Jehan Abdulkarim | The Innovator 25 EMEA 2017

Innovator 25 EMEA - Jehan AbdulkarimThe Innovator 25:

Jehan Abdulkarim

Marketing & Communications Director

Abu Dhabi

“Manage relationships with influencers who have sharp elbows who can help you bring ideas to light”

Hailing from Bahrain, Jehan Abdulkarim’s background in software engineering has helped her carve out a distinctive career in the technology sector, after co-founding and leading Saudi Arabia’s first technology and business magazine — which effectively made her the Kingdom’s first female managing editor. Abdulkarim followed that up by taking on a senior roles at Cisco and Oracle, before her current position at Accenture, where her passion for technology and innovation shines through. Abdulkarim is also a vocal advocate for female advancement in the Gulf, a critical issue given the challenges that still persist.

How do you define innovation?
Simplification of the complex, to drive results more effectively, and to provide real-time, rapid-fire solutions to modern day challenges.

Most innovative PR/comms campaign you’ve seen in the last 12 months?
Symphonologie: a unique symphony created from the sentiment of today’s business world. It served to demonstrate how strategy and technology together can unlock a new way to view the world.  Algorithms were used to analyze the sentiment surrounding current business topics – such as cybersecurity and Internet of Things – and translate it into melodic patterns. The patterns then served as inspiration for a symphony scored by an orchestral composer and a digital art piece that expresses the sentiment through a data visualization that was generated in real time. I was amazed to hear all the different emotions the music brought to life: hopes, fears, ambitions…  

What brands and/or agencies are most innovative when it comes to marketing/PR?
Rather than brands / agencies, it's more the ideas that are innovative. The agencies are conduits to the communication. I still love the work that one agency did for Cisco around the ‘Welcome to the Human Network’ campaign. The idea was very versatile and it helped position the solutions across different industries.

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider ‘innovative.’
There’s one I recall, when I was working at Cisco. We beamed up a live hologram broadcast before the late Saudi King Abdullah in the middle of the Saudi desert nearly a decade ago. It was to showcase the power of Cisco’s collaborative solutions. The story is still recalled today, every time I meet a government official in Saudi. It was also made into a Hollywood movie featuring Tom Hanks. It’s not every day that you can say your work is remembered so vividly a decade on, and is also transformed into a film watched by millions (I saw the film, and it wasn’t nearly as much fun as the real thing). 

In what area of marketing/PR do you see the most innovation?
Content & creative.

How would you describe the communications/PR industry’s level of innovation?
Lagging other marketing disciplines.

Where do you see the greatest opportunity for marketing & PR to become more innovative?
Planning & analytics.

Who most influences how innovative a brand’s marketing/PR is?

Who is your mentor and why?
There is no one mentor. I am inspired by people from all walks of life. I have deep admiration for those who take risks, who fight for their ideas, and who push themselves to see reality in a different light.

How do you find inspiration?
By being open and receptive to the world; usually clarity and inspiration reveal themselves to me in calmer moments. Team gatherings also help, especially when they’re informal and people are able to relax and talk freely.

What is your advice for people seeking to bring new ideas, ways of doing things to their organizations?
Disrupt. Take educated risks, learn to speak everyone’s language to secure their buy-in. Manage relationships with influencers who have sharp elbows who can help you bring ideas to light.

In your opinion, what’s the most innovative place in the world?
Your imagination: every brilliant idea stems from there and there is nothing to stop it.

What’s your favourite time of day and why?
I love the time just before sunrise. Everything comes to life and welcomes the promise of a new day filled with hope and optimism. It’s also the time that I catch my 2-year-old daughter waking up. There is nothing better than that!