Meet Pooja Sukumar, Senior Account Manager, Middle East

To honour Women’s History Month, we took five minutes with one of our Senior Account Managers, Pooja, from our offices in Dubai. In her interview, she discuss her defining career moments, why being a part of our Impact and Inclusion Council means so much to her, and why she believes it is important to have equal representation within the workplace.

You’ve been with CSM for five years now, can you tell us a bit about your journey to where you are today? What has been the defining moments in your career that stand out?

When I joined CSM five years back, I was introduced to two new worlds – agency life and sport. Having not played or followed any sport before, I was in what I then believed to be ‘alien territory’. However, I quickly grew to realise that the beauty of sport is that there’s a place for everyone, should you only wish to carve one. The 2020 pandemic brought the world to a halt, but the fact that sport was one of the first to adapt and bounce back says it all.

My five years at CSM have been a rollercoaster for me, working across different client accounts, rights holders and sports in the region – with a wealth of learnings to go with it. I now work with SABIC, the second most valuable brand in the chemicals industry, activating their rights as a Principal and an Innovation Partner across the Formula E World Championship.

I would say the some of the most defining and proud moments for me have been witnessing the exponential growth of sport and entertainment in KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia). From delivering a small activation for Saudia Cargo at the second Saudi International to being part of the team delivering first ever Neom Beach Games. It only keeps getting bigger, better and more ambitious and I’m excited to see how things are going to evolve in the next 5 years.

In 2020, you were one of the pioneers in forming the Middle East Inclusion and Impact Council. Can you tell us why you joined the council and what some of your highlights have been since you joined?

I strongly believe that an organisation is only as inclusive as its people. Building an inclusive team isn’t just about diverse hiring, it’s about going one step further and asking some hard-hitting questions. Are these people being given similar opportunities, regardless of their gender, culture, orientation, beliefs and abilities? Are diversity and individuality being appreciated and channelled the right way, to enrich teams and provide new perspectives in the work that we do? Are all the members of the organisation being made aware of what it means to be inclusive?

As you might have guessed, I feel quite passionately about this having been born and raised in the cultural hotpot that is the UAE. So, to have been presented the opportunity to be part of a team that could impact and build the culture here at CSM, it was a no-brainer for me to put my hand up to join the council. It was only once I’d joined did I realise how much more it could impact beyond culture but community, career and more importantly our client work!

The highlight of my time in the council has to be when we organised a volunteer day in 2023 where 12 of us from the UAE offices had the opportunity to learn, paint and dance along with the talented artists at Mawaheb – a community and creative space for People of Determination 18 years and over, where they can express themselves through art, while also developing essential life skills. I didn’t even realise that opportunities for POD drastically decrease once they’re adults, and I’m certain that each one of us there were extremely grateful for the opportunity to be in the presence of such unfiltered artistic expression.

The sporting event space in the Middle East has grown tremendously over the past few years and you’ve worked with a range of clients on a variety of these events. How do you think this growth has impacted women’s participation in sport?

With equality and female representation becoming increasingly relevant globally, the Middle East is quite cognisant to the fact that to be present in the global sporting landscape, it will need to acknowledge and adapt accordingly. That being said, it is definitely a work in progress, with some countries progressing faster than the others.

The theme for Women’s History Month this year is “Invest in women: Accelerate progress”. Thinking a bit about your career to date, and future aspirations, how do you feel about the idea of Investing in Women within the workplace, as well as sports specifically?

It is so important to have equal representation in the workplace, at all levels, so that women can see and be inspired by other women across the business. Recently, I have seen this being a priority for a lot of our clients, including SABIC, who have a women-led global internal group called the SHE Network. In this case, us being aware and engaging with the network could help us align on their vision and potentially advance future conversations with SABIC on investing in initiatives focused on gender parity in sport.

When not at work, what would we find you doing?

Trying to get a dance class in! My goal for 2024 is to try and learn different styles of dance not just for my physical but also mental health. It’s nearly impossible to think about anything else when your brain is on overdrive trying to memorise steps, so it’s almost meditative and the perfect segue to tune out after work!