When Aisha Hakim needed the perspective of another woman, she found out just how difficult that was to get. So she created it in Fellow, an app designed to create conditions for women in ad agencies to get advice from other females and maybe mentors. And she didn’t do it alone, her agency Venables Bell and Partners backed her and helped bring Fellow to life. This conversation focuses on the challenges of living through the construction stage of something you have the ultimate vision for.

Links:
This app wants to connect women in advertising
Fellow: Mentorship for the modern world
This episode pairs quite nicely with Shannon Pfeffer’s, don’t you think?

Transcript:

Adam Pierno 0:28
Alright, welcome back to another episode of The Strategy Inside Everything we are in for a barnburner. Today, I am bringing back in the conversation that is born of me aimlessly scrolling Twitter and then popping up in someone’s DMs like a creep asking questions. Is that exactly what happened? You can say yes or no?

Aisha Hakim 0:48
Yes, that’s exactly what happened.

Adam Pierno 0:51
Today we are joined by someone who’s doing something amazing. And what we’re going to talk about is how do you keep the amazing part going when the not so amazing, obstacles pop up in your path. I have Aisha Hakim on who is serving two roles. She is a senior art director at the amazing Venables Bell and Partners in San Francisco. But while there she was inspired to create Fellow where she is the Founder and CD and I want issue if you wouldn’t mind tell people what fellow is I think they know what a senior art director is. But I think I think Fellow is a new idea that is, I would love to hear your thoughts on on what it is and how you came up with it.

Aisha Hakim 1:34
Yes, so Fellow is an app based professional community for women and advertising. The name although I know is masculine is part of the reason I selected it. I do get a bit of head turns. When I say that the name of a platform designed for women is ‘Fellow’ I really liked that play on words because the definition of fellow is the member of a learned society or one of the nation’s and, and it’s masculine. And I thought that that was intriguing and I liked the idea of regenerating a word that had been historically gendered.

Adam Pierno 2:23
I like it. I think the whole brand new built around it is really smart. It all it all makes sense around that idea of stealing that word and saying no, it doesn’t mean what you think it means.

Aisha Hakim 2:33
Yeah, yeah. I also think that the, the space for platforms and communities that are directed towards women tend to be extremely feminine. And I think that they have built really interesting brands and ideas, but I kind of when I looked at the space and I looked at where I could fit in and something Like that it felt like a good opportunity to go in a in a completely different direction rather than pursue the kind of more standard naming conventions that can exist in in in this in this space for women so I just wanted something completely different.

Adam Pierno 3:21
Yeah, and we’re getting sidetracked like right off the bat so I knew that can happen but it’s good. They I noticed the photography, the style that’s on the the website itself, the fellow app. com is really it was interesting to me because it is kind of like what I think of is the Instagram, fashion kind of photography. And it does a good job of clearly it is a women are the subject, but it doesn’t feel like it’s for girls, ladies pay attention. This is for you.

Aisha Hakim 3:56
Yes. Um, what’s so funny as I I grew up And I hated pink because I thought that I should because I, you know, didn’t want to be perceived as a girly girl and now that I’m in my 30s I like hell yeah, bank right. But no, it was really funny I am. I have become friends over the years with the woman who shot my wedding because we’re around the same age and I see the things that she’s doing and she started to get into more of the tutorial work. And this has been building fellow has been a series of favors essentially. And so I hit her up her name is Carol Robbins and I sent her a few mood boards and I I wanted I wanted to feel different than how apps are traditionally marketed and it’s very sterile. It can lean heavily on illustration styles that feel very tech, and I wanted something that had humanity was stylish and was welcoming and was warm. So we actually shot those photos in my living room with friends that I had recruited and one of the flashbulbs started to catch on fire –

Adam Pierno 5:25
Did you take that as an omen at that point like “What have I gotten into?”

Aisha Hakim 5:28
Yes, I should have probably at the time I learned something about everyone that day because I looked around and everyone was just staring at it and I thought I should probably do something

Adam Pierno 5:43
That slow motion: The cars filling up with water we’ve been – –

Aisha Hakim 5:48
then afterwards, you just kind of kept going which is actually been the exact trajectory of the entire process and fellow, this is that is perfect dovetail.

Adam Pierno 5:57
So tell me, tell me this. The the moment that it crystallized for you to go build us, was there a moment? Or has it just been a journey that you’ve always had it in the back your mind?

Aisha Hakim 6:11
Um, it was a bit of both. It was a bit of both. Um, I had been really lucky at my first agency to have a handful of male mentors who were crucial to my career development. I mean, when I got into advertising, I got in through an internship. I didn’t have a portfolio, I didn’t really know how an art director was different than a graphic designer. I didn’t really know what advertising was I come from publishing where I was designing newspaper ads for local newspapers. And to me, I just thought that that was I thought that I was doing advertising. And so I had a few male mentors who kind of some potentially me and we’re writing headlines for my work, and we’re teaching me about the political dynamic of the industry and why you could or couldn’t do some certain things or, or why relationships or the way that they were. And so it was extremely, extremely helpful and crucial at the time. And then as I rose and I moved away from them and we went to different agencies and I didn’t have that support system anymore, and and as you rise in the industry, your your relationships and experiences become much more nuanced. You know, when you’re, when you’re Junior, you’re concerned with certain things, which is get your shit done and eat for dinner.

Adam Pierno 7:44
And everybody’s had that everybody in the industry has survived that experience to certain extent. So it’s easy when you’re at that point to find someone who’s a little bit more senior that can help show you the ropes of how to navigate the road. This is how you get your coupon for free pizza.

Aisha Hakim 7:58
Exactly. So, as I started to, to rise and and, and experience the industry in a really nuanced way, I was talking to my because we’re still very close, I was talking to one of my male mentors and I was describing to him something that had happened a comment that was made, and it was really irking me, and I was talking to him about it. And he said, You know, I don’t know how to help you because I never experienced that. And I was like, Oh, yeah,

Adam Pierno 8:31
you’re like I need someone else that is experienced this. Yes. Somebody was how men then that probably. Did you start at Did you project forward? Like I probably will have more experiences that that none of these guys have, have really dealt with.

Aisha Hakim 8:47
Yeah, yeah. And so when he said that, it was it was it was a lightning bolt for me and other things were happening that time like I was getting close to my review, and I really wanted to ask for a raise. And you know, he had tips. I wanted to talk to a woman. Not to tangent, but I read this book the confidence code recently and so when I was thinking back on my journey with fellow it all kind of made sense to me because women are afraid to ask for the things that they want. We don’t think that we’re doing a good job. What do we are we have problems standing up for our sleep, all the things that I know, but I didn’t know until I read this book and I saw myself in it right. And, and men don’t struggle as much with those things. Men and women approach sensitive topics so differently. And I think, you know, as influential and helpful and crucial as my male mentors have been there in certain scenarios where I just, I just wanted the perspective of a woman I wanted someone who understood my hesitations and my perceived limitations and all the nuances that go on with

Adam Pierno 10:46
How did you turn it from the “I have this perspective, and I think these this is something I want” into the idea for Fellow like, when did you say, Oh, this must other other women must be experiencing the same thing feel the same way and why is it so hard to connect to another woman as a mentor?

Aisha Hakim 11:06
Well, I looked around and I wanted an outside perspective. And so you know, even if you have an amazing support system within your agency. Sensitive conversations are sensitive and you might not feel comfortable going to someone who’s even your friend or your colleague like you might want that outside perspective. So I went and I tried to find different different avenues that could help facilitate that connection for me and and general networking platforms felt general you couldn’t just reach out to someone and say, Hi, my name is Aisha my reviews in two days, here’s my work history. What do you think I should go? They would be like, Who’s this crazy person? And I thought, okay, there’s there’s the professional networking platforms. Travel place, but there’s nothing that is leaning really heavily as a non advertising into learning about career development. And so that felt like the gap. And so I went to now he’s my business partner and fellow at the time, he was my my colleague at Venables, his name is Christoph and he was helping run new business and I just really respected his determination and the way he thought about things and in meetings, he just was super smart. And I trusted him. So I, I literally remember, I pulled him into a conference room and I was like, I have a business idea and you need to tell me if it’s good or bad.

