Shelina Janmohamed of Ogilvy Noor on Marketing to Generation M

Episode 20

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Hosted by
Maruf Yusupov

I help people discover their purpose in life and follow their passion to live in prosperity.

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Shelina is a vice president at Ogilvy Noor.  

She helped in establishing Ogilvy Noor’s pioneering role in the growing Islamic branding and marketing industry, and the growth of the Muslim consumer market, as well as establishing our thought leadership.

She is also an author. She wrote Generation M and A Love in a headscarf. But it all started with taking an action.

Listen to the episode to discover her story. 

Show Notes

Ogilvy Noor




Love in a Headscarf

Generation M  

Upcoming Book: The Extraordinary Life of Serena Williams https://www.amazon.co.uk/Extraordinary-Life-Serena-Williams-Lives/dp/0241433932/

Interview transcript

Maruf: Assalamu alaikum! This is Maruf. Welcome to the show Muslims On Fire. And I have a special guest today. She’s from the UK. She is an experienced marketer and she works for Ogilvy Noor and she’s also author of two amazing books. One of them I read and the other one is on my reading list. Assalamu alaikum, welcome to the show. 

Shelina: Walaikumassalam. Thank you for having me.

Maruf: It’s a pleasure to talk to you and to learn a lot. And looking forward to learning a lot from you today. So, let’s dive in. Why don’t you introduce yourself? I think you will do that much much better than me. Go ahead, please. 

Shelina: So  I’m Shelina. I’m a Christmas and women. I live in London and I am the vice president of Islamic marketing at Ogilvy which is a consultancy that works with the world’s biggest brands to think about how to engage with the audiences. 

So that’s the day job that pays the bills but I also have a secret, not so secret writing career. So, as you mentioned, I’ve published a couple of books, one is a memoir. So, anyone who wants to know all the details of my life, can read that and so that’s love in a headscarf generation and an upcoming book, which maybe we can talk about data. 

And then also write for newspapers and opinions. So I have quite a very like oh and I have two little girls, lots of no time to so that is a full-time job on its own. 

Maruf: Perfect. So, your hands are full. I can see that. So why don’t we do this? Like you just mentioned your kids? Why don’t we start your childhood, why don’t you take us to your childhood? 

Like take us maybe some memories. You think that it was meaningful to you. And also maybe kind of contributed to who you are today. You know, what do you think they could be if you think back, take us to your child. 

Shelina: I feel like we’re in therapy, Maruf. 

Maruf: Maybe We are .Never know.

Shelina: When I look back at myself, I was a quiet child, actually, very shy which people find quite hard to believe but very studious. I loved going to school. I loved learning. I loved getting really great grades and my parents put a lot of emphasis on education. 

We also spent a lot of time going to the mosque being part of the Muslim Community both in terms of spiritual and religious practice, but also kind of my dad was very keen that we should be aware of what was going on in the world. 

So those things really shaped who I was but together with that like a lot of people growing up that it’s similar backgrounds to me. I was constantly conflicted about who I was and my identity. So, you know, I was one way at home. I was something else and at the Mosque was something else and really the struggle to reconcile all these different parts of my identity was one of the overwhelming that really propelled me through my life.

And my teens and my twenties and in a way with my miss him identity that helped to resolve all those different tensions, but you know, I was very lucky. I had a very blessed childhood. I had lots of blessings and privileges. 

Maruf: I see. I mean what’s going on at school? Usually, you know, the little things sometimes depend on school cause sometimes there’s bullying or not and on top of that deal with identity crisis that must be challenging. It depends I guess where you can hide it was but we did.

I remember we talked to some, especially, I think that is similar. I just don’t understand like at school. Like was it obvious or like how do you understand that you were different than others? Was it like a gradual thing or I don’t know. How would you describe it?

Shelina: As a young child, it was really simple things like, you know talking about the food. We ate at home, you know, it wasn’t fashionable and International Cuisine. It was considered kind of smelling and different. I remember, you know going to weddings and being very excited about having Henna on my hands, but it’s cool. 

