Sameer Alibhai is a Digital Adoption Marketing Manager for Rogers and is based in Toronto, Ontario. After graduating from Ivey Business School, he has worked for Shoppers Drug Mart, American Express, and Rogers.
How did you break into your industry and how did you advance to where you are today?
I studied at Ivey Business School at Western University for my undergraduate degree. After graduating, I entered the New Graduate Rotational Program at Shoppers Drug Mart, with a focus on pharmacy analytics and pricing.
Leveraging what I learned there, I spent just over two years within the merchant pricing team at American Express and later was promoted into a marketing role where I spent an additional year and a half at the company. As of early 2019, I am one of the handful of marketing managers that support digital adoption at Rogers Communications.
I built a foundation within analytics first before entering the marketing field. I’ve always had an interest in pursuing marketing but what I really excelled at was understanding data and turning what I discovered into a strategy. This is what helped me get to where I am today.
Did you find your education provided a helpful background when you started your career?
100%. I would say that through Ivey, I developed some really great soft skills. I was fortunate enough to have the chance to really showcase myself as a leader through numerous group projects as well as create a brand for myself with the help of the wonderful career development resources in my program.
What are some important lessons you learned while job hunting?
Be really, really, really patient. It’s normal to want to give up and to feel unmotivated after numerous rejections or after not hearing back for your “dream job.” But know that the more you invest in a particular role and get your hopes up, the worse you’ll feel if you don’t get it. You might then become more hesitant to keep searching. That isn’t to say you shouldn’t be optimistic though!
What do you most enjoy about working in digital marketing?
In many cases, digital is the first touchpoint for customers to engage with the business. It’s really exciting to be leading and collaborating on innovative ways to interact with both new and existing customers through a variety of online channels.
What is the greatest professional challenge you faced and how did you handle it?
The greatest challenge I faced was proving to people that I was ready for a management-level role. It’s a hard jump to make especially when you’ve been at a company for a while. Once they’ve seen that you’re really good at what you do, it can be hard for them to see you doing something else. You’ve got to show that you can diversify and have interests that extend beyond what you’re currently doing.
What advice for someone who is about to start working in digital?
Relationship management is really important. When people think about marketing, they think about advertising and billboards. But it’s all about managing people, relationships, and timelines. It’s important to know how to build relationships, leverage them and use them to be successful in your projects. You can’t do everything yourself; you depend on a team to make your projects come to life.
When you make a mistake at work, what steps do you take to fix it?
My first step is to inform my leader. You should always be transparent with your leader. If I can rectify it, I will work with the necessary stakeholders to fix it. If it’s going to have a big impact, it’s about letting the stakeholders know what the impact is. Communication is key in situations where you might have dropped the ball… we all do it.
When do you know it’s the right time to move on from a job?
When you no longer feel challenged and you can’t clearly see what your next step is going to be in terms of moving up the ladder. Always put your happiness first. Ask yourself: if I get promoted at this company, will that actually make me happy?
I’m motivated by challenges and sometimes that means going to a new company in a new role to explore those challenges.
How do you see digital evolving? What are the future trends?
I think that location-based marketing is the future. For example, you can speak to somebody based on where they are in that very moment. We can track customer behaviour and spend, and then target them based on that information to drive a desired behaviour. It’s all about being there for the customer when they need you without being overbearing. It’s finding that sort of right balance between being there to anticipate their needs and not pressuring them by being overly aggressive.
What’s something about the marketing industry that has surprised you?
I was surprised by how long it can take to get something out the door. There can be a lot of hurdles. Any time you propose something that will go in front of a customer, there are a number of stakeholders that need to have their eyes on it first.
You have to make a case for something, whether it’s a campaign or an ad, and be able to manage expectations and work with stakeholders so that they understand why they should prioritize your project over something else.
Within digital, it’s definitely faster than old-school marketing. The people working in digital are experts in what they do and they’re very agile. It’s been exciting to learn from so many talented people about how to execute seamlessly in the digital space.