Creative Lives — Junior researcher at Greenspace, Shohada Akthar: “My job is to know things”
Shohada Akthar first stepped into Greenspace as a social media intern with the help of Goldsmiths University’s career services, shortly after graduation. Once she had completed her six-month contract, the team asked her to stay on as a communications executive, but her eager interest in research insights ultimately guided Shohada to become a junior researcher: “If you have a genuine passion and interest in something, it shows,” she tells us. Shohada talks us through the process of defining her weaknesses and strengths, and working within the flexibility of a supportive agency to realise her passions.
Junior Researcher, Greenspace (2018–present)
Communications Executive, Greenspace (2017–2018)
Social Media Intern, Greenspace (2016–2017)
BA Media and Sociology, Goldsmiths, University of London (2012–2016)
Shohada at work
How would you describe your job?
In short, my job is to know things. I research and gather insights into different industries and sectors that Greenspace are involved in, so we can produce work that is well thought out and relevant now, but also maintains a lasting value.
The insights I gather feed into the overall strategy for any piece of work, which then contributes to the design process and final execution. Currently, I work closely with our strategists, the accounts and communications teams and our creatives. In essence, creative strategy is the starting point for all work and projects we produce.
What does a typical working day look like?
I start my day checking news and social media to see what’s happening in the world. There’s always something interesting to share with the team. The way I split my time between projects depends on current activities and studio needs. This varies from conducting industry audits to studies related to our own Greenspace strategy.
What do you like about working in London?
I love how diverse London is. It’s a melting pot of so many different types of people. There’s always something to do or be inspired by, you feel like you’re always growing. The competitiveness of the city definitely keeps you motivated.
“The best projects are the ones where you feel like you’re contributing to something with a broader, positive impact.”
How did you land your current job?
I started at Greenspace as a social media intern, which I landed through Goldsmiths University’s careers service a few weeks after graduating. After interning for six months I was employed as a communications executive. During my time working in the communications team, I was able to work out my strengths and weaknesses in different roles. I also found out what I really enjoyed and wanted to focus on in the future.
The role I’m currently in came about after a series of conversations with my line manager and our managing director. Conducting research and insights is something I really enjoy, and is a strength of mine. Moving towards a research role to support the strategy and communications team felt natural, since I already produced insights in my day-to-day work.
How collaborative is your role?
My role provides input to the full team and we work closely together to define the scope and needs for each project. I work with different teams and there’s always a lot of discussion between us to ensure we have the essential insights required. The insights produced feed into both the work we produce for clients as well as Greenspace’s own activities and communications.
What are the most enjoyable aspects of your job?
I always get excited when we have a new client or when we’re pitching for a new project, because I get to immerse myself in different industries and sectors. The best projects are the ones where you feel like you’re contributing to something with a broader, positive impact.
Work for Kenyan motorcycle company Kibo
Work for Kenyan motorcycle company Kibo
What has been the most exciting project of the last twelve months?
Definitely our work for [Kenyan motorbike company] Kibo, it was the first project I got to work on from the beginning. Amelie, who was a design intern at the time, and I spent hours doing desk research on Kenya, the culture and the mobility industry. The ethos of the brand really resonated with everyone at Greenspace, we were all excited to work on the project from strategy through to the design and communication.
The Old War Office was another project everyone in the studio was excited to work on. I worked on insights gathering during the project process and helped formulate the strategy early on, alongside the strategy team. This project is still in progress and I’m excited to see how it turns out.
What skills are essential to your job?
You need to be able to draw analysis and spot trends from large amounts of information. It helps to have a natural curiosity about things. Sometimes you feel like you need to know everything – you don’t. But you do need to be able to answer people’s questions with research to back it up.
What tools do you use most for your work?
PowerPoint, Word, Trello and Slack. Trello boards are really helpful for organising and grouping things together and Slack’s good when you’re working in a team.
The Old War Office in London, for which Greenspace recently won a pitch to create a destination brand
How I Got Here
What did you want to be growing up?
I’ve always been interested and intrigued by the media industry. Growing up I wanted to act, which developed into an interest for life behind the camera and the advertising industry. I studied media and sociology at uni, which definitely shaped my approach and the way I think and process information in terms of how each component affects the bigger picture.
What were your first jobs?
Customer-service based roles. My first-ever job was working as a runner in the 2012 London Olympics – I loved it. Greenspace is my first proper job. I was nervous that my lack of work experience in the design industry would hold me back when I applied for Greenspace, but we all have to start somewhere. If you have a genuine passion and interest in something, it shows.
“Sometimes you feel like you need to know everything – you don’t. You need to be able to draw analysis and spot trends.”
Shohada at work
Was there anything in particular that helped your development at the start of your career?
Through a BAME mentoring scheme I participated in at University, I met inspiring individuals across different industries that were excelling in their professions. Their motivation and determination to succeed really stuck with me. Through this scheme, I met my mentor Jordan, who coached my transition from student to working life. In difficult times, his perspective helped me see the bigger picture and realise the progress I made from graduate to young professional and see my personal and professional growth. Because of Greenspace’s flexibility, I was able to explore and experience different roles within the agency, which is a privilege. This definitely helped me to figure out what direction I wanted my career to progress in much sooner.
What’s been your biggest challenge?
As this was my first proper job, I definitely needed a mentor within the creative industries to show me the ropes. I found it difficult, learning the different processes and understanding the scope of the industry. Almost two years on, I still feel like I’m constantly learning new things, but as I’ve adjusted to the environment, it feels more natural.
Words of Wisdom
What advice would you give to a young creative wanting to do the same kind of work?
Know your strengths. You need to be able to interpret data and draw conclusions, so having an analytical mind is key. Also, be open-minded. When I first started working I thought I wanted to go into a PR role but working close to that role for a year, I realised it wasn’t what I wanted to be doing.
In March 2018, Greenspace became a Lecture in Progress agency patron. Their support helps us keep what we do possible.