Head of Strategy, OMD UAE
Career overview: I embarked on my career in media and advertising in 2012, after graduating from California State University, Long Beach with a major in marketing. Throughout this journey, I have learned to master the balancing act between brand building and performance marketing, while ensuring that every client milestone we set up follows a unified strategic approach.
At OMD UAE, I am fortunate to have found limitless opportunities that acted as catalysts for my growth, starting off as a Junior Planner deploying complex media operations. Nine years later, I became the Head of Strategy, responsible for the development of full-funnel marketing strategies and valuable end-to-end consumer and client experiences. I work on both existing clients and new business pitches.
Today, I apply what I’ve learned across a broad portfolio of sectors and clients, including FMCG (Henkel), tech (Apple), QSR (McDonald’s), media & entertainment (OSN), and automotive (Infiniti). This knowledge helps me to tackle business challenges head-on and seize innovative media opportunities.
This work has been recognized with over 20 industry trophies, at the MENA Effies, MENA Cristal, MENA Digital Awards, and Festival of Media.
Communicate sat down with Gahol 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?
Many would like to believe that growth is a linear path; however, nothing is truer than change being the only constant. I’ve been fortunate to live my dream of growing businesses and people by answering the ‘whys’ that guide their purpose and setting up the milestones to achieve their goals. Once that’s done, I go back and see how I can make them better, with the ambition to drive the OMD philosophy of “Better Decisions, Faster.”
I believe bestselling business author Shannon Byrne Susko perfectly defines my role with this one sentence: “Strategy creation is always in draft mode because the market you’re playing in does not stand still. You will always be checking your position and adjusting.”
What challenges have you faced in this role as a woman and how have you addressed them?
Regardless of gender, everyone is given trials and tribulations, with each challenge to be treated with a bespoke solution. The simplest way to face these challenges is to be honest about the problem at hand and to have the courage to talk about how best to solve it, no matter how uncomfortable it might be. As [researcher and author] Brené Brown eloquently put it, “Courage is not staying quiet about things that make us uncomfortable.” The more open we are about our individual challenges, the better position we are in to solve them collectively.
What do you think that, as a woman, you personally bring to your job?
I believe that women have mastered the art of balancing every facet of their life. The business of driving growth is also a balancing act and, as Oprah Winfrey said, “You can’t have everything and do everything at the same time.” The art of mastering this balance requires you to be honest with your intentions and be disciplined with what you put your attention to.
I have been fortunate to enable the growth of businesses and people by putting trust in myself and in the process; and by continuously aligning my intentions and attention towards the actions that I decided to take every day.
Whether you call it 360° vision or intuition, I believe women bring their unique perspective to work and, with it, make a valuable contribution to decision-making and strategic thinking.
What do you think women uniquely bring to the communications, advertising, and marketing industry?
The balance of playing to the strengths of both masculine and feminine traits has been one formula for success within our industry. Women tend to be more empathetic and juggle many roles well and better than their male counterparts.
Most women have transformed their empathetic nature into an invaluable strength in the workplace and, according to the [research cited by] Forbes in an article title “Female Leadership: The New Approach in the Workplace,” empathy boosts productivity and is a driver in life-work integration and positive work experiences. Empathetic leaders inspire more innovative and engaged employees.
What’s your perspective on the evolution of women in the workplace today in the region and in this industry in particular?
Our industry has progressed so much over the last few decades, and I feel proud to belong to OMD, a driving force in the recognition of merit-based accomplishments irrespective of age, ethnicity, or gender.
In the future, we will continue to see more celebration of individuals’ success stories and the path they navigated, based on their intrinsic capabilities rather than their extrinsic attributes.
Do you advocate for more women’s representation in the industry and if so, why and how?
According to the “Women in the Workplace 2021” study by McKinsey, the representation of women gradually decreases as we go up the ladder, from entry-level at 47% to C-suite roles at 24%. Yet, women make good managers: employees reporting to female managers are more likely to say that their manager has supported and helped them over the past year.
Talent and competence, more than gender, are what we should be advocating for. If that’s done properly, women will find their rightful place because they not only deserve it, but businesses will thrive too.
Merit-based earned opportunities, to prove one’s capabilities, should be the ultimate deciding factor of an individual’s capabilities and achievements in the industry; it should not be their gender, age, or contribution to the DE&I headcount. It’s about the right people with the right skill set, in the right place with an aligned purpose.
What do you think about women’s voices in the region in general?
It’s been humbling and inspiring to see more and more women in the region live fearlessly and act unapologetically, be it within or outside the world of communications. Reaching the higher echelons of society in politics, business, and culture, their voices are amplified and inspire future generations to aim higher still. More than ever, they believe they can. As [philosopher] Ayn Rand put it, “The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.”
This profile has been featured in Communicate's Q2 2022, "Women to Watch" issue.