Fatima Zaidi, VP Business Development

Fatima Zaidi, VP Business Development

Fatima is the Vice President of Business Development for Eighty-Eight agency 

What is your morning routine?

I’m ashamed to admit it, but the last thing I do before I sleep and the first thing I do when I wake up is grab my iPhone and check my emails! I really like to immediately get on top of any urgent stuff that’s cropped up during the night. I then proceed to get dressed in under 15 minutes and skip breakfast in exchange for a skim milk latte at my favourite local cafe, Le Gourmand, before heading into the office. But I have to say that my weekend mornings are a lot more relaxed—weekend Fatima is much more fun than weekday Fatima! On Saturday mornings, I like to indulge myself with as many waffles as I can possibly eat in one sitting and, as it’s also gym duty, and I like to join my friends on a relaxing hike. Afterwards, I spend the afternoons catching up with my friends, spending time with my family and watching my favourite reality TV shows as a guilty pleasure.

Tell us about your career path

I was born and raised in the Middle East to forward-thinking Pakistani parents who invested their life savings into giving their children a world-class education. I feel incredibly lucky for my diverse cultural background which, among countless other benefits, resulted in my growing up able to speak four languages (Urdu, Hindi, Arabic and English). In 2007, I moved to Canada to study Business and Human Resources at the University of Toronto because I believed then, and still do, that Canada is a country of equality and opportunity where individuals are rewarded for their hard work and merit, regardless of gender, age, class, religious affiliation, social standing, or orientation. Throughout university, I worked three part-time jobs to pay for my tuition, at the University of Toronto Career Centre, a call centre, and an HR recruiting firm.

After graduation, I worked in the corporate industry for a few years; while I enjoyed the majority of my work there, the ‘red tape’ eventually got to me. I knew that I would only really be able to develop my muscles and exercise my judgement to the extent that I wanted if I actively sought more hands-on business experience. It was a scary move, despite knowing that I had the natural ability to make the transition, but I eventually made the leap into the start-up world.

I’m happy to say that it ended up being the best decision I could ever have made, on both a personal and professional level. I’ve never looked back! I joined the retail company, Rent frock Repeat (who were featured on Season 7 of the hit CBC show Dragons’ Den) as a Business Development Manager in 2014 before being promoted a year later to Director where I became responsible for the overall management of all strategic business development, marketing, and customer relationship activities nationwide.

Over the course of my career, I’ve accumulated over 10 years of experience in Business Development/Sales, Marketing, and Strategy. Essentially, I’m an expert in hacking outbound sales and this, along with my know-how in negotiating effective partnerships, led to my current role as VP of Business Development for Eighty-Eight, a Toronto-based creative communications agency. As with most other functions, the main objective in Business Development is to drive increased revenue so as to achieve an ambitious growth schedule.

Basically, I work at “getting stuff done!” I’m also a firm believer in pursuing personal development outside of my main career path, so I enjoy several side hustles including working as a commentator for Global News, chair for the DYPB conference (the largest personal branding conference in North America), and content writer for publications like the Globe and Mail, Huffington Post, and BetaKit. In 2016, I was named one of Marketing Magazine’s Top 30 Under 30 marketeers and brand developers.

What challenges do you or women face in your industry?

Among other obstacles, I’ve noticed that women in business are paid less, less frequently hired, and definitely don’t promote themselves to the level that they should. On a practical level, I’ve found that we can end up being our own enemy when it comes to self promoting and self branding. While I acknowledge that the system itself is flawed, I think we can counteract this to some extent by putting ourselves out there and asking for what we deserve, learning to promote themselves and not worrying about coming off too strong or hurting other people’s feeling. Many women put an incredible amount of effort into branding for their clients, while forgetting to also take control of their own personal branding and career. At the end of the day, we are each CEOs of our own brand.

What advice would you give to young girls who want to be the NEXT you?

Fortunately—or maybe unfortunately—I’m one of those millennials who both want to be a homeowner and also have their avocado toast! I don’t think that’s a contradiction. Don’t listen to anyone who says you can’t have it all: you can have everything, but you have to make your own rules. Your formula for having it all needs to include the obvious hard work, hustling, and keeping your nose to the grindstone. But, most importantly, surround yourself with inspiring and like-minded people whose career trajectory you want to emulate. Learn from their mistakes, listen to their advice—after all, they’ve been where you are now—in general, surround yourself with the smartest hustlers you possibly can. I would also recommend that you seize every opportunity thrown your way, whether you think you can do it or not. Say yes and figure out the details later! You’ll regret saying “no” a lot more than you ever will saying “yes”.

How do you separate work life from your personal life?

To be honest, I don’t separate my work from my personal life at all, and I’m happy like that. For me, it’s about finding balance in the long-term. When I get tired, I always remind myself that my 20’s and 30’s are dedicated to working incredibly hard and giving it everything I’ve got so that I can afford to slow down in my 40’s. You very rarely get something for nothing, so I work extremely hard now so that I can reap the rewards when I’m older. However, as there’s such a fine line between my work and personal life, I think that it’s vitally important to love what you do. In my case, I’m lucky enough to have truly found my calling. I wake up every day and can’t wait to get to work and sell, sell, sell! I love my role, my current agency, and working with my mentor, Erin Bury (Managing Director at Eighty-Eight) and my amazing team. What more could I want?

What inspires you?

I’m inspired by making money! I know that may sound shocking and shallow to some, but at the end of the day, I’m a sales person. If that isn’t your answer as a sales professional, then I recommend finding a new calling! To clarify, I’m not only motivated by making money for myself, but also in a large part by contributing to a company’s bottom line. That’s another reason why I love working at startups, because you can see the fruits of your labour almost immediately.

I also have a lot of inspiration surrounding me in the form of a bevy of strong powerful mentors who all happen to be women. My sister, Sheba Zaidi (Senior Consultant at Environics Communications), my former boss, Lisa Delorme (Co-Founder and CEO at Rent frock Repeat), and my current mentor, Erin Bury, are super smart successful hustlers and all-around boss women! I’m incredibly lucky to have them stand by me, behind me, and guide me. .

Lastly, I’m inspired by my dreams. They are big—some would say too big—but I think that you can’t make great progress without having big goals.

When you’re off the clock, what are your indulgences?

It’s a grey area between on the clock and off the clock for me, because I love some of my passion projects so much that it doesn’t feel like actual work. This year, I became involved in sponsoring a family of Syrian refugees, which was incredibly meaningful for me. On a lighter note, I’m also a huge podcast junkie and anything related to murder mysteries is my jam, i.e. Serial, Criminal, etc. The same goes for TV shows (e.g. Riverdale, How to Make a Murderer, and Criminal Minds), but I also like watching trashy TV from time to time—the trashier the better!

You can sometimes catch me avidly glued to the Bachelor and, even better, Bachelor in Paradise. No judgment please! However, I have to say that my biggest passion outside of my work is travelling. Anytime I get a chance, I’ll hop on the plane and fly away and the more exotic the location, the more excited and recharged I feel. A few of my favourite places to date include the Gobi desert in Mongolia, the Cu Chi tunnels in Vietnam, diving into cenotes in Colombia, Petra in Jordan, and my beloved home town of Muscat in Oman.

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