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Fatima Zaidi is the CEO and co-founder of Quill Inc. the world’s first one-stop marketplace and agency where podcasters and brands can find pre-vetted experts who will save them time, improve their podcast quality, and help grow their audience. She is also the owner of the Listen In Conference held in LA that supports brands moving into podcasting. As a member of the National Speakers Bureau, Fatima has spoken at various events around the world on media and tech trends leading her to keynote on world stages alongside speakers like Gary Vaynerchuk, and most recently Richard Branson. In addition to being a commentator for BNN Bloomberg, she is a frequent contributor to publications including The Globe and Mail, and Huffington Post. Over the past few years she has won two Top 30 under 30 awards, the Young Professional of the Year by Notable Life, and one of Flare Magazine’s Top 100 Women. Fatima is the Co-Chair of the #Tech4SickKids advisory council for SickKids, and her career highlight is being on a panel with Beyonce’s dad!

What would you like to see more of in the workplace?

I think a lot of people have imposter syndrome — they don’t feel they deserve to be starting a company, running a business, growing a startup, or in a senior position at a company. And oftentimes it’s especially the women around me who are afraid of coming across as too opinionated, aggressive and promotional. While I totally agree the system itself is flawed, we can counteract a lot of that by advocating for ourselves. Many women put an incredible amount of effort into branding for their clients, while forgetting to also take control of their own personal branding and career. At the end of the day we are CEO’s of our own brand.  I want people to know that everyone has self-doubt, and everyone questions their abilities. I always try to remind myself that no one else has any more or any less right to be doing what I am. The only difference is that I went for it. So focus on your personal brand, take credit for your ideas, and most importantly advocate for yourself and what you deserve. 

What characteristics and/or qualities do you admire in the women you work with?

Whenever I’m looking to hire anyone for my company, I seek out individuals who have true grit, resilience and hustle. Those skills matter much more to me than the fancy resume with bells and whistles.  

What advice did you wish you were given earlier in your career?

As a writer and tech commentator I’m used to a lot of people having opinions and not always good ones. It’s not always a bad thing to get negative feedback and criticism even though I think as a society especially in Canada we are told it’s a bad thing.  However, I try to often remind myself what a venture capitalist once said in a presentation: you can’t iterate around indifference. It’s better that someone hates your work than they don’t react at all. If you don’t get at least one negative reaction to what you’re doing, you’re probably not pushing the creative boundaries. I wish I had known this earlier. 

How do you think COVID will change the future of work for women?

I’ve found that female founders in my network are pivoting, adapting and re-purposing their businesses in the immediate short term. Now the pre-existing barriers to business which female founders face are further compounded by the pandemic which is a lack of access to finance, lack of networks and mentors, and competing gendered priorities. With the funding landscape cut in half it will be even more challenging for female founders to access early stage capital and many are looking at creative ways to fund their companies that don’t involve outside capital. I think this will extend well past COVID-19. 

How do you think we can increase diversity in the workplace?

Oftentimes the root of these structural barriers that many female founders face are of social in nature, so it is important to continue elevating the profiles of successful female founders to inspire the emerging next generation of female founders and founders of colour. 

What is one example of a positive, memorable experience you’ve had in your career?

Being on a panel with Beyonce’s dad of course! It doesn’t get much better than that. 

What was one belief you had that you later realized was a myth?

Unfortunately thanks to tech icons who constantly promote the hustle 24/7 mentality that leads to burnout people think they can’t achieve balance or shouldn’t be striving for it. I have realized overtime that the hustle 24/7 mentality doesn’t allow you to put your best foot forward and having work life balance has allowed me to be a better CEO. 

Why are you fabulous?

I eat skittles in even numbers, own 25 pairs of onesies, and have a cat called Charlie who likes to listen to podcasts! 

Do you have a mantra or quote that inspires you? If so, please share it below.

“Those who don’t believe in magic, will never find it.” – Roald Dahl 

Where can people find you online?