EP 10. Oliver Smith, Head of Digital and Content Marketing, ICIS.

In this Key Moments Episode, Oliver Smith, Head of Digital and Content Marketing at ICIS, shares his journey from film studies to digital marketing, emphasizing the fusion of creativity and technicality. He discusses key moments in his career, including pivotal decisions, learning from failures, and the impact of influential books. The conversation delves into the power of storytelling and the emotional impact of video marketing.

Oliver Smith, Head of Digital and Content Marketing at ICIS, shares his journey from film studies to digital marketing. He discusses key moments in his career and shares insights on the art of storytelling, the impact of advertising, and the influence of mentors in his career and personal life. 

Check out the episode below.


Listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

Oliver Smith shares his transition from film studies to digital marketing, highlighting the blend of creativity and technical skills. He reflects on key career moments, including pivotal decisions, learning from failures, and the influence of impactful books. The discussion delves into storytelling's power in video content, effective advertising, and the role of mentors. Ollie also touches on the lessons learned from Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, which have shaped his approach to challenges and personal growth.

Emphasizing the importance of being present and content in life, he offers insights on the art of storytelling and the profound influence of mentors on his professional and personal journey. His story is a testament to the dynamic interplay between creativity, strategy, and continuous learning in digital marketing.


  • The fusion of creativity and technicality is essential in digital marketing and content creation.
  • Pivotal decisions and learning from failures shape career growth and personal development.
  • Influential books can provide valuable insights and lessons for personal and professional growth.
  • Video marketing has the power to evoke emotions and make a lasting impact on the audience. The power of storytelling in video content to evoke emotions and capture attention
  • The impact of effective advertising in a saturated content environment
  • The influence of mentors in shaping career and personal growth
  • Lessons learned from Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and the importance of being present
  • The decision to prioritize contentment and presence in life


00:00 The Fusion of Creativity and Technicality in Digital Marketing
08:18 Pivotal Decisions and Learning from Failures
24:22 The Emotional Impact of Video Marketing
24:51 The Art of Storytelling in Video Content
31:29 The Impact of Effective Advertising
33:52 The Influence of Mentors
40:10 Prioritizing Contentment and Presence



Credit to the individuals involved.

They sat me down and they were very good about it and they said look, and we know that out of everyone in this situation, you are probably feeling dreadful.

And I say yes, I really am.

I'm really sorry, you know, I hold my hands up, It was a mistake.

But the way they handled it was a real lesson for me in terms of if a member of your team does make a mistake or failure in inverted commas, what is the appropriate course to deal with it?


Hey everyone, welcome to another episode of Key Moments.

On today's show, we have a special guest who is a highly experienced Head of Digital and Content Marketing with a proven track record of creating and implementing successful strategies in both B to B&B to C environments.

He's been instrumental in driving significant contributions to the commercial success of businesses and has led and managed global teams with great expertise.


Currently, he serves as the Head of Digital and Content Marketing at ICIS.

A global source of independent commodity intelligence services, their comprehensive market insights enable smarter business decisions that optimize the world's resources.

Beyond his professional achievements, he is also a passionate Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and has a keen interest in fitness.


He's a cocreator of a weekly podcast and serves as a content and brand consultant for a global online magazine, Ollie Smith.

Welcome to Key Moments.

Thanks so much for helping me.

So you actually got your start as a video producer and you actually studied film in college.

How did you go from, like, was that was that like your initial passion and life kind of took you in a different direction or what happened there?


Yeah, that's that's exactly what happened.

And film and video was probably my first true love, and that's definitely where I wanted to shape my career.

So I did go to Exeter University in the UK and studied film studies and and then after university was really fortunate to get a job at a production agency called Juice and where I started off as a production assistant and by the time I left was the full time video producer there and they were based out in the countryside and and whilst they had some great clients you know there was a really lovely working environment.


I kind of always felt this pool to go to London, to the big city and find out if the streets were really paved with gold.

Surprised they weren't.

It's just a lot of chewing gum.

But I kind of knew I wanted to take on that challenge so and I made the move, made the jump and one of the key learnings when I got there and was I kind of realized I didn't just want to do one specific type of content.


Whilst I loved video, I could definitely realize that from a commercial point of view and I'm also kind of from my own career point of view.

There was a whole lot of other content that was out there.

So I made some really kind of key decisions to transition into all and content production as much as I possibly could and I identified the fact that I needed to understand not just the production element but also the strategy and the marketing behind it.


So it was really fortunate enough to take a couple of roles both in house agency and to really understand how that all pieces together, the role that content marketing plays and in a marketing organization and which has ultimately led me to the right, I mean now as head of Digital and content Marketing and which is a beautiful fusion of those kind of two worlds together.


And the channels, the execution, the tracking, the monitoring, the performance, all combined with the content and understanding of the role it plays your audience, your customer, when that comes together, if done correctly, can really make a significant and commercial contribution to a marketing organization.


Yeah, yeah.

I mean, do you ever wonder?

