Hello & Goodbye from SUMS Alumni: Dina Alsharif (2016)

— 18.06.18

by Adam Greenwood

Dina Alsharif, Business Management & Informatics (2016), works in the fast-paced world of advertising and digital marketing in her home-country of Dubai. Dina's undergraduate degree undoubtedly shaped her career choices: a Masters in London was quickly followed by a made-to-measure role at Leo Burnett agency. Her dedication to progress was rewarded by securing a senior 'dream' role at Wunderman. Dina was able to answer a few questions about how she broke into the advertising world, how SUMS study-material still finds its way into her day job, and, why volunteering remains a key part of her identity...

1. You are a Junior Strategic Planner at one of the world's largest digital agencies, Wunderman. We're fascinated to know more about your day-to-day role. Tell us!

To be quite honest, everyday is completely different for me - no two days are the same. I work with a variety of different clients in various industries ranging from fashion and beauty, technology to governmental services. So, the tasks for each client is completely different and require an entirely new and different approach. The main thing would be that every client provides us with an issue or an opportunity that they have. I work alongside the incredible Strategic Planning Director at Wunderman to research and analyse all sorts of data to come up with key insights that will help solve this issue or make the most out of the opportunity. We then explain these insights and try to inspire the extremely talented creative team, who then create the adverts you see everyday. We all work together very closely to ensure that we create something that has strong impact on consumers and subsequently a strong positive impact on our clients KPIs.

2. What skills or attributes do digital agencies require?

I think the most important attribute you should have to work in a digital agency is passion. A job at a digital agency is not your typical 9 to 5 job, it's late hours, being up to date with the work of other agencies, what’s trending, agency awards, consumer insights (what’s hot and what’s not) and so much more. So, without passion and love for what you are doing it becomes tough to keep up. But when you've got it, it honestly never feels like a job.

“I have all of my exam revision notes still and I still look at them for various theories that I can use in my role today, which I love to do because it makes me feel proud and it also impresses my boss!”

“The most important thing for me though, whether it's on the weekend or after work, is to do some kind of community work or volunteering - this is a big part of my life.”

3. How did you get your break at Wunderman?

I completed my Masters actually at London School of Economics and came back home to Dubai with graduation still two months away I was excited to start my next chapter. Within a few weeks of being back home I was lucky enough to intern at Leo Burnett and gain an abundant amount of experience there. So, my foot was already in the agency world and I wanted to make sure that I was absorbing and learning all I can, networking and gaining all the transferable skills I needed to land a full time position. I made sure to always update my LinkedIn Profile and other profiles in this region such as Bayt.com, where the Senior HR manager had seen my profile and reached out to me. I was thrilled because of course, I already knew so much about the company and about their work. I had one interview with the Strategic Planning director, I had a case study that I had to complete and present and another final interview with the GM where I was given a task to do for one of their ongoing projects. After this, I was given a call from HR that I had passed everything and I was offered the job!! I was over the moon, honestly.

4. How does a Junior Strategic Planner unwind after a long, busy day in the office?

Family is really important so, it's important for me to spend time with them as much as I can after work. I go out with friends on the days where I am not home too late from the office, and I love catching up on my series or putting Friends episodes again for the 50th time while I have some tea (no milk - the Arab way). The most important thing for me though, whether it's on the weekend or after work, is to do some kind of community work or volunteering - this is a big part of my life.

“The alumni community makes me always remember and be thankful to how much the university did for me as a student and makes me feel so grateful to always be part of something that will always be a huge part of my life.”

5. You graduated from SUMS in 2016 with a BA in Business Management & Informatics, a dual course we launched in 2012. What were your favourite modules from the course? How have they helped your career so far...?

This is going to sound a little obvious but - consumer psychology was my favourite module. The lecturer was so passionate and she honestly made me realise more each lecture how much I wanted to pursue advertising and marketing. In addition to this, she gave us real world examples, the theories were interesting and applicable. I have all of my exam revision notes still and I still look at them for various theories that I can use in my role today, which I love to do because it makes me feel proud and it also impresses my boss ha ha! Also, the assessments were fun (that's weird and I am a nerd, I know) but really I enjoyed them so much. In groups we had to come up with our own product, create our own advertising for TV and Print and it was a lot of fun - designing the product, hiring actors (basically bribing our flatmates and friends) and coming up with something that was truly ours.

But honestly, all of my modules were interesting, challenging and rewarding and if I had to go back I wouldn't change any of my electives and I would take the exact same course. I wouldn't change a thing.

6. You kindly sent us an email following our Catalyst Highlights June 2018 alumni newsletter. What aspects of the alumni community do you find the most interesting?

I love seeing what the Universities Alumni have gone on to do with their life and how much they have accomplished. I also love to see the various events that happen around the world that bring alumni's together. I have so many incredible memories from the University and I am so unbelievably thankful to all of the things that the University offered me from amazing staff members and tutors, to incredible facilities that aided my learning and development and the student union that was my safe haven and so much more. The alumni community makes me always remember and be thankful to how much the university did for me as a student and makes me feel so grateful to always be part something that will always be a huge part of my life.

7. It's over 4600 miles to Dubai from Sheffield. What aspects are you most enjoying about living there and what are you missing in Sheffield?

Dubai is home. I moved to Dubai when I was about 6 years old and only left to pursue my higher education before I moved back again. I think what I enjoy the most about living here is having my family with me, I think that was something really hard for me when I first moved to Sheffield.

But, I miss so much about Sheffield. I miss the weather, especially right now as I boil in 41-degree Celsius weather. I miss west street and how everything I needed was right there or just round the corner and the IC, the Diamond, the kind locals, the student life that was so vibrant and because everyone was a student - everyone was ready to help one another and that's amazing. I think I can spend an hour on this part of the question, there is so, so much I miss!

“It is not a race, so it's okay to take your time to really step into something that you love and have passion for and sometimes this requires trial and error. Don't be scared of that”

8. The food scene in Dubai seems strong: vibrant, exotic and totally yummy. What foods are you currently enjoying?

The food scene is always changing here - there's always a new trending hot spot.

As an Arab, of course I love Middle Eastern food and that's my ultimate go to.

But a lot of the time our food scene is taking something classic and putting a really cool modern twist to it!

9. Finally, what advice do you have for upcoming SUMS graduates?

Personally, I thought that after my higher education - jobs were going to just fall into my lap. For some, yes that is the case but for the large majority it's not realistic. I felt so demotivated and concerned that I wasn't getting my dream job right away and it's important to know that it will take time for so many reasons; markets are always up and down and vacancies are not always available. So, my advice would be to not stress and to just keep searching and developing yourself until something comes up that you are happy with - do not give up!

I would also recommend that graduates take the time to make sure that they are following what they love and what they are interested in. To do this you should do your research about the job, the company, the industry and take your time to just learn and gain experience. It is not a race, so it's okay to take your time to really step into something that you love and have passion for and sometimes this requires trial and error. Don't be scared of that.

Do you want to be interviewed? Alumni can ask for a interview by emailing mgtalumni@sheffield.ac.uk