market.
If you’re not creative, you will get lost. And I don’t mean have a bright pink box, because that’s what creativity. You’ve got to engage your audience in such a way that makes them think, yes, I want this. And I think I’m going off on a little tangent here. But it’s super, super important to remember that your audience now I don’t like how your audience may have been five, six years ago.
So what I mean they’re evolving, evolving. Absolutely. So it really is. Somebody might be watching this right now, for example, on a laptop or a computer who will have another screen in front of the like a phone or a tablet, yes. So they might be listening to us passively and not watching. And if you’re not watching as a test how many things over, hold it up, tweet us a little slow.
But what really is the law says you have to capture somebody’s attention, who is not giving you their full attention. That’s where creativity comes in. And I think people talk about it a lot in like such a visceral way. But using actual examples of products that do sell, you can see where creativity comes in.
Chima Mmeje 15:31
So that’s something to like, is here to really try to pick up but I think that’s going to even guide you for the rest of your career. How can you go into new spaces? How can you innovate? How can you change the status quo?
How can you try something new, that gets you noticed, so that people don’t forget who you are in this really crazy competitive space? All right, so you’ve left your first job, what do you do next?
Azeem Ahmad 15:52
Then, very fortunately, I had a retail job for a very, very small amount of time. It was a company called folds V, which is very popular over here at one point. And I was only there for a very, very short amount of time. At a marketing job came up for PPC assistant or executive account. Remember, I was like, this is a job for me.
Because usually my final year project, at the time was very skilled of building websites or built a website or its own CMS. My electric knew that I could, I could build on easily. But he challenged me before a year to make it all about the environment because didn’t know anything about being green.
But also to attract traffic to it. And I’ve got a very long story short, in the first month of the website that asked me how I did, I’ve got something like 8000 Unique Visitors. Wow. And then in the next month, it was 16. And then 42, out of nowhere. Three weeks later, I had a message from a guy in America saying, I will buy this website off, you buy the domain, I’ll give you $2,000 for it.
As a university student, I was mentally in the bar spelling memory. So I was very honest, probably too honest and said, I’m a student wait till May. And you can have it. And he did. I’ve got the $2,000. And I didn’t probably spend it all in the bar. To go back to where I was I got a job as a PVC system that say,
Chima Mmeje 17:14
Okay, that was when you got into PPC. Yeah.
Azeem Ahmad 17:17
And that was what I that was my first step into the industry. And I was like, Yes, I love this because this is exactly what I wanted to do. It was only in attracting people to the website that are built for university. Did I lower that’s where my passion was, at the time, I thought it’d be web design and building websites, but doing things with that website, building things to try and get people to come to the website.
And then seeing those numbers go up and analytics. I was like a kid in a sweet shop. I was like, oh my god, this is working. There are actual people looking at something that I’ve built. I want more of this. So God did it for a company and learned stuff about that was like incredible, absolutely massive.
Chima Mmeje 17:56
And this was your first foray into PPC. Yeah. And now you’ve seen PPC, you loved it. Yeah. What did you do to keep doing more of that? We a nice job.
Azeem Ahmad 18:08
So from there, I was very, very mindful of the fact that PPC is one part of massive puzzle. marketing as a whole is not just PPC. But mentally I told myself that I need to get to a level of self sufficiency in PPC, I need to be able to do the hands dirty work very well. And then I need to, I always talk about it like a car, for example.
I know how to drive the car because I don’t have to drive the car because I put petrol in. But I don’t know how the car works. And that’s where the strategy and stuff comes in. So I thought if I’m good at putting the petrol in constantly in the car will go. If the car ever breaks down, I don’t know how to fix it.
So I always use that analogy. I say get it out of the car, lift it up the hood and look at what’s underneath it starting to break things or take things out and see how the strategy side of things worked as a, let’s say, straight down the middle. I was doing that for 50% of the time.
But I was conscious of if I’m outside of the car, nobody’s putting the petroleum nobody’s driving it. So the other 50% was to try to train up the next Dizzy was a next person who’s good at putting the petrol in. So I can continue to look at how to fix the car. Give me cycle.
Yes, yeah. So at the same time, I was training people to do the hands dirty work, while also understanding how the car worked. But that was just PPC. So from there, I thought, right? How do all the other channels work with this? So instead of being a specialist, I started to move out into more of a generalist role. Okay. And that’s where I started to look at the wider picture of strategy and everything else.
