My Media Life – Amir Malik

July 13, 2023

As part of our My Media Life series, the World Media Group’s Chief Executive, Belinda Barker chats to Amir Malik, Managing Director of Digital Transformation at Accenture Song. Amir worked at Google, the Mail and the Mirror newspapers before moving into consulting. Below are extracts from our conversation – you can watch the full interview in the video above or listen to the podcast here.

What does the media industry mean to you?

The media industry is, from a broader view, the most important industry, because it’s the basis of how we acquire information as a society, as a community. The publishers and media entities that exist are all, effectively, responsible for how people, get information. I think that that is super important.  The quality of media and the ethics behind how information is shared, the watershed times and what information is shared and to which audience – all these themes are massively important.

On a personal level, media is a very accessible, welcoming industry. It’s a wonderful place to begin your career. There’s always job flow in the media industry – it’s changing. Because people need information and interact with content, in an open content economy,  media is everywhere. If you’re looking to get into a professional career and you don’t know what you want to do, you can try media.

Do you still consider yourself to be part of the media industry?

I had to upskill and diversify my industry expertise beyond media, and that was important in terms of taking my personal ambition and my career interest to the next level. I still believe I’d be considered a media professional, but I definitely work beyond media in my Accenture role.

You took a Masters in social anthropology at Oxford so what was the stepping stone across?

I studied humanities – English and history and politics – and I majored in history, then I went on to do social anthropology and the study of religions. Academically, I’ve always been attracted to the humanities and the arts.

Personally, I was, an early adopter of the internet in the early nineties, when not many people, especially teenagers, were using the internet. I started building websites and I was generating income through web development, through using digital tools.

Anthropology, in terms of understanding social phenomenon, understanding societies, leant itself really well to my marketing industry move. I started to be able to draw links between how brands want to impact people and how advertising works.

When you add the technology layer in there, that’s what gave me my edge. It was also a bit of ‘right place, right time’, around the pivot to digital and the historical research methods analysis that I could apply to any given situation in business.

Can you tell us more about your current role and what you like best about it?

I work in digital transformation – I run marketing transformation. I lead an organisation or a business with multiple partners, and a whole practice of far more intelligent and far more talented people than me who can go in and advise clients how to bring their business up to speed, [to become] future facing, state-of-the-art in terms of customer communications, marketing communications, use of technology, use of data etc. and how we work more broadly across their organisation.

What I’m most attracted to in my Accenture role is I have the opportunity to drive the digital transformation, customer transformation, marketing transformation. We are looking at the problem in a positive way. The business case around change is critical to any successful client engagement or client we work with.

Companies form, they rise, they do well, then they decline and disappear. And it’s not that their industry disappears; they disappear within an industry because they lose relevancy. They fail to adapt and evolve their operating model in a way which is fit for purpose. What we try and do is transform that. How can we engineer change evidence through value realisation? That’s the purpose of transformation and consulting. And it’s highly addictive; it’s difficult, but it’s also very fun at the same time.

Where do you get your news from?

So, that has changed over time. Ten years ago, I’d have one to two publications that I’d frequently read. Over the last 10 to 12 years, the quality of information, particularly in literary form, written form, is just so varied on all publications that it’s very difficult to curate.

I will read almost all the industry body publications. I tend to curate that reading around real business engagement – business articles where companies are profiled, evidence through company referencing; evidence through individuals/ professionals; rather than opinion oriented. I look to hear from the companies themselves and see that credibility within those industry publications.

When it comes to personal news, we are in a very strange time. I remember when user generated content (UGC) was a no-go – you couldn’t even dream of advertising on it. It was considered low quality, unreliable, not verified, and that was a huge problem. Now, how many people spin up podcasts, gain millions of views, go viral? They could believe that aliens control governments, but they have millions of views and suddenly and they get big sponsorship programmes around their content.

What I used to watch on TV has moved to subscription VOD. Amazon Prime’s a big platform for me – I’ll watch documentaries through Prime. I watch a lot of history documentaries on YouTube. There are certain business podcasts I like to listen to – I like Bloomberg, for instance. The New York Times and Bloomberg are two of my core media publishers, but I read a bit of everything.

Do you largely listen to their podcasts, or do you also read their content?

I read their content. If I look at the New York Times, for me – someone who’s studied that – the quality of the writing is still much better than many of the broader publications. There’s an element where they’ve invested in journalism, which works. Whether that’s sustainable, I don’t know. If you look at Vice, I’d have argued that Vice was a popular online streaming news source, but they’re gone. So, we’re in an interesting time.

But the New York Times, the FT, Bloomberg – that’s what I like to read. And then I read a bit of everything else.

For people who might be looking to join the media industry, what piece of advice would you offer?

The media industry will get you engaged quickly. There are so many industry bodies, like the World Media Group, that you can get involved in that. There are so many themes and topics that are emerging, across data to creative, to technology.

You’re picking an amazing industry. A few things were very important for my personal success and my personal enjoyment of the industry: you don’t necessarily join companies and leave companies. You join bosses and leave bosses. So, if you’re joining the industry and you have the luxury of choosing where you want to work, work for someone that you admire; someone that you feel you can learn from, that you can trust. That’s one of my key pieces of advice.

Also, commit to whatever you do whilst you start to build up your knowledge base. Knowledge will sell you. If you think about everything you want to attain from your career – and I know if it’s early, you won’t know some of those things yet; I didn’t – but what I can tell you is the more knowledge you acquire, the more that the quality of your decisions will improve. Whatever role you take, try to be the best at it; try to learn all you can about it.

And don’t just leave that job for another job because the other job sounds good. One of my mentors gave me advice which said, ‘Don’t think about your next job. Think about your job after your next job.” That was really important. You then hit the transition point where you land in a role which you can grow, you can own. The company needs you and you offer that impact to the company at scale, and you’re rewarded for it. That’s important as well.

You have a pretty full-on job and three quite young children. What what do you do to switch off?

Yes, I’ve recently joined the three-children club and I’m still trying to adjust! But I think the more that you drive impact through your experience and the quality of your decisions, the less your job should be burdensome on you. That’s been a big factor in me trying to get that balance right.

If I look at the energy I had before my three children in terms of my career, even if I had the same energy, I just didn’t know what I know now. You just can’t know unless you get the experience, and that would’ve been tough.

I empathize massively with people that have families. I’ve developed and taken on mentoring and advice from people around how to leave work with work, and to understand that for any issue you face at work, the best response is to have a problem resolution mindset. We can sometimes become quite inward looking in any profession, and can lose sight of the bigger picture.

Has your mentoring all been with within Accenture and do you ever do mentoring?

I had really good advice at an early stage of my career. To those who are starting their careers, I advise you to identify mentors and approach them for mentoring. As you graduate through your career, the impact and the type of mentor you need will evolve and change. But you could also retain a mentor because they’re so experienced that they help you at every junction.

I’ve always had mentors – I believe in it massively. I have a limited view of how I see the world around me and how I understand events that are directed at me. If somebody else outside of me can give me a view that I can’t see, there is so much value in that because we do suffer with reality distortion at times.

If I didn’t have those mentors, I may not have made the best decisions. My dad used to say “Intelligence isn’t about what you know; you can’t know everything. It’s about the quality of your decision, so sometimes when you don’t know, ask those who do know, and you’ll make a better decision.” I think that’s really important in your career.

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