Lessons from the Ladder: My colleagues are my village


By Sally Ezzat,  account director at J. Walter Thompson Cairo 

As a teenager, I wanted to be an architect and interior designer. I admired how every design becomes a unique expression, although it’s just a building or room.
I was obsessed with variations in every detail, the perfect representation of consumer understanding within a client’s living space.

That obsession changed in 2003, in 30 seconds – and the Audi keychain TV copy was the trigger. Lesson #1: There’s immense power in simplicity.

So I changed my major and began my career path at a small agency, battling through the next three years of sleepless nights learning anything and everything about the profession.  Lesson #2: No one is too junior nor too senior for any task to make things happen.

Then came the obligatory moment (and let’s be honest, we’ve all experienced it) when I thought to myself “That’s it, I’ve had enough.” And of course I was sucked right back in – by the agency that had recognized my work as a student, J. Walter Thompson.  Lesson #3: be modest, until the time is right.

Years later, I’m still growing in my career; I’ve transitioned back from business development to client management, working on the agency’s biggest client, Egyptian Tourist Authority. It’s a global account, one brand in 20+ markets, with 10+ languages and cultures; and has changed my perspective on the traditional role of an account handler.  Lesson #4: Client management is no longer about how you manage the client but how you manage the brand.

And now, with a four-year-old boy (or, rather, a little man) the work-life balance isn’t getting any easier, but I’ve learned to embrace every challenge with every phase of his life. They say it takes a village to raise a child; my colleagues and family are my village.

These are the people who support me every day, so I can work confidently, then go back home and be a partner and mother.  Lesson #5: Make sure you have the right support – a life partner, a mentor, or a best friend – to bring you down when you’re going too high, and pick you up when you fall.