You had to scrub it off because partly the school itself didn’t understand what it was. And part of the everybody else went who you’ve got worms on your hands. So, the kind of things that we now accept culturally and even celebrate at that time were things that as a child, I felt I wanted to hide like, quite embraced about that. 

And that grew in terms of cultural and religious expression as I got older and you know, my peers became knew more about the world but in a way, I didn’t understand any more, than they did and so I spent a lot of my school years trying to hide who I was and that in hindsight was very unhealthy. 

I think it was only when I got to university that I felt that I could more freely express who I was. It wasn’t the end of the journey, but I felt I could present myself all of myself all at the same time. 

Maruf: I see, that’s interesting. So, here’s the thing like you mentioned you’d really love school. You’re really good at getting grades, you know, good grades from subjects whether any specific subject that kind of stand out and you really enjoyed or you enjoyed all of them at the same. How did it work out for you?

Shelina: I lost everything and I think this is when the great struggle of my life because I loved humanities and I loved science. So for example in the UK when you get to 16, you do your levels and at that time, I think now they restrict it to 3. It might be at that time. 

I took four because I loved all of the subjects so much. I took an extra one and that was partly so probably I love extra work which probably said something about that. I now try and do far more than I ought to put that partly because it was partly because I couldn’t just limit my choices.

And so I ended up doing both physics and math. So, you know, I’m going to leave the door open to being science-oriented and I also did French and Spanish. So I do humanities and I really wanted to do history and economics as well. But the school said it was more than enough and so I couldn’t do it. 

It’s made me really proud. So I think that being torn between this kind of science orientation and the humanities orientation is something I’ve. Struggle isn’t the right word because it’s not unpleasant. It’s like a real joy to be able to kind of sit in both camps. 

But I think something that you know remains unresolved and it’s probably one of the tensions that kind of propels me through understanding, people wanting to be interested in people, but also interested in how things are done. 

Maruf: Actually, They’re very interesting. Like I understand it. So you are actually really interested in all subjects like so because you see one of the purpose of the show is that trade understand like how one person lost our time in to understand like, if possible like trying to look like a curtain dots. 

So you finished school. So, where would you go to study you will which which path you take like, do you take the humanities part, you take the like the follow the signs? How’d it work out for you at the school? 

Shelina: So, I actually went on to Oxford to do law. So  that was yeah that was unexpected twist in the story and there’s another one that follows which as I did law for a year and then I thought to myself actually this doesn’t really fit with who I am and I couldn’t really articulate why that was. 

I think it was possibly because when I thought about the law as an eighteen-year-old, I thought about the application of it. The human impact and actually because Oxford is Oxford, it was a much more theoretical academic insight into the little which is entirely what Oxford is. 

So, it was that disconnect between what I was expecting and the fact that I really wanted to go to Oxford and they deport law in a different way. So I actually switched to read psychology and philosophy. 

Maruf: I see, so. Well, I think what you were trying to do guys? You want to try it, like an impact to society by making it better, the law for human beings and when you find that is just theoretical, you cannot do much, what happened at Oxford when you were studying law or something else? 

Shelina: That’s definitely something when you’re 18, you will change the world eraser. Yeah. Absolutely every 18 year old should feel like that and I would say even every 80 year-old should feel like that. But you know, we hear every day to try and make Something a little bit better. 

Even if it’s a very tiny thing and my anticipation of what the law would be, was very different from the reality of what was taught at the time and I think it’s very easy to look back. It rationalized what might have been going on but I do wonder, I’m really thinking out loud here if there was just too much structure and constraint.

And what I have I’ve discovered more laterally about myself as I prefer to either break with constraint or all right or think or behave in a way that disregards what constraint is. So, there may have been something of this kind of discovery of wanting to create a not obey the rules, which if you don’t believe me want to obey the rules laws probably not the right. 

Maruf: It is actually the rules right after the day. I mean, I think that’s very common because I remember my university day’s actually, I mean I was studying economics and I found something which was theoretical. 

I wanted to get something tangible. Let’s put it this way. That’s why I kind of drop out as well. 

