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Experiences that made me Ally Azizi

28 November 2023

In this series, we ask Imagination talent all about the experiences that have made them who they are. This month we spoke to Ally Azizi, Junior Strategist at Imagination London.

A bit about me…

A cellist, pianist, polyglot, journalist (read: amateur writer) and bookworm, one would think I’m a 19th-century daughter of a bourgeois family, as pretentious as that sounds. But really, I’m also your average token Gen Z who loves scrolling through TikTok for hours over the weekend.

The creative experience that’s influenced me the most…

It’s hard to pinpoint a specific source of creative influence in my life, but I would say that most of it derives from books. They reflect the nature of my work in strategy, where cohesive narratives are essential to connect various ideas ensuring that everything actually makes sense.

Some of my favourite works are Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and Alexandre Dumas’ Count of Monte Cristo, both known for their daunting length but are nonetheless page-turners (at least, once you get over Levin’s irrigation rants). You can learn so much about how an author viewed and interpreted cultures and customs - in these cases, capturing the zeitgeist of 19th-century Western societies. What’s amazing about these books is that they are able to connect complex characters and subplots to each other while maintaining consistency throughout, much like what strategists have to do with brands. I like to see our output as a contribution to culture and something for future generations to look back on.

My industry hero is…

Les Binet, the father of Effectiveness. His ideas on econometrics and effectiveness somehow feel timeless and it’s proven to be so time and time again. How not to plan was my guide into the world of strategy when I started out almost two years ago, and it’s led me to where I am today!

The piece of work I’m most proud of…

If you know me and my totally normal passion (obsession) for 20th-century Soviet Russian history, my undergraduate dissertation on the control dynamics of Soviet music between the proletariat, musicians and the state under Stalin’s regime (what a mouthful!) is a highlight. This work also recently won the Natasha Award at King’s College London for the best dissertation in Russian and East European history - a high I’m still riding! Feel free to arrange a chat with me and listen to me shamelessly brag about it.

(right) An excerpt that I’m particularly proud of.

The piece of work that makes me cringe…

As a student journalist at uni, I had my fair share of poorly written and thoughtless articles that I wrote to reach a personal quota. While I won’t get into the details of it, I’ve definitely learnt my lesson of quality over quantity.

The experience I wish I had created…

Rather than an experience, I wish I had come up with and written philosophical theories, in particular Frantz Fanon’s ideas on colonialism and human consciousness. Some of these ideas are so obvious yet hard to identify; thinkers have this amazing ability to really zoom out of society and observe our behaviours, bringing our attention to specific areas and making us go “oh!”. That being said, they’re not always right and with the decolonisation and intersectionality of academics, I’m so excited to see and possibly unlearn some of the things that we’ve been taught from a young age.

Advice to my 18-year-old self…

Listen to yourself (and your tiger mum) and what you want - we have our best interests at heart and that’s the way forward.

What’s next?

Working on writing my non-existent book that will take decades to materialise, and I won’t be taking any questions about it at this moment.