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EU Alumnus Abubakr Alkaf, Creative Director at D Concept Agency

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Bakry studied an MBA in International Business at EU Business School’s Barcelona campus. Originally from Yemen, Abubakr now lives in Saudi Arabia. He has also lived in Spain, the U.S.A. and Holland. Outside of work he enjoys practicing sports as part of his daily routine. When in need of a creative outlet, Abubakr enjoys painting and being in nature.

We spoke to Abubakr about his career journey, his role at D Concept Design Agency, and asked his advice for students and graduates hoping to follow a similar path.

Why did you decide to do an MBA at EU Business School?

I started working in the fashion industry in 2005 as a style advisor for TV programs and editorials. Then, at the age of 23, I moved into marketing. It was an intense learning experience during which I developed a background in the industry and a strong interest in the business aspect. So, I decided to do an Executive MBA with a major in international business at EU.

What did you do after graduating?

After graduation, I worked in Saudi Arabia as a marketing manager with Lomar Group for eight years. Four years later I founded Pattern Agency, which worked at the crossroads of fashion, accessories, retail and technology, and my main role was as the creative director.  Now I am a creative director at D Concept, one of the leading event production and entertainment companies in Saudi Arabia. It is another industry, yet it is connected.

How has your MBA in International Business helped in your career?

My MBA program helped me to see the holistic picture of a business in a different way. Through the MBA classes, we covered all main areas of business from sales, marketing, management, business development and strategic planning, to HR and corporate behavior. Knowing how all of these functional areas interact gave me a better understanding and more confidence to solve complex problems.

Was it difficult to leave the company you had founded to work at another agency? What made you decide to make the move?

It was difficult to close the agency, but it was necessary. Unfortunately, the market wasn’t ready for the intuitive creative experiences and collaborations we were presenting at that time. 

What work do you do as a creative director?

Abubakr Bakry

I came to this role from a fashion design and a business background, which allows me to see any project from both the creative and business sides. In my role as creative director I provide direction, ideation, strategy, support and guidance to the design department. Whether it’s storyboarding, a sketch or designing a product, I work with my team to ensure that what we deliver to our clients is of the highest standard. I also assist other departments such as the production team by overseeing the production process and how our designs are implemented. As well as my management role, I still like to spend time designing and experimenting.

We also run an internship program at Dconcept which allows students to take their first steps into the world of design. I’m responsible for mentoring design candidates and ensuring that they’re armed with as much industry experience as we can possibly give.

What does a typical day in the studio look like for you?

My day normally starts before I’m in the office. Once I’m up and ready, I make breakfast and I’m straight into the gym for a workout. Then I check for any new emails, catch up on some reading and look at some digital galleries for inspiration – then I’m ready for the day. It’s essential for me to be up to date with all the latest trends and technologies so that we can produce the best, most forward-thinking work for our clients.

Once I’ve made my way into work my day can vary significantly, but I always start by catching up with the rest of the teams in our ‘daily sprint’ meeting. This is when we discuss the status of all our live projects, upcoming meetings, impending deadlines and go over the plan for the day. Once the designers are briefed I get on with my own design projects.

There’s usually at least one client meeting every day, and as creative director I tend to be involved in a wide range of meetings and phone calls. This evolves into managing multiple projects for my team and delegating tasks to the relevant team members.

What values and skills do you need to be a creative director?

Patience, passion, humility and drive. Without these, I don’t think I’d be where I am today! These virtues keep the design team and myself grounded as we strive to push project boundaries further. Good communication is vital too. The design process can involve a large team of people, both internal and external; communication plays a huge part in directing and motivating the team and is essential in conveying the ‘grand vision’ to all stakeholders. It also helps to build great and long-lasting client relationships. 

And, a creative director needs to be organised! Project and time management are essential to keep projects on track and on budget.

What do you like most about your job?

They say that variety is the spice of life and my job has it in abundance! We work with a wide range of clients, across different sectors and on projects of different sizes and I like the way that no two days are the same. 

For me job satisfaction comes from hearing great feedback from clients, users and our peers. One of the best parts of the job is pushing a client out of their comfort zone and achieving a sector-leading outcome they’ve been a part of and are happy with. That’s worth coming to work for every day. 

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