Whether like the you're sort of leaving the the creative world and getting into more sort of technical world or do you find that today as far as like the marketing and content landscape is concerned, obviously like both of them go together.


But I just wonder if out there, there are kind of like that the creative types in the more technical types or if you're seeing that there's a lot more sort of like hybrid, yeah, hybrid capabilities being formed.

It's a really, really good question.

A poignant question for me in particular actually because the more my career is progressed and evolved the the the more people I've been fortunate to lead the bigger the team the more the regions and you kind of start to feel that pull away from the more handson creative execution.


And I love the creative element of of marketing.

It's why I got into it.

Whenever we you know get a brand project or something that allows me to have that creative flex I'd I'd I'd really enjoy it but I don't ever think you can you can separate the technical and the creative.


I will often say to my team 50% of it is it just needs to look good.

If it doesn't look good then it shouldn't even be coming up in discussion.

We should be striving for a bar whereby this is at the absolute height of what we think we can do within all the realistic you know and restrictions that may be time, budget or the rest of it.


But when you're looking at a piece of content especially in today's kind of channels and and the way that audiences consume that content it needs to look good And now the technical element is where a whole different door and of possibilities and and you know other creative solutions come to mind and but for me I if I had to if I personally had to choose I think I would still always have one foot more in the creative world than the technical but I just think that's a part of of who I am and and where I kind of started off.


Yeah, I'll tell you something all you like, absolutely love what you just said there a couple of seconds ago with that like.

Even in a technical in a in a more sort of like technical marketing role or or when you're putting your technical hat on as a marketer, it does lend itself to creativity.

Like there's a lot of different ways for you to creatively figure out the challenges that that that you need to resolve, whether it's like things are across like conversion rate optimization or anything else that just helps you like optimize the funnel and optimize whatever content you're creating for whatever use case and format and so on.


You and I can especially you can go on and on and on.

But we are here to talk about your personal growth journey, as it were.

And so one of the things that I want you to help me out with this to just help set the stage.

So for anyone who's listening or watching this, help us understand like what was maybe like some of the key moments like in your kind of like childhood going into your early career, which we now started, are starting to know a little bit more about.


And then obviously, how that has all led to where you are today.

Yeah, I mean, for me, I always had this voice in the back of my head that said that I wanted to go into film.

And the more my career's developed, I realized actually it's more about storytelling and.


But for me, it was always film and video.

And I actually applied to Salford University.

I got in I was doing a I think it was a music tech and a hybrid degree between two different classes and I dropped out of university within the first week.


I just, I knew it wasn't for me and and that was a really massive decision and and it actually has kind of cemented a couple of things in my life.

And I think about the decisions I'm going to make is that if it does not feel right, regardless of how scary it is like you you how do you owe it really to yourself to make that decision.


And although it was a massive decision you know, is this big celebration going off university, starting a new life, this big opportunity And then within one week I was back home thinking well what am I actually going to do here?

What it did allow me to do is is is really listen to the drive that I wanted.

And I'm within the following week I'd reapplied to universities.


I'd gone into exter.

I was doing a film studies degree and all of a sudden it felt like I was making better decisions to where I wanted to end up.

And now the film studies degree I love.

But I'm not naive enough to think, and I do often think, would that time have been better spent in industry as opposed to with a university degree.


And it's bit of a thankless task to be honest, because I ended up where I am.

I'm very happy about where I ended up and.

But in my mind at that point, I remember thinking if I'm going to dedicate 3 years of my life and I'm going to pay quite a hefty son to go and do it, I may as well do something that I love and that I really, really want to do.


Otherwise I should go into industry and I should try and you know, find my route through in that way.

So that was kind of the start of of that of of my journey Post University.

I mean, I really owe a lot to that first role that I got at Juice.


And that is where I consider the fact that I cut my teeth.

You know, not just in the video world, but also in some basic business stuff like, you know, handling clients, business acumen, pitching, running a project and real simple stuff like, you know, budget management, revenue flow.


Things that you just are so far into you when you go into a role like that.

They were fantastic in terms of slowly opening and revealing what that was and what it meant.

And and nurturing me on about 5:00 to 6:00 year journey from fresh out of university and thrilled that I'd managed to get a job in the video world and all my classmates were struggling and I'm God in my lucky break.


But I do really owe a lot to that first role in in grounding me for then the big move to London and all the rest that that came after it.

Right, right.

And I think we're about to jump into that a lot, a lot deeper.

But just to go back to something important you said like I think one one thing that I can definitely relate to is you know, like with your experience and juice like for me personally like I studied marketing for.


What ended up being like a fiveyear degree, no masters included, just like a bachelor's degree, five years and basically I was really really keen to get a marketing job naturally out of college.

But just because of the I'm currently living in Ireland where where shop cast is set up and I'm an Egyptian national.


Or at least I I'm like I have dual citizenship but at the time I was just an Egyptian national.

I needed visa permission obviously to stay in the country and so.