Chima Mmeje 19:39
And what did you find
Azeem Ahmad 19:41
that the more I was inquisitive, and the more that I tried to test and most importantly, break things, the more that I learned, which was massive.
Chima Mmeje 19:51
Okay, I just want to make a note here that we did not plan any of this not the conversation with Christina, not the conversation with Imani and not because we all said the same thing. So many of you have physically said the same thing. Take risks.
Yeah, we got his way you take risks, yeah, you’re going to learn. And if it works, then it becomes a part of a process. And now you are here talking about breaking things so that you can see what can be better. Yeah. 100% That is that is that that just tells you that this is something that we all need to be doing.
Notice as marketers, Why think with life generally and your career? Yeah. 100%. Okay, so now, you’ve left two rows. Now, what what did you do after the PPC assistants job?
Azeem Ahmad 20:36
So after that, I went into another PPC role. So the company
Chima Mmeje 20:42
that I was with this is we’re now doing like strategy, more strategy.
Azeem Ahmad 20:45
So again, I started off as a system or a very entry level job. I was an agency. So again, I knew how to do it, do it. And but this time, it was more difficult because I’m not in house and agency. So I had maybe four or five clients, again, very junior work my way up, did all the doing that I got into the strategy side.
And I thought, right, okay. I know that we have X clients who do PPC, I also learned a lot about time management. And then as a, as a very brief aside. So I’m in hospitability house for a long time. I don’t think I’d go back to an agency unless the offer was, was good. And I don’t mean financially, really, in terms of the job
Chima Mmeje 21:23
even in working structure. Yeah. Obviously brutal. Yeah. 100%.
Azeem Ahmad 21:27
It’s very cutthroat. But I will say this, I was startled by this, that you learn so much. So quickly.
Chima Mmeje 21:34
Yes, I agree. And we’ve said so many times with so many guests. Yeah. So many guests,
Azeem Ahmad 21:39
because you have to because It’s sink or swim. So I would say to anybody watching or listening, going to an agency, get that experience, especially if you’re very junior, because it will put you in good stead that will be your foundation to move on throughout your career. So here’s to go back to what you asked. Yeah, I did a lot of learning strategy about one particular channel than I thought, right.
Okay, so we have client X who pay us X amount for PPC. They’re not doing anything with this agency for SEO, that do another agency for SEO, my agency and the SEO agency, we don’t talk to each other. They want more organic sales, we want more paid sales were in competition with each other. So why they’re learned how to sell other channels ill to clients who say, Look, you do PPC with us.
We’ve got great results. Why don’t you look at bringing your organic over here to so why don’t we look at bringing your paid social over to us, let’s work at looking at a more multi channel. And that’s where allows the kind of sales side of things, although I didn’t really want to get into it, I needed to understand the client’s language and put myself in the in the clients shoes.
One of the things I did actually, which was my idea that didn’t think that they would go for at the time was I said to my agency, I’ve got, let’s say four clients, what are the clients that are big ones? They had internal business meetings, and one of the big ones, I said, I want to be there or be in the room, you want to be in a big meeting? Yeah, I want to go to their office one day, and I want to be in the room while they have a meeting.
And they’re like, why do you want to do that? And I was like, because I bet you a lot of the time. They don’t have discussions, certainly on a real date that we aren’t privy to that we don’t know about what they’re genuinely being so busy. They forgot to tell us about which can impact performance, if you are not there or not physically, if you’re not there with them on the journey could impact massively.
So I said I want to go there once a week. And if you don’t pay for me to go, that’s fine, are gone and myself. But I have to be in that room. When they’re talking about their business challenges to the agency. They are if they were four, they are 25% of our revenue, and just a number on a spreadsheet. But to them, that’s their entire business.
They live and die by those numbers. To us, it’s one quarter or 25%. If they don’t perform, people will lose their jobs. That’s how I see it. If we work together and get good results, everybody wins. Yes. That’s how I learned a lot about the whole bigger picture.
Chima Mmeje 24:16
That is like going extra extra step. Yeah. Yeah. Because you’re basically saying you have to care about the client. Yeah, care enough to go that extra extra step so that you can get the results that move the needle.
