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Chief Strategy Officer at We Are Social, Mobbie Nazir, on what it really means to ‘innovate’

Mobbie Nazir
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Mobbie Nazir, Chief Strategy Officer at marketing agency, We Are Social, has a had a cross-discipline career spanning digital, PR, advertising and social. She was named a top female leader redefining the creative industry in 2017 by The Dots and also listed in the Holmes Report’s Innovator 25 (described as a barometer of marketing and communications innovation) in 2016. Everywoman editor, Cherry Casey, caught up with Mobbie to talk about the realities of managing a hybrid career path and what ‘innovation’ really looks like

 

What does your day-to-day role entail?

I’m responsible for driving the ongoing evolution of our product to meet the needs of our clients who are often innovators and disruptors in their own industries. I oversee the strategy and research and insight teams in London, and I’m also responsible for building and supporting these teams within our 15 offices around the world.

I’m heavily involved in our global thought leadership and I author some of our reports, including our annual Think Forward trends report.  I also work with our global leadership team to define the company vision, mission and purpose, plus contribute to the wider business strategy. We’ve been going for just over a decade now – what do the next 10 years hold for us?

Your professional profile says you ‘champion the role of social thinking to drive business value’; can you elaborate on what this means?

We believe that when it comes to marketing, it isn’t just about what you do on social platforms that matter – it’s about understanding people’s behaviour. People have always been social; we’ve always needed to connect with others and define ourselves through the things we share. It’s finding those insights into what makes us social that creates the best work. My role is to understand that and help our clients tap into it.

In your interview for the Holmes Report, you said ‘innovation for the sake of innovation will always fail’. So what makes a company successfully innovative?

Being innovative isn’t just about hiring an innovation manager. While some people may have specialist skills, in a creative agency it’s about working together to come up with really good ideas. It’s like that common question – what percentage of your brain do you actually use? Well how much of your organisation do you actually use? It’s really powerful when you recognise that the people around you have all the ideas you need; your job is to foster a culture in which everyone is encouraged and able to communicate their ideas.

We Are Social is a hugely successful global brand – how do you attract and retain diverse talent?

We’re a meritocracy and not too hung up on hierarchy. If someone is genuinely adding value to the business, whatever level they’re at, they will be recognised for it. I think people really appreciate that.

Looking at your own career trajectory, you said you ‘took a conscious decision early on not to double down on one area of marketing and communications.’  How did you make those moves from one field of marketing to another?

Because I have a digital background, I found it relatively easy to move from place to place, as they are sought-after skills in any environment. The challenge was having the confidence to try to apply those skills in an entirely different context, particularly as it was often in the face of friends and colleagues saying, ‘Oh that’s a strange move – why are you doing that?’ That took a little bit of bravery and adopting a growth mindset around moving into a field where I was not an ‘expert’.

But there have been huge benefits. Marketing requires a hybrid skillset so having cross-functional expertise really helped, and it’s kept me at the forefront of what’s going on in the industry.

You mentioned having to feel comfortable with not being the expert in your field. Have you ever had imposter syndrome?

Every time I made a move, I had that feeling of, ‘This isn’t something I’ve done before – am I really going to be able to do it?’ But I’m driven by my family background; my parents are Pakistani and moved to the UK when I was a child, and they came with nothing and built themselves up. They fostered in me a spirit of ‘just go for it’. So if I’m ever having those niggling doubts, I just give myself a talking to – there’s no ‘one way’ of doing things, there’s probably no ‘right way’. The most important thing is you show up and give it a go.

You’ve been in your for career 18 years – how do you stay motivated and inspired?

Social media is a fairly new industry and it’s always changing. It’s inspiring to be at an agency which is at the forefront of the most significant evolution marketing has experienced, perhaps ever. It’s a cliché, but there’s never a dull day.

I learn a lot from my co-workers at all levels. One of the great parts about a flat and globally connected working culture is that you’re exposed to lots of different viewpoints from a very diverse group of people. 

And I love podcasts and listening to great speakers - I’m curious and I find conventions like SXSW hugely inspiring. There’s such a great cross-section of talks from academics, world leaders, politicians, actors and influencers. It’s an amazing melting pot.

And lastly, what advice would you give to your younger self?

Try to keep more of a balance between your career and personal life. When I was younger, I was working 24/7. As I’ve got older, I’ve realised that nurturing your non-work life is important, as it makes you feel more fulfilled. And the more fulfilled you are, the better you feel, the better you perform both within and outside of your career.

 

To find out more about creating a culture of innovation, watch our webinar: Leading to Innovate