I was just waiting for any job opportunity that would come and thankfully I got an opportunity to work in in LinkedIn.

Caveat with there was that it was in customer support because they need someone who could speak Arabic.


And I was thinking, right, well should I go ahead or not?

And obviously I had, I had to go ahead because it was the only way for me to just stay legal as it were inside the company, inside the inside the country.

But what I realized is that when I actually went to link and there were so many different things that I've learned.


That to your point, you know things like like just how companies like do the reporting how like what what what an example of a good manager is, you know how to run like an effective one to one.

How to not run an effective 1:00 to 1:00 and so on.

And all these sort of like tangential things that looking back at it like hindsight 2020, like they just add so much value to, even though if you were to judge the the book by by its cover, you might decide you know what is this really the best fit for me but.


As it's interesting like as your sort of career evolves, you realize, you know what, every single thing I've went through has actually helped me in some way, shape or form get to around today.

It's funny you mentioned that actually, because it's just reminded me of saying that happened, which I'd completely forgotten about.

I remember and that gap between university and landing this role at Juice, I was applying for everything in anything because whilst I definitely wanted to go down the video route again, I wasn't too naive to think that and that was going to happen.


Plus I had this debt looming over me.

You know my mom, right?

For you wanted me to start contributing to the house that I was living in.

I also you know wanted to maybe move out go in place all the rest of it.

And I remember I got offered a job at a recruiter and and at the same time I got this job offer from Juice and whilst they never liked to talk too much about compensation, the disparity between Juice and this recruiter was significant.



And you've got to remember young, young, young lad out of university struggling to contribute and all of this debt.

And I remember thinking what if I don't do it now?

I I won't do it right.

I'll go down this route and I'll become a recruiter.

Like I I could just feel that that was going to happen.


And I remember I said to this recruiter, I said, look, I've been offered this, this role as a production assistant and the first thing she said was how much they paying.

And at the time I, you know, very new, very naive.

And I told her, and she said to me, that's the biggest regret you'll ever make in your life.


You'll be calling me after six months begging me for a role.

And I just couldn't believe that that someone had said that to me.

You know, the people would be, I just didn't know the people's vote like that.

And I remember it kind of ignited a bit of fire in me.

And I thought, if I do nothing else, I will never.


I would.

I'd never want to be in a position I have to ring this, this person back now.

And that's now slipped away.

I don't have that much pride anymore.

If I needed the role, I would go work and take the job.

But I just remember that point thinking it really floored me that, you know, she she she was out to make a Commission and do all the rest of it.


But it really cemented in me this drive to to make it work regardless.

And and it's odd actually.

I haven't thought about that in in years now, actually.

Yeah, yeah.

Well, you certainly, you certainly brought it out.

Now that that is crazy.

That is crazy.


So listen.

We're getting to the good stuff here, so let's let's just let's just jump straight into the meat of the episode.

What's one failure that you want to tell us about It's it's it's an absolutely incredible and question and and I don't I don't want to give one of those answers.


Well, I oh, there's no such thing as a failure.

There's a learning right.

I will give you some.

I will give you a proper example of where I messed up.


And I was, and down in London during the Christmas break, so working at a company and I traveled down to London.


I was staying with my girlfriend at the Times and parents and in her car I had my suitcase.

I had a bag with all my presents in from Christmas.

And I had a rucksack with all my work in, so computer, all the rest of it, right?


And we'd gone out and I think we'd gone to the rugby.

We came back and we were so tired that she said, oh, can you be bothered to bring all your stuff up to the flat?

And I said, oh will it be okay?

And she goes, it will probably be fine.

Sure enough, next morning broken into everything taken out of it and and I just remember failing.


Dreadful, right?

All the presents that my parents and friends had bought me, my work laptop, all of my clothes just completely gone.

And I remember thinking in that moment I messed up.

Like there's no real positive way to spin this.


I have absolutely messed up here and I remember calling work and they weren't best pleased about it.

What were you thinking?

All the rest of it like, blah blah blah.

Sure enough, I didn't have to spend the whole Christmas period in New Year, just dreading going back into work, Went back into work and credit to the individuals involved, they sat me down and they were very good about it.


And they said look, and we know that out of everyone in this situation you are probably feeling dreadful.

And I say yes, I really am.

I'm really sorry.

You know, I hold my hands if it was a mistake, but the way they handled it was a real lesson for me in terms of if a member of your team does make a mistake or a failure in inverted commas, what is the appropriate course to deal with it?


And within that moment, I think there are two things I don't wish is if the person owns it, then you can have a very different conversation and it's also about identifying what steps you're going to take moving forward for that not to happen again.

Sure enough, I don't need anything in any cars ever again, but it's.


But I also thought it was more than that, you know it was it was the the the care and attention and the thought and and you know, being just mindful of that.

And I think that was really great as I've then progressed and individuals have naturally made mistakes on my team.

You know I've had cameramen that have forgotten to press record.


I've had young data assistants that have deleted data.

