From War Studies to VP — How Marina Mansour Did It

"I wasn't afraid of hard work," from our new Working Girls Video Series, learn how this VP made it

By The Stack World

21 May 2023

arina Mansour is the Vice President of Beauty and Wellness at Kyra, the tech platform and creative agency designed to serve the creator economy. Having joined the company back in 2017, in just five years, Mansour has nurtured and led the development of the Beauty & Wellness category which has now grown into Kyra's biggest vertical.

Marina has spent her career at the intersection between talent, content and brands, and was a leader in influencer marketing when the creator economy, now a multi-billion industry, was still a burgeoning opportunity.

"Every day clients will come to me for advice with something that they want to do, largely in TikTok, sometimes Instagram and Youtube. They look for the best people to work with and we help them through that."

To date she has worked with a roster of industry heavyweights including L'Oreal, Estee Lauder, Charlotte Tilbury and Function Beauty. In this exclusive video, part of our Working Girls Series, she breaks down how she got to the top, where she had her first start, why you shouldn't be afraid of hard work and why you should always ask for more money… here we give you the insights. Find out how to watch the full video below.

Where it began:

I did my undergraduate degree in war studies at King's College, which is strategic military history.

I think what it did, (the degree) is make me think it is always about strategy first - the details are so important. The first thing I ask is what's the why? How can we best do this? How can we build a structure that we can replicate and scale? So, I think strategy first just means you come at it looking for your blueprint first and foremost.

You can switch industries:

My first job was at Urban Outfitters when I was 16. Then, as my first proper job I worked for a Labour MP because at that point I wanted to be a political correspondent. Then I realised what I really loved is beauty and fashion.

My first role in the space I am in now, which is essentially between talent, advertisers, social media and content, was in the London Adidas offices in the influencer and marketing department.

Be a good intern:

I wasn't afraid of hard work, I wasn't intimidated when someone would say you have got to come in early, or you have to stay late. I was really humble about grunt work. At Juicy Couture, they'd have me getting lunches, dry cleaning, literally shredding paper for hours at a time.

When a box of samples would come in I'd ask can I unpack that. Or Do you need some lunch? Should I go get coffee in meetings? Every time I was finding something to make myself useful. My mom's Russian, so Russian is my first language. I was taking the Russian orders from Eastern European buyers for the office. By the time I left, there was no Russian speaker in the office.

I think one of the things I don't see as often now is an understanding that the grunt work best gives you the trust to do the bigger work. Something I look for and like to see is the trust that once you prove this small thing, this thing you might think is super long or not what you want to do, it will build into the thing that you really want to do.

Using your skill set:

I knew this space was for me when I could exercise my skills as an individual. I love people, I find them really interesting; speaking to them and building relationships was always something that came quite naturally to me.

Then also being plugged in from a strategic level, the immediate value I can bring as an individual that then feeds up into business objectives was something that I found I really responded to.

Dealing with being underestimated:

I think I had a weird balance between the two. I had people that were my real champions and really backed me and recognised my potential. But, for every person that did that, there was another that absolutely didn't see me at all.

Growing up as a young woman of colour, I think that is common. You go through life hopefully hearing your champions louder than your doubters.

When someone underestimates you, and if you are someone who commonly has been doubted in the past, there's that feeling that wells up of am I good enough? Am I smart enough? Am I the right person for the job? Your imposter syndrome just jumps right out.

I think in those moments, it's always important to take a breath and remind yourself that you got to where you are with your own work, with your own focus. That's the thing that is going to keep using you forward.

How to recognise your own value:

The first time I realised I had value, I was working at Sony Music and a brand partnership with it, and that was coming to an end. Basically my boss was like 'the agency is being dissolved you're not going to have a job — that's it. Then I was speaking to the manager I had at Adidas, and she was like 'I'm a big believer of just going straight to the top. Go to the Chairman and just ask him for a job;. I was like I can't do that. Anyway — I did just that.

I went in, asked him for a job and left. Then there was a job that came up in one of the labels, and he came to me and he was like 'I am putting you forward for this job, go and meet the label heads'. At the same time, I got another opportunity at Universal, and I ended up between these two opportunities.

I think at that point, having worked really hard, like firstly as an intern unpaid, then as an assistant and then a manager role — this was the first time I saw I had value in the job market as an executive, not as a young person at entry level.

That was the first time I was like okay, maybe I could be a little bit of a key player.

Always ask for money:

Of the most valuable lessons I've learned so far, you always need to ask for money, always. Whether it is a job offer, whether it is a day rate, whatever it is, you need to push for more money and back yourself to push. I wish I had learned that earlier.

Social media culture at the moment talks so much about gatekeeping what you have, what you're wearing, what's on your lips, on your face, what have you. But where we really need to address gatekeeping is in opportunity and in salary, because the only reason businesses are able to underpay people is because people don't have the visibility and understanding of what they should be making.

Feeling fulfilled at work:

I feel most fulfilled when I can see evidence that change is happening. Visibility and inclusivity and changing what the world looks like it's so tangible in beauty because it is on your face. When we do a campaign and the collective of creators we are working with increases, they're diverse and they are exacting,and they are reflective of the world we live in.

Industry changes:

If I could make one big change, it would be: the internal teams looked like the external marketing campaigns — that's it.

The big dream:

My dream job would be to travel the world and be in different rooms where I can affect positive change, whether that's in the beauty and in marketing campaigns, on social media campaigns, or whether it's getting business to think differently about how they are doing things.

The most inspiring thing is yourself:

My own potential inspires me. I was raised by a single mom who is incredible and she's my inspiration. But I think I was quite unique in always being told that I could do the thing, she would say to me about anything I wanted to do: 'you are intelligent and you are capable, if you apply yourself you can achieve anything'. I think I really grew up believing that.

The Short Stack

"I wasn't afraid of hard work," from our new Working Girls Video Series, learn how this VP made it

By The Stack World

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