So, okay. So you do that but little bit detour. Now, you went as you said psychology, right? And that’s where you went. 

Shelina: Yeah. I think if anyone wants to take anything away from my career is that you can be very unorthodox and still do some really interesting things. I studied psychology and philosophy because you know you’re in Oxford and you want to read about descartes. 

And everybody is kind of living that very, you know, rose-tinted view of what it’s like at Oxford, but actually I then went on to work in marketing. So, that was a fair that you leap and that was I think the beginning of shaping my career so that was consumer marketing looking at technology.

And I spent, you know, eight or ten years looking at things like internet protocols, broad brands, mobile phones and consumers and business audiences. So, it was a very exciting time to do that because it was as the internet was becoming a thing. 

It was when mobile phones went from something which was as big as a suitcase and people would laugh at those who had a mobile phone to a point where everybody had one if not more mobile phones in their pocket.

And they were slim and they were beautiful and they were attractive and we were just beginning to do things like having interesting content on them as well. So, it was a very exciting time to be part of an industry where it was changing the way that we are behaving. 

Maruf: Absolutely, this exactly, what psychology learns right, why we do, what we do like, I mean, that’s what I would understand. So you’re studying psychology. How did you end up in marketing? 

What was the connection? I would like to understand it. There was some good luck or specific job offers or maybe you were exposed to something like that tricked you into marketing. Was it a natural progress from your site? How did it end up? 

I mean you took psychology after finishing the University at Oxford. There are different paths, not only in my career, right? Because I’ve been there something else as well. But you went for marketing and what the thing that actually pulled you towards that. That’s what I try to understand.

Shelina: You know it’s a difficult thing about podcasting is that nobody his lips into this can see that I’m scrunching up my face and thinking really hard about how I am from the degree, I did to the first job that I’ve had and it’s quite easy in theory to draw the line between studying psychology and going into marketing. 

There is a natural connection, but I don’t know, I think if other people have it. Maybe you have it. Sometimes you just get an idea and this is the thing that you want to do and you have a really strong inner feeling that this is what is right for you.

Trusting that feeling is quite important and I can look back and I say well I remember doing some work for the local newspaper and also doing some work in crafting some of the marketing ideas about a student. He just wanted to set up and I was involved in some of the thinking around the marketing for that. 

Not because any of the students including me had any idea what marketing was, we kind of taught ourselves on the fly and I’ve always been very interested in people and how they think and how they react and why so possibly that’s how I got myself into applying for marketing traineeships. 

Maruf: I see like that. Okay.

Shelina: But I think it was just a feeling I think that’s I just felt like that’s what I wanted to do. 

Maruf: Yeah, I mean look when it cuts the podcasting that’s what I really, I’m still learning. What are the things where you live you learn is that there is most of the time we would when I talk to people. 

There’s not this one Aha moment that lightning from the sky and they find real guidance right which actually offers different thoughts, like we’re in the blind people in the darkness stumbling upon wounds, right, try to figure out things here and there. 

And like you said, you know, you just try it out and there’s this gut feeling, you just follow it. And sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, we have to go back and try again and that’s the struggle that’s like a raw human emotion. 

And that’s what I really like a podcast that you get into that point and try to figure out like I know it’s not easy, trust me and sorry for putting you in the spotlight, but I guess you don’t see what we’re trying to do is like what she’ll by telling stories which I need to put ourselves if possible and saying hmm. That’s how it works. Maybe it works for me as well. So don’t do it. 

Shelina: Think anyway, I would say that you can have a light bulb and Aha moment the difference or the important thing is, to activate them that I can look back at some moments, which I remember clearly are turning point moments. 

And you know, when you recount your story of how you got where you are, they kind of become part of their narrative but you know, they feel very strong moments and two of them for me were turning points in my career. So one of them was when I had started writing my blog. 

So, I spent about 10 years in marketing and product development and then things like, you know, 9/11 and July 7th happened. I started writing my blog but one of the moments I remember very clearly was after my blog had been going for a while.

And people had been following my writing and you know starting to say things like you should write a book and I thought well books are so for famous people who have trusting lives. I remember very clearly going into our local bookshop and there was a table of books about Muslims. 

