New Talent: Hayet Rida
Hayet Rida grew up loving art and writing. Growing up in a large Ghanaian family, where career expectations were solidly focused on the ‘lawyer, doctor, engineer’ triumvirate, her creative inclinations didn’t quite fit. But that didn’t stop Hayet following her dream. At the age of 18 she left Ghana’s capital, Accra, to study in the US, a country which today she calls home.
Now based in Chicago, Hayet is a strategic planner at FCB Chicago. She ditched her initial plan to become a creative after being told that her tendency to over-analyse wasn’t a sign of being judgmental - it was the perfect trait for a planner. She’s also a well-followed blogger, an activity she took to after waking from a dream in which she was one, and which she has excelled at thanks to a tendency to over-share. “I think social media was made with me in mind,” she laughs.
LBB’s Addison Capper caught with Hayet to find out more...
LBB> Where did you grow up and what kind of kid were you? You’re originally from Ghana – what brought you to Chicago and the US?
HR> I grew up in a very, very big family in Accra, Ghana. I was pretty much the odd one out. I loved art and writing, which is kind of odd in an African family where you are expected to be a lawyer, doctor or engineer. When I was 18, I moved to the US on my own to study at the College of Wooster where I double majored in photography and communications. Once I graduated, I moved to North Carolina for my first advertising internship, but always had a wandering eye on Chicago. I finally moved here in 2013 because of an opportunity at FCB Chicago, and I haven’t wandered off since. I always catch myself calling Chicago home, which is pretty cool.
LBB> How did you end up as a planner? Was it what you always wanted to do?
HR> I am an accidental planner. I was on the path to being a creative when one of my first bosses realised I asked a lot of questions and had a love for over-analysing people and their behaviours. I thought that was me being judgmental of people, but then I learned this was actually a career path in advertising. The first day I got moved into planning, I remember asking, “so what is it that I am supposed to actually be doing?” The best part of my job is that I have spent the whole time figuring it out, and it changes all the time.
LBB> Outside of work you have a well-followed blog. In the ‘about’ section you mention that you’re “very unpredictable” – what do you mean by that?
HR> This is something I always thought was a short-coming, but I have grown to learn it is one of my biggest assets. I told myself when I was younger that I would live to be 30 (let’s hope it is way longer than that). BUT, that thought allowed me to live a life I wanted to live, no matter what people thought about me. I kind of just live life like there is no one watching, and while it keeps my mother on edge, it makes for pretty cool answers in interviews.
LBB> Tell us about the blog – what inspired you to start it and what are your biggest aims for it? There are elements of health, fashion, lifestyle, personal life, opinion on there… what brings it all together?
HR> I still have the text message I sent an FCB colleague when I first decided to blog. It was at 6am, and the text read: “I had a dream I could be a blogger.” I actually had a dream the night before and in it I was a blogger, so I said, why not? Growing up, I was always criticised for over-sharing. I think social media was made with me in mind. I share every single thing about my life, the good, the bad and even the boring. So blogging came naturally to me. I always tell myself that people need to hear the truth behind things in life, without being scared of what people might think. I have written about everything from growing up as a fat woman in Ghana, down to being stood up on a tinder date. I think being a planner helped me be a better blogger. We always tell brands to be their authentic selves, so I had to be what I tell all my clients to be.
LBB> As a strategist, how do you stay on top of new trends, mediums, technology, etc.?
HR> Don’t tell anyone this, but… I actually do not like reading trend reports because it often feels like I’m experiencing the world through someone else’s point of view. For that reason, I read everything. I have written an entire brief from an article that was featured on Vanity Fair. I read random things with the lens of “what does this tell me about people?” As planners, we have to keep sharpening our brains to be able to pull insights out of dust.
LBB> In the age of big data, quantitative data has never been sexier. So where does that leave qualitative?
HR> I honestly think qualitative data will ALWAYS have a role. How we find the elements to tell a story is what’s changing. I have come to learn that patterns in data are great to help us understand people. But…don’t forget that these numbers are numerical observations of qualitative behaviour.
LBB> Which projects that you’ve been involved in are you most proud of and why?
HR> You have to remember that I am a young girl from Ghana, so sometimes I have to pinch myself that I am actually in America and impacting businesses that I could have only dreamed of. I think some of my greatest work comes from passion projects at FCB. I worked closely on the Cannes-winning campaign “The Unforgotten”, and this will forever be one of my greatest achievements. I always say, if my mother called me up and said “What did you make of yourself in America?”, I will have some darn good briefs and a few Cannes Lions to speak for my time here.
LBB> Outside of work and your blog, what do you like to get up to?
HR> I am addicted to documentaries. I often sneak away to watch anything at the Gene Siskel theatre here. I don’t like going with people, because when the documentary ends, I like to sit and think for a while by myself. My other passion is travelling. I have been traveling alone since I was a little girl. My mother couldn’t afford to go with us, so she would send us on our own. I went to Sweden alone to go camping when I was very young, and that sparked something in me. I try to do six countries a year. I think traveling makes me a better planner, because it teaches me how to really observe people, and learn quickly about new cultures.
LBB> Do you have any New Year’s resolutions?
HR> My New Year’s resolution was to learn to do more things by myself. It may sound a little weird, but we live in a social world that champions the ‘squad’. And while this is great, I learn and grow when I am challenged to do things alone. Every New Year’s Eve, I write down where I want to be for the next New Year’s Eve. This year, I wrote down Bali, so lets see if I am able to do that alone.
Genre: People , Strategy/Insight