Adam Pierno 12:43
There’s so much value in that somebody who would be like, no, that is terrible.

Aisha Hakim 12:47
So I was like, you know, I feel like there’s this thing we’re winning, connected to learn and, and there’s not really something that exists right now. Like, is it a website, you know? What is it and I didn’t have anything back then it was literally just a thought in my head. And the first thing out of his mouth was I love it and I want to help you.

Adam Pierno 13:10
We’re off to the races. I have to ask you and I run a question. You prepared for this question? I am. So you wanted a female mentor. You’re going to build a female mentoring tool? Yep. You went to a dude.

Aisha Hakim 13:24
Well, I’ll say that I think that the progression of people is not only dependent on the people who need it the most, of course, everyone has the opportunity to reach down and give a hand up. Yep. So when I was thinking about fellow I was thinking about the people who I knew I could trust and who I thought were Smart and who could help me bring it to life? Because at that point, it wasn’t about optics. It was about the right people and the right minds who could help me do it.

Adam Pierno 14:12
Absolutely. And someone that you knew would get the idea and be able to tell you honestly, it’s a good or bad.

Aisha Hakim 14:18
Exactly. And Christoph being new business settled cross from a lot of potential clients. He sees people in the C suite all the time and he knew better than anyone that once you get to a certain level, there aren’t a lot of women in the room. And I’m, I think that it it’s an incredible story and and, and I’m credit to him for not saying yeah, that’s cool. You should do that. That feels like it would be really great for women. But to be

Adam Pierno 14:54
For the you, you should go

Aisha Hakim 14:56
you should do that. He wanted to do it together and I think anyone who’s willing to help the progress of others that doesn’t directly help themselves.

Adam Pierno 15:09
That’s a good person.

Aisha Hakim 15:10
Absolutely. So So and he was the one who

because once he said yes, I was like great, then it feels like a thing.

Adam Pierno 15:19
Now what, right? So we agree that should be built, see you tomorrow!

Aisha Hakim 15:57
Laughs

Adam Pierno 16:00
Can we talk a little bit about Venables Bell who helped bring this thing to life and how that how that all transpired?

Aisha Hakim 16:06
Yeah. So who’s here who said we should take this to Venables, they’re – going back to the to the trust thing. They know us, they know our hearts, they know our intentions. We know their hearts, we know their intentions. And when it comes to something sensitive like this, where you are essentially going in and saying, hey, I want to talk to women outside of this building about this job, right? Is um, could be an uncomfortable thing for some leadership to hear. And to Venables’ credit,

Adam Pierno 16:47
That’s a vulnerable position to put yourself in.

Aisha Hakim 16:50
Yeah, well, and even you know, Paul is a man and Paul Venables and when we get us my amazing CD’s man and and you’re asking them to kind of take a leap of faith with you because you’re saying I experienced this and you need to trust me that other women are experiencing this too. And it’s an incredibly brave thing to do also incredibly brave to allow someone who has no experience building apps to sign up and say, Yes, I believe you can do this.

Adam Pierno 17:28
But it’s what the, let’s let’s. So this goes right to the Confidence Code. You’re it’s not about the app, although the app is part of it. It’s about the vision for the gap that you see in the ability for someone like yourself who is achieving the kind of the kind of people that agencies want male or female, that are driven, that are performing that are looking north and saying I want to get to the next level in the right most constructive, positive way. That’s the people agencies want. Yeah. And the app is a byproduct of, well, that’ll be the way that we connect the people who feel who meet that description, and we can really help a lot of people using the app. But yeah, my guess is I haven’t spoken anybody from Venables who, who decided to partner, my guess is that they chose they were backing you. Because you’re you not because, you know, they were like, well, who cares? You know, she’s never built an app. So what she’s got this vision for what she wants to achieve.

Aisha Hakim 18:30
Yeah, I mean, they have a lot of faith in their employees. I’ve been here now four and a half years, so they know me and I know them. But they really believe in their employees. I I I was mentioning they do a lot of they have a lot of employees with personal projects and things like that. So I’m in that way. It’s surprising and it’s not surprising. I mean, we we knew going to them that there could be a better chance that we could have a shot at this thing than if we just went and pursued VC money. And the other thing is they want to do things for the industry that affect more than just the people within their walls. Right? Because that makes the entire industry better. Yes. Um, I think what we realized in in a planning session when we, so we presented to them and they said yes, and then there were some meetings where we were like, all right, so what is this? And it was kind of another label moment where it was like, the industry cannot progress. If we are talking to ourselves in our own walls. It’s it’s not the way forward is stifles progress. And there are certain things to be competitive about in this industry. The progress of people is not one of those things. We should not be looking to compete with one another to advance. Yep. So once we had that nugget, and that’s what we knew was the guiding light for what fellow was going to become this, this idea that we are stronger when we open agency doors, even though that’s scary to leadership. That’s the most powerful thing in the world and that that is what will really have the opportunity to make a difference. So and I think that that’s a huge testament to to Venables, and their their the way they look at the world like I remember when we first pitched this, Paul said, lamentable said. So you want me to invest in an app for women to be able to talk to other women do the industry and the Potentially forged relationships within and potentially leave. Yeah. And I was like, yeah, yeah. And he was like, Okay.

Adam Pierno 21:09
Yeah. Because you could tell just from the way they embrace the idea that that’s not a legitimate concern. And if they’re the kind of people that you’re describing, people are not running away from there. We’ve both probably worked at the places that people run away from. And they don’t sound like that. Sounds like the opposite.

Aisha Hakim 21:30
No, it’s a it’s some. I can imagine it being a tough, a tough thing. Like, like we were saying, it’s a competitive industry. And it’s, it’s feeling weird right now. And everyone is has this kind of gloomy sense of where our future is going and to have the opportunity to partner with them and have them champion this in the way that they have an investment in the way they have. I know this probably I’m come out the other end much more hopeful. Then

Adam Pierno 22:03
I went in, let’s talk about this, because I don’t feel like you’re all the way through. Oh, you’re you’re you’ve gotten very far. But I feel like we’re still early days in, in fellow the the software tool and yellows. The community is not as mature like it is going to bloom it, but I don’t think it’s fully bloomed yet. So when I when I reached out to you was, I were Are you still in what you consider beta? Or have you come through beta?

Aisha Hakim 22:30
Yeah, so we’re really going to be in beta for a while. I think we use the beta language when we initially we’re testing the product because it just was more familiar to people. I think what we initially did was actually our MVP when we first launched this soft launched it in April, and you’re asking for beta testers like that was actually more of our MVP to just say, Hey, we have this idea we build something simple is there apatite should we continue? Right? Um, and I think I sent out a tweet. And I just said, Hey, I built this thing. I would love your feedback. I’m looking for beta testers. And I got 125 emails in 24 hours. Yeah. It was insane. I mean, calling the course he replied to my tweet. And I was like, all right, well,

Adam Pierno 23:23
yeah, we can retire if that happens. Yeah, pretty much.

Aisha Hakim 23:28
And so it was exciting. It was exciting. And I think at that point, I probably thought I was a lot closer than I was.

Adam Pierno 23:39
It was a solid proof of concept. Right. At that point. You said, okay, the demand now we know that exists. Yeah. But

Aisha Hakim 23:48
yeah, it’s a lot of work to do still. I mean, I work a lot in TV. So I think what I hindsight 2020 There is a big discrepancy, I think in the way we expect our apps to function. Because when an app gets in our hands like an Instagram or an Uber or whatever, that thing’s been tested. Beyond Belief by hundreds of people. It’s got UX designers. It’s got 25 brilliant brains thinking about how your fingers feel on the buttons.

