Could you first introduce yourself to the reader?
Hello! I’m Amerah Saleh - General Manager of Beatfreeks. Beatfreeks is an engagement and insight agency with an incredible community of young creatives. We connect them to brands, government and funders so young people can influence how the world works. We’re all about getting young people getting their share of power.
I’ve been with Beatfreeks since its very beginning in 2013, and my expertise is in youth engagement, event management, young people’s development and institutional talent development. I’m driven by a passion for engaging young people in change that affects them and shaking up organisations for the better.
Outside of work I’m also an internationally acclaimed poet. I released my book “I Am Not From Here” in 2018, the same year I got the opportunity to close the Commonwealth Games Ceremony live to 1.4 billion people. Definitely a wow moment!
What does your job involve? Give us the typical outline of a day?
I think like all of us, it’s a lot of Zoom meetings at the moment! My role looks after delivery, so I support our team in delivering the best possible work for our funders, our clients and most importantly – our young people. On a typical day I’ll often be meeting with new clients and working out how we can help them engage young people, signing off new activity, and making sure we’re reporting on and shouting about what we do effectively – a real mixture.
What’s great about your job?
What drives me is the impact we make on young people’s lives through improving how businesses work with young people. That ability to respond to young people’s needs in real time is so important and I love it when we’re able to do that.
I’m also proud to be surrounded by such a fantastic team who inspire me everyday with how hard they work. At Beatfreeks we nurture a really positive and open team culture where we believe in each other and support each other - which seems to generate some pretty impressive results.
What are the bits you don’t like or find challenging?
When work gets delayed because of multiple sign off processes from clients/partners/funders, that can be challenging. It puts us in a less reactive position to the world and to young people’s needs.
What are the highlights of your career to date?
The way the team has adapted to this new digital-focussed world that we’re in has a real highlight and a moment of pride for me. As reactive and innovative as we are as a business, I think Covid-19 gave every organisation some form of a challenge – but we did it. We’re engaging with young people in ways we never have before – from creating virtual skills events and creative spaces to opening up new conversations and debates on social media. It’s a learning curve, but we’re making it happen.
What was your career path into this job? Have you also worked outside the arts?
I certainly haven’t had the typical career path of school, college, university and then a job. I actually started my career as an artist– a poet. I was performing and gigging from the age of 17 and just really wanted to understand the arts and creative sector. I initially joined Beatfreeks as a freelance facilitator and moved through different job roles over the last eight years to where I am now.
I never went to university and I finished school with Public Services Merit and finished college with Merit in Health and Social Care. I always wanted to be Prime Minister or a Police Officer – so it’s safe to say my career path didn’t necessarily go as planned! However, I don’t think in either of those jobs I’d have been as happy as I am doing what I do now.
Can you describe your biggest challenge so far in your career? How did you overcome it?
My biggest challenge was (and still is) removing that pressure of knowing exactly where you want to go with your career path. I have always been a dabbler, I enjoy all sorts and I still write and perform my poetry aside from the Beatfreeks work. The future's not set in stone for me and I think having a ‘job for life’ is a bit of an ancient idea.
The other biggest challenge for me is imposter syndrome. I didn’t go to university or have a ‘formal’ education like many people in the kind of role I’m in did, which can give me that imposter feeling. I can shake it off pretty quickly though!
Have you noticed any changes in the industry? If so, what?
100%. When I started in the creative industry, the hardest thing for me was not really seeing anyone like me. This has definitely moved in the right direction over the years but I still think there’s A LOT of work to do around diversity and inclusion. For myself included. It’s in the works!
You’ve been granted the ability to send a message to 16-year-old you. What do you say?
This is hard! I would probably say something like:
“Your journey is your own, not your parents' dream, the community or your peers. What keeps you up at night? What do you care about? Keep thinking about that and you will find something that fulfils all of that within you. Life will throw its lemons, don’t just make lemonade. Make lemon meringue too.”
Do you have any advice for young people interested in doing your kind of job?
Network. If you meet someone who inspires you or that you want to work with, don’t be shy – drop them an email later and introduce yourself and ask them for the kind of support you’d like from them. Ask for mentoring and set themes for where you want to go. Treat everyone like the most powerful person you’ll ever meet. Everyone’s journey is taking them somewhere and one day down the line, you may just cross paths and need their support later on in life.
For more information on Amerah and her work, click here!
For more details about Beatfreeks, click here!