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Reading: My Career Companion

Some say reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body, and I concur.

One of the greatest blessings I have in my life is being raised in a family of devoted readers. When I reminisce back to my childhood, a lot of my memories are similar to old classic movies where the houses have libraries filled with books. My father dedicated a reading room in our home which had books stacked to the ceiling. I grew up with a collection of over 3,500 books that had the stories of the world, stretched over thousands of years, crammed in them. The collection of books reflected my father’s interest in the history of the world and my mother’s ambitious quest to venture through the world of medicine and nutrition. In addition to that, there were also some wonderful mesmerizing story books and business books on sales and management.

I learned the invaluable importance of reading early on in life and books became a lifelong companion I spent time with. That planted in me a sense of curiosity and the appetite to venture and explore more. Even though I had traveled around the world, hopping from one continent to another, trekking the Himalayas and riding trains in Japan, traveling could not broaden my knowledge and imagination the way reading did.

I believe in the power of books, and I must confess: I still prefer reading paper books. While technology has enhanced a lot of aspects in our daily human lives, e-books & audio books still cannot compare to the feeling of holding a book in your bare hands and flipping through the pages one by one (every bibliophile’s fantasy come true.)

This World Book Day, I’d love to share with you some of the books that have shaped my career, guided me, and gave me advice that helped me coordinate my thoughts and ignited many creative ideas that helped me advance the products I have been commissioned to promote and market.

From someone who made the journey from advertising to corporate communications, here are some titles that helped enrich my experiences and polish my skills:

1. The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR – written by Al Ries and Laura Ries

I read this book when I was 22 years old, and had just started my glamorous career at one of the world’s most renowned advertising agencies. I felt unstoppable and like the world was at my fingertips. I was lucky to be assigned on big-shot brands such as Kellogs and Kraft. I was inspired by the briefing sessions, the TV ads, and the radio recordings. I loved working with ingenious individuals and awarded creatives. The book gave me a sort of a “rude awakening” about the longevity of the advertising industry, and had me questioning whether advertising truly was the best and most effective way to reach out to consumers as a brand. Now that I think back, almost a decade later, I am grateful for reading this book. It taught me to question things, and it sprung a curiosity in me towards other communication fields other than advertising. In today’s day and age where digital & social inventions are disrupting everything that we do, I would equate PR to advertising in terms of importance. They have both, as industries, fallen and risen from the ashes numerous times in new forms, re-polished, renewed, and ready to earn the audience’s trust.

2. Taking People With You – written by David Novak

I stumbled across this book years later when I was working on Yum! Brands in the advertising industry and felt the need to get some hands-on experience from the leaders in the F&B marketing field. This book was written by the Chairman and CEO of Yum!, the one and only David Novak. In it, he talks about the importance of leading people in an organization and the leadership strategies used to help employees collectively achieve big things. Some of the top-line strategies and tactics he shared were: always think big, place yourself in the shoes of the people working for you, practice “extraordinary authenticity”, reward small wins, and let go of the cynics who reject your values and objectives.

3. Corporate Communication: A Guide to Theory and Practice – written by Joep P. Cornelissen

This was a good read I enjoyed when I moved to the client side and joined the corporate communications filed. It served as text-book material that helped me refresh my mind with the theories and the basics one should attain in order to succeed in communications. I highly recommend you read it, as it will teach you how to build strategies. It will also show all of the benefits corporate communications can do for a business in terms of maximizing daily performance.

4. The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World – written by Ronald A. Heifetz in collaboration with Marty Linsky and Alexander Grashow

This book piqued my interest when I became responsible for managing teams, establishing functions, and acting as a Change Agent at my workplace. This book can help shed some light on how organizations and individuals can remain dynamic and accepting of change during challenging and unstable environments. It also explains how change is a process that is not only made on a collective level in an organization, but also on an individual one.

5. The Unknown Leader: Discover the Leader in You – written by Sheikh Hussein Al-Banawi

I am honored to be currently working with the author of this book, Sheikh Hussein A. Al-Banawi. This book talks about the unsung heroes in the Middle East. In it, Sheikh Hussein Al-Banawi celebrates those leaders and explains how although they may not be CEOs, champion athletes, or captains of industries, the role they play is just as crucial in benefiting societies and communities. It also provides the next generation of youth invaluable advice on how develop leadership skills which will shape a career that is rewarding and productive.

6. What the New Breed of CMOs Knows That You Don’t – written by Marylee Sachs

This is my latest read. It talks to individuals aspiring to become CMOs or anyone who is looking to “up their game” within their organization. It devises game-changing strategies for B2B and B2C marketers to follow in order to deliver success. It is drawn from the author’s research and interviews with some of the most original CMOs in the world.

Reading helps you evolve as an individual. It is your invisible mentor. It is a new world you can unravel with just the flip of a page. It will keep you focused on important leadership and management principles. Some of which you might already know but need reminding of, and others that may be completely new to you.

It is no secret that there is an inevitable correlation between constantly learning and achieving excellence in your career. Learning and development takes time, effort, and energy, and it will sometimes take you outside your comfort zone. However, if you can manage to build the habit throughout your career, you will improve your employability and sharpen your skills.


Marwa Kaabour



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