A day in the life of UNICEF UK's Head of Digital Engagement
Published: 22 May 2013 By Chris Lake
Laila Takeh is Head of Digital Engagement at UNICEF UK, the children’s charity. She kindly agreed to tell us a little bit about her role.
Please describe your job! What does a Head of Digital Engagement do?
My role has three main areas; leading the organisation's transformation to be digital first, leading day to day digital strategy and managing the digital team. The team works across disciplines - marketing, social, content and technology - so I can be involved in a wide variety of things across the entire organisation.
Whereabouts do you sit within the organisation? Who do you report to?
We work in a hub and spoke model, maintaining a depth of digital expertise in the digital hub, but leading and consulting with the whole organisation so they can deliver digital as an integrated part of their work. So we're cross-organisational. In practical terms I report to the Deputy Director of Fundraising.
What kind of skills do you need to be effective in your role?
I've always likened the skills set you need to that which a product designer would traditionally have. A broad understanding of technicalities, a focus on the product experience, and a good understanding of what will work in the market - then the ability to design and build to an extent.
In a cross-organisational team you also need great communication skills to be able to talk to people at all levels of the organisation who have lots of different types of digital literacy and expectations.
A passion for digital is also helpful! In an area that is changing rapidly, it means keeping up with things isn't a labour… it's a love.
Tell us about a typical working day…
Following an initial check of emails we start each day with a 10-minute digital team stand up meeting. We share each of our priorities for the day are and flag things in the pipeline or help needed.
From then on, a day can be very different dependent on what we're working on and if there's an emergency. Right now Syria is a real priority as the situation is the highest level of emergency. So at least once a week I'm part of a cross-organisational senior team who review the situation, how our activity is doing and we agree next steps to take back to teams.
I can then typically have one or more project meetings with team members and suppliers. Recently we've been working on mobile compatibility across the site so there have been a few meetings with Chameleon, Netcel, Clearleft and others at different stages.
When I'm not in meetings I am usually sat at my desk in the centre of the team, asking the team and others questions, responding to requests for guidance or coming up with strategies for our digital first transformation.
In amongst all this I also check regularly on twitter (I'm @spirals) for the latest digital news and trends too!
What do you love about your job? What sucks?
On a personal level I genuinely love being even just a small part of the amazing impact UNICEF has for children all over the world. Even a 'bad day' isn't that bad when you put it into that context. However, it is hard knowing we're still far from every single child having what they need to survive and reach their full potential.
On a purely professional level I love the challenges and variety my role throws at me. Sometimes when you first meet someone they can say 'how nice' it is that you work for charity: that sucks as it feels like they don't really understand that people who work in charity are still professionals, probably with less resources and more complexity!
What kind of goals do you have? What are the most useful metrics and KPIs for measuring success?
The ultimate goal is change for children, more children living and reaching their full potential. On a day-to-day level in UNICEF UK's work we measure this in fundraising and advocacy terms. How many people are we engaging in taking actions that deliver funds or influence.
Specifically for my role - its about helping the organisation to deliver those strategic goals in an increasingly digital way based on the expectation and knowledge that this will make us more effective and able to reach more people in the longer term.
What are your favourite tools to help you to get the job done?
In the broadest sense - the best tool is communication and good relationships. So anything that oils those things. For me that means digital collaboration tools like Basecamp, Google Docs and wikis, plus internal social platforms like Yammer.
How did you get started in the digital industry, and where might you go from here?
I think it probably goes back a long time ago. My Dad got me programming lessons at the age of 10!
Fast forwarding, having studied Computer Science and Visual Arts at degree level I did a year's Vice Presidency of the Student's Union and afterwards was offered a web project there.
They tried to persuade me to stay but I had my eyes set on London and the charity sector so applied for a role at the MS Society, the rest is history.
From here, I have a few different thoughts about where I could go next but they're not fully formed and are very fluid. A lot like the digital industry!
Which brands do you think are doing digital well?
It's hard not to say what everyone says, but that's probably for a good reason.
Red Bull has turned itself into a media house that happens to be selling fizzy drinks.
Apple, Amazon and Guardian are all showing an agility of digital business model/s, which fascinates me.
In the not-for-profit space, besides from UNICEF of course, I really like what charity:water does. It's simple - direct - human.
Do you have any advice for people who want to work in the digital industry?
Make sure your digital footprint is updated and appropriate.
Skill up in tech not just creative.
Consider volunteering for a charity if you need experience.
Become a life-long self-motivated learner.
Be adaptable ... we need T-shaped people.
If you would like a Day In The Life profile then by all means throw your hat into the ring by emailing email@example.com, and be sure to put your job title in the subject line. PS - I have had plenty of requests from agency folk, so I especially want to hear from brands / client-side people!