Haniah Omar from Media.Monks on Leading Creative Teams at Scale

We chat to Haniah Omar from Media.Monks about leading creative teams at scale

At NewCampus, we love telling stories of personal transformation from our learners. We spoke to Haniah Omar, Creative at Media.Monks about her learning experience with NewCampus and reflections on leading creative teams.

From inheriting a love for creating, to thriving as a creative

Question: Tell us about your story. What were some key eureka moments in your journey?

I loved sketching characters as a kid. I loved the characters I saw in comics and animated series, and I enjoyed drawing them to capture that essence. I think I inherited this love of creating from my mum, who is an artist. I went to art school and then started working in advertising. In advertising, I have had the opportunity to work on almost every type of product from pharmaceuticals to technology.

I have not really had eureka moments. Instead, for me, I have developed my creative skills slowly over the course of working on dozens of projects. I got better incrementally. I now work at Media.Monks, where I am surrounded by exceptionally talented, experienced and fun people. One important thing I have learned is that working in a place with talented and passionate people turbo-charges your growth.

(After hearing about her love for art, we couldn't resist requesting a sketch from Haniah! - Team NewCampus)

Creating the right environment: clarity, safety and freedom

Question: What was it like transitioning from being solely a creative producer to also being a creative leader? What are some underrated skills or qualities that creative leaders might not realise they need until they’re in the situation of leading teams?

The biggest new driver when you become a creative leader is that you want to do what's best for your team.

I have found that the core principle is to create an environment that allows your team to succeed. My three top tips towards this are:

  1. Having good clarity in your own mind about the objectives of the project - and especially what success will look like for that project;
  2. Making sure there is good communication within the team during the project; and  
  3. Making sure that your team knows that you always have their back - this allows people to propose creative ideas without the worry of being shot down, and allows people to ask for and get help.

Unique challenges and joys of leading creative teams at scale

Question: What are some unique challenges of leading creative work at larger agencies? What are some unique joys?

I find some of the challenges in leading creative work at large agencies arise when the project teams are new - as in the people in that team have not worked together before.

In these situations I think it is important to help the people in the team to feel they are working together towards the same end goal. I get very happy when I see the individuals in my teams grow with their skills and confidence. I take special pride when my team presents to clients.

Creating the right structure to support leadership instincts

Question: What other management training courses had you attended / considered attending to overcome some of these challenges? How is the NewCampus experience different?

NewCampus Manager Sprint is the first managerial course I have ever taken. Before this NewCampus course, everything I learned about management was from my bosses and from learning on-the-job. NewCampus gave me some excellent methods that I could immediately use. It was also good for my confidence as the NewCampus course reassured me about some of the things I was already doing.

Learning from diverse perspectives on universal challenges

Question: What would you say to other creative industry employers who would like to nurture their leadership talent but are unsure where to invest their time and resources?

I would encourage them to have regular conversations with the people in their teams - to understand what their individual goals are, and to think about how they are able to blend that into the organisation’s goals. Like my colleague, Joe Sen, has spoken about earlier, this is something we do intentionally at Media.Monks. The focus on the WHY gives us perspective and is our fuel to WHAT we do and HOW we do it.

I would also recommend checking out The NewCampus Manager Sprint program. It was a very good use of my time. I learned a lot from the instructors as well as from the experience of the rest of the cohort. The interactive structure of the programme - with many breakout sessions - helps you apply the methods taught to your own work.

Transforming lessons learned into lifelong habits

Question: Are there any ideas from NewCampus that you’d like to work on or habits you’d like to cultivate for 2022?

I have been adding more structure to the one-on-one weekly meetings I have with my team. I have already found that this is increasing what we get out of the time we spend in these sessions.

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