And I remember very distinctly looking at that table and thinking none of these are my story because they were all pictures of women and veils with camels behind them and unfortunately, a lot of that still happens. 

Although on the other side, we do have a lot fresher and divestiture. It’s improving but nonetheless, but, that moment was very clear to me and I remember standing in that book shop because I looked at them and I thought who is going to write the book that is like my story. 

And the next thought was you’re going to have to do it. And that was a changing moment. I’ve been kind of thinking about it for a while because you know, I’ve been writing a blog and you know, I think everybody has the aspiration that they want to write a book but it was really that conversation in my head. 

That was a life-changing moment. And then there was another one later and we can get and almost skips forward to where I am at Ogilvy where after the book had been published. I started writing a lot more for newspapers and other publications and thinking more about what Muslim identity meant more generally beyond myself but to Muslims more generally. 

And I had written about those trends that I noted that missiles were asking brands, were developing products that were aimed at Muslims and there was a kind of tussle about what it would mean to have a product on a brand for Muslims and the kind of values that should be in it.

And that got quoted by the CEO of Ogilvy another conference that I was covering. And so in hindsight, I don’t know if I was completely crazy or very brave, but I just went up to him. He was the CEO of a huge worldwide company and that’s how I found myself at Ogilvy. 

So those two moments are very clearly in my mind where something was talking directly to me and then I actually did something about it. I post two very clearly pivotal moments in my life. 

Maruf: Very interesting points. Yeah, I mean, so, you actually were writing your first book. This is the book Love in the head scarf, right?

Shelina: Yes. This is the attempt to be funny.

Maruf: I see, that’s what I have in my memory. Maybe I should have read back before. I’ll have more interesting questions, but that’s interesting. Okay, so and then the next point is said that’s when you took like, a bold move talk to our goalie. 

I think I will come to that big moment. So that’s why I would like to step a little bit back. So you finished your school and you start working at different marketing agencies at a time. So this is what I want to understand like later on is you said that the one of the paths you took is Oglivy Noor, this is Islamic marketing Branch Ogilvy.So, I don’t understand the backstory. Is that how it got created or it was created after you joined later. 

Shelina: It was created and the conference that I mentioned was where it was being launched is very much in that, almost you can call our startup phase within the larger Ogilvy network. So I joined very soon after it had been set up.

Maruf: I see. Would you like to tell us a bit more? What do you do? What does it do Ogilvy Noor? And how is it helping their brands to understand them as Muslim consumers? 

Shelina: The thinking behind Ogilvy Islamic marketing is that there is a Muslim consumer a missing audience that wants brands businesses and organizations to connect with them through their Muslim identity and it’s very important that for both Muslims and people who are not Muslims that we are not talking about the same as being defined only by their Muslim identity. 

But saying that there is something about faith as Muslims particularly for this consumer group, which we’ve called generation M that wants to be connected through its Muslim identity. So that doesn’t mean that you know, you’re walking down the street and somebody’s trying to sell you a newspaper.

And it has to say Muslim person is newspapers few, of course, that would be entirely ridiculous, but there are some points in your daily life or in the way that you’re thinking about the products that you buy that words connects to you as a Muslim.

And that’s where we try to find the conversation that the brands can have with the Muslim audience. So a really obvious example would be during Ramadan. So  really making sure that brand understands, what the Ramadan experience is about and how the brand can support Muslim inhaving better Ramadan.

So, for myself and the work we do we’re very conscious that this is not about you know selling more it’s about connecting better with what you’re doing and building that relationship. But you know, it could be something quite different. 

It could be for example, if you’re buying fashion items what does modest fashion for example look like or it could be if your audience if you want to reach out to Muslim Women, you know, what are the challenges that they’re having in their lives that you can help connect with in the way that perhaps you depict them in your imagery or the conversations you have. 

All those influences you so there’s a whole range of different things you can do when it’s appropriate to connect through them Muslim identity. And that’s the work that we do with the big companies.