I had one designer, bless her that that got rid of the entire design server didn't know what a backup was.

So it in these moments I always think back to you know that really scared individual that I was in that moment thinking I hope I don't lose my job.


I hope I'm not going to, you know, really get you know the company in trouble and and it was a really great learning experience for them when others do mess up in terms of how I approached that.


What a story.

When you were just showing the the examples there like my palms were sweating a little bit because we've we we've had some of that before and it's I I know like I I I know the the feeling like it was just yesterday.


So I I can because I think one of the very first iterations of chop cast is like, well, not just like, you know, take your videos and chop it up.

Will come to wherever you are and will film the the freaking thing as well.

But we've we've since pivoted away from that.

But yeah in some cases you know like we we had like some super like rookie kind of like video and and audio recording mishaps here and there perhaps is one of the reasons why we decided to fit it away from from from from having that.


But yeah that that's that's really interesting.

I love what you said around how, if the person actually owns it, like it.

That the conversation just goes completely differently, right?

As opposed to having to to to to get first of all to to like a establish a basis that of of of who is who is the person who to to to take the responsibility.


And I know it sounds corny but it's responsibility is really responsibility right.

The ability to to give to to have a response and so even though like some of these things perhaps even like some of the like the example that you just shared.

You know, there's so many things that are outside of our control, but it is still our responsibility to determine like how we're going to to to respond to that, right.


So that, yeah, I can, I can definitely relate to that one book.


One book is is again a really tough one for me because I do read quite a substantial amount and I I will read for pleasure, but I'll also read for kind of by my own investment in terms of career or other interests I have.


And so I did give this one a lot of thought and I thought about maybe two options of maybe a really influential book I've read or or my most recent book.

I think for me, what kind of reignited my love for reading was a book called And the Boys in the Boat.

Hey, I'm literally reading that right now.


I'm like 5%.




Someone told me about it.


Yeah, yeah, I I loved it.

It was incredible.

It was a recommendation and when I was, I was talking to someone I just read Shoe Dog about the Nike story and they said oh, if you like that style of writing give the boys and the and the boat ago.


So I read it and I was hooked and I think it was just over a weekend.

I absolutely went through it cover to cover and and for me it there was a number of things.

I love the form of the writing, so I love the fact that it was a true story but told very much like a fiction.


So there was obviously something embellishing there and that the writer would had to put in some drama.

But I didn't necessarily care because it brought that story to life for me and and helped it resonate and but the idea which then stuck with me is the formation of a team.

So what makes a really strong team, you know, set a group of individuals that can come together with a common goal or purpose and execute on that to a level of performance that gets those results that for me has started to really resonate in in, you know, not just my working life but also my my passions outside of work.


And and I always think back to that boat because the way the the writer tells it is is almost like an alignment of the stars.

And I don't necessarily think that's the whole truth.

It's a lot more to that in terms of.

The motivations and the goal setting and you know the the adjustments in terms of how people perform and but I always come back to that that book is kind of sparking that love of of reading again and and also sticking with me on a personal level in terms of well how do you motivate a group of people to to pull in the same direction.


Yeah, I'm literally like, still like, what, 510% into the book, At least according to my to my Kindle, so.

I'm really glad you didn't burn the the no no no spoilers.

Yeah, no spoilers, but but yeah, like if anything like you've, I think you've made me even more excited to continue on with it.


But yeah, like so far it seems to be super, super interesting.

It's almost treats a little bit like a like like a movie almost.

And exactly.

And that's what I love.

And I mean, if someone told me, I'll go read this book about an American rowing team, you think, Oh, really?

But the depth that that that this writer manages to pull out of this is resonates just so much on a on a deeper level.


And I mean, it is a great story.

It's a story still told in some circles today from what I understand.

But I do, I do think I love, I think it's called creative fiction writing where or creative nonfiction where it's a true story.

It actually happened, but it is told in a way that yeah, like you say a bit like a movie where you can picture it and visualize it, and a bit like a piece of fiction.


Yeah, I'm actually looking up this book that I read that I just trying to find it up over here.

It's basically like books that are kind of written in the style of The Alchemist and basically like fictional books that have so many like sort of like real life lessons.


And then because I don't know about you all the about like I sometimes struggle to like.

My problem is I I read too much and I need to like slow down a little bit and actually apply the things I'm learning.

That's usually like nonfiction things.

And so even though this book we're discussing is, it's pretty much real.


But there are some embellishments, as you said.

This is definitely something that I'm trying trying to get more into, which is just overall sort of fictional reading.

And the one of the books that because I've I've heard from, from my wife chiefly and others, that you can learn so much from fiction books just as much as as nonfiction books.


She's been telling me this for years and I've I finally, I finally got the hint.

There is one book by generally called Darren Donnelly and the book is called Think Like a Warrior, the Five, the five inner beliefs that make you unstoppable.


And I'm not going to burn the book, don't worry.

But it basically talks about this football coach who was like, you know, riding high.

He was, he had everything right.