It was me.

And I recruited a UX designer, Genevieve Cruz, who was actually formerly finance at vegetables. Who had left to do a US boot camp. And so when we when Phil got approved, Gary, our CFO said, you know, you should really hit up Jeremy and now she’s trying to do UX now. And I was like, great, that sounds like a safe and cheap option. And so it was It’s a win win. She’d something for her book and I need someone to explain to you what UX is. And it was, it was actually amazing because we were both learning and there was no wrong questions like we were allowed to be as dumb is we needed together in order to understand how to push this thing forward.

Adam Pierno 25:24
Isn’t that the that’s the almost describes the point of fellow to begin with is the permission to be in a safe place where you could just ask the dumb questions and not be judged, right or not have someone raised their eyebrows. You’re saying I don’t know, because I’ve never been

Aisha Hakim 25:39
there. Right. So I remember we, we handed off our first wireframe. So the developer, were super excited about it. And they were like, this looks great. Um, you have no home button. You have no menu. You have no back buttons. There’s no way to contact anyone from the platform. We’re like agreement. We knew that all those totally Well, it is really insane. When you think about how, when you use apps, it’s so it’s the thinking is so seamless, and it’s not a mistake. And it’s actually so seamless that when you sit down to do it, it really sheds a light on what amazing UX feels like. Because it’s hard. It’s really hard when you have to think about every possible direction somebody could go from every interaction. Exactly. Um, yeah, it was. It was intense. And every step of the way, I’m learning a new thing that I didn’t know was complex. I think that’s been the biggest piece of learning that I’ve had to do, which is, well, why can’t we fly from screen to screen? Because that takes hours and hours costs money. Well, I can do it on my other or, you know, Why can’t when I type in my city, it automatically populate? Well, because you have to bring in Google and that takes time and takes money and all of these assumptions that i think if i think if i really known what went into this, I probably would have been too scared to pursue it. Really? Do you think that’s true? I really that’s true. Yeah.

Adam Pierno 27:20
Yeah. But now your your whatever percentage of the way through a mature app, right? Who

Aisha Hakim 27:25
knows? No way out.

Adam Pierno 27:26
Yeah. So when you get so what I reached out to you, because you posted a review that you got of the app from someone who used it in the very early stages, complaining about some some feature. Yeah. And I thought, well, that’s such a shit thing to do to somebody who’s trying to build this bigger, bigger vision that needs to be built. And you’re going to nitpick like this, the shape of the button or whatever the complaint was, it’s like, what are you doing? What kind of a psychotic person are you? Well, I want the mentor but really what I want is to be able to have a form that is comfortable. My song.

Aisha Hakim 28:01
I mean, I think in advertising, you’re going to learn that everyone’s got opinions. So

Adam Pierno 28:06
I’ve never noticed this before.

Aisha Hakim 28:10
If you’ve ever like I have made the mistake of reading the YouTube comments under spot they made, you’re gonna, not everyone’s gonna like it. And I think

Adam Pierno 28:23
to see him like, weirdly comfortable with us.

Aisha Hakim 28:27
It’s been a lot of searching. Yeah, in my soul. Okay. And also stopped reading the YouTube comments, which isn’t very helpful.

Adam Pierno 28:34
That’s helpful for everybody, whether you’re creating things or not.

Aisha Hakim 28:39
Um, you know, look, I think that their criticisms were valid. I agree. It’s not, it’s not there. And I think the route we’ve chosen in is we didn’t pursue VC money. So we don’t have the luxury of an insane amount of trial and error, right? Like we, we can’t just throw money at it and hope that it works, right? Not necessarily that type anyways, through the beta process. I mean, we did polls, we reached out I think I talked to users two to four times a week about what they thought was cool and where it could go. And it was a community process. It was very communal in the sense that sense since Venables gave me so much freedom, it actually allowed me the space to not be scared that I didn’t know what I was doing, because I was allowed the process that I needed to work through things, which is sometimes a poll on Twitter.

Adam Pierno 29:58
Right, right. Hello. It’s whatever it’s going to get you the fastest information that you can count on. Yeah. For you to make a valid decision in that case.

Aisha Hakim 30:07
Yeah. And so I think what I’ve learned has so we’ve been live now for what day is it? We’ve been live now for month today. Yeah. And I think what now I’m up against is this. This luxury that we have with our apps and and how high the expectation is, I think maybe it was 10 years ago, or five years ago. Something that was simple. That was a beta that had potential but wasn’t quite there. And when you think about where Reddit started, where it were, now they’ve maintained that aesthetic, and maybe they’ve changed a little as time has gone on, but the being very bare bones and very simple in their function is kind of the approach we took You know, someone said to me early on that I know it’s not a secret. But, you know, if you wait till your product is perfect, you’ve launched too late. And so I really took that to heart because I wanted it to be communal. Because the other thing is, is I can have a sense of what I think women want. But I actually don’t know. And so I’m not just going to go off for three years and build something that’s super complex and complete and come back and be like, I hope this is what you need. I really wanted. I wanted women to feel like we were building this thing together and it was being done for the right reasons and starting simple and starting really targeted is, is how we’re going about building x. I think that that’s how you get to something that at the end, in two years, you can look back and say, Wow, we really knew that everything we did every step of the way was exactly what needed to get done to get us to the next point.

Adam Pierno 31:58
Right and you don’t you wouldn’t know what that The next point was going to be until you till you got the previous one. Right, right, is that the feedback you’re kind of getting is are our users giving you that same feedback that it’s buggy, but I like having a voice in how it’s working, or I’m just happy it exists. And here’s a here’s an issue. Oh, yeah, honestly, just kind of people just screaming at the walls become No,

Aisha Hakim 32:22
it’s been well, I’ve been lucky to have a small group of 100 or so people who have been really great beta testers and who, through Twitter, I’ve tried to cultivate this, this sense of, you know, I don’t have all the answers. I have this vision. And to be honest, you’re going to need to help me a little bit to get it there because everyone who we talked to and when we’re at the 3% conference, we have a little table set up. And every person who comes over and learns about it is like yes. is what I need. This is what I want. I’ve never had a female mentor or I have and I would love to know different perspectives from some outside of my agency. So the it’s agreed that something of this shape is right and necessary.

Adam Pierno 33:19
How do you stay focused on that? Yes. That you get the vision people say yes. How do you remain focused and optimistic about that? When you get to one of those steps where you say, this isn’t as good as I want, or the user says, I’ve tried this and it’s, you know, it’s it’s not working for absolutely flawlessly, like a fully polished, right VC backed startup. Does that how discouraging is that?

Aisha Hakim 33:48
I think it’s hard. I mean,

I think I I’m a person. I think really is actually described this. This process is like a roller coaster where you’re going up to the to the tip where you’re going to go down the big drop and it’s like you can feel it in your stomach, like the anxiety is there in your stomach, but you’re kind of excited, but you don’t know what’s gonna happen next. I like, freefall.

Adam Pierno 34:23
That’s a good, that’s a good description.

Aisha Hakim 34:26
I’m the assurance of the mindset that no matter what, you take one step forward, no matter what, like there’s no going back at this point. We’re too far down. This is needed. People want it. Everything else is what will happen and I can’t control it and I can only learn as fast as I can and build as fast as I can and hope and pray and finger cross that people will believe in the Dia that enough to come along the journey with me and give me the the room to learn. You know, even I learned sketch because, you know, Genovese will have full time jobs, and she’s always available. So I learned sketch and I started to do the wireframes. And I was doing the budgeting, and, you know, it’s just the three of us. So I think I have to take the criticism is number one valid? Because if I just close my ears and say, it’s good people like it, it’s not going to improve, it’s not going to improve. Um, so this is, this is

Adam Pierno 35:44
the what you’re going through with the app itself is the metaphor for women trying to find mentors, like, would they know everybody knows this needs to happen? Yeah, there’s some sort of things in place, but they’re an imperfect way and perfect. Right there now all the way there and right, you’ve built this app, and you’re getting the feedback that says that people are saying, I’m trying to get a mentor. Yeah. And this piece of functionality is not optimal for me to do that. And you’re like, no, no kidding. Look at society. Like, it’s no, this industry is totally not for that. That’s the problem. Yeah, the app is like the perfect mirror for that. Isn’t that is have you had that thought? No,

Aisha Hakim 36:22
no, that is industry interesting. I just always thought that flash will be on fire.