Maruf: I see, like in terms of your claim to I like is it mainly Muslim brands or sometimes You know from our knowing enough about agency. What started happening is that sometimes non-muslim nrands can. 

But they have a product for Muslim audience, right? They want to reach out to that audience as well. And how would it like, how does it work in your case? Is it like 50/50 or mainly Muslims? How does it work with Ogivy?

Shelina: We work with a mixture of runs but interestingly, because Ogilvy has itself a global brand meet and work with other big global brands which actually may not be what people might describe us Muslim Brands, but that doesn’t mean to say that their products and their brands and their brands purpose don’t connect to Muslims. 

So that’s what we’re trying to find the connection of his how can that the brand and the product feel relevant and resonate with Muslim audiences even way that’s authentic and in a way that is actually meaningful and not just kind of window dressing. 

Maruf: I think, you know, one of the questions will be very interesting to ask you, some big piece on the background, is that you know, if you look back just even 3 to 4 years ago. There was not such a thing, that marketing for the Muslims. 

Would you agree with that? And it’s something that is coming up like the last 10 years. That’s something picking up and we can see the trend going up. What’s your thought on that? 

Shelina: So, if anyone wants regeneration and there’s a little plug for the book. Yeah, you’re right. We’ve really seen the rise of engaging with some audiences, really sent after 2001. Those were the first seeds and perhaps the most notable for people who can remember that far back would be a product like MeccaCollaugh to this was a Colla that was positioned as for Muslims.

As the name would suggest in order to make a statement about their Muslim identity and the whole case study around Mecca Colla is very interesting for whoever wants to go away and read about it. I mentioned in the book did I mention the book anyway, so that’s really where the story in my new begins about people thinking about products as a way to express their Muslim identity.

And using consumption as a way of expressing who they are as Muslims and what is very powerful about grabbing space to the Islamic economy and people will hear it referred to differently as some economy, Islamic branding, Islamic marketing, some lifestyle marketing Halal branding.

All these different names are that it has been a grassroots movement. So, people have been exercising their consumption power in order to build a market. And the reason it’s grown, is that a lot of team is said we can’t find the products that we need that which are great products, really good customer service, good quality and fulfill our aspirations to live our Muslim lives to we’re gonna set it up ourselves. 

And then we’re going to make something that we can benefit from but also other people can benefit from and so people like you and many of the others that you feature on the podcast serie are exactly those kind of people who started to grow the effect.

And therefore what has happened? Is that the Muslim the identity as miss him consumer has started to crystallize and we start to understand who the audience is and that’s very powerful. And when we look at kind of the institutions and the Muslim countries that have been trying to grow more widely, you know, the economic status and the service provision for Muslims. 

That connection still needs to be made stronger between the consumer movement and institutional movement because actually when you go to lots of large conferences and you think about those of you know government initiatives, what is often missing people like me who go to these conferences kind of for a living will say is what’s missing in the consumer voice. 

And until you know what people want and why and how to engage with them and how to interpret ocean marks sell and buy sell. I mean, you know get them to take up the service or product. We can’t create a real shift and not that kind of that sample still needs to be squared. 

And I think that’s quite an interesting space that actually Muslim consumers have just gone. Well  if nobody else is doing it we’re going to do Something that’s really exciting. My that’s a lot of people I’m still taking initiative into their own hands to create something really beautiful and new and much needed and that’s why every time a product comes up you like why did nobody think of that? We needed that product. It’s so obvious but it’s so exciting that people are busy creating those things.

Maruf: I see. So I mean, let me ask about, if you don’t mind, about the generation. I know. I read the book and I would encourage people to read a book as well. So I mean, what was your inspiration to write, I understand the head livelihood was your story. You want to share your story in a relative way. So you got your own way. But what was the inspiration for writing the generation?

Shelina: There were two parts, that’s why I wrote the book. Primarily, it was as way of bringing the life to that I’m doing with the Oglivy. So it was under that explain in an engageing in narrative formate that the Muslim audiance is, you have to understand what Muslims are all about the changes coming to change the world.

That was a huge movement around the world right before we’re talking about. So, it was really a spell that thought we needed to know what’s happening around the world and where the world is going to go. That was the reason to write behind it.

