Welcome to EW‘s weekly series ‘How I got my job as…’ where we speak to some incredible entrepreneurs and businesswomen both based in the UAE and globally to find out about their career paths led them to where they are now; what their daily routines look like; the advice they’d give to those starting out; and the hurdles they’ve had to overcome.

This week we chat with the Managing Director of JES Media, Claire Ferris-Lay, on how she has forged a successful career in media and public relations.

Having been in Dubai for 14 years, she’s seen the industry continue to grow. Originally working as a journalist in the region, Ferris-Lay opted to go to the other side of the fence entering the world of PR. EW sat down with her to discuss her career, the media industry and what it was like moving to a new agency in the middle of a pandemic.

What was your favourite subject at school?

I always loved English literature and English language at school. I knew when I was at school, I wanted to write and tell stories. My school yearbook actually said I wanted to become the editor of Vogue – I think I had just watched a documentary on Anna Wintour and was fascinated about how the media industry worked.

What was your first job?

I got a job as soon as I able to – working in retail at the weekends and also for my family’s confectionary business. My summer holidays were spent working on the packing line in a factory. Standing on my feet all day and doing the same thing every few minutes really taught me the importance of finding a job that would fulfil me. My first job after university was working for the local newspaper. It was a small, 20-page weekly newspaper and for three days a week, I worked on reception and two days as a journalist. My editor was a real old school “hack” who was really tough on me but I learned so much. I really felt I had accomplished something when he left me in charge of editorial while he went on holiday for the first time.

Claire JES Media (1)

What inspired you to go into the media/PR industry?

My mum says I was obsessed with carrying newspapers and fashion magazines as a child so I guess it stemmed from an early age. I decided to study journalism at London College of Printing as I wanted to study something a bit different. The course was a mix of theory (history, ideas and politics) and practical such as court reporting and editing the weekly newspaper, which really suited me.

What eventually brought you to Dubai?

I wanted sunshine and an adventure. Looking back, I was quite naive as I arrived with no job, very little money and knew even little about what I was doing. Fourteen years ago, it was pretty easy to walk into a job. The real estate sector was booming and journalism jobs were aplenty so I landed my first job within a few weeks.

JES launched last year. What was it like setting up and moving to a new agency during the pandemic?

I have been really fortunate to have worked with some amazing mentors and as such, my career has been quite organic, particularly after I made the decision to leave journalism and go into PR. Each mentor gave me a new opportunity, which I seized. After several years with FIVE Holdings, helping to set up their in-house marketing agency, I was offered the Managing Director at JES Media, a brand new agency. I believe in trusting your instinct and while I knew setting up an agency would be challenging, I also knew it was the right thing for my career and personal development.

What are the key elements of your role?

My work day is really varied as we have a mix of corporate and consumer clients across a range of disciplines from PR to media buying and social media. Networking and maintaining relationships remain really critical to my role, whether that’s managing our internal teams and regularly meeting our existing clients, to meeting with potential new clients.

I also recently invested in a new Dubai-based swimwear brand called Filly and I am in the process of establishing a DJ school called DJ Like A Pro, which builds on my love of music. They are very much in their infancy but in both cases, I am fortunate to have great partners who manage the day to day operations while I chip in regularly with my ideas.

Talk us through your daily routine.

My life is busy and I find when I have the basics such as sleep, good food and exercise in place, I’m generally a happier, more balanced person! Most days, I start the day with a 10-minute daily meditation on the Calm app, which I usually combine with an LED Light Mask. Exercise is also really critical to me feeling good so I work out with a trainer a few times a week and also attend a morning class with my girlfriends. I then get ready for work listening to the BBC World Service podcast and then it’s whatever the day throws at me!

What advice do you have for anyone looking to follow in the same footsteps?

It might sound simple but learn to trust your gut. I have ignored my inner voice on so many occasions over the years and I think it’s fair to say if something feels wrong, it probably isn’t right for you.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received?

Get comfortable with the uncomfortable. There will always be aspects of life that you really don’t like doing but if you learn to face them head-on, they don’t seem quite so daunting.

And what is the worst?

I believe in owning up to your mistakes and learning from them in the hope you don’t repeat them so even the worst advice counts for something.

What has been the biggest challenge you had to overcome?

I’ve had lots over the years but if we don’t face challenges, you don’t grow.

What are your goals for 2021?

I set my intentions at the beginning of every year loosely based on the wheel of life. I was given a copy of it years ago and it essentially breaks down the key elements of your life. My annual goals are always based on; romance and intimacy, family and friends, money, health, physical environment, fun and recreation, career and life purpose, and spiritual alignment. I think it’s important to appreciate that having time for yourself as well as family and friends is just as important as money in the bank and fulfilment at work. For me, 2021 is very much about business growth as well as maintaining consistency in my personal wellbeing.

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Images: Supplied