Adam Pierno 36:27
I would that would probably see her in my memory as well. And I’ll be thinking about that for a while as well.

Aisha Hakim 36:34
I mean, I’m just trying to run into saying as fast as I can until I either fail or it works. Yeah.

Adam Pierno 36:46
Well, what a when it let’s talk about what it works looks like. Because you could argue that if if a handful of people make meaningful connections to mentors that help them that could be success. Yeah, you know, but that’s that’s me with my rose-colored glasses on being a little being a little glib and not having any skin in this game. What is what do you think of as success? Like, I know you have a master vision

Aisha Hakim 37:14
Success to me looks like a robust user base that the product is working for. So if someone has like a saying or review or an interview that they are preparing for, and it’s as simple as I’m a creative like I see this question all time I’m a creative Can I wear jeans but I don’t want to be too stuck up like you want to be to sell me Do you still want to be like, Cool? We want to be professionals like a question. If someone can go on and and identify someone who said yes, I can help in interview, interviewing, and then contact that person and get their, the answer they needed and then go in and get That interview and that happens on a mass scale. I mean, what’s bigger than that? Right? Because I think I think where we were also getting lost is every woman I’ve talked to, especially in senior leadership is I want to help I want to mentor I don’t have the time. Um, I think that on top of everything else senior leadership and women in leadership are dealing with the idea of mentorship feels really heavy like it feels like dating right? Like I even know that when I asked my my friend Ryan to be my mentor, I literally took him out to lunch and I was like, I’m so few years

Adam Pierno 38:46
here like hands are sweaty, like

Aisha Hakim 38:51
I hope you’re on the same page. Like this is a really well

Adam Pierno 38:55
you know, if you do want to be my mentor, Yes, no, maybe

Aisha Hakim 38:58
Yeah. And so I, it felt like there has to be something in between the dating version and not doing anything at all. And when you just think about text message or or functionality that can feel like text message that you can literally be on the train or in between meetings or you have a free hour and you can just pop off a few answers. Yeah. Then those little micro those cracks of life moments, those little micro interactions, I think when you multiply that times 500 or 1000 can start to feel significant shift.

Adam Pierno 39:35
So you’re scaling the opportunity for for women in this business to be able to have those interactions. Yeah, yeah. Especially crossing agency lines where it can be impossible to find someone who’s able to answer the question you’re dealing with.

Aisha Hakim 39:49
Right? And I think again, it’s not necessarily about saying, you know, men can’t and shouldn’t mentor women. They can, they should. It’s about those scenarios. Where the reality is like you just need someone to give you advice sometimes that it has had shared experiences and who has had relatable experiences and who understands your thought process because it’s different. Exactly.

Adam Pierno 40:15
And I would I would even replace you said the word need I would replace the word prefer. Yeah, I think you haven’t you should have a choice. And if you’re because there’s so I don’t want to say there’s so few women at the top, but the number of females at the top does increase. Yeah. It becomes harder and harder to if you have that preference, it becomes harder and harder to make that choice on your own. You kind of deal with whoever’s around.

Aisha Hakim 40:39
Yeah, I also think that there’s some misconception that mentoring needs to come from like a creative director and a to a junior, right. I think that’s the case a lot of my learning has happened with women who are one step ahead of me who just experienced how you asked for that next title bump or or you know how you Start to approach client meetings because it’s so fresh to them. So I actually think what we’re also getting lost is not only the the concern of the time investment, but it’s also that you don’t have to make these huge leaps and leadership to get the guidance you need, it’s actually probably more beneficial to learn peer to peer. And, like one of the things is known as a mentor or mentee on the platform, which we had a lot of debate around a lot of debate. And even some people wanted to be mentors or mentees. And maybe we’ll, in the future be able to have some clear identification. But I think the idea that everyone has something to teach and everyone has something to learn, will work much quicker for all of us, then these kind of more traditional notions of mentorship,

Adam Pierno 41:47
right and forcing people into a corner at the very first interaction. Are you here to be a mentor or a mentor? And it’s like, Well, today this tomorrow, maybe that?

Aisha Hakim 41:56
Yeah, yeah. Or maybe there’s something Just throwing it out there, someone in leadership can learn from a junior. I

Adam Pierno 42:05
know that that’s crazy talk

Aisha Hakim 42:10
about vegetables, investment in this, you know, they, I think sometimes when we have these major systemic issues across the industry as we all kind of look at leadership where good ideas we should know can come from anywhere. So you might be neglecting a whole group of people that who are experiencing some of these issues firsthand who might have a clear notion of what needs to change in order to actually progress to the next step. And so, again, I I appreciate their risk taking. Fantastic,

Adam Pierno 42:47
and this has been amazing. Thank you so much for making time. I really appreciate it. You’re doing two jobs right now while we’re talking. So yeah, thank you for making time to talk. Where see you for having me. Hey, where can be Find fellows. I know there’s the fellow app.com is the website. But is it on all its own every platform? Or is it iOS only?

Aisha Hakim 43:07
I was only great. We’re still growing.

Adam Pierno 43:10
It’s your biggest adopted platform for people in this industry. Exactly. Data

Aisha Hakim 43:15
shows I know. And so yes, you can find us on the App Store, fellow community, it is a paid service.

Adam Pierno 43:25
So don’t apologize for that. It’s a valuable service.

Aisha Hakim 43:29
But just know that we’re, we’re, we want to reinvest in it. And we want to make sure that this thing is productive and useful. So

Adam Pierno 43:36
I don’t think it should be expected that someone has a great idea that offers value and therefore it’s free.

Aisha Hakim 43:44
I know

Adam Pierno 43:46
it’s a valuable idea. So put a value on it. Okay, not me.

Aisha Hakim 43:49
Yeah, I don’t know. I

Adam Pierno 43:51
know it feels like oh, I don’t want to tell people It costs money.

Aisha Hakim 43:55
I am in negotiating like paying negotiations.

Adam Pierno 44:00
million percent identify. I’m the same way so I get it. I get it. So that wasn’t me talking down to you. That was me, like, picture me as your inner monologue instead. That’s what I would have said the same thing. Like, I’m sorry, but I have to charge you for

Aisha Hakim 44:12
it. So sorry. But yeah, I need to build push notification.

Adam Pierno 44:19
Thank you very much for joining. I really appreciate it.

Aisha Hakim 44:21
Yeah. Thank you so much. All right.

Adam Pierno 44:29
Wait, don’t stop listening shows not over. If you liked what you just heard, when you’d like any of the episodes of the strategy inside everything. Do me a favor. I really appreciate it. Leave a review wherever you listen to the show. Whether it’s Apple podcast, Google Play, Stitcher, wherever. Please leave us a rating and review. Please, if you can share this episode or another episode with a friend. Let them know what you liked about it. That helps us quite a bit. If you have ideas for guests for topics follow up on episodes you’ve heard you can tweet at us at a piano. That’s me or Strategy underscore inside. That’s the show. Either way, I promise I will respond to you will get back to you right away. And listen, running this show is a labor of love. I really do it just because I enjoy the conversations, but it does cost money. So web hosting microphones cost money, kids hair cuts costs money. If you wouldn’t mind, look at our Patreon patreon. Adam Pierno. There, you can help us out quite a bit. For more information about all the guests we’ve had, anything you want to know about the podcast, my two books under thinking and specific or ways to engage with me as a strategy consultant or as a speaker at your next event. Please go to Adam Pierno calm and you’ll find all the information you want. You can just send me a note. Thanks a lot.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Adam Pierno 0:28
Alright, welcome back to another episode of The Strategy Inside Everything we are in for a barnburner. Today, I am bringing back in the conversation that is born of me aimlessly scrolling Twitter and then popping up in someone’s DMs like a creep asking questions. Is that exactly what happened? You can say yes or no?