I thought behind it but as comes through in the narrative and when you write a book, it is an investment of time and love until you have to write a book because you really believe in what you are saying. 

It was almost a follow-on from the book, I had written about myself Plumbing the headscarf to say, okay. Well, this is the this is the first stage of discovery of Muslim identity that I went through. 

But actually when I look at Muslims who are now growing up, there are something very interesting happening with their identity and with the way that they relate to the world. It’s important that the world knows because this is not what’s being put on the headlines of the front pages of the newspapers. 

Maruf: So, it’s hopefully the business slowly but surely way. 

Shelina: Well, I would be stronger than that. It’s not happening at the background. It’s happening before our eyes, it’s happening on the streets. And if you compare what’s on the headline of a newspaper on the front page and then you step out of your door in a big city pretty much anywhere in the world. 

They are two entirely different things and yet this huge shift of 1.8 billion Muslims around the world of which two-thirds are under 30. So, it’s a very young, fastest growing demographic in the world’s youngest populations, highest fertility rates living in the countries which have the fastest growing economies. 

You have to stop and ask yourself. Why aren’t we talking about? What’s really happening with young Muslims and this huge amount of positive optimistic creative energy that’s driving these angles and all the things that we just talked about a minute ago. Why isn’t that on our radar because that is most certainly going to impact our world. 

And actually that kind of balance which needs those young Muslims are trying to strike are actually going to be one of the great resources we can drawn to tackle the world’s big challenges because if you have 2/3 of 1.8 billion people who are really trying very hard to live a great life. 

And of course not everybody succeeding, not everybody’s the same but there is an aspiration to live a great life that is of benefit and wanting to make the world better. Then we need to pay attention to those people and that was really the driver personally for me writing the book. 

And the way that I wanted to write the book and I would certainly hope that anyone who’s read. It finds it, you know, very personable and very engaging, it’s not written as an academic book, you know, she’s putting reference in a traditionally academic way. 

The book is just full of hundreds of voices and quotes from Muslims doing, I think might, mine is just my voice, is really just to kind of stitch all of that together and curator and offer a kind of confidence to the reader that you know, these all fit together. 

But for me, it was a chance to give a platform to so many other people’s voices and to hear directly from young Muslims in a way that we just never get the chance to do in our public discourse.

Maruf: Absolutely. So I mean when we do your research, I mean you talk to us young Mualims coming up and did you discover what was the catalyst like I mean, why did it start happening now? Not like 30 years ago. I mean we were here right with those who were here 3 to 4 years even before that. But why is it happening? And what’s your thought on that at this point? 

Shelina: There are two overwhelming drivers simply put, so the first is this huge spotlight on the Muslims after September the 11th, of July the 7th and other occasions like that. We’re young Muslims who have been born after these events all grown up as they are happening many of them desires it that the right response to it was to wear their identity on their sleeve and to learn more about what it means to be Muslim and to embrace them be out at the identities. 

That’s often why you here younger Muslims talking about rediscovering religion, going back to the roots of Islam in a way that they feel their parents did. So that’s the first one is this kind of big political backdrop and the second part is really it’s around the turn of the Millennium that we see the Internet first start to develop and then obviously that morphed into social media and what that meant for young Muslims was that this idea of Umma that my Sims embraced the global Muslim Nation were suddenly a reality. 

Because you could use the internet to connect with all other like-minded Muslims around the world find out what was happening with them. You weren’t limited anymore to your family circle or your local mom. Just call, you know, the local Imam that you may or may not connect with, you could start up to talk about values with Muslims around the world. 

And on top of that what we were talking about earlier if you decided that you needed products or services to have help you to live your Muslim life. You can omics of the internet meant that you could start to develop a business and you start to sell your products and equally to buy products to uphold those missing values and that circle of consumption then consolidates the Muslim identity because everybody’s buying similar things. 

They’re wearing some of the things, they’re talking about similar products and brands and that really started to proliferate a global Muslim identity. So that doesn’t mean all Muslims everywhere are the same but there is a kind of feeling here whether you’re in Abu Davi or in Australia or the UK or America, where you can start to identify what this yarn listen generation is all about.

