Inspirational Woman: Reem Al-Basri | Head of Digital Media Strategy, Theorem Inc.

As the Head of Digital Media Strategy, Reem’s focus is growing the UK business with a particular emphasis on expanding Theorem’s client base in the retail and D2C sectors.

Reem brings deep experience in media planning, client services, communication strategy and account leadership. Her strategic perspective earned her opportunities to work on global clients, become a member on a global content strategy board and lead prominent award-winning campaigns.

Previously, Reem held several different titles while working at Publicis Group including business managing director of media, head of integrations, content strategy and development as well as social and influencer marketing. Al-Basri brings with her experience and a true affinity for driving strategic brand integrations, delivering data-driven omnichannel strategies and content solutions to the largest portfolio of clients in the EMEA region.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I was born and raised in Dubai and studied a BSc in Marketing. My early roles were in offline, then online media planning, and now digital planning.

I have spent my career working for the largest media groups and agencies, including Publicis Group, Zenith Media, Saatchi & Saatchi, Leo Burnett, and Wavemaker. I have been fortunate to see digital tech in action across a variety of sectors, having run digital, social & content campaigns for some of the world’s most interesting brands like BMW Group, Gucci, Swarovski, Carolina Herrera, Jean Paul Gautier, Nestle, P&G, McVities, BodyForm and more – and I loved building their digital ad strategies with them.

Now, with over 15 years’ of experience in using martech to define communication and media, account and business management, I have found myself involved more and more in strategic planning – using consumer insights to allow brands to connect with audiences by delivering meaningful experiences.

As the Head of Digital Media Strategy at marketing and ad tech firm, Theorem, my focus is on expanding Theorem’s client base in the retail and Direct to Consumer (DTC) sectors. This means using end-to-end marketing technology solutions to simplify, streamline and automate complex digital tasks for a successful e-commerce strategy.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Yes and always! I saw myself working in advertising and media from a young age. I was always fascinated by the dynamic nature of the industry and how consumer behaviour impacts brands and how brands impact consumer behaviour. Of course, we could never have estimated the impact technological innovation would have on all paths of our careers.

With that, planning my career was never a fixed or static process, it’s a moving target, and I set key milestones to achieve and continue to plan for the future. I believe that as you acquire experiences throughout your career the direction of your future can change.

I spent most of my career on the “agency” side, but have seen the increasingly pivotal role that data and technology play in marketing success today. Theorem embodies the very essence of combining marketing and tech to truly elevate digital experiences to today’s consumers in the right way. I’m excited to be working with Theorem as we drive digital efficiencies to promote customer acquisition and increase lifetime customer value.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

Challenges at work are bound to happen. In many of my roles I have led reforms and change management and there are often differences of opinion.

At many points in my career, I have also faced challenging situations. My approach is to pre-empt or anticipate objections or challenging situations and be prepared with meaningful explanation. When you build strong relationships, whether that be with stakeholders, peers, management, clients, partners etc and align on objectives and goals you can earn trust and show the value of your plans.

If you are prepared to face challenges as they come, you feel empowered to deliver and challenge the challengers. Keeping a positive attitude, an open mind and communicating transparently are the key success factors.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I have had quite few moments in my career where I felt a strong sense of achievement. Winning industry awards for our clients feels like a great testament to delivering success. As a member of a global strategic team, launching and leading new initiatives and contributing to overall revenue growth is a great motivator.

But also on a personal level being part of business leadership teams and mentoring and supporting the career path of other women and seeing their successes brings me great joy and sense of accomplishment.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

A lack of confidence is a mindset that affects many women. I think being comfortable with the feeling of vulnerability, being empathetic and candid in your communications goes a long way to building relationships with people. At the same time, being open to feedback, staying focussed on your objectives and driving value in your role is a good recipe for success.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

Never stop learning! Certainly the MarTech (marketing technology) industry is ever evolving and it is important to be informed and up-to-date if you are going to be competitive, both professionally and personally.  Continuing to expose yourself to your industry through networking or social media so that you are aware of new developments and opportunities. It’s also essential to keep a positive attitude, to keep learning from experiences and to build trusting relationships.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

I think today people and organisations are adapting and adopting bigger and better DEI strategies in the workplace and therefore we are seeing these barriers slowly and surely fading away. Especially after the post-Covid, ‘Great Resignation’, employees have been taking control of their futures and demanding working environments that work for them personally.

Research has long suggested that happy employees are more productive so individuals should align themselves with organisations that have a positive working environment and healthy business culture that meets their specific requirements because this is where they will really thrive.

Businesses that offer competitive training and development plans within flexible working parameters will reap the benefit of hard working, intelligent, female talent.

There are currently only 17 percent of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

Tech education must be implemented at a grass roots level in primary education to make it familiar and accessible and to empower girls with knowledge of science and technology from the get go. Perhaps there is an argument for enhanced teacher training given that a high percentage of primary school teachers are women themselves.

Utilising techniques like gamification can also help in getting traction in the younger generation and for women in the workforce, providing comprehensive training and a gradual integration of tech into their development plans will encourage them to the field.

Speaking as someone who is not a “technical” person, I continue to learn and push myself to understand technical concepts and how I can incorporate that into building marketing solutions and strategies for our businesses and clients.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Reading books, listening to podcasts or engaging with online content, attending industry specific conferences or webinars. Utilising business relationships, networking opportunities or social media in addition to training and learning programmes. There is a wealth of information available out there!

What do you think companies can do to support and progress the careers of women working in technology?

Women must be involved in initiatives that can help them grow knowledge faster by learning concepts in action. By promoting mentoring or job shadowing and allowing them time within their role to study or attend conferences and training programs.

And, as ever, women do tend to do the majority of the childcare in families and so allowing, if not supporting, women to work flexibly will eliminate a huge barrier to success in any industry.

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