Being a strategist calls for having meticulous planning skills. For Anna Sadykova, these skills are ones that came to her early on in life. The strategist at FP7 McCann in Dubai credits her childhood for teaching her about independent work and time management. “My mom moved to Dubai when I was three years old in hopes to get a better life for her and myself. So, I was a single child living with my grandmother, who was a handicapped, until I was 12 years old.
“I had a nanny until I was six, but after that I had to take care of myself, help my grandma around the house and with groceries, which taught me to be responsible at a young age. There was no one to help me out with my homework or control that I finish it, but I managed to discipline myself, which has been benefiting me for my whole life.”
If you were to delve deeper into Anna’s early years, a blend of nations and what she calls her ability to understand people and their cultures have also been heavy contributors to her day job. “I was born in Uzbekistan, migrated to Russia when I was six years old and since I was 12 I’ve been living in the UAE. I have a Western upbringing with a mix of Middle Eastern values. I’m proud to say that because of this I easily adapt and able to understand different people and their culture, which is something I benefit from as a strategist.”
A few years into her education in Dubai, Anna realised her two favourite subjects were maths and art and after debating whether to pursue a career in architecture or maths, she became aware of a different industry altogether. “The advertising industry, especially being a planner, is a sweet spot between the two. I get to use my analytical brain while working in a creative industry and finding creative solutions.”
She went on to study Visual Communications with a major in Advertising at the American University in Dubai and co-incidentally her first full-time role was where she is still at now. However, Anna recalls that her choice to join the industry was deliberate, but becoming a strategist was accidental.
“As a student I completed two internships at Leo Burnett MENA and FP7 McCann Dubai. My plan was to be an art director, but, oh well, life had other plans. Upon graduation I started applying to different agencies for a junior art director position, at the moment no one was hiring, so I explored other positions on LinkedIn. Few days later I got an interview at FP7 McCann Dubai to join the strategy department and to my surprise I got hired, without any prior experience in strategy.”
The skills Anna learnt in these early days coupled with her university degree greatly aided her in her first steps as a strategist. But, her biggest learning comes from elsewhere. “Work for experience and learning, not money.”
Anna is also fiercely proud of what she does and turning a “dry business brief” into a creative piece with life in it is her favourite part of her job. One of her earliest proud memories was for cheese brand Puck for which she aided the team to create the region’s first gamified lens on Snapchat. “I fought for it to be entered into MENA Effies and it was one of our biggest winners in 2018 with one Gold, two Silvers and one Bronze. It also won gold at WARC Global Awards, silver at WARC Media Awards and bronze at Dubai Lynx.”
As with every role, there are challenges and despite working in a region which has many of the world’s firsts, Anna finds that the MENA region lacks a lot of data and research into niche topics her team often works on. And, in a region where there are many restrictions, the strategist has often seen the industry not touching upon difficult topics that will upset the status quo. “We all need to find ways of how we can smartly challenge the status quo without offending anyone.
“Another thing we could do better as an industry is challenging the clients more. We often give them what we believe is safe in order to save time. But, if we want to elevate the work we produce, we, as an industry, need to challenge and fight for what we think is right vs. what we think is safe.”
It’s no surprise then, that Anna is a truth champion for McCann Truth Central – a global thought leadership unit. “I’m responsible for conducting truth studies in the region.” She is also part of the Soap Box Committee at FP7 McCann Dubai: “Where we raise suggestions, issues and initiatives to improve the agency whether that be process, ways of working, culture and causes.”
Outside of work, Anna is a keen dancer, is taking up singing lessons and has taken time to explore her spiritual side. “I’ve recently become very interested in spiritual enlightenment, self-growth and development so I read books and take courses on different subjects. Every person is different and deals with his/her own troubles, but there is always an explanation to one’s personality and decisions rooted in their childhood, upbringing and certain experiences. Exploring these topics helps me learn about myself and people in general, which also benefits my career.”
Work is never far from Anna’s mind and perhaps it’s her belief in getting things done for herself that has pushed her to succeed in all that she puts her mind to. “I believe only I can motivate myself. Since I was a child I’ve learned to be my own motivation as no one motivated or forced me to study or do good in school, to attend classes in university or to pursue a certain career. I was always responsible for making sure I do it myself even when no one is watching. The way I motivate myself is by setting up my own plans and goals for the day/week/month because once I have those I’m determined to achieve them.”