Azeem Ahmad 24:28
Yeah. 100% allow it works because one of my old clients, he’s still in touch with me Lau every so often just messaging and checking in and sees what we’re doing on LinkedIn.
He’s genuinely inquisitive and curious about what we’re doing what I’m up to in fact, I’m pretty sure he’s sending a message somewhere in the past saying you’re genuinely the best account manager we’ve had low but he has been up to level you’ve been seals and comments like that. Makes you so happy. Yeah. 100% make you feel really good.
Chima Mmeje 24:58
So let’s To jump and move on to you consult No. Right? Or do you work in house flow? It has not made me sign up as a consultant or thought about it. And I know that that’s always like the path for so many people. Yeah. Well, agency, go in house and then end up as a consultant.
Azeem Ahmad 25:18
Yeah, I thought about it. This is gonna be the boring part of the episode. Sorry. I thought about it. But I very hard and fast on compartmentalization, living my life in blocks. So what I mean is when I finished my working day,
Chima Mmeje 25:34
445 5pm, you’re done for the day, the city tomorrow before is altered,
Azeem Ahmad 25:38
my workflow is automatically on Do Not Disturb. I don’t look at any emails. I won’t log in.
Chima Mmeje 25:46
I guess. You just You just like disconnect from work when you’re done from work for the day?
Azeem Ahmad 25:50
Yeah, because there was a situation before where I can’t remember exactly what had happened on a worker point of view. But a friend of while at Universal, very, very close to him, lost somebody very close to him. So while he was hurting, I was hurting because I didn’t want to see my friend. But I was getting pestered from work and emails and texts and stuff, although I wasn’t fully present for the event. Yeah, that hurt me a lot. If there’s anything I could go back and change. It would be that because since I’ve left that business, that situation at work was irrelevant. It was minor, but him losing somebody close to him that he will never get that back.
Yes. And he was looking to me as a friend, excuse me to be someone who is there for him. And me being his work mode. I have to work I have to be good. I was. So I agree about it. But my point is, couldn’t go down that route. At least not yet. Or anytime soon, because I live my life in blocks. So wake up in the morning, go to the gym. Don’t do anything else, literally. And I
Chima Mmeje 26:55
think I think that’s okay. I think that’s okay. Because then I feel like is there’s this unspoken pressure. Yeah. So beyond boss, yeah, get one agency and there’s nothing wrong with no one seems to have that. I think we have to normalise it that it is very okay to not want to break away and do the agency to you know, be your own business owner role, because we’ve had so many people who have done that so many of our guests have gone that hour.
So it is nice. I think it’s a good breath that you hear someone else’s experiences for those who are saying, Okay, I don’t have my own boss, I want to work for someone and I’m very okay with that. That’s a good, that’s a very good step to take. So this current job that you are in now, how did you get here? What are the things that you think have gotten you to this place where you are now?
Azeem Ahmad 27:42 So I think, excuse me for coughing? Sorry, I think what got me there was I do a lot personally, I want to be really, really visible.
And I am not ashamed to say that I genuinely believe that people of colour like ourselves, you have to work twice as hard for by the hybrid of the results I’ve read. And like I said earlier on about standing out. I want to make sure that well.
Chima Mmeje 28:10
Sorry, let me cut you there and go back to saying being visible. I want our audience to understand. Yeah. What does that look like? What does that mean? being visible? is an important step. So I don’t want to gloss over
Azeem Ahmad 28:23
No, no, no, you’re absolutely right. When I say be invisible, I mean, going to conferences, but not just going to conferences. I mean, going there, networking, talking to people talking to people who are in positions that you might want to be it in 235 10 years time talking to them like he was to me now understanding people’s stories in the past and the journey that they’ve taken.
A lot of my stuff I relate back to focus on so sorry, but I do say it’s much like fitness and let you get out what you put in. An example is I’ve been in Brighton a couple of years ago. And there was a guy he came over all the way from India long journey. He saw a talk and he was like, I said, I want a job. And I was like, Okay, maybe it’s a language or cultural barrier. But like I said, How are you? Crazy, I want a job. And I was in the queue for coffee. And I vividly remember like, I was like, it kind of took me aback because very, very direct.