And I think those two things in Ireland Academy of social political context and also the rise of the internet giving a platform to a global Muslim conversation, have resulted in the emergence of generation.

Maruf: I see very interesting. You mentioned the beginning of the tie that you are in the process of writing your third book? Is that correct? 

Shelina: Yeah, I decided. I’m gonna blame my two gorgeous girls because they got me into reading children’s books. So I’m actually writing a novel. It’s already written that’s going to be published in May and children’s book called The extraordinary life of Serena Williams.

Maruf: Oh, the tennis player, right? 

Shelina: Yeah, an inspiration to so many people. So, that is new and I tell you what writing books for children is tough. I think it’s tougher than writing them for grown-ups. So I’m quite excited about that coming out. 

Maruf: So tell us like, how does it come? About is it that soon? This is like a collaboration with her and talked to her to get her story or it was just your reading on your own. 

Shelina: It is a part of a series of extraordinary lives with puffin books, which is a children’s book publisher and we were having a conversation about whether I would write like to write about somebody amazing and Serena Williams was on a list because I think she has done a lot to change the way we think about women in particular and what it means to be a successful women. 

And how you come through talented. So she faced, you know, huge challenges, just clicking the poverties racism, sexism. And I think what really sealed the deal for me at the end is the way that she’s dealt with motherhood and work and her honesty with the struggles of becoming a mum. 

But also wanting to fulfill your career and the things that you’ve built up and she keeps you keeps inspiring. So when I announced that book was coming out. I had a phenomenal response because I think partly, people are just really excited to read her life and partly, I think drawing inspiration from people who are quite different to us. 

It’s really important part of for certainly for me of being Muslim and I think that also resonated with lots of other people, so I’m quite excited for that to come out. It’s cool. I had two daughters. So looking forward to the givers, you know, come out.

Maruf: I’ve two daughters. I would like to read it and see how it goes. 

Shelina: Yeah, I often have conversations with her inspirations. Yeah. We’re buying it for our. But we’re really reading it for ourselves. 

Maruf: Okay, sounds good. Let me ask. So you know, when I usually want to do. Sometimes, I announce tennessee. I’m talking with this person. If you have any questions from our Network and sometimes people ask and I have a couple of questions. 

If you don’t mind I would like to ask from the audience. So what are the questions, give us like, what dies inspire you on a daily basis? How do you get inspiration? What would you say to that? 

Shelina: Yeah, that’s I think my real honest answer would be to say some days, I feel really inspired and some days you just need to get the stuff done to get through the day and I have increasingly taken to approach, which is it’s better just to be honest about that. 

So, on some days, you know, you need to just get the kids to the school and you need to get through the list of emails and the pile of work that you need to do. And then you need to have enough energy to feed the children and put them to bed and then collapse.

But some days, something has happened in the world and you think I need to make a response to that and that for me is a very powerful creative driver. So when I feel very passionately about something that is wrong and needs to be addressed or equally, something that’s right and needs to be celebrated.

Sometimes, I think the overarching thing that inspires me is to create something that can change other people’s minds. The love in a Headscarf was really underrated and were both born from the idea that we needed a different way to tell a story.

And they are not things that can be written or created overnight, but I love the fact that you can make something that never existed before and it can be beautiful and it can add or something positive to the world certainly has your hope, that’s my hope when I write a newspaper article or I create a book or I stand up and give a speech.

A thing that never existed could create, you know, you can bring it to life you can have an idea in your head which only you can create, not because you’re you know anointed or anything but because as a Muslim I believe that God gave you some creativity, gave you some thought, gave you an a unique set of experiences that helps you to convey an idea in a way that maybe nobody else can. 

And which may give other people energy, inspiration or just food for thought. And then watching the impacts about that family is the most powerful thing that you can create and it can impact and if it cannot even if it only impacts one person that’s still. 