But then he came kind of like he had like a super low point and he had to like.

Transition from leading like a really big team to literally this like unknown college football team.


And he would basically come across a lot of like great coaches that would come to him in not in his sleep but like at like at night when no one's looking like their, their spirit would just come to him.

Like famous coaches like coach John Wooden and a couple of others as well who are famous in the in the in the sports realm.


That would just come to him and like.

Tell him a little bit more about their philosophy and what they would do in certain situations that he was facing.

And so it would have been easy for this person.

Just write like a checklist of you know, top 10, whatever, like coaching best practices or something like that.

But I just love the way that by shaping it into a story, I think it made it a lot more interesting and it makes it stick a lot more.


Which reminds me, all the couple of days ago you made a really cool post on LinkedIn.

Re sharing a you know that ad from PNG about like PNG sponsors mothers or sponsors moms.

I watched that right before the episode and yeah like that gave me shivers man.


Where are the where the athletes and do you want to tell us a little bit more about that ad for folks when you have not seen it.

I mean what I'll do is I'll talk why I repost that and it does come back to the video what I So one of the things that I, if not the thing I love most about video is that it has the ability in a relatively short space of time if you choose it to be to strike a chord with your emotions and to make you feel something.


And I think I take a very commercially revenue based approach to marketing in my day-to-day life.

But I think that if pushed, that's essentially great marketing.

Great storytelling is to make you feel something.

It doesn't have to be joy or happiness.


It can be sadness and despair.

But the worst thing I think is a piece of content that that makes you feel nothing that passes by without flavor, without even feeling like it entered the world.

It just drifts into the abyss.

And video I think has the privilege, if done right, to grab your attention and to evoke an emotion in you And I get quite obsessed about thinking about okay.


So what makes a good story?

What what is this trying to do?

And and even someone with no study of marketing theoretical knowledge can watch an advert or a video and feel something be moved by something.

And I think that's incredibly great power gift.


I don't know, since to be able to achieve that was always something that resonated with me.

So when I see an advert like that, I feel inclined to share it.

I think it's brilliant and I think in today's world when we are for the most part saturated with content, what's cutting through what stands out above the rest, what resonates most with people and there are some brands that do it magnificently well.


There are also some brands that get it fantastically wrong and but for me that's where there's been a couple of videos that or or ads that I have always kept quite close to my heart across the years that every now and then I'll repost just for the love of it and but it all comes back to for me that that and I I I use the word privilege because one of the things that I think there's a great disservice to adverts is that it's not seen as a cultural art form.


It's seen as a tactic and yes it is right you have a you have a you have a motivation to make this but that doesn't necessarily mean you can't enjoy it.


You can't it can't resonate with you or speak with you And so I don't I I quite like to chunk of them.


I think you know if it's a great out of if it's really, you know, achieve what it wanted to do and I just like to post them and I'm glad people see it and they they get exposed to it as well.


And for for folks who are wondering the name of the ad once again, it's I guess they can probably just go to YouTube and search for PNG Strong.


I think it was from the was it the 2008 Olympics, I wanna say or something like that.

Yeah, it's so funny.

So you mentioned this this morning.

I was, I was coming back from Jiu Jitsu and I just started watching the Nike advert where they had Brazilian Portugal.


And you remember when they're in the tunnel and then they start battling out and then Patton of Mambo starts playing and it's all about the fun and the love of football women.

And I just, I think of it, I'm like, oh I love that and I'll watch that.

And one of the things I do a lot is I will waste away hours, if not days, just watching clips on YouTube videos or adverts or films.


I like this because it doesn't, it makes me feel sad, makes me feel happy or sad or it's just a great, you know, crafted emotion of storytelling.

And I'll just, that's where I get my kicks, apparently.

I just like to watch that that that content.

That's crazy.

So you you you let it be known that you love watching ads.


You I I mean.

I genuinely do Go.

Seek ads out because and I also think it it it's a really tight creative breed right.

And I think that like anything done well, people will look at it and think it was obvious or easy or you know that that of course that makes sense.


And yet some people had to sit around probably in a very boring meeting room and be given this long five page brief.

But says you need to talk to the purpose of our company but you also need to sell this and you need to talk about that.


And this product's got this.

And what I love most about those videos is there is a subtle, we're going to forget all that.

Like you're going to trust us to go out and make this really great film that talks the heart of what this company stands for.

And stuff like that.

I feel like should be championed by everyone in the creative industry.


Because we've got enough of the adverts and the content that listen to everyone from the product team to the customer relation team to the C-Suite to the senior execs that they're all chipped away at that beautiful thing.

So when something comes out that kind of stands away and apart and above from that, I love that.


I think that that's a real achievement.

Yeah, yeah.

Truth be told, I'm I'm the same like I I find that it's something that it really isn't.

It really is an art form as you say all day, because it's.

I like the way you put it as well.


Like sometimes when you see the end result you're like, yeah, obviously that makes sense, 15 seconds.

I I could do that?

