How I made it: Tarek Daouk – CEO, Dentsu Aegis Network, MENA
For our latest inspiring stories series, 'How I made it', we're interviewing the cream of the crop across all facets of communications and marketing. This is where you'll learn about how the best in the industry got to where they are today and hopefully pick up some tips along the way to help your own career progress.
Tarek Daouk, CEO of Dentsu Aegis Network MENA, has been at the centre of innovation in media, content, and digital media in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) for almost two decades. He built Starcom Mediavest Group into an early leader in the space, launched innovative new business models such as the content agency LiquidThread and landed Cannes Lions and numerous other awards. Throughout his career he has amassed a wealth of industry experience, working with a number of blue-chip advertisers including GSK, GM, Mars, Mondelez, P&G, Samsung and Visa. Today, Tarek is committed to supporting advertisers with their businesses in the region by building a next generation agency. An agency focused on the convergence of creative, media, data, and commerce and which enables the design of unique experiences for consumers.
How do you start your day?
I have a very strict routine. I wake up early, normally around 5.30am, and meditate for 15 minutes. Then, I read – nothing related to work. Next I spend around an hour exercising, followed by the best bit of my morning, which is when I brew my own espresso coffee.
What personal attributes do you think have helped you succeed?
It’s very tricky to talk about yourself, but I think that one thing that has really helped me is decency. Despite everything, you can still build a business while respecting certain values. I believe that while other ways may be quicker, this is the best way to do business.
How do you stay sane on those crazy days?
First, I make sure I have time for my family. I ensure that my home and my relationships are totally disconnected from work. The second thing is that I have my own passions in life – nature and adventure. So when I have the time I try to experience nature in different ways. It allows me to totally disconnect and fills me with energy.
What career advice would you give to someone starting out in your industry?
Don’t always follow the crowd, because the crowd is not always right.
What three words best describe you?
Respectful, a learner, and (if I can have more than three words), a short attention span.
Who or what inspires you?
There are many things and many people that inspire me but the ones that stand out are my parents.
They both made it through some extremely tough times in which they did not have enough resources and lived in difficult conditions. But they had three kids that they wanted to take care of and no matter what happened, they didn’t move away from this goal. Now I have children myself and am living in much easier conditions than my parents did, I am much more aware of what they went through, and how things were so much more challenging for them. This genuine appreciation for not taking anything for granted inspires, and humbles, me daily.
What major challenges have you faced during the course of your career?
Like anyone, I’ve faced many challenges but the one that sticks in my mind is dealing with toxic people and I’m sure I am not the only person who has faced this problem. These people often create an illusion of power but I think I have managed to overcome them by surrounding myself with good people and teams.
And of course, there are challenges in the overall business environment. Often, conditions are difficult, but if you wake up every day being negative then nothing will be achieved. In management you need to focus on hope. You need optimism and confidence to be able to build a successful business. If I see hope and excitement, then my day will be good.