EPISODE #108 || Bella Ibrahim, Marketing Director at Kerning Cultures


Bella Ibrahim, Marketing Director at Kerning Cultures, spent five years as an art director at Digitas before joining a podcast network start-up. Hear about why not getting hired isn't always about you, learning to manage up when it came to promotions, the power of hearing stories from the Middle East and the mission of Kerning Cultures, what it's been like to move to a start-up environment, and podcasts as an advertising medium.

Topics Discussed

  • Only applying to schools in New York so she could set herself up to work in the city, getting an internship at Digitas through a career fair, initially not getting hired but then following up and getting brought on freelance, and learning how not personal getting hired can be.

  • The biggest hurdles she faced as a young art director, including learning to manage up when it came to promotions, and making sure she was adding good work to her book.

  • How she found Kerning Cultures and started handling marketing projects for them on the side, the power of hearing her own culture reflected back, and the myth that making your side hustle your full-time job is easy.

  • The mission of Kerning Cultures to tell stories from the Middle East, the many things she does in her role as Marketing Director, and her learnings from moving from the agency world to a start-up environment.

  • What she’s learned about podcasts as an advertising medium.

Mic Drops

“I thought that just working hard and being a good art director (and hoping to be a great one) would be enough. But I think what I didn’t understand was that you really have to advocate for yourself in that process, and a lot of it is communicating with your manager and saying, ‘This is what I think I need, or what I deserve, or I’d like to do these things, or what’s standing between me and that role.’ And I think what I didn’t understand is [how to manage] up—I’m hoping my manager is keeping me in mind, but my manager has so many other things to think about.”

“Done is a lot better than perfect in this sort of space. I was very specialized at an agency as an art director. […] Whereas with this, we’re a start-up, and we don’t have those rules, and we don’t need to make them up for ourselves just because I thought that they were in place at the last place I was at.”

“Shamelessly ask for what you want. Never assume what people are going to say to you. Never assume a no unless you’ve actually heard it. Because also, sometimes when you hear a no, it’s a yes the third time you ask. Always ask for what you want. And even when it’s not in the form of a question, just saying what you’re trying to achieve out loud to people around you.”

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About Bella

Bella is a Marketing Director at Kerning Cultures Network, the first venture-funded podcast company in the Middle East. She initially started her career as an art director, working agency-side on ad campaigns for brands like Pepsi, American Express, and Charity: Water. She is based in New York, also pursuing her MA in Gender Studies at The New School.