Amber Kazalbash is a senior strategist at R/GA Austin. She focuses on using her background in social and product to find harmony between tech and creative and build more human brands. She has worked with brands across the retail. fashion, and tech industries, most recently as a social strategist for Microsoft at the Ayzenberg Group in Los Angeles.
Outside of R/GA, Amber serves as the director of marketing for Muslim Women Professionals, a non-profit which promotes inclusion and empowerment for professional Muslimahs in the US.
Here, R/GA talks to Amber about her career, inspirations and what the future holds.
R/GA > Tell me about your career. What was your path to where you are today?
Amber Kazalbash > I have always been fascinated with all things tech and digital. My career began in the fashion space working in social media for an eCommerce retailer and part-time fashion blogger. I loved the creative aspect of those roles and decided to make a jump by switching to a similar function for a tech company for my first full-time role. There, I was exposed to product marketing and brand strategy, and I decided to pause my career to focus more on these new interests of mine in the form of graduate studies. It was in grad school that I began doing consultatory and agency work for businesses and brands of all sizes, which has led me to the role I play today as a strategist for larger-scale national corporations out of R/GA’s Austin office. But I have found ways to productively pursue other things that I am passionate about on the side, too.
R/GA > What do you dedicate your time to outside of work?
Amber > Outside of work, there are a few other things that help me stay motivated to keep learning and growing my skills. I spend some of my time consulting on digital marketing and strategy for minority-owned brands and businesses. I also am a co-founder of Brown Girls Food Club, a community organisation focused on bringing BIPOC women of colour to a (virtual) table to share their experiences and passions, and ultimately support local minority-owned businesses.
R/GA > What work do you currently find interesting?
Amber > This year has been somewhat of an awakening for me in terms of identifying and acting on my interests. I have always been very tapped into niche cultures and how the brands I work with can do a better job of serving them. But with the current crossroads, we are at from a social, cultural, and political standpoint, I have become fascinated about learning more about products and experiences that can actually help people feel fulfilled in their daily lives and connected to those they care about most. As a marketer, moving more into the realm of the consumer experience is all new territory for me, but I am quickly learning that these disciplines can’t be mutually exclusive anymore. With technology so embedded in our daily lives and most of life migrating to the virtual world, everything is part of one experience.
R/GA > Do you have a mentor? How have they helped you in your career development?
Amber > I have several unspoken mentors (former bosses) who have been kind enough to take me under their wing to help me advance my career. The commonality between all 3 of them has been that they saw I was curious and eager to learn about something, gave me an opportunity to learn by actually doing, and they have consistently engaged me after no longer working closely together. This isn’t your typical form of mentorship but I have found that working relationships can flex into partial mentorships, which have all worked to propel me further into exciting projects in my time as a marketer.
R/GA > What inspires you outside of work and how does it influence how you work?
Amber > Art, fashion, and music coming from my corner of the internet have thankfully always kept me inspired and tapped into pop culture. The combination of each has directly impacted everything I do in my work, from identifying strategies in connecting with Millennial/Gen-Z audiences to identifying the next big moment on social media, to developing creative presentations and campaigns that are insightful and memorable.
R/GA > What advice do you have for up incoming strategists?
Amber > If you are looking to work in strategy, don’t just be curious, be solutions-oriented. As strategists, we have the (arguably) most difficult job of having an objective perspective backed by insights around consumers. Being solutions-oriented in interdepartmental and collaborative settings helps me stay focused on solving consumer needs, habits, and trends, rather than getting stuck in the grind of the work itself. Always ask questions, but try to arm yourself to answer some too.