Aisha Hakim 0:48
Yes, that’s exactly what happened.

Adam Pierno 0:51
Today we are joined by someone who’s doing something amazing. And what we’re going to talk about is how do you keep the amazing part going when the not so amazing, obstacles pop up in your path. I have Aisha Hakim on who is serving two roles. She is a senior art director at the amazing Venables Bell and Partners in San Francisco. But while there she was inspired to create Fellow where she is the Founder and CD and I want issue if you wouldn’t mind tell people what fellow is I think they know what a senior art director is. But I think I think Fellow is a new idea that is, I would love to hear your thoughts on on what it is and how you came up with it.

Aisha Hakim 1:34
Yes, so Fellow is an app based professional community for women and advertising. The name although I know is masculine is part of the reason I selected it. I do get a bit of head turns. When I say that the name of a platform designed for women is ‘Fellow’ I really liked that play on words because the definition of fellow is the member of a learned society or one of the nation’s and, and it’s masculine. And I thought that that was intriguing and I liked the idea of regenerating a word that had been historically gendered it felt state, it felt a little cheeky, which I always I like and it felt like it would get the attention of people.

Adam Pierno 2:23
So I like it. I think the whole brand new built around it is really smart. It all it all makes sense around that idea of stealing that word and saying no, it doesn’t mean what you think it means.

Aisha Hakim 2:33
Yeah, yeah. I also think that the, the space for platforms and communities that are directed towards women tend to be extremely feminine. And I think that they have built really interesting brands and ideas, but I kind of when I looked at the space and I looked at where I could fit in and something Like that it felt like a good opportunity to go in a in a completely different direction rather than pursue the kind of more standard naming conventions that can exist in in in this in this space for women so I just wanted something completely different.

Adam Pierno 3:21
Yeah, and we’re getting sidetracked like right off the bat so I knew that can happen but it’s good. They I noticed the photography, the style that’s on the the website itself, the fellow app. com is really it was interesting to me because it is kind of like what I think of is the Instagram, fashion kind of photography. And it does a good job of clearly it is a women are the subject, but it doesn’t feel like it’s for girls, ladies pay attention. This is for you.

Aisha Hakim 3:56
Yes. Um, what’s so funny as I I grew up And I hated pink because I thought that I should because I, you know, didn’t want to be perceived as a girly girl and now that I’m in my 30s I like hell yeah, bank right. But no, it was really funny I am. I have become friends over the years with the woman who shot my wedding because we’re around the same age and I see the things that she’s doing and she started to get into more of the tutorial work. And this has been building fellow has been a series of favors essentially. And so I hit her up her name is Carol Robbins and I sent her a few mood boards and I I wanted I wanted to feel different than how apps are traditionally marketed and it’s very sterile. It can lean heavily on illustration styles that feel very tech, and I wanted something that had humanity was stylish and was welcoming and was warm. And so that’s where I felt like there could be an interesting, you know, stylistic place to play that felt a little abstract, but also was warm in a sense. So we actually shot those photos in my living room with friends that I had recruited and one of the flashbulbs started to catch on fire –

Adam Pierno 5:25
Did you take that as an omen at that point like “What have I gotten into?”

Aisha Hakim 5:28
Yes, I should have probably at the time I learned something about everyone that day because I looked around and everyone was just staring at it and I thought I should probably do something

Adam Pierno 5:43
That slow motion: The cars filling up with water we’ve been – –

Aisha Hakim 5:48
then afterwards, you just kind of kept going which is actually been the exact trajectory of the entire process and fellow, this is that is perfect dovetail.

Adam Pierno 5:57
So tell me, tell me this. The the moment that it crystallized for you to go build us, was there a moment? Or has it just been a journey that you’ve always had it in the back your mind?

Aisha Hakim 6:11
Um, it was a bit of both. It was a bit of both. Um, I had been really lucky at my first agency to have a handful of male mentors who were crucial to my career development. I mean, when I got into advertising, I got in through an internship. I didn’t have a portfolio, I didn’t really know how an art director was different than a graphic designer. I didn’t really know what advertising was I come from publishing where I was designing newspaper ads for local newspapers. And to me, I just thought that that was I thought that I was doing advertising. And so I had a few male mentors who kind of some potentially me and we’re writing headlines for my work, and we’re teaching me about the political dynamic of the industry and why you could or couldn’t do some certain things or, or why relationships or the way that they were. And so it was extremely, extremely helpful and crucial at the time. And then as I rose and I moved away from them and we went to different agencies and I didn’t have that support system anymore, and and as you rise in the industry, your your relationships and experiences become much more nuanced. You know, when you’re, when you’re Junior, you’re concerned with certain things, which is get your shit done and eat for dinner.

Adam Pierno 7:44
And everybody’s had that everybody in the industry has survived that experience to certain extent. So it’s easy when you’re at that point to find someone who’s a little bit more senior that can help show you the ropes of how to navigate the road. This is how you get your coupon for free pizza.

Aisha Hakim 7:58
Exactly. So, as I started to, to rise and and, and experience the industry in a really nuanced way, I was talking to my because we’re still very close, I was talking to one of my male mentors and I was describing to him something that had happened a comment that was made, and it was really irking me, and I was talking to him about it. And he said, You know, I don’t know how to help you because I never experienced that. And I was like, Oh, yeah,

Adam Pierno 8:31
you’re like I need someone else that is experienced this. Yes. Somebody was how men then that probably. Did you start at Did you project forward? Like I probably will have more experiences that that none of these guys have, have really dealt with.

Aisha Hakim 8:47
Yeah, yeah. And so when he said that, it was it was it was a lightning bolt for me and other things were happening that time like I was getting close to my review, and I really wanted to ask for a raise. And you know, he had tips. I wanted to talk to a woman I wanted to understand the the nuance that goes along with being a being someone in this industry like women, I was actually reading this book not to tangent, but I read this book the confidence code recently and so when I was thinking back on my journey with fellow it all kind of made sense to me because women are afraid to ask for the things that they want. We don’t think that we’re doing a good job. What do we are we have problems standing up for our sleep, all the things that I know, but I didn’t know until I read this book and I saw myself in it right. And, and men don’t struggle as much with those things. They’re very, you know, I asked him, I asked a male colleague, who had successfully Nichols cheated his salary higher than what he was offered. And I said, well, how’d you do it? And he said, You know what, you should just do it. You should just go in there and say, okay, you pay me. Like, I would have never say that. Yeah, so, um, I was just like, God, we have men and women approach sensitive topics so differently. And I think, you know, as influential and helpful and crucial as my male mentors have been there in certain scenarios where I just, I just wanted the perspective of a woman I wanted someone who understood my hesitations and my perceived limitations and all the nuances that go on with

Adam Pierno 10:46
How did you turn it from the “I have this perspective, and I think these this is something I want” into the idea for Fellow like, when did you say, Oh, this must other other women must be experiencing the same thing feel the same way and why is it so hard to connect to another woman as a mentor?

