Meet Omar Zain, Senior Strategist at VMLY&R COMMERCE
Aproud third-culture kid with confusing roots and ambitious goals, Omar’s romance with advertising started a bit late. He ditched architecture after watching Don Draper sell the ‘toasted’ Luckies on an episode of Mad Men, which led him to chase down an internship at Leo Burnett. Within months, he got hired by Geometry to work on none other than the Luckies account.
From then on, Omar’s growth has been a success story of bringing in the strategic cultural angle across a range of global brands.
Why did you join this industry?
The same way everyone wants to change their career based on the Netfix show they are binging, I decided to find something a little more fulfilling creatively than architecture after finishing Mad Men.
How did you land your first job?
After graduation, I was running through the six with my woes, road tripping around Canada with the boys, and I saw a girl I had walked the stage with land an internship at Leo. So, I harassed her for an interview, which was conducted over a smoke break. I started then and there.
Who do you look up to?
Elon Musk – in many ways. I have a scary obsession with space and I like people who find solutions to things that bother them.
What’s the best advice you have received so far?
The first rule is that everyone’s an idiot, and everyone includes you. So, keep it simple.
What’s the best advice you have given so far?
Take plenty of naps as long as you stay woke!
How do you feel about the stigma sometimes associated with Millennials and Gen Z?
I think the disapproval from an older generation is pretty standard at this point and probably dates back to the stone age. Speaking of stone age, dinosaurs trying to define a generation without talking to them directly seem a bit absurd to me.
What do you think you specifically bring to the organization you work for?
I challenge the hybrid label by establishing myself as a strategist with a well-rounded understanding in all three disciplines – maintaining client relationships, finding smart business solutions, and building strategies with a ‘culture’ angle that springboards creative concepts.
What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned at work?
Under-promise, over-deliver. Let your work represent your skills and capabilities; there is no need to oversell yourself to a client before solving their problem.
What’s the most rewarding thing about your job?
When you work in an agency that values your craft and ambitions, you get the luxury to work on some brands just for yourself – be it cars, toys, booze, or shoes. I love being able to pick my challenges.
What’s the most frustrating thing about your job?
Buzzwords! There’s not much I can complain about except for people using them to mask their inability to explain things.
If not this, what would you be doing?
Might sound lame but this is exactly what I would be doing, because advertising was my answer to this question when I was doing architecture.
Would you start your own venture in the future?
Plenty of time and opportunity for the future, but the ultimate goal would be to buy a small island in Cambodia to open a restaurant that doubles up as a creative studio for brands and companies to come for smart project-based solutions.
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