General Manager MENA, Hearts & Science
Career Overview: I started my career at Omnicom Media Group close to 15 years ago. During that time, I have experienced different verticals and specialties within the group, from strategic planning & buying to marketing science and business intelligence, as well as research and analytics. Today, through the lens of this rounded experience, I am able to identify opportunities across different areas of the business and help my team fulfill their ambitions, deliver great work, and explore their passions.
Communicate sat down with Sarkis to explore her journey to where she stands today and how being a woman has influenced different phases in her career.
How would you define your job today?
Managing a highly skilled team is never straightforward because it requires high levels of stimulation, engagement, and empathy. That’s what my focus is mostly on, running Hearts & Science today.
Hearts & Science has been able to [make] its way in the market through its unique proposition. To bring that proposition to life and make sure it continues to stay relevant in an ever-evolving landscape, my focus must be on talent – it is always the top priority. We are proud of all the work we do for our clients today as it translates into growth. My role is to always challenge my team and my client partners to collaborate on breaking conventional norms, focus on growth, and be open to testing and learning. It is only through this 20% of testing and learning that ground-breaking ideas and initiatives are discovered.
What challenges do you face in this role as a woman, if any?
The interesting challenge that I faced when I first started as general manager [in January 2021] was that at once, I became the sole caretaker of 30+ employees and a new mom to a tiny human. Sometimes, I look back at that last year and think it was a pivotal change in my career as I learned to work best with the time I had to balance my two new realities.
The challenges I face today at work are not alien to me; I saw my fellow agency leads go through them [as well], irrespective of gender. Every individual faces their own challenges based on their own circumstances. Personally, I never saw gender as a deterrent to anything I wanted to achieve in my life. I entered engineering school when there were literally three other girls in my class and 40 boys. And today, I am one of few women in leadership positions. This only reinforces my belief that anything is possible if your heart is in it.
So how do you address the other challenges that you face?
I have a cynical view when it comes to life challenges in general and career challenges in particular. I believe challenges are thrown at us for us to evolve and emerge as better individuals, parents, friends, co-workers, and leaders. This view always makes me feel empowered as I know that there’s something more than what’s happening on a surface level.
Whenever I am faced with a challenge, I directly put all my energy and focus into solving it rather than lamenting and going into doubtful circles. The key to this is having a solid and unwavering belief in yourself and your capabilities, and to set clear targets for your next move at all times. You and only you can decide your career growth and success.
What do you think women uniquely bring to the communications, advertising, and marketing industry?
There are two attributes for which women score higher than men, according to several neuroscience and behavioral studies: empathy and nurture. They are important for building highly effective teams in any industry sector but are more important in our industry where human talent is our most valuable asset and where services are shaped and executed based on human interaction.
Do you advocate for more women’s representation in the industry and if so, how?
Of course, I advocate for more women to believe in themselves and in their abilities and capacities. I also advocate for more women to continue to invest in their learning and development and I advocate for women to have high ambitions. I am a firm believer that women and men equally have great assets to bring to the table. However, we need to think of talent and capability as a prerequisite rather than gender. Indeed, equal representation of both genders is required to make sure we give both men and women equal opportunities for participation.
What do you think about women’s voices in the region in general?
I believe women’s voices and representation in the region are definitely picking up. We see more women in leadership roles, more women in STEM roles, and more women entering the entertainment field as musicians and artists. This is very refreshing and promising as women are discovering their inner strengths and acting on their passions. This unleashing of talent is making sure their voices are loud and clear and strengthens the reason for their representation in every facet of life.
However, we still have a long way to go before we achieve parity and equality. To reach this point, in my opinion, we must start with how we raise, educate, and nurture both girls and boys. They must learn to work with each other and leverage those innate behavioral skills, instead of learning to fight them. Women's representation in our region requires a great deal of support from educators, parents, and men so that attitudes change and biases disappear. Even advertising has a role to play in painting a more forward-looking image of women in the region. That’s what we do through the Unstereotype Alliance.
This profile has been featured in Communicate's Q2 2022, "Women to Watch" issue.