Breaking Down Industry Barriers…
Azeem is an award-winning digital marketer and international conference speaker, with several years of experience in the industry, covering multiple disciplines such as SEO, PPC, Social Media, Programmatic, and Display too.
As well as this, he hosts his own digital marketing podcast called “Azeem Digital Asks“, produces a newsletter called “The Marginalised Marketer”, and has previously been a judge at many search awards across the globe, including the European and US Search Awards. Azeem has also offered out great advice for job seekers in our own blogs!
But where did it all begin for this marketer? Let’s jump straight in…
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I always wanted to be a football journalist. The idea of getting paid to watch football and write about it really appealed to me – though I had no idea the amount of work it would actually involve! When I was *very* young, I wanted to go into space. The young photo you see of me is when I thought I looked cool – I did not – and I can’t believe others are going to now see it 🤣
What was your very first job?
I used to record videos for the nightclubs where my friends would DJ and put them up on their websites.
How did you first discover digital marketing / your specific industry sector?
At university, I decided to make a switch during my course from print journalism into digital journalism. I recognised that most people weren’t physically buying newspapers anymore (they were getting news on their phones/tablets etc) and branched out into digital.
50% of my final year university project was to build a news website and attract traffic to it. The first month took off, with almost 10,000 unique visits and I was contacted by someone in the US who wanted to give me $2k for the website. I told him it was a university project and if he could wait, he could have it in the summer. It wasn’t so much building the website that excited me, it was the aspect of attracting people to it.
Share a mistake you made or an event you regret from your career:
Oofffhh, OK. One of the things I definitely regret when I was agency side very early in my career was staying quiet when the work I did for a client was taken to them by someone above me, and presented as their own.
My understanding was that when it was presented, the presentation fell apart because the person who presented my work as their own couldn’t answer questions about how it was done, or how to scale it.
That person was senior to me, and I’d spent a lot of time working on it, and I was disappointed (angry) but I didn’t say anything because I didn’t have the same years of experience as the other person or the seniority.
Looking back, I wish I had challenged that person more and stood up for myself. That was definitely a mistake.
Jumping in a time machine, what advice would you give your 18-year-old self?
Not work related – GET INTO THE GYM IMMEDIATELY – TRUST ME.
Work related – Ask more questions, challenge the norm, and figure out different ways of getting from A to B. Break things, then fix them – get under the hood and be curious about processes and techniques. You’ll become a better marketer for it.
What industry skill do you wish you’d learned sooner and why?
Getting deeper into GTM. I was always conditioned to wait for another team to do this for us, and when I started to investigate this myself and explore the possibilities, I realised that I could do much more ineffectively half the time and become a better marketer for it.
Going to be cheeky and add – networking – here too. I first started going to conferences and didn’t speak to people because I was nervous, or in awe of them – as well as not seeing anyone that looked like me because I didn’t feel I was represented so I stayed quiet. I wished I had found my voice earlier in that aspect because I’ve picked up so much from networking conversations and learned lots from my peers in the industry when I have done so. The industry is (largely) welcoming and I’ve always valued that.
Who are you inspired by in the digital marketing industry?
There are a lot of people who help me to ensure my light continues to shine, and I cannot thank them enough for it – they know who they are. It would be unfair of me (IMO) to name some and not others but when they read this – they’ll know.
On the whole, I’m HUGELY inspired by the absolute wealth of talent that is new and upcoming throughout this industry – especially the women, POC, and LGBTQ+ communities. Just recently, several of us in the industry were able to help young Black talent pay to secure tickets to a conference to make their first steps in the industry which they may not have had the chance to do so otherwise. Knowing that they have an opportunity that others might not have had before them, is incredibly inspirational.
If you were to publish an autobiography in 20 years time, what would it be titled?
Ooooh, tough one. I’ll say either “15 Hours Ahead” or “Where are you REALLY from?” and other questions you shouldn’t ask me 🤣
What’s the one thing you want to be remembered for from your career, and why?
Going to bend the rules and say two, but put them into one sentence:
Being the hardest working person in this industry – who will stop at nothing to break down the barriers that prevent the POC and marginalised to get equal opportunities for us all.
Fair warning: I’m going to use part of this next paragraph to blow my own trumpet (for once!), and then stop (sorry, not sorry) 🤣
I don’t know anybody else who has a “regular” day job, and outside of it spends the free time they have (trying to) get fit, produce and distribute a podcast, a newsletter, judge awards, mentor others, and create new conference talk decks.
That isn’t a complaint at all, I love it, and I love the people in this industry (largely!) – and I’m confident that one day (hopefully in my lifetime) when those who are marginalised get equal opportunities and get to demonstrate how talented we are, regardless of our skin colour, gender, sexual orientation or any other defining characteristics – that the industry will be in a better place and I can take my foot off the gas.
I’m determined to break down those barriers put in place for those who are marginalised. We’re coming.
Thank you Azeem for taking part in this series, it’s always so nice to be able to share stories of marketers supporting others in the industry. We recommend everyone to follow Azeem on social media and to learn more about his positive impact on diversity in the industry!
Keep an eye out for more of the MOAM series as I regularly publish new editions from other inspiring digital experts.
Could your career story inspire others to further their digital marketing careers? Or, do you know someone whose story needs to be told? Feel free to fill out our new MOAM questionnaire or get in touch with me directly via firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, if you’re looking to explore your career options in digital marketing, visit our job board or upload your CV.