I could do that with my journey, just kidding.

But basically like when people realize that it it's so difficult to make something simple and I think it was Leonardo da Vinci who said he has a court, I think that says simplicity is the ultimate sophistication or something like that.


So to be able to take all of like Corp whatever corporate wants and make sure you talk about the features, make sure you convey the benefits, make sure you do this, that and the other.

And to actually come up with something completely different on the other end, I think is really.

It is really.

It's really an art form isn't it?


There's a there's a gentleman I work with and if you use this clip I'll make sure I tag him.

He used a phrase which I've now adopted which is simple but better and I love that right?

And and him and I were chatting once in terms of and I was guilty of this in the past right when I came out of uni and I thought I knew how to make a video.


I just think not everyone, but a lot of people have a tendency to throw everything at it, and it comes with a place of passion and creativity and wanting to do well.

And yet a really overengineered video that's lost its place lacks that pure simplicity.

And it's one of my values in life is, is it's actually patience, because patience acknowledges that things take time, so it keeps you in the moment and then you have a utter simplicity for it.


And him and I were talking at length about this.

The temptations were overengineer is just rife.

And I do think that that slowly, if done well, starts to chip away.

The more experience you get and the more you realize that if you need to get something to go the distance, you've got to boil it down to the absolute simplistic essence of what it needs to be.


And so I do.

I quite like that little phrase now.

Yeah, yeah, one person, another fantastic question.

I think that in I haven't cheated yet, but I'm going to cheat in this, so I'm in my career.


I think that my boss at Juice, Nicole Nicole Hargreave, she was probably the first person that showed me what it would take if I wanted to go down this route.

So she is arguably one of the hardest workers I've ever met, completely committed to anything she she turns her hands to and but also incredibly supportive of individuals on her team.


And I remember the first job I ever went on as a production assistant and this is no criticism of of the work that that juice used to do right.

Every production assistant or producer that used to be a reductionist and had to cut their teeth somewhere.

The first job I ever had to do was we were filming in a bank and the office room we were filming and was next to a door with people coming through.


So I had to spend 3 days holding the door, making sure I didn't bang so we didn't ruin the sound and asking people to be quiet.

And at the end of that three days I thought very long and hard about if this was the career that I wanted to do.


And I owe a lot to the fact that Nicole was my boss and I observed her and to the reason I stuck around, because she also showed me what it would take to set a bar and set a standard.

And it's ultimately a lot of hard work, hard graph.


And so in my career, I owe a lot for her to support and set me on the journey.

In my personal life I am.

I owe an awful lot to my Brazilian Jiu Jitsu coach and a gentleman named Louise Ribeiro, who was the first person to, I think, truly challenge me.


To truly ask if that was my best or if I could do better.

To really stretch me to the point where I shifted, I was going to say, shifted states.

I moved from a comfort zone through an incredibly difficult period of uncomfort into a new state where I was improved and better.


And one of the reasons I admire really great coaches is because often it's a thankless, loveless task to make someone better.

What's an example of you kind of very drastically leaving your comfort zone in the context of jiu jitsu?


Yeah so for those that aren't familiar with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, it is a predominantly groundbased martial art and looks very much like wrestling and the outfit looks a bit like judo and if you're a fan of the UFC you kind of see a lot of this and and it is a martial art.


So we don't, we actually fight, we genuinely spot the goal of which is to make the other person submit by tapping.

So that can be done through joint manipulations like broken arms, broken knees.

We don't break, we stop before the person taps, but also choking.


So there's a very real element of risk and danger.

And whilst we minimize that out of respect for the other person and not wanting to to hurt that person, there is still, it is still a fight at the end of the day.

And for me the thought of doing that in the gym was pretty terrifying.


The thought of then going competing where you hear stories around oh on the mats we don't do this but in competition you ripped that arm bar you don't wait for the guy to tap in the arm brakes.


So, so serious stuff right.

And and you would see people going off to compete with you know coming back with a CL injuries or you know neck injuries not serious ones but enough to keep you off was more than terrifying for me.


And he was the first person that really I opened my eyes to the possibility that I could do it and then challenged pushed and pulled me to be able to go out and do that.

And for that reason alone, I think I owe him an awful lot in terms of you know, the way that molded me as an individual and to not operate from a place of fear and but to view things objectively and to believe in myself ultimately, that I could go and did it and then I did go into it and.


I mean it, it is crazy as I hear you speak like it's crazy how much you're referring to is so you how much you're learning is actually universal.

It's it.

It it transcends sport, doesn't it?

In terms of like all these lessons, I think there there's a lot of, or at least a handful of of founders that I know that almost like exclusively read the sports psychology books.


And they say these are the best business books for me and it's because sometimes.

This this is where you you need this is where you need to go to to get more insight to get more clarity on like how you can lead that the rest of your life.


And that sport is really just a almost like a sort of like a controlled environment as it were in terms of like just helping to to to nurture that and to foster something that you could then apply to a lot of things and.


