Last spring the wife of the Governor General of Canada, Her Excellency Sharon Johnston, attended an event on the west coast of Canada. After watching a presentation on mental health, she was impressed with how the content was packaged and pushed, and how it employed creative engagement solutions and strategies. Johnston had seen a multitude of representations for similar initiatives but she hadn’t seen this type of execution before, and she wanted to know who was behind it.
So who were the creative thinkers that Johnston was looking at? Halifax’s own Faten Alshazly (BSc [Computer Science] ’99) and the team at WeUsThem, a strategic marketing communications, advertising, and public relations firm with an emphasis on digital work. Their partnerships with health-care organizations have been causing quite a stir lately, and people have begun taking note.
“It was amazing to get this call and have someone tell you they saw your work at the other end of the country and wanted to take a trip just to meet you in person… it was mind-blowing,” Alshazly says. “We showed Her Excellency a world map of where our work had traveled to (138 countries so far), across many different countries. It was lit up everywhere. We do the work and we get the measures, but it’s rare to see it laid out altogether like that. It was a bravo moment for our team.”
Alshazly’s agency consults with local and foreign governments, heads of states, multi-national corporations and small businesses in fields such as academia, hospitality, health care, real estate and other industries. The team combines strong creative and technical arms to produce work bound in expertise that is aesthetically pleasing and consumable by the general public. As the firm’s Principal and Chief Creative Officer, Alshazly tries to bring new creative techniques using visual communications to represent a brand, a project, an initiative or a campaign for small or large businesses.
The work being highlighted was that done by WeUsThem for TeenMentalHealth.Org and Dalhousie’s Dr. Stan Kutcher from the Department of Psychiatry. Recently WeUsThem won the first Webby Honouree in the region for TeenMentalHealth.Org.
Under Alshazly’s leadership, WeUsThem has also brought another first to the East Coast, with the first Gold Davey recognizing the use of Experience by Design on Mobile Apps for McMaster University.
“With the creative work we do, we have a very strong base in strategy — we’re trying to see how creative work can produce a return on investment when executed correctly,” she says.
At the centre of that strategy, and the majority of work that Alshazly immerses herself in, are the people around her. Last fall she was named one of Canada’s 100 Most Powerful Women, the first woman from Nova Scotia to receive that honour in Arts and Communications. The Top 100 Awards celebrate professional achievements of remarkable female leaders across the country in the private, public, and not-for-profit sectors. Most recently she was also noted as one of Canada’s top 5 Women ofInspiration by the Canadian Immigrant Magazine, and a Woman of Excellence by the Canadian Progress Club.
The award is proof of Alshazly’s wide-reaching impact — not only in the field of Arts and Communications, but as a leader in her community and as an influencer. In addition to her role as creative lead at WeUsThem, the proud Dal alumnus is also an adjunct professor, business advisor, mentor and board member for businesses. Alongside Ashwin Kutty — fellow Dal alumnus, professor and WeUsThem co-founder — Alshazly reflects on her success by her ability to give back.
“I wished I had this type of mentorship when I was at Dalhousie. You end up trying multiple channels until you find where your heart is and what you want, and sometimes you want something and you have no idea how to get to it,” Alshazly says. “I feel I could help make people’s lives easier, especially as they’re getting settled into the real world after graduation. I want to do that.”
A PRESENCE ON CAMPUS
For the past three years, Alshazly