Because yeah, I mean, you know, I think when you get a chance to talk to other people if you have a platform like this podcast for which I’m so grateful to be invited onto that is a privilege. That is an incredible gift and you have to make the most of it. 

And, you know, as I mentor people that I talk to them about public speaking and people often say things like, you know, I don’t feel qualified to be on the platform. I feel very nervous and I don’t want to do it. I don’t have that expertise, all those things that you know, people often say why they don’t want to be in the public. 

I love it and I just say that there is something that everyone is individual. So I have to say which can make the world better. Somebody gives you a platform to do that. Then take it because that is the biggest gift you can get which is the chance to say something that might affect somebody else positively.

So I think every platform is a privilege. 

Maruf: Absolutely, like I heard somewhere that you know, one of the guys was saying that you have to change the word get to and the world changed, right? We get to speak. You know, it’s a chance as we said it’s a privilege and we have to let you take advantage of that. 

Shelina: I like that. So, I’m taking that.

Maruf:  So look, what does success mean to you, Shelina? Well, how will you describe it? What’s success mean to you? 

Shelina: I feel like I’ve sounded  already for this one. 

Maruf: No, it’s coming unexpected on purpose. We want to get tht. 

Shelina: What’s success looks like to know, I think when we look at other people, it’s easy for us to define them as successful, when we look at ourselves, we have quite a different opinion. 

Oh, I look at my CV and you have sort of right, you know, you have to write your profile to send people and I think well, you know, I went to University with huge privilege. 

I have had a solid career which is a huge privilege. I’ve written and three books are on the way. And yet to me inside, I feel like I don’t know if I have achieved everything that I want to achieve. And so rather than necessarily giving you a sound bite of what success Means to me. 

Maybe I just want to share this work in progress with people to say that what we feel about ourselves and how other people see our success are two quite different things. And actually what I have learned is important but I don’t always live up to this. But that doesn’t mean to downplay your achievements. But to others that doesn’t mean you should overstate your achievement. 

But to be aware that’s what you have achieved, all achievements and to own them when you’re in public, even though inside, you know, it might not feel like we’ve really achieved what we’ve achieved that success or actually we may have a different standard for it.

And I think that’s okay. That’s where I am in my life right now that it’s okay inside and feel like I haven’t achieved all the things I want to or that some days I don’t feel this successful as other people might think. Does that make sense?

Maruf: So, that’s the whole purpose. That’s why we don’t give out the questions and we want to get this, you know, thinking. We don’t want sound bites want this as I said raw human emotion, right, like what’s coming out and that’s very very insightful. 

And you know, I’m just thinking like we’ve been talking for a while now. I’m just thinking like, the decisions you made in your life and different things. It reminds me that I could. I recently read that. I think it’s from Steve Jobs. He says that I’m sure you read. “It’s when you grow up you tend to get told the world isn’t the way it is where you live in yourself just inside the walls of the world. Try not to bash into work too much and don’t have a nice family life. Have fun, save a little money that exists. 

He says that’s very limited. Life can be much broader. Once you discover one simple fact that everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it and you can influence it once you learn that you will never be the same again. 

I think when we go back to that moment when you were in that bookstore, right, you were looking at that books and said you know, what, these are the books that are not presently, you know, I can do my you know, that’s not my voice. I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna do something. I’m gonna write, I’m gonna you know, take the leap, take the first step and that was a very brave bold booth and I think many things might just come after that and thank you for taking that.

And we are here learning. We learned so much today and we’re looking forward to see more of your work and any website, would like to mention, so we can put on the show notes and share here. 

Shelina: It would be lovely to have people follow me on Twitter. So you can enter Love in Headscarf like you see Twitter handle and that’s where I do most of my commentary and thinking. 

I’m also on Facebook and Instagram, But Twitter is really a great place to go and you can check the Ogilvy Islamic branding website as well. If you want to learn more about the work and check out my books, but yeah, follow me on Twitter and links that you need. 

Maruf: Yes, that would be awesome. Thank you very much for being here. It’s been a pleasure. 

Shelina: Thank you. 

Maruf: Assalamu alaikum.

Shelina: Walaikumussalam.

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Episode 20