One of the things that I did when I when I was in when I was a teenager is back in Egypt, I was part of the the water polo team.

I they they just saw my height and they're like, wait a minute are you like what age are you?

And I was like I think I was like 15 or something.

They're like, oh we're going to take you out of the regular training and we're going to put you, we're going to rush you straight into the into the the team.


Unfortunately, I wasn't I I was like a goalkeeper.

I wasn't, like the most the best person the team by any stretch of the imagination.

Quite the opposite, actually.

But one thing that has stuck with me all these years, all the is we used to, we actually spent a lot of time doing a ton of, like, stuff outside the pool.


The pool is kind of like the the fun part or the part at the very end.

So one of the things that you'd expect is we just do like a lot of running in the track and stuff like that.

And one of the things that our coach told us, our track coach told us, is that there are three stages that you kind of pass through mentally.


There's the.

And I'm translating from from Arabic now, but loosely it means kind of like stage one is like before tiredness, stage two is tiredness.

And he was like, guys, I really need you to dig deep and get to stage 3, which is after tired.

That's where you feel like you've already sort of you've experienced that tiredness and now you are you've kind of come out the other end and you're on this kind of like you're in this like high kind of like Nirvana state where you could actually keep going to regardless of any tiredness that you feel.


And I and I and I think about that a lot, even in like, you know what I mean?

Like work and stuff.

Like I completely can relate to that.

And yeah, I think there's that famous like saying that the the Marines use which is like when your brain tells you to stop, you're about 40% in you still about 60% in the tank.


And our might in my, my Brazilian Jiu Jitsu coach did the, I would describe him as old school, right.

So some days jiu Jitsu might take a back seat and then he may just beast us for an hour and a half piece squats.

Then we spa, no water, no rest.


Competition rounds and the dialogue you start having in your head is just quick, quick, quick, quit you.

I've got to get out of here.

I've got to stop and go stop.

And yet every single time I've made it through and I'm and I feel great and I'm good, right?

And all of a sudden you do that enough, then the dialogue slowly starts to change, or at least if you're focused on getting better, it would start to change, right?


And I think you want to be, you need to be motivated to get better in order for it to change.

But then all of a sudden you start to think, well, I've done it before, I can do it again.

And then you do do it again.

And then do you know what I mean?

You start to improve and have a different internal dialogue than when you started, which was, I'm never going to be able to do this.


How do I get out of this to not only am I doing it, but could I do more?

And then you start to touch on something quite, quite brilliant.

What's one decision?

That really changed things for you and your journey that have honestly been a lot and a phenomenal amount actually.


And we've kind of touched on some of them today, right, in terms of dropping out university, saying no to recruitment, moving to London.

And but I probably probably touch on perhaps one more recent, which is I think it's kind of hard to articulate, but it's this idea of of what brings you contentment, right, what ultimately makes you happy and what you are doing.


And for me, I think I spent a lot of my career hiding behind ambition, whereas actually I was just trying to aggressively and chase everything.

And now I am just a lot.

I I have made a conscious decision to be a lot more happy with what's happening in the immediate term, knowing that should it all go wrong, I'm fairly confident I would be able to find a way through it.


And that that's that's I'm not sure if that's like the answer maybe we were looking for in terms of like a decision I've made in life.

Because I can give you a number of those, right?

I've said no to jobs.

I've said yes to jobs.

Sometimes it's been great, sometimes it's been rubbish.


I've made decisions to drop out of university, to move to London, as I've said.

But for me, the biggest one I've made right now is just to, to a conscious decision to be happier where I am right now and to try and make the most of it, to really try and absorb what's happening.


Because I think too often, not in everyone but but in some people, we want the next thing, we want the next evolution, whatever that may look like.

Even your personal life, do you know what I mean?


And then all of a sudden you get it and you're either not, it's not what you thought it would be, or you're on to the next.

And that for me is quite a scary road to go down because you are caught.

You are never ever in a state of presentness to that word.


You're never really funny it.

It can be now, but but you're never really fully appreciating the things that are happening to you.

So I'm I'm not amazing at it.

I've only recently just started trying to be like this.


But I think for me the decision to stop trying to to chase that, that that big new thing that that I think is important to justify what I'm doing and actually just to be really, really present and as happy or content as I possibly can be with what I currently have.


You know what?

There is a so you you cheated in one of the one of the the five key modes.


I'm going to cheat now which is I'm actually going to go back to the books one.

There is one that I can share a book that I think you might like if you're if you're a big reader.

I think we we both enjoy books.


It it's, well, it's called Meditations by Marcus Aurelius.

But the Medic which is which is like classic, kind of like Stoic text.

I struggle with like kind of like older English, if you will.

And so there was a a recent kind of like a modern adaptation of it called The Emperor's Handbook which is pretty much a translation of the The Meditations text from from English to more easily understood English.


And yeah, this is a book that like I literally, I've never said this before but like it's a book that I literally keep on my bedside table every day.