Aisha Hakim 11:06
Well, I looked around and I wanted an outside perspective. And so you know, I think part of the part of the thing I wanted to solve was, you can’t always go to the even if you have an amazing support system within your agency. Sensitive conversations are sensitive and you might not feel comfortable going to someone who’s even your directly superior or your friend or your colleague like you might want that outside perspective. So I went and I tried to find different different avenues that could help facilitate that connection for me and and general networking platforms felt general you couldn’t just reach out to someone and say, Hi, my name is Aisha my reviews in two days, here’s my work history. What do you think I should go? They would be like, Who’s this crazy person? And I thought, okay, there’s there’s the professional networking platforms. Travel place, but there’s nothing that is leaning really heavily as a non advertising into learning about career development. And so that felt like the gap. And so I went to now he’s my business partner and fellow at the time, he was my my colleague at Venables, his name is Christoph and he was helping run new business and I just really respected his determination and the way he thought about things and in meetings, he just was super smart. And I trusted him. So I, I literally remember, I pulled him into a conference room and I was like, I have a business idea and you need to tell me if it’s good or bad.

Adam Pierno 12:43
There’s so much value in that somebody who would be like, no, that is terrible.

Aisha Hakim 12:47
So I was like, you know, I feel like there’s this thing we’re winning, connected to learn and, and there’s not really something that exists right now. Like, is it a website, you know? What is it and I didn’t have anything back then it was literally just a thought in my head. And the first thing out of his mouth was I love it and I want to help you.

Adam Pierno 13:10
We’re off to the races. I have to ask you and I run a question. You prepared for this question? I am. So you wanted a female mentor. You’re going to build a female mentoring tool? Yep. You went to a dude.

Aisha Hakim 13:24
Yeah, say more. So it was a he was the person that I thought Who? Well, I’ll say that I think that the progression of people is not only dependent on the people who need it the most, of course, everyone has the opportunity to reach down and give a hand up. Yep. So when I was thinking about fellow I was thinking about the people who I knew I could trust and who I thought were Smart and who could help me bring it to life? Because at that point, it wasn’t about optics. It was about the right people and the right minds who could help me do it.

Adam Pierno 14:12
Absolutely. And someone that you knew would get the idea and be able to tell you honestly, it’s a good or bad.

Aisha Hakim 14:18
Exactly. And Christoph being new business settled cross from a lot of potential clients. He sees people in the C suite all the time and he knew better than anyone that once you get to a certain level, there aren’t a lot of women in the room. And I’m, I think that it it’s an incredible story and and, and I’m credit to him for not saying yeah, that’s cool. You should do that. That feels like it would be really great for women. But to be

Adam Pierno 14:54
For the you, you should go

Aisha Hakim 14:56
you should do that. He wanted to do it together and I think anyone who’s willing to help the progress of others that doesn’t directly help themselves.

Adam Pierno 15:09
That’s a good person.

Aisha Hakim 15:10
Absolutely. So So and he was the one who

because once he said yes, I was like great,

Adam Pierno 15:19
then it feels like a thing. Now what, right? So we agree that should be built, see you tomorrow!

Aisha Hakim 15:28
What was really funny was he he ended up taking this amazing trip. And he was gone for a few months in they were driving around South America as just a as a crazy thing to do because he’s a crazy guy. And there was like six or seven months away, and I was like, well, we done by that. Oh,

Adam Pierno 15:49
Yeah. Famous last words.

Aisha Hakim 15:52
We were not done by then.

Adam Pierno 15:56
Long story short,

Aisha Hakim 15:57
So

Adam Pierno 16:00
Can we talk a little bit about Venables Bell who helped bring this thing to life and how that how that all transpired?

Aisha Hakim 16:06
Yeah. So who’s here who said we should take this to Venables, they’re – going back to the to the trust thing. They know us, they know our hearts, they know our intentions. We know their hearts, we know their intentions. And when it comes to something sensitive like this, where you are essentially going in and saying, hey, I want to talk to women outside of this building about this job, right? Is um, could be an uncomfortable thing for some leadership to hear. And to Venables’ credit,

Adam Pierno 16:47
That’s a vulnerable position to put yourself in.

Aisha Hakim 16:50
Yeah, well, and even you know, Paul is a man and Paul Venables and when we get us my amazing CD’s man and and you’re asking them to kind of take a leap of faith with you because you’re saying I experienced this and you need to trust me that other women are experiencing this too. And it’s an incredibly brave thing to do also incredibly brave to allow someone who has no experience building apps to sign up and say, Yes, I believe you can do this.

Adam Pierno 17:28
But it’s what the, let’s let’s. So this goes right to the Confidence Code. You’re it’s not about the app, although the app is part of it. It’s about the vision for the gap that you see in the ability for someone like yourself who is achieving the kind of the kind of people that agencies want male or female, that are driven, that are performing that are looking north and saying I want to get to the next level in the right most constructive, positive way. That’s the people agencies want. Yeah. And the app is a byproduct of, well, that’ll be the way that we connect the people who feel who meet that description, and we can really help a lot of people using the app. But yeah, my guess is I haven’t spoken anybody from Venables who, who decided to partner, my guess is that they chose they were backing you. Because you’re you not because, you know, they were like, well, who cares? You know, she’s never built an app. So what she’s got this vision for what she wants to achieve.

Aisha Hakim 18:30
Yeah, I mean, they have a lot of faith in their employees. I’ve been here now four and a half years, so they know me and I know them. But they really believe in their employees. I I I was mentioning they do a lot of they have a lot of employees with personal projects and things like that. So I’m in that way. It’s surprising and it’s not surprising. I mean, we we knew going to them that there could be a better chance that we could have a shot at this thing than if we just went and pursued VC money. And the other thing is they want to do things for the industry that affect more than just the people within their walls. Right? Because that makes the entire industry better. Yes. Um, I think what we realized in in a planning session when we, so we presented to them and they said yes, and then there were some meetings where we were like, all right, so what is this? And it was kind of another label moment where it was like, the industry cannot progress. If we are talking to ourselves in our own walls. It’s it’s not the way forward is stifles progress. And there are certain things to be competitive about in this industry. The progress of people is not one of those things. We should not be looking to compete with one another to advance. Yep. So once we had that nugget, and that’s what we knew was the guiding light for what fellow was going to become this, this idea that we are stronger when we open agency doors, even though that’s scary to leadership. That’s the most powerful thing in the world and that that is what will really have the opportunity to make a difference. So and I think that that’s a huge testament to to Venables, and their their the way they look at the world like I remember when we first pitched this, Paul said, lamentable said. So you want me to invest in an app for women to be able to talk to other women do the industry and the Potentially forged relationships within and potentially leave. Yeah. And I was like, yeah, yeah. And he was like, Okay.

Adam Pierno 21:09
Yeah. Because you could tell just from the way they embrace the idea that that’s not a legitimate concern. And if they’re the kind of people that you’re describing, people are not running away from there. We’ve both probably worked at the places that people run away from. And they don’t sound like that. Sounds like the opposite.

Aisha Hakim 21:30
No, it’s a it’s some. I can imagine it being a tough, a tough thing. Like, like we were saying, it’s a competitive industry. And it’s, it’s feeling weird right now. And everyone is has this kind of gloomy sense of where our future is going and to have the opportunity to partner with them and have them champion this in the way that they have an investment in the way they have. I know this probably I’m come out the other end much more hopeful. Then

Adam Pierno 22:03
I went in, let’s talk about this, because I don’t feel like you’re all the way through. Oh, you’re you’re you’ve gotten very far. But I feel like we’re still early days in, in fellow the the software tool and yellows. The community is not as mature like it is going to bloom it, but I don’t think it’s fully bloomed yet. So when I when I reached out to you was, I were Are you still in what you consider beta? Or have you come through beta?

Aisha Hakim 22:30
Yeah, so we’re really going to be in beta for a while. I think we use the beta language when we initially we’re testing the product because it just was more familiar to people. I think what we initially did was actually our MVP when we first launched this soft launched it in April, and you’re asking for beta testers like that was actually more of our MVP to just say, Hey, we have this idea we build something simple is there apatite should we continue? Right? Um, and I think I sent out a tweet. And I just said, Hey, I built this thing. I would love your feedback. I’m looking for beta testers. And I got 125 emails in 24 hours. Yeah. It was insane. I mean, calling the course he replied to my tweet. And I was like, all right, well,

Adam Pierno 23:23
yeah, we can retire if that happens. Yeah, pretty much.

