Authentic 365 is an Edelman-powered podcast that dives into the stories and experiences of people who make their mission to live their truths all day, every day. This month’s podcast focuses on individuals who identify as GenZ and how they remain authentic in their daily lives—both at home, at work, and while interacting with brands and finding truth in a sea of opinions. Inside Edelman will be profiling this month’s Authentic 365 guest speakers.
What is your role and how long have you worked at Edelman?
I’m a relative newcomer at Edelman. I started as an intern in summer 2021 and flipped full time in October, making my total about 9 months. I work in DxI (Edelman Data & Intelligence) as an analyst, but my good friend Joey Krutov (senior research manager in DxI) once mentioned the term “data lord” and I keep telling people I’d really like to be introduced that way. They never agree, but one of these days I will get someone to bite.
What’s something you’ve worked on that you are proud of?
Definitely the Power of Gen-Z report that launched at the beginning of December. I think many of us have noticed that the world is changing a lot, and at a very quick pace. Do you (yes you, the one reading this) remember what your childhood was like? It was probably filled with friends at school, gathered around hallways and lunch tables. Now, community is being crafted on Reddit and Twitter, and in TikTok comments. Many of the behaviors that kids had 20-30 years ago have been completely changed by the Covid-19 pandemic, multiple financial crises, rapid innovation and hyperconnectivity. Through this research, we were able to map out some of the effects of these events on the behavior of young people. Of course, it is an added benefit that many of our clients are finding the research helpful as well.
Also, sorry for making you think about your childhoods!
How do you stay authentic?
This is a tough question to answer for everyone. It’s a bit like asking “How do you stay as yourself?” Personally, I find it important to do three things: Firstly, I speak my mind when I have something important to say. Secondly, I spend a lot of time doing things that I like. It makes me more light-hearted and less bitter. And lastly, I allow myself to be open with people. Notice how I said, “allow myself”. Sometimes, it feels like a security threat to give up information about yourself to others, but I’ve found that the more open I am with people, the more open they are in return. I make it a point to tell people the cool stuff I am doing, where I may have messed up, stories about my parents, the whole thing. That’s where the magic starts to happen in your relationships with others: when you build bridges to them, rather than constructing barriers.
In the latest Authentic 365 podcast, you mention that when you show up to work authentically, better work is done. Can you explain that further and/or do you have an example of when you performed better work by being your authentic self?
The point I was trying to make here is that it feels like work to not be yourself. Things like not saying the little feedback that you should have mentioned, not telling people how you feel about a certain theme/topic related to a project. There have been times where I kept my thoughts and ideas to myself instead of vocalizing them and it severely under-served the projects I was working on, particularly on things outside of Edelman. When you are being authentic, you’re more comfortable sharing things with your team, and that can lead to amazing ideas on projects, particularly at a place like Edelman where lots of smart minds are processing your idea and turning it into something better!
What advice do you have for others who are struggling to bring forth their most authentic selves in work/life?
Think about what you are worried about and if it matters. Nine times out of 10, it doesn’t. Wear your earrings (I personally always have two in each ear), your favorite clothes, and show off the things about you that are cool.
I recently read a fantastic quote that serves as a good reminder to always be yourself:
“The moment you feel that, just possibly. You’re walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself. That’s the moment you may be starting to get it right.” – Neil Gaiman, during his University of the Arts commencement speech.
My advice is to be yourself. Life is short and you should attempt to get it right as you, and not as someone you are not.
What passions/hobbies do you have outside of work?
I LOVE building things. Part of the reason I got exposed to primary research (and then Edelman DxI) was because I built a research thing. Now, I run a small team in my free time building a blockchain/crypto thing. Ultimately, it’s my goal to build a product that will really help people, and I think (fingers crossed) that I’m currently doing that in my spare time. Other than that, I spend a lot of time reading, writing, and playing either pool or chess with my family (weird combination, I know).
What advice do you have for your younger self?
I must ask… does this question apply to me? Regarding my age, someone internally here at Edelman recently told me “I have eye wrinkles older than you.” My quick response: “You know, that actually makes me feel kind of good!”
I turned 21 just this January, so technically I still am my “younger self.” I’m always searching for systems, processes, and practical insights that will help me become a better version of me. So, if you have advice that you’d like to share, please reach out! I need all the help I can get!
Ali Almeflehi is an Associate Research Analyst at Edelman DxI Chicago.