“I believe people who are secure in who they are make good employees and even better employers.” Rebekah Riding is this week’s New Talent, but she’s got a perspective on her career that even people who have been in the industry for ten or twenty years should learn from. The ambitious South African started her journey in advertising at the Whalley Collective in Durban, where she went to interview for a receptionist job and soon ended up as the agency’s youngest senior account manager. For just over a year she’s been working in Dubai with Geometry where she’s helped launched a couple of Coca-Cola brands in the region.
Rebekah is definitely one to watch – ambition, adventurousness and a very centred sense of self, she’s a real cool character, finds LBB’s Laura Swinton.
LBB> You’ve been in Dubai for a year! How have you found that experience?
RR> It’s been really interesting. People say Dubai is like a time warp and that’s so true, I feel as if I’ve blinked and a year has passed. Life in general moves very quickly here and so you need to be very adaptable. I would say you have to ‘make the life you want’ here; you can work hard, seize every opportunity and have the most amazing quality of life. You just need to create your own routine.
LBB> How does the work culture in Dubai compare to South Africa, where you’re originally from?
RR> The work culture has been the biggest change for me; again, you need to be very adaptable and very good at communication here in Dubai as you’re working with so many nationalities. This also makes for a very fun and dynamic work culture; you learn something new every day. I’m not sure I could go back to working in my hometown, as it would feel very stagnant I imagine.
LBB> Where about in South Africa are you originally from? What kind of kid were you?
RR> I was born in KwaZulu Natal, which is a town in South Africa, which has very African roots. I grew up with two sisters and a brother and we were always a full house. I was the youngest so always a little ahead for my age, I was very driven, open-minded and always asking one too many questions.
LBB> So you started out working at the Whalley Collective in Durban – how did you first get into advertising? Was it something you’ve always been fascinated with or was it a bit more organic than that?
RR> I actually went for an interview as a part-time receptionist and walked out with a job as an account assistant. It just so happened that the only person who could conduct the interview that day was the owner of the company. I always knew I needed to work in a role that involved creativity and administration / structure and that in a nutshell is what client service is. I had actually just qualified as a hip hop teacher (I grew up dancing every style under the sun but had a real love for hip hop) but was studying marketing management part time too when I started working.
LBB> And while you were there, you were the youngest senior account manager, which is pretty impressive. How do you view and manage your career?
RR> I’ve worked with some pretty amazing senior people, and I’ve made a concerted effort to absorb as much as I can. I’ve also made the choice to not place my value for myself in my career, my job is a part of who I am, but it is not who I am. This sounds a bit ‘airy-fairy‘ but I believe people who are secure in who they are make good employees and even better employers. Advertising requires a lot of confidence; and real confidence comes from this mindset I believe.
LBB> And for your next big move, you not only changed agencies but changed countries! What was it about Geometry Global that appealed to you?
RR> If I’m honest, it wasn’t the awards and reputation, it was the people. I could see myself really loving working with these people and learning a heap from them. We are really lucky to have a leader like Nick Walsh. He has set an incredible tone and it’s filtered down. I feel truly lucky to work at Geometry Dubai.
LBB> What projects have you been involved in this year that have been really exciting?
RR> In 2017 we officially launched two big Coca-Cola brands into the region; Schweppes +C and Smartwater. Dubai’s consumers and shoppers are fascinating so launching any product from start to finish here can be a lot of fun.
LBB> You’ve worked a lot in the activation and BTL space, which is really interesting because it involves a really deep understanding of your clients’ business problems as well as human psychology. What is it that interests you about this area of advertising?
RR> I love that we get to speak to people and help them make decisions on how to spend their hard-earned money, I believe that is a real privilege. The way a shopper thinks changes if you remove or add just one small factor, the intelligence behind it all is compelling.
LBB> What are your ambitions?
RR> I would love to have the opportunity to work in another country, experience a different working environment and meet new people. Ultimately I would love to be holding a leadership position as I feel this is truly where I would thrive; leading and guiding people.
LBB> Dubai feels like a really interesting place to kickstart a career – it seems that there’s a lot of opportunity for growth etc in the MENA region. What advice would you give to someone considering making the move?
RR> I would say build your profile, like many industries, networking is important and that is no less true here in the MENA region, there are a lot of talented individuals and you really need to be brave and step out of your comfort zone to be seen and heard.
LBB> What are your top tips for visitors to Dubai?
RR> If you only have time to do three things:
1. Go to a brunch (brunching is not brunching as you know it if you do it in Dubai!)
2. Do a desert Safari
3. Visit Old Dubai for a taste of Dubai before the skyscrapers!
LBB> Outside of work what really fuels you?
RR> I really value family and so any time with family is what I look forward to most. Travelling and seeing the world with family is really my favourite thing to do. Seems cliché but moments and experiences are really more important than things, so that’s what fuels me.