Chima Mmeje 29:16
And that’s the British the loan
Azeem Ahmad 29:19
guide, and I was like, okay, so what have you done already? And he was like, I’m here. And that was it. And I’m like, Okay, what else? He’s like, no, no, I’m here. And I had to say two words, the effect of big physically here doesn’t automatically we, oh, you’re gonna get a job. You’ve done most of the work and our dog. You’ve done the hardest part by physically being in the room. But you’ve got to talk to people. You’ve got to make sure that people when they go home at night, for example, or when they put their head on the pillow they remember that conversation with you.
Yes. So when I say be invisible, are we doing things like that making sure people remember you. I do it in the form of conference talk. cuz podcasts, speak to people doing workshops, I do all this stuff in my own time, for example. So I know that when I do it, it’s to make sure people remember me not zoom from company X or company. Why? Because maybe in 1020 years time, I won’t be there. But I will still be in the working world. So want people to remember that.
A lot of that comes down to that visibility, I truly believe. Certainly, people of colour, that’s something that I could talk a lot about, because I want the initiatives and the stuff that you’re doing exactly like that. I think a lot of it, well, you’re 100 times better, because you did stuff like this. We have a mindset that other people don’t, which I believe makes us better. I believe for example, if somebody’s got a big soapbox, now, I believe that there are certain tables that say that maybe you will never be up. Yeah, because of the way we look.
Chima Mmeje 30:56
Yeah. So for your audience, and that’s fine. I will say that that’s fine. Yeah, make your own table. Exactly. But find your own table, find the table where you will be accepted. I think it’s it’s counterintuitive. And it’s it’s it’s not productive to try to get into spaces that don’t want you. So definitely agree with you on that
Azeem Ahmad 31:14
example of that is my podcast. It’s called ECM digital ask podcast, please listen to it. But I was applying for podcasts left, right and centre. I’ve got things that I want to talk about, and not just about being a person of colour. Yes, yes. Well, have you seen we’ve got six weeks of recordings planned. Week five comes, oh, we’ve got personal X, you can only do it today.
We’ll call you back level got call back. We’ll call you for this illicit amount of time. And that’s just one of us multiple podcasts years ago, I was like, God, what do I need to do? And I thought, You know what, like, we just said, there, I couldn’t get a seat at the table. So I’ve built my own, I started my own podcast, are those same people? They will just come on my podcast.
And I was like, I could take the easy route and say, Well, you said lottery. So I’m gonna say hello to you. But I was gonna like, it doesn’t work like that at all. You can’t just expect to be able to do a podcast now because of the success of it. You weren’t there? Well, I wanted to become a part of yours. And that was because I wanted to learn and have that experience. Not because I wanted to promote myself or services or anything else like that, or sell a product.
Chima Mmeje 32:21
But please, that’s the whole point of being on the podcast. Yeah. Well, of course, we’re gonna podcast we want to put ourselves out there. Yeah. Because every podcast gives you a chance to like promote something. And that 1015 seconds of promoting yourself is how people are going to reach out to you.
And please studies industry standards, so I just did it. Exactly. So that’s the whole point of doing everything. Visibility, promoting yourself, if you don’t commit yourself, who is going to do it for you? Yes. So you’re saying something that’s apart from visibility. And I can’t remember what it was anymore.
Azeem Ahmad 32:53
So we’ve talked about being more visible from my own point of view and making myself more respond. Like I said, I think we’ve got to work twice as hard to get half half the results. So for me, it’s just genuinely about visibility and being see not necessarily as the expert or the authority on topic X, Y, and Zed. I want to be somebody like a Mr. Reliable. So we low if we want somebody to do a conference talk on topic.
Chima Mmeje 33:23
X. Yes. Once you they think, you know, good. And all of this contract back to your career, right? Yeah, that’s what we’re saying, well, like all of this stuff has led you to where you are now. being visible, being seen being known for something. Yeah. Makes it easy for people to like, think of you when they have a position and they’re trying to fill that position.
Azeem Ahmad 33:41
Yeah, absolutely. And just like being inquisitive. So like I said earlier, ask questions like, I had members of my team in the past and the facts had one left not long ago, very, very junior in my team. And I, whenever I have someone like that, when a team, I always make the point of not treating them how I was treated when I was a junior, when I was a junior, my opinions were viewed as the opinions of a junior. And he’s only been here for one year, so he doesn’t know the business as well as me who’s been here 10 years.