It's called The Emperor's Handbook by by Marcus Aurelius and and the person who who tried who.

Who kind of readapted it?

Unfortunately I forgot his name.

But it it's a great book and it just talks about like the power of being present.


And not not in like a not not in a in a vague way, but in a very sort of like practical pragmatic way.

And it's really interesting because with with someone like Marcus or Alias, like he he was literally like an emperor.

Like he would literally go into battle and this was like his secret kind of like journal.


And you just look at how peaceful it is and how sort of.

Center this when when when he talks about some of the concepts that that you're discussing as well all the like it's it's amazing.

Like you would he would be forgiven if all he wrote about is like freaking you know kill the enemy and stuff like that.


Like he he he was just very centered and I think his story kind of makes the concepts that he talks about which were never intended to be published, more more believable as opposed to like reading it from.

You know what I mean?

Like someone who, who is a very sort of serene and peaceful person by nature and never their job is not, there's no, you know, aggression or conflict in their job whatsoever.


You'd be like, oh, well, easy for them to say, but it wasn't easy for for that other person to say.

So I think that's one book that I would that I would invite you to.

I've got I've got two big recommendations of this chat.

So that's that's brilliant.

And I mean it's it's it's definitely a theme that I have picked up on through a number of books that I've also read.


I'm really looking forward to reading the one you just recommended.

But one one that I did read that was very influential was Phil Jackson and who, who is the basketball?

1111 Rings. 11 Rings.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.


And he talks about Michael Jordan and and then in in the Netflix series Last Dance you see this actually play out where I think reporter asks him like if you if you have to make the final winning shot like how do you feel about that.


And he says a response and along the lines of why would I worry about a shot I don't have to make yet.

And for me that is the perfect embodiment of being absolutely where you need to be what like and in that moment when you are needed.

And then sure enough he makes the game-winning six shot and and it's all brilliant and and fantastic.


But Phil Jackson talks about that a lot in terms of he was utterly and completely present in that moment.

And and he, Michael Jordan has said to him since he is eternally grateful for the work that him and Phil did around making him appreciate the now and not worrying and thinking about what's to come or what needs to happen.


And yeah, and for me that was incredibly influential in terms of you know, my my jiu jitsu crib.

Why would I think about a tournament?

I don't have to fight him right now And that all like, you know, somehow simple phrases just unlock this ability to be able to handle something that that was incredibly useful.

Yeah, I mean sometimes that that's all you need to just get back to the moment and and do your sort of best work of what needs to be done in in the moment, right.


So I can yeah, that's another book that I I think this is going to be like the the book episode, the book review, isn't it?

The book review Yeah, we we should do our own podcast and book club.

Yeah, Book club.

Yeah, exactly that.


That is one of those books that I have on my Kindle, but I haven't actually started reading it.

Sorry, I.

You know, like a downloaded, kind of like the free sample.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

And then I didn't have my card, so I couldn't like, buy the book at the time.

That was my excuse.

Anyway so you should you should you should definitely do it And his his journey is is is just fascinating and a deeply religious one that kind of like informed his like methodologies moving forward.


He's got a lot of principles from a lot of different religions that he brings forward in terms of like Zenism and Buddhism and but what I also like is the results don't lie.

You know he's not he's not some mystique that's talking about basketball should be done like this.


He actually went out and did it, 111 championship rings and now has the right, I feel, to sit down and say this is what I think, take it all evening.

Yeah, I mean, yeah, I I, I love the book cover.

It's the tree.

Like just 11 rings from the ring.


Hasn't seen it before.

It's like, shut up.

I have 11 rings, if you're ever in any doubt of his accomplishments.


Just just go back to the book cover.

All right, super quick.

Because because we're at time, and I respect your Time 1 accomplishment that maybe wasn't a big deal to others, but it just had a different meaning for you.


Yeah, 1 accomplishment and losing my job, borrowing a load of money, nearly having to declare bankruptcy and still managing to stay in London and make it work.

That is an accomplishment.

Absolutely horrifying.



You horrible at the time yeah.

But coming out of it the other end and was that was I what I would say is an is an accomplishment.

Yeah, I love it.

I love it.

Well, all you.

Thank you so much as you.


As we both know, like, we can keep going on and on, but we're just that time now.

Where can people find you?

And LinkedIn?

I'm not on Instagram, I'm not on Facebook.

I'm actually going completely off social media as much as I can so so look me up on LinkedIn as Ollie Smith O double i.e.


I don't think I need to smell Smith but but you never know.

And and yeah, as you said at the start, head of digital and content marketing at ICIS and that's probably the best place for people to to reach out to me should they wish.

Awesome, awesome.


And is there anything that you wanted to share with the community?

Anything you wanted to?

You ever talk about no, no, no, no.

But you know, if people do reach out and off the back of this, let me know.

Let me know if you enjoyed it and do connect and if there's anything that I can do to help then you just let me know.



Well, Ali, thank you so much for joining us today.

And folks, thank you for tuning in.

We will see you on the next episode.

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