Getting a real job when you’re still young is tough.
So, how did Soha Mohiuddin work her way up from a Senior Marketing Manager to a Director of Marketing in her 20’s?
We know that facing an uncertain financial future is a touchstone experience for nearly all millennials.
I am 21 years old. I’ll soon have an Honours degree that employers once saw as a golden ticket into the job market but is now almost as redundant as a high school diploma. My worries are stacking up like the cost of rent in Toronto, and my bank account is dwindling as fast as the industries my generation has pretty much killed (oh, irony).
Like many of you, I am starting to feel like the poster child for Khalid’s “Young Dumb & Broke.”
That’s why I sat down with Soha Mohiuddin. She’s a millennial woman who managed to score a successful career despite the odds. She is young. She has a limited education. And she’s a bad-ass who refuses to conform to corporate moulds.
Soha graduated from York University’s Schulich School of Business with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. At 21, she was got her foot in the door as a Campaign Marketing Intern for Bell Mobility.
By 25, she was the youngest Senior Product Marketing Manager for Bell – a position she scored despite not having her MBA nor the tenure.
At 27, she was working as a Director of Marketing for a company called Digiflare which has since merged and goes by the name of Accedo. Soha currently works as a Director of Product Marketing.
So, yeah. It’s safe to say that Soha has done pretty well for herself and maintains humility, integrity and a sense of humor throughout it all.
Are you like Soha? Want to maintain success, and move up in the professional sphere despite limitations around education and work experience?
Here’s what Soha had to say.
In the face of adversity, the only option is to figure it out.
Soha believes that to climb the corporate ladder, you must adopt a “yes, and—” mindset.
In such a short span in her roles, Soha gained the necessary skills and knowledge by immersing herself in her work and learning as much as she could from her superiors.
When taking on leadership roles, Soha would invest time to research how other tech companies led their marketing strategies. She’d then turn around and apply much of what the big leagues were doing right, into her current projects.
She was quick to recognize some of her knowledge gaps and took a certificate course on strategic thinking through UofT. She also took an Information Mapping course to strengthen her critical thinking and communication skills.
When the job required an understanding of Product Management & Product Marketing, Soha took a course on Pragmatic Marketing that helped her develop a deep understanding of tech marketing frameworks.
Alongside it all, Soha was heavily involved as a professional dancer at the Shiamak Davar Dance Company in Toronto. This not only allowed her to live out her dancer dreams, but it also helped her find creative solutions to managing both her professional and personal life.
Soha would optimize her time by practicing work-related presentations in her car, driving to and from the office. She invested as much time as possible to developing certain skills knowing that with extra effort, she would eventually see the positive results in her work performance.
Whenever she felt exhausted or overwhelmed by the volume of work, she never resorted to excuses like “that wasn’t part of my job description” but rather “I’ll figure it out .”
Constructive Feedback? Be a Judge. Not a Lawyer.
Admittedly, constructive criticism in the workplace and in life, in general, can sometimes feel like a shot to the ego.
“I’m observant, so I can cut through the clutter. I’m blunt, so I can call it out.” – Soha Mohiuddin
Consider the fact that within many work environments, power imbalances exist as well as personalities shaped through different cultures, traditions, and walks of life. While Soha believes that feedback can sometimes be the vehicle that drives professional success – it can also be crippling without the tools to properly assess it.
So, how do you leverage constructive feedback to advance in your career?
Absorb the (unsolicited) advice that your coworkers will inevitably serve you, and pay close attention to patterns, bias, and in some cases maybe even envy. Then, judge the feedback based on what you think is valuable, and what will pave the way for stronger performance results because let’s face it, defending yourself aimlessly won’t win your case – or in this scenario – a promotion.
Egos kill opportunities.
If you are unfamiliar with the work of Ryan Holiday—he is a marketer, entrepreneur, and author of the book, Ego is the Enemy (amongst others).
In an interview, he talks about the perils of “wantrepreneurs” thinking that ego, manifested in bravado and swagger, is the vehicle that drives Kanye West’s success.
At large, we hear about the entitled and brazen millennial stereotypes – young people are entering the job market with limited work experience and high-salary expectations, bragging about their university degrees and things they’re “going to do“.
Like Ryan Holiday and many other public figures, Soha believes that egotism is the death of all growth and success. In fact, she believes that it is actually humility and a willingness to learn that employers find attractive.
“If you have to fight to show people what you’ve done, you haven’t done enough” – Soha Mohiuddin
When Soha began her career as an intern for Bell Mobility, she was very aware that she was not an expert in the marketing sphere. She paid much attention to her superiors and mentors to absorb the kinds of skills and attitudes that they valued within their business. She always maintained the mindset that if her work was good enough, it would speak for itself—and if it didn’t, she probably had more learning to do.
It took a lot of time, hard work, and patience for her skills to develop and become visible to her peers and coworkers. Soha wants you, gentle millennials, to understand that a long process of trial, rejection, and un-entitlement will likely come before you score dream job.
So, hang tight. You’ll get there.
When things go wrong, pivot and try again.
Anxious about the future and pissed off at the past – it seems this is the common millennial experience.
Like everyone in my generation, I fear that after graduation I will struggle to score a stable job in such a competitive hiring climate. Since we, as a generation, are delaying the whole “partner-finding” and “kid-having” thing, I wonder whether starting a life of my own is even doable on a single income.
*cue my daily, internal monologue of panic*
At the same time, I wonder if my first mistake was dishing out 40K for a philosophy degree instead of just learning how to code.
Soha believes that one of the keys to finding peace and success, not only in your career but in life is to simply live in the moment:
“I never worried about the future. I just tackled what I had in front of me. When people asked me if leaving Bell was a good idea, I said that I don’t know. They questioned why I would leave such a stable and secure job. I told them that if it fails, I’ll just pivot and try something else.” – Soha Mohiuddin
So basically, give yourself permission to be resilient and experiment with new opportunities. Because let’s face it. Success in the workplace isn’t always linear – sometimes it’s just dancing your way through it until you find your groove.
Photos by: Ashlyn Vickery (@vicksprints)
*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.