One of the things that I always say, and I literally will die on this hill is that the length of time you’ve been at a company or in an area doesn’t automatically equate to a level of expertise on the topic. I think somebody could come into a business right now or within one week, I’ll have fresher views and opinions and ways of doing things that people who were stuck in a certain cycle will never see again. So the point is length of service is not an indicator of quality of thought.
Chima Mmeje 34:45
And not always thing to you guys. She’s already director magazine, like crazy smart. So that is true. Yeah, that is very interesting.
Azeem Ahmad 34:53
So the point I was making there was be visible. But be inquisitive, ask questions. I always say, unless you say something really stupid, for example, like turn all the paid ads off wherever there’s level a wrong answer. As long as you’ve got a why, if you want to suggest something, say why I think what sets people apart is there are people over this side who will say, let’s do this.
But there are people on this side who will say, let’s do this, because of this will, because I want to see what happens if we do this. Like, yeah, 100%. Like the car analogy, if I take this part out, will the car still go? Do we need this part? If the car still goes? What happens if I put it in? What happens if I get apart from another card? Put it in? That sort of analogy? being inquisitive, testing, breaking a guarantee will still you’re in good stead or 100%.
Chima Mmeje 35:47
Okay, final question. Someone is just starting their career. Yeah. And I think the thing most people struggle with is the first job, how did they get that first job? What can they do to get their first job in marketing?
Azeem Ahmad 35:59
Like I said earlier, I think it’s really, really hard at the moment, and I don’t envy anybody in this position. But what people can do to get their first job, you might have heard this on other episodes before, but I would say the very least no matter what area you want to get into, have a website. put stuff on there. whatever job you want to get into, if it’s in the creative industries have a show reel, for example, if you don’t have a show reel, start going out there and pitching to people to get on their podcast, or whatever, or get out of their their conference service.
If people won’t have you on there, there’s always a way so I could literally talk for three hours on the subject. Get camera, you’ll have to be anything special. Most people who’ve got iPhones now was incredibly powerful cameras. Put it in front of you record a short video, say hi I’m azeem. I’m interested in working at your company, because I believe I can do X, Y and Zed Have a video or audio version of yourself in short, sale is stalled out.
Everybody will have a website these days, I think now that’s the bare minimum. But if I’m looking at CVS, for example, and I’m hiring, and I firstname.lastname@example.org. Or at as arbour.com, or I received a call, I will say great, okay, laterally, I now want to go look at this person’s website, I want to see what’s on there. So what I say make yourself visible, physically, digitally. And then think what you can do to stand out I think, in this industry, we talked a death about you know, the creative ways that people apply for jobs.
Like they’ll sell flowers, but the flowers might be edible at the very bottom of someone’s CV. You don’t have to go that far what it really is, let’s say 200, as the example I gave earlier, you won’t be one of 200 applicants. How do you stand out? Start doing things creatively learning, testing, breaking, the only way you’re going to learn if you want to get into this industry, ask questions, have a why be inquisitive? Be creative. But I think most importantly, you’ve got to be visible.
Chima Mmeje 38:09 So you’ve heard it from Azeem himself. I think I’ve also I’ve also talked about this with other guests, I it’s not easy, but I think the easiest, the thing that makes it easy is watching people who are already visible, and then see what they’re doing.
And ask yourself, How can I reverse engineer this in a way that is personal for me because it has to be your story, your content, and then use that to build your own online profile. All right, as in thank you so much for joining us today. And where can people find your podcast?
Azeem Ahmad 38:37
It’s called the ACM digital assets podcast you can find on all major platforms. It’s also on YouTube as well. If you want to find out more about me or connect with me it’s at as a digital or website is I reserved digital.com But as a real test to your viewers and listeners. And this isn’t where I’m going to put myself on the spot.
Now. If my SEO is any good, you should Touchwood you should be able to go to Google and type in how can I contact as a why details should be taught. And that’s what I mean about being visible. If it’s not tweet we’ll say as long since you weren’t there, and I’ll fix it.
Chima Mmeje 39:13
You read it from the manual. Thank you so much. Bye. Bye. That was amazing.
Azeem Ahmad 39:22
Good. Yeah, hope I hope I hope you value
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