Marwa Khost Jarkas, Communications Manager at Google MENA has over 8 years of experience in the field of communications. Jarkas holds a Master’s degree in Teaching Arabic as a Foreign Language from the American University in Cairo, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Public Relations and Advertising from the American University in Sharjah.
What inspired you to pursue a career in communications? Where did you find the passion?
I have always wanted to tell simple, clear, and compelling stories in Arabic. Back then, communications activities were more advanced in English in terms of creative messaging and delivery. I also wanted to prove to myself, and to others, that this field is open to anyone with relevant knowledge, passion, and value to drive impact.
How did you navigate your way to working for big tech? Was it something that you always aspired to do?
I have always wanted to work in tech to drive positive social impact. I was part of a training program hosted by Google MENA for undergraduate students in 2013. Since then, I have been interested in exploring the tech sector and linking new technologies with language. I joined Google’s communications team five years ago.
We know that you hold a Master’s in teaching Arabic to Speakers of Other Languages. Where did you find the passion for linguistics? How do you integrate this skill into your current job?
Language is at the core of communication. It comes with variations depending on society amongst other factors. I was keen to explore in depth how languages work, especially the Arabic language, which includes the Modern Standard Arabic (Fush’a) as well as different dialects, and even sub-dialects. By learning the specifics, I can explore ways to bring the comms field in Arabic to the next level. My manager and colleagues supported my decision to pursue my passion for language - and I am grateful for their support. Through this program, I was able to understand to some extent how Arabic speakers use their version of the language to reflect their personality and social community.
I am integrating what I learned in my current role by:
My Master’s thesis explores the influence of bolded keywords (as a reading cue) on reading speed and comprehension amongst Heritage + Learners of Arabic. Heritage + Learners refers to Arabs living in the Arab world, but who have minimum exposure to the language. With new technologies coming in, it is more necessary than ever to dig deeper into language use to produce effective communication solutions.
Tell us a little about the pieces of work that you are truly proud to have executed.
Googleyat is a mini-series produced and presented by the communications team at Google MENA. The mission of this show is to help people understand how to better use Google’s products, and learn about the technology behind them. The show is produced using colloquial Arabic (different regional dialects) and lives on Google Arabia official channels (YT, FB, Twitter & IG).
What were some of the challenges you faced along the way?
When my colleagues and I started presenting the ‘Googleyat’ series, we received some biased comments about our appearance on social media that we had to ignore to continue progressing.
Have you faced any biases in the workplace? If so, how did you overcome them and thrive to keep going?
I am grateful to be working with colleagues who truly value diversity and inclusion. I have always felt my voice was heard, and that I can thrive in what I do and continue to feel respected.
To what extent has the Arab world or the Middle East progressed in advancing gender equality and increasing female representation in the realm of big tech?
In my opinion, there has been strong progress in advancing gender equality and increasing female representation whether in tech or other industries starting here in the UAE. There may be further challenges in other countries in the region, but I believe that with continuous awareness, and guidance to female talents to improve necessary qualifications, the gears can be positively shifted.
What, in your opinion, are some major gaps that the communications, advertising, and marketing industries of the Middle East need to bridge to empower the next generation of professionals?
I feel sometimes talents are afraid of entering such industries for two reasons. First, they believe that they can’t get an opportunity if they have no connections inside the industry. Second, they believe that they don’t fit whether based on nationality, previous experience, lifestyle, or even appearance. Companies are responsible for putting an effort into hiring talent from different backgrounds - as differences always fuel creativity. They need to lead by example to break such fears that put them away from potential talents.
A piece of advice you’d like to give to young Arab girls.
Make sure everything you do drives impact in your community and matches your core beliefs and values. This will help fuel your energy every single day. Be vocal about your achievements. Remember, that does not mean you are seeking attention. You can always tie those achievements to learning so everyone else can benefit from them. Invest in yourself. Learn about how technology can sharpen your skills in the creative industry. For example, you can master your creative writing skills to better guide current & future generative AI technologies. Start a conversation about a topic of interest with people in the field, whether online or offline. This way, you open your horizons, learn from others, and get to explore further opportunities.
Disclaimer: All views expressed are the individual’s and don’t reflect those of any organization.
This piece was first published in Communicate's Women to Watch Issue 2023.