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40 under 40: No. 9 – Mona ElSayed

40 under 40 2019

40 under 40: No. 9 – Mona ElSayed

Mona ElSayed, regional planning director, J. Walter Thompson Gulf

As the regional planning director for JWT Gulf, Mona ElSayed leads integrated strategy across the clients of this region. She has contributed heavily toward the new business success of the agency and its global and local clients. Over the course of her career, she has won many awards. Her most recent achievement is leading the strategy for the Effie-winning Apple Pay success of HSBC UAE.

What’s the best advice you have received in your career?

The client is not always right… and there is a fine art to persuasion. Charm and Tact are the fundamentals of Advertising Etiquette, but you will not get far without the facts. Know your s*** and present it with confidence. If you don’t believe in yourself or your own work, neither will they.

What’s the best advice you have given in your career?

A true leader doesn’t take to the stage… because they send their people up instead. Don’t be afraid to take a step back. Your team is a representation of your leadership. If they shine, you shine. We could use more mentors in our industry – those that are less driven by fame and more so by mindfulness – for their people and for the future of our industry.

What’s the most rewarding thing about your job?

Winning… and if you’re not in for a lot of hard work, high-stress, and time away from your children to settle the score with competition and bring home the pitch win, then you may want to try baking. We are in it for the adrenaline rush, the last minutes, the arguments during brainstorms, the never-taken-too-well criticism, the awkward overnights and the sounds-crazy-at-first, sometimes-we-can-change-the-world ideas. No one said it was easy but I’ll be damned if winning through it all isn’t the most rewarding feeling you can get.

What’s the most frustrating thing about your job?

Losing… and if you stop caring about losing, you’ve lost your game. Don’t get me wrong, you WILL lose, more than you would like and it’s a good thing in the sense that it keeps you grounded and reminds you that life can go more than one (your) way and to work harder, because there is talent out there that is good, if not better. Yet, it remains the most frustrating because that’s what happens when you put so much of you into anything and that is the only way it should be done.

If not this, what would you be doing?

I would be a starving writer… and that is because I will capture ideas and tell stories all the same, one way or another.

If you had ten million dollars, what would you do?

Everything that I can’t do without it.

Finally, why are you (still) in this industry?

There is no reason behind passion.

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