Aisha Hakim 23:28
And so it was exciting. It was exciting. And I think at that point, I probably thought I was a lot closer than I was.

Adam Pierno 23:39
It was a solid proof of concept. Right. At that point. You said, okay, the demand now we know that exists. Yeah. But

Aisha Hakim 23:48
yeah, it’s a lot of work to do still. I mean, I work a lot in TV. So I think what I hindsight 2020 There is a big discrepancy, I think in the way we expect our apps to function. Because when an app gets in our hands like an Instagram or an Uber or whatever, that thing’s been tested. Beyond Belief by hundreds of people. It’s got UX designers. It’s got 25 brilliant brains thinking about how your fingers feel on the buttons.

It was me.

And I recruited a UX designer, Genevieve Cruz, who was actually formerly finance at vegetables. Who had left to do a US boot camp. And so when we when Phil got approved, Gary, our CFO said, you know, you should really hit up Jeremy and now she’s trying to do UX now. And I was like, great, that sounds like a safe and cheap option. And so it was It’s a win win. She’d something for her book and I need someone to explain to you what UX is. And it was, it was actually amazing because we were both learning and there was no wrong questions like we were allowed to be as dumb is we needed together in order to understand how to push this thing forward.

Adam Pierno 25:24
Isn’t that the that’s the almost describes the point of fellow to begin with is the permission to be in a safe place where you could just ask the dumb questions and not be judged, right or not have someone raised their eyebrows. You’re saying I don’t know, because I’ve never been

Aisha Hakim 25:39
there. Right. So I remember we, we handed off our first wireframe. So the developer, were super excited about it. And they were like, this looks great. Um, you have no home button. You have no menu. You have no back buttons. There’s no way to contact anyone from the platform. We’re like agreement. We knew that all those totally Well, it is really insane. When you think about how, when you use apps, it’s so it’s the thinking is so seamless, and it’s not a mistake. And it’s actually so seamless that when you sit down to do it, it really sheds a light on what amazing UX feels like. Because it’s hard. It’s really hard when you have to think about every possible direction somebody could go from every interaction. Exactly. Um, yeah, it was. It was intense. And every step of the way, I’m learning a new thing that I didn’t know was complex. I think that’s been the biggest piece of learning that I’ve had to do, which is, well, why can’t we fly from screen to screen? Because that takes hours and hours costs money. Well, I can do it on my other or, you know, Why can’t when I type in my city, it automatically populate? Well, because you have to bring in Google and that takes time and takes money and all of these assumptions that i think if i think if i really known what went into this, I probably would have been too scared to pursue it. Really? Do you think that’s true? I really that’s true. Yeah.

Adam Pierno 27:20
Yeah. But now your your whatever percentage of the way through a mature app, right? Who

Aisha Hakim 27:25
knows? No way out.

Adam Pierno 27:26
Yeah. So when you get so what I reached out to you, because you posted a review that you got of the app from someone who used it in the very early stages, complaining about some some feature. Yeah. And I thought, well, that’s such a shit thing to do to somebody who’s trying to build this bigger, bigger vision that needs to be built. And you’re going to nitpick like this, the shape of the button or whatever the complaint was, it’s like, what are you doing? What kind of a psychotic person are you? Well, I want the mentor but really what I want is to be able to have a form that is comfortable. My song.

Aisha Hakim 28:01
I mean, I think in advertising, you’re going to learn that everyone’s got opinions. So

Adam Pierno 28:06
I’ve never noticed this before.

Aisha Hakim 28:10
If you’ve ever like I have made the mistake of reading the YouTube comments under spot they made, you’re gonna, not everyone’s gonna like it. And I think

Adam Pierno 28:23
to see him like, weirdly comfortable with us.

Aisha Hakim 28:27
It’s been a lot of searching. Yeah, in my soul. Okay. And also stopped reading the YouTube comments, which isn’t very helpful.

Adam Pierno 28:34
That’s helpful for everybody, whether you’re creating things or not.

Aisha Hakim 28:39
Um, you know, look, I think that their criticisms were valid. I agree. It’s not, it’s not there. And I think the route we’ve chosen in is we didn’t pursue VC money. So we don’t have the luxury of an insane amount of trial and error, right? Like we, we can’t just throw money at it and hope that it works, right? Not necessarily that type anyways, through the beta process. I mean, we did polls, we reached out I think I talked to users two to four times a week about what they thought was cool and where it could go. And it was a community process. It was very communal in the sense that sense since Venables gave me so much freedom, it actually allowed me the space to not be scared that I didn’t know what I was doing, because I was allowed the process that I needed to work through things, which is sometimes a poll on Twitter.

Adam Pierno 29:58
Right, right. Hello. It’s whatever it’s going to get you the fastest information that you can count on. Yeah. For you to make a valid decision in that case.

Aisha Hakim 30:07
Yeah. And so I think what I’ve learned has so we’ve been live now for what day is it? We’ve been live now for month today. Yeah. And I think what now I’m up against is this. This luxury that we have with our apps and and how high the expectation is, I think maybe it was 10 years ago, or five years ago. Something that was simple. That was a beta that had potential but wasn’t quite there. And when you think about where Reddit started, where it were, now they’ve maintained that aesthetic, and maybe they’ve changed a little as time has gone on, but the being very bare bones and very simple in their function is kind of the approach we took You know, someone said to me early on that I know it’s not a secret. But, you know, if you wait till your product is perfect, you’ve launched too late. And so I really took that to heart because I wanted it to be communal. Because the other thing is, is I can have a sense of what I think women want. But I actually don’t know. And so I’m not just going to go off for three years and build something that’s super complex and complete and come back and be like, I hope this is what you need. I really wanted. I wanted women to feel like we were building this thing together and it was being done for the right reasons and starting simple and starting really targeted is, is how we’re going about building x. I think that that’s how you get to something that at the end, in two years, you can look back and say, Wow, we really knew that everything we did every step of the way was exactly what needed to get done to get us to the next point.

Adam Pierno 31:58
Right and you don’t you wouldn’t know what that The next point was going to be until you till you got the previous one. Right, right, is that the feedback you’re kind of getting is are our users giving you that same feedback that it’s buggy, but I like having a voice in how it’s working, or I’m just happy it exists. And here’s a here’s an issue. Oh, yeah, honestly, just kind of people just screaming at the walls become No,

Aisha Hakim 32:22
it’s been well, I’ve been lucky to have a small group of 100 or so people who have been really great beta testers and who, through Twitter, I’ve tried to cultivate this, this sense of, you know, I don’t have all the answers. I have this vision. And to be honest, you’re going to need to help me a little bit to get it there because everyone who we talked to and when we’re at the 3% conference, we have a little table set up. And every person who comes over and learns about it is like yes. is what I need. This is what I want. I’ve never had a female mentor or I have and I would love to know different perspectives from some outside of my agency. So the it’s agreed that something of this shape is right and necessary.

Adam Pierno 33:19
How do you stay focused on that? Yes. That you get the vision people say yes. How do you remain focused and optimistic about that? When you get to one of those steps where you say, this isn’t as good as I want, or the user says, I’ve tried this and it’s, you know, it’s it’s not working for absolutely flawlessly, like a fully polished, right VC backed startup. Does that how discouraging is that?

Aisha Hakim 33:48
I think it’s hard. I mean,

I think I I’m a person. I think really is actually described this. This process is like a roller coaster where you’re going up to the to the tip where you’re going to go down the big drop and it’s like you can feel it in your stomach, like the anxiety is there in your stomach, but you’re kind of excited, but you don’t know what’s gonna happen next. I like, freefall.

