Stories of Women in STEM: Our very own Amina Iqbal

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Lisa Ballam

Marketing Manager 18 May 2021 4 min read

For this month’s feature, I loved getting to know my friend and colleague Amina Iqbal even better. A woman who is one of our Employee Trustee Directors and has managed to progress from digital marketing executive to our Head of Digital Acquisition in four years! Discover more about her journey so far and her advice for other ambitious women.

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Amina

Take us back to the early years…

Growing up, I often felt like my career choices were limited. I have quite traditional Asian grandparents and so I felt pressure to have a ‘proper job’ like being a doctor or lawyer. The problem is, not only am I really squeamish, but my interests didn’t align with these jobs. I loved art, design and being creative but I also had quite a technical mind so my dream jobs were to be an architect or a designer.

Thankfully, my parents were more liberal. While they still wanted me to pick an ‘academic’ subject at uni, they were also accepting of me spending a year on an art and design course at Oxford Brookes University before I made my decision.

On the course, I was introduced to a wide range of creative practices, from fashion design, photography, architecture, printmaking, glass work, to product design. It was the latter that I, along with my tutors, recognised my strengths in—it was the perfect blend of being creative and technical. So I specialised in product design. On the course, I experimented a lot with the idea of form over function and for my final product decided to see how far I could push ordinary objects until they became almost un-functional.

In the end, I went to uni and studied a course that was a hybrid of business studies and product design. The best way I can describe the course is like Dragon’s Den. I designed and engineered practical products then had to put a business plan together to make them commercially viable.

While the course taught me a lot, and I enjoyed designing products, by the end, I didn’t feel it was a route I could go down. Looking back now, I think the main reason was because of representation. There was no one that looked like me—a woman and Asian—to look up to in the field and to make me feel it was a viable career path.

How did you end up in Digital Marketing?

I had to do a year in industry during my third year at uni. I decided I wanted to explore something less focused on engineering so I got my placement at a photography agency. It was a brilliant experience. I was fortunate enough to be mentored and managed by an empowering leader, she was a big part of my experience there. During my time at the agency, I worked with developers to create apps that would be used as part of experiential marketing campaigns. I worked at events like the ATP World Tour in London, Women’s Tennis Association, BGC Charity Day; I worked with Marc Jacobs, the Royal Academy of Art, Sainsbury's, and The FA. I was lucky enough to meet some famous faces along the way too!

Part of my role was to redesign the company’s online photography platform, it was quite dated and so I put my design skills into practice. I then realised that we needed to do more to sell our products and services so I started researching Google Ads (known as Google AdWords back then!), and SEO and it opened up a world of digital marketing.

When I went back to uni, I sort of forgot about digital marketing. It wasn’t until I graduated and needed a job that I started looking up digital marketing and SEO roles. I got the opportunity to join a startup agency in Oxfordshire and got some great training in SEO.

I then came across Torchbox. At the time, the digital marketing team was smaller than it is now. I had the opportunity to work across both SEO and paid activity but it was paid activity that I enjoyed the most. I loved being able to see results in real time and make changes based on data. I’ve also worked on some brilliant projects, and had to think creatively about how we bring concepts and projects alive digitally. I guess I was able to put my creative and technical skills to good use after all.

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Torchbox breakfast event with Dan Papworth-Smyth, Breast Cancer Now

How do you go about recruiting inclusively on your team?

I’m fortunate to work with some incredible people at Torchbox. But as a team and organisation, we recognise that we could be doing more to be more diverse and inclusive. We’ve taken steps by looking into our recruitment process to understand where we can make changes, we have a diversity and inclusion voice group, we seek support from organisations to support us and support organisations who are making changes in this space. We’re always looking for ways to be better.

Do you have any advice for progression?

The first thing is to make sure you’re in a job that you love. A huge motivation behind my hard work over the last four years is that I love what I do. I get to work with amazing people and clients who are doing great work in the world and doing the best I can for these organisations is so rewarding. So if you don't enjoy what you're doing, make a change.

It’s important to challenge yourself. You learn so much from challenging yourself and it will definitely help with your development.

And if there are similarities in our upbringing, don’t let culture hold you back. We need more representation so that more women from minority backgrounds feel empowered to break down barriers.

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Winners at the UK Search Awards
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Lisa Ballam

Marketing Manager 18 May 2021 4 min read

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