This week, we spoke with Atiyya Karodia, strategy director at VMLY&R.
Attiya Karodia, strategy director at VMLY&R
Karodia is carefree, passionate and determined to achieve the goals she sets out for herself. Here, she tells us more about her work, her life and her plans for the future…
As strategy director at VMLY&R, could you briefly state what your role entails and what your day at work looks like?
I lead and manage the strategic work on the Vodacom account, play a role in being a key strategic advisor to senior clients, grow and manage a strategy studio for the account and have a big focus on growing the work, giving input and guiding this brand journey.
What’s really behind your mask - literally and figuratively speaking?
What’s literally behind the mask is a very dry, sarcastic human with a good dose of cynicism to keep me and the people around me honest.
Figuratively though, what’s behind the mask is a person who cares deeply about the people around me, cares about true transformation, expects better from anyone and everyone who holds privilege and wants to see this country, society and industry progress – I am someone who is people first before anything else.
Growing up, what did you want to be?
When I was very little I wanted to go into nature conservation, then I spent a lot of time playing New Horizons and pretending to be an ad exec (little did I know that it would be the path I would take).
By the time I was in high school, I wanted to be a carpenter, then a fine artist, a mechanical engineer and by Matric I was convinced that I would be an investigative journalist. Fast-forward to now, I can look back and acknowledge that strategy and a love for creative work has always been a part of me and my passion.
How did you end up on your career path?
When it comes to the creative and social field, I am against tertiary education, purely because I believe that you will always learn more on the job. Of course, that mindset made it really difficult for me to get into the industry, and initially I spent a lot of time just sending my CV out and getting rejections every time.
I freelanced in PR and dabbled in artist management for upcoming Hip Hop talent before I managed to hustle my way into an innovative tech startup and grew massively in the deep end, being scrappy, agile, failing fast and forward and then moving to VMLY&R.
What excites you most about your career?
The chance to shape pop culture, to build brands, to transform this industry and ultimately, to grow and create opportunity for black talent in an industry that can often be diminishing and disempowering for black talent. I believe that it is every leader's responsibility to unlock opportunities and growth with transformation in mind - it isn’t optional, it’s necessary.
What advice do you have for youth entering your industry?
Don’t be afraid to speak up. Don’t diminish your voice. Be true to who you are. Be open to learn, to grow, to fail, to get up and get better. Be okay with taking up space. And HAVE FUN. Don’t beat yourself up. Don’t mourn the losses. Work hard, but take care of yourself harder.
Where are you based during lockdown?
Mostly at home here in Johannesburg, but the cabin fever gets real, so I try my best to get out of the house for fresh air.
When you are not busy working, what do you do?
While advertising is one of my true loves, I am a published poet, a painter, I play roller derby, I am a lover of the wilderness, I am a permaculturalist and I LOVE sports. So, you’ll often find me surrounded by snacks on the weekend watching football, tennis, MMA, ice hockey, rugby, cricket, F1 and whatever else I can get my hands on.
What’s one thing not many people know about you, but should?
I have the worst imposter syndrome, and I’m honestly constantly trying to prove to myself that I am worthy. I am without a doubt my biggest critic.
What’s your favourite meme/gif of all time?
Any football or sport related meme, especially ones about my least favourite teams.
What are you reading/watching/listening to at the moment?
I’m currently reading The Last Mile
and Safari Nation
I’m listening to a lot of dark techno, punk rock, contemporary hip hop and my constant guilty pleasure, Shania Twain.
What’s next for you?
In the industry, outside of vertical growth, I’m honestly just focused on growing the amazing women on my team and creating the opportunity for them to take their place in this industry as the talented strategists they are (shameless shout out to Tumelo Rabothata and Mbali Cindi).
The bigger plan though is to create a great succession plan - and then you’ll find me farming in the Eastern Cape, off the grid, surfing and fishing and painting and writing.