Adam Pierno 34:23
That’s a good, that’s a good description.

Aisha Hakim 34:26
I’m the assurance of the mindset that no matter what, you take one step forward, no matter what, like there’s no going back at this point. We’re too far down. This is needed. People want it. Everything else is what will happen and I can’t control it and I can only learn as fast as I can and build as fast as I can and hope and pray and finger cross that people will believe in the Dia that enough to come along the journey with me and give me the the room to learn. You know, even I learned sketch because, you know, Genovese will have full time jobs, and she’s always available. So I learned sketch and I started to do the wireframes. And I was doing the budgeting, and, you know, it’s just the three of us. So I think I have to take the criticism is number one valid? Because if I just close my ears and say, it’s good people like it, it’s not going to improve, it’s not going to improve. Um, so this is, this is

Adam Pierno 35:44
the what you’re going through with the app itself is the metaphor for women trying to find mentors, like, would they know everybody knows this needs to happen? Yeah, there’s some sort of things in place, but they’re an imperfect way and perfect. Right there now all the way there and right, you’ve built this app, and you’re getting the feedback that says that people are saying, I’m trying to get a mentor. Yeah. And this piece of functionality is not optimal for me to do that. And you’re like, no, no kidding. Look at society. Like, it’s no, this industry is totally not for that. That’s the problem. Yeah, the app is like the perfect mirror for that. Isn’t that is have you had that thought? No,

Aisha Hakim 36:22
no, that is industry interesting. I just always thought that flash will be on fire.

Adam Pierno 36:27
I would that would probably see her in my memory as well. And I’ll be thinking about that for a while as well.

Aisha Hakim 36:34
I mean, I’m just trying to run into saying as fast as I can until I either fail or it works. Yeah.

Adam Pierno 36:46
Well, what a when it let’s talk about what it works looks like. Because you could argue that if if a handful of people make meaningful connections to mentors that help them that could be success. Yeah, you know, but that’s that’s me with my rose-colored glasses on being a little being a little glib and not having any skin in this game. What is what do you think of as success? Like, I know you have a master vision

Aisha Hakim 37:14
Success to me looks like a robust user base that the product is working for. So if someone has like a saying or review or an interview that they are preparing for, and it’s as simple as I’m a creative like I see this question all time I’m a creative Can I wear jeans but I don’t want to be too stuck up like you want to be to sell me Do you still want to be like, Cool? We want to be professionals like a question. If someone can go on and and identify someone who said yes, I can help in interview, interviewing, and then contact that person and get their, the answer they needed and then go in and get That interview and that happens on a mass scale. I mean, what’s bigger than that? Right? Because I think I think where we were also getting lost is every woman I’ve talked to, especially in senior leadership is I want to help I want to mentor I don’t have the time. Um, I think that on top of everything else senior leadership and women in leadership are dealing with the idea of mentorship feels really heavy like it feels like dating right? Like I even know that when I asked my my friend Ryan to be my mentor, I literally took him out to lunch and I was like, I’m so few years

Adam Pierno 38:46
here like hands are sweaty, like

Aisha Hakim 38:51
I hope you’re on the same page. Like this is a really well

Adam Pierno 38:55
you know, if you do want to be my mentor, Yes, no, maybe

Aisha Hakim 38:58
Yeah. And so I, it felt like there has to be something in between the dating version and not doing anything at all. And when you just think about text message or or functionality that can feel like text message that you can literally be on the train or in between meetings or you have a free hour and you can just pop off a few answers. Yeah. Then those little micro those cracks of life moments, those little micro interactions, I think when you multiply that times 500 or 1000 can start to feel significant shift.

Adam Pierno 39:35
So you’re scaling the opportunity for for women in this business to be able to have those interactions. Yeah, yeah. Especially crossing agency lines where it can be impossible to find someone who’s able to answer the question you’re dealing with.

Aisha Hakim 39:49
Right? And I think again, it’s not necessarily about saying, you know, men can’t and shouldn’t mentor women. They can, they should. It’s about those scenarios. Where the reality is like you just need someone to give you advice sometimes that it has had shared experiences and who has had relatable experiences and who understands your thought process because it’s different. Exactly.

Adam Pierno 40:15
And I would I would even replace you said the word need I would replace the word prefer. Yeah, I think you haven’t you should have a choice. And if you’re because there’s so I don’t want to say there’s so few women at the top, but the number of females at the top does increase. Yeah. It becomes harder and harder to if you have that preference, it becomes harder and harder to make that choice on your own. You kind of deal with whoever’s around.

Aisha Hakim 40:39
Yeah, I also think that there’s some misconception that mentoring needs to come from like a creative director and a to a junior, right. I think that’s the case a lot of my learning has happened with women who are one step ahead of me who just experienced how you asked for that next title bump or or you know how you Start to approach client meetings because it’s so fresh to them. So I actually think what we’re also getting lost is not only the the concern of the time investment, but it’s also that you don’t have to make these huge leaps and leadership to get the guidance you need, it’s actually probably more beneficial to learn peer to peer. And, like one of the things is known as a mentor or mentee on the platform, which we had a lot of debate around a lot of debate. And even some people wanted to be mentors or mentees. And maybe we’ll, in the future be able to have some clear identification. But I think the idea that everyone has something to teach and everyone has something to learn, will work much quicker for all of us, then these kind of more traditional notions of mentorship,

Adam Pierno 41:47
right and forcing people into a corner at the very first interaction. Are you here to be a mentor or a mentor? And it’s like, Well, today this tomorrow, maybe that?

Aisha Hakim 41:56
Yeah, yeah. Or maybe there’s something Just throwing it out there, someone in leadership can learn from a junior. I

Adam Pierno 42:05
know that that’s crazy talk

Aisha Hakim 42:10
about vegetables, investment in this, you know, they, I think sometimes when we have these major systemic issues across the industry as we all kind of look at leadership where good ideas we should know can come from anywhere. So you might be neglecting a whole group of people that who are experiencing some of these issues firsthand who might have a clear notion of what needs to change in order to actually progress to the next step. And so, again, I I appreciate their risk taking. Fantastic,

Adam Pierno 42:47
and this has been amazing. Thank you so much for making time. I really appreciate it. You’re doing two jobs right now while we’re talking. So yeah, thank you for making time to talk. Where see you for having me. Hey, where can be Find fellows. I know there’s the fellow app.com is the website. But is it on all its own every platform? Or is it iOS only?

Aisha Hakim 43:07
I was only great. We’re still growing.

Adam Pierno 43:10
It’s your biggest adopted platform for people in this industry. Exactly. Data

Aisha Hakim 43:15
shows I know. And so yes, you can find us on the App Store, fellow community, it is a paid service.

Adam Pierno 43:25
So don’t apologize for that. It’s a valuable service.

Aisha Hakim 43:29
But just know that we’re, we’re, we want to reinvest in it. And we want to make sure that this thing is productive and useful. So

Adam Pierno 43:36
I don’t think it should be expected that someone has a great idea that offers value and therefore it’s free.

Aisha Hakim 43:44
I know

Adam Pierno 43:46
it’s a valuable idea. So put a value on it. Okay, not me.

Aisha Hakim 43:49
Yeah, I don’t know. I

Adam Pierno 43:51
know it feels like oh, I don’t want to tell people It costs money.

Aisha Hakim 43:55
I am in negotiating like paying negotiations.

Adam Pierno 44:00
million percent identify. I’m the same way so I get it. I get it. So that wasn’t me talking down to you. That was me, like, picture me as your inner monologue instead. That’s what I would have said the same thing. Like, I’m sorry, but I have to charge you for

Aisha Hakim 44:12
it. So sorry. But yeah, I need to build push notification.

Adam Pierno 44:19
Thank you very much for joining. I really appreciate it.

Aisha Hakim 44:21
Yeah. Thank you so much. All right.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai