PHOTO: ANTHONY TAYLOR
[5 Minute Read]
Finder of all things cool, Mulu Habtemariam uses his cultural insights and life experiences to create new and authentic content for niche audiences at Wieden+Kennedy. With a background in communications and interests in UX, music management and videography, Mulu didn't have the hard skills needed to be an analyst. We sat with him to discuss how his entrepreneurial spirit and drive to consistently learn, allowed him to land his new-age gig as a Culture Analyst.
Who are you and where are you from?
My name is Mulu Habtemariam, I'm from Eritrea, was born in Sudan, raised in Portland (OR), and college educated in Philadelphia.
What has your experience been working in the media industry?
My experience working in media has been challenging and fun these past two years. With it being my first gig in the industry, I have a newfound appreciation for being able to leverage the things you're passionate about (music/film/TV/tech for me) into one's daily work. It's an experience that I feel privileged to have because often times it doesn't feel like work but instead is more like play. At least, that's how the culture is here at W+K Portland. It's also really fulfilling to see your ideas, insights, and learnings executed creatively and shared on a mass scale to impact culture. That's a real dope feeling!
Can you describe your current responsibilities as Culture Insights Analyst at Wieden + Kennedy?
My responsibilities change often since I'm in a new department and in a role that no one else has here. The department (Publishing) is essentially a start-up/media lab dedicated to constant experimentation with the future of media consumption and how it impacts brand-building. The work we do leans into the realm of editorial and my role is centered around audience development so the responsibilities involve staying deeply attuned to the rapidly evolving interests and behaviors of audiences within culture at large, but especially within digital, social, and multi-platform ecosystems. I'm expected to demonstrate deep knowledge and innovative application of: what's trending; why certain ideas and content travel; how people discover, participate, and interact with ideas, content, and each other; best purposes and practices for different platforms; which audiences are congregating where; and, emerging opportunities for brands to make an impact and connection. I'm somewhat of a “Cool Hunter.” It's lit!
What skills do you currently posses that made you a perfect candidate for your current role?
I can't say I had all the hard skills that made me the perfect candidate for this role. In fact, some of the technical aspects (like social listening, data analytics, SEO) I learned as I went along. I have a Bachelor’s degree from a journalism program in Communications and I had extensive qualitative research experience. However, according to the person that hired me, it was many of the intangibles I had that made me a great candidate. I would describe myself as being an autodidact and having an entrepreneurial spirit. This can be seen through passion projects of mine that involve learning web design and UX, managing music artists, producing videos and film projects, curating art events, and just being an active member of my community. In a lot of ways, that's exactly what we're doing in Publishing. We’re being scrappy and making content with or for existing communities online. Since the agency was expanding into new territories, they sought out folks that would embrace ambiguity, had the capacity to learn quickly, could wear multiple hats, and was actively "in the know" with cultural happenings. I was just out here finessing and building with those around me for the culture. That led to crossing paths with the right person of influence at the right time who took an interest in what I was up to. Ultimately, they felt like my skills were transferable to what they were trying to do in Publishing. They were right, and I'm grateful they peeped game and respected my hustle.
How do you make sure that the work you're creating is inclusive of minority voices and faces?
As a Black, cisgender, heterosexual man and first generation American, I'm aware of the privileges afforded by parts of my identity. In addition, my education has trained me to observe and critically examine the role or impact identity has in the creation of media. When it comes to making sure the work I do is inclusive of minority voices and faces, I continuously ask myself which identities are prioritized, who is being excluded, and what steps can be taken to ensure representation is more equitable. When I first joined Publishing @ W+K, our goal was to find an audience that was being underserved by the publishing industry. We brainstormed, did research, and landed on travel media since it traditionally focused on an affluent, mostly white audience. But we know not all travel experiences are the same. Traveling as a woman presents a unique set of concerns and challenges, and for women of color those are amplified. Based on those insights, we launched a travel network called On She Goes that was entirely led by and created for women of color. We're about seven months in learning as we go, and I'm incredibly grateful to do this work alongside and with guidance from brilliant women of flavor at W+K, while also creating a very much needed platform that elevates Black and Brown women writers in our contributor network. I look forward to seeing the community grow, and recommend folks check it out at onshegoes.com and holler if you have feedback or want to get involved.
Is there anything else you'd like our community to know about you and your work?
I truly believe my life's purpose is to serve and be a resource. If there's anything I can do for anyone in the MiM community, reach out and let's connect. Dap, dap, salute!
Connect directly with Mulu: Website | Instagram | Twitter.
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