„Romania seems like a burgeoning place for creativity and technology” – Zélia Sakhi

Interview by Marian Costache

This week I had the chance to meet Zélia Sakhi (Head of Creative at Mobiento) at The Future of Creativity Conference. As you can see below she’s really into creativity and has a big nose for Romanian thinkers.

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During the workshop, you told the audience that Mobiento is a Deloitte company. For me it is still very difficult to imagine how a conservative business vision (of men in black) can deal with a group of creatives, who’s job is to over cross the lines all the time. Do you think that other conservative domains will follow in this transformation process and for them also creativity will become a must?

Bridging those two worlds is definitely a challenge! But no industry or company will be able to escape that collision. As a matter of fact, big consulting players have seen the light in creative agencies because they have acknowledged their own need for disruption. And we’re seeing that pattern in other traditional sectors, such as financial services, or healthcare…The world (and those organisations) need individuals who adapt to changes, are not afraid of lateral thinking or to question the status quo, in order to keep their business moving.Their world needs creative thinkers.

You mentioned that the advertising agency, as a business model, will change profoundly. Can you be a little bit more specific?

We have seen, in recent years, a shift in the way our clients are doing business with us. They used to buy campaigns. They used to buy projects. Return on investment and analytics was not as critical as it is today. At least in Sweden, many of them are now asking for processes, support and consulting hours. They have started to embed their own creative teams internally and they have recruited some agency top dogs to head their marketing efforts… As they have matured and learned from their agencies, they are now incredibly capable when it comes to creative execution. Which means that they expect more from their agencies: more creative challenges, more ability to bring relevant data and side thinking to the table. Long gone is the time where you could just sell an idea “because it’s fun”. Agencies are now competing against big strategic firms, start-ups and innovation companies. It’s our time to be disrupted and to reinvent ourselves.

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Which was the most interesting project you’ve been part of? Which was the most stupid one and which was the most valuable project from your client perspective?

I have been extremely lucky to work in companies that were innovation driven. Meaning that I’ve worked on augmented reality experiences already 7 years ago and that today, we work on everything from connected cars, bikes or houses to artificial intelligence! Hard to pick an all-time favourite, but anything that uses technology in new ways is highly stimulating.That comes of course with a fair balance of surprisingly weird requests. A few years ago, I have been working on a full digital platform for chocolates that claimed to make you thinner (they did not). Or apps that are supposed to save you life in one way or another (hint: you are not using your phone so much under death threats). Add a bunch of powerpoint prettyfication and you know that there is so much work left to be done in our field! But, gladly, customers now are much more mature than they used to. Recently, I have been advising CEOs and digital execs on how to approach some problems from a creative perspective, and I do believe this has been the most valuable form of collaboration so far. So much more fruitful than project set ups!

I can assure you that for any Romanian creative with multi disciplinary abilities, Mobiento can represent a dream job. Can you describe please for our readers an ordinary day at work?

Mobiento is a fantastic place to work at — you work surrounded by people from all around Europe and beyond, in an environment that promotes equality and work life balance. We have a motto around “work smart / get better / shape your tomorrow”. We have since long recognized that traditional management models are failing and we are continuously designing a new way to engage our team in shaping our company. Any regular day usually starts with friendly chatter around the breakfast table. Throughout the day, you can work on anything ranging from a mobile app, a connected “thing” or a strategy assignment with a lot of user research. Lunch takes place on a big communal table in the middle of the office… One a month we each bring food from our respective country to share.

If you are more keen on exercising, we have a running club and a good bunch go to the gym together during break time. Everything is cross-functional, so all teams are mixed with no separation between strategy, design and tech. We ideate together, across projects, to bring as many perspectives as possible. And we promote healthy work hours to get everyone fresh and creative!

We also have a pretty set routines of events each months: showcase fridays are meant to share project learnings, beer&tronics to promote our maker culture around a beer, game nights to cultivate team spirit and the foosball tournament to make sure that everyone gets their energy levels high at all times. Culture is everything to us.

What impression you’re leaving Romania with? Is there anything surprising (good or bad) that you saw here, during your presence at The Future of Creativity conference, in Bucharest?

I was so happy to see so many women in top positions during the conference — being it due to demographics or not, this is a refreshing change and really created a different vibe than what I am used to. Romania seems like a burgeoning place for creativity and technology, I can’t wait to see how it develops in the upcoming years.And being welcomed so warmly was amazing… I can’t wait to visit again!

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