'How I made it' featuring Hazem El Zayat of Ogilvy MENA

How I made it: featuring Hazem El Zayat, Regional Director Customer Engagement & Digital, Ogilvy 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.

After graduating from The American University in Cairo with a BSc in Computer Science in 2002, Hazem forged a strong career path in which he could indulge his passion for connecting the business world with technology.

Having worked across multiple industries and with a range of iconic brands including InterContinental Hotels Group and McDonalds, he has led projects across all areas of the digital mix, including social media, content, performance marketing, search engine optimization and data and analytics. In this interview, he discusses why being agile is more than just a buzzword and why staying connected is all-important in his industry.  

How do you start your day?

I’m a pretty fast-paced person, so I don’t have that feeling of mornings being slow and needing to take a while to get moving. I literally jump out of bed and get on with it.

I’m in the office an hour earlier than I usually need to be to get the benefit of that time when things are still quiet and you can get things done – maybe listen to some music while I do it – until people start coming in and things get manic for the rest of the day. Before work,   a workout and protein shake are always in order to get the day moving.

What personal attribute do you think has helped you most during the course of your career?

It’s a word that’s very popular these days, but I’d say agility. These days it’s all about being as agile as you can, especially when you’re working in an industry where the lines regarding the areas of the business you are responsible for, and capability, are blurred.

Also, going back to the client and saying “that’s not an area we deliver” isn’t really an option anymore, so you need to be able to think on your feet very quickly about how you will get access to what you need to deliver.

What keeps you sane on those crazy days?

They’re all crazy days! But I think it’s about having a good team more than anything else. We’re fortunate at Ogilvy that we do have a great team of people and I think the best thing is the fact that you can get up from your desk, having been ramming your head against the wall for the last half hour over something, and just have a chat with someone, bounce it off a few people in order to be able to go back to your seat with an answer to your question.

The beauty of that is there is always an answer in someone, whether they’re senior, junior, in your team or in another one – there’s always a solution with somebody.

Best career advice for someone who wants to make it in your industry?

Stay connected. There are so many different meanings to this. It could be connecting with people in the industry who you can learn from, bounce ideas off or hear at conferences. Or it could mean staying connected to the industry in general – making sure you know what’s going on, who has just updated their algorithm, what Google is doing etc. To succeed in this industry, you need to be connected to people, platforms, publishers, technology – the whole nine yards.

How would you describe yourself in three words?

A tough cookie.

What/Who inspires you?

Various things. Technology can inspire me, a good piece of creative can inspire me. Strategic thinking can inspire me, especially these days when you look at the power of data. Good examples of how people process technology and put it together really does inspire me too.

What challenges have you faced in the course of your career?

I think the major challenge in the digital industry is a maturity question.

Sometimes we want to take things much further than where the client’s ambitions are; things that just aren’t possible due to lack of knowledge or internal structures. So I think there’s a need to ‘come back to earth’ in a lot of conversations we have. We know we can take things much further but there’s no point trying to do that when you have a client who is not at that level. You need the sense to recognise that early on and keep things rooted in reality.

What are your impressions after eight months at Ogilvy?

The biggest strength I can see in Ogilvy as the new kid on block is it’s a global network that really is global and really does network. In my first eight months here, I’ve met or spoken to, or exchanged emails with or worked directly with, more people across our network than I have in other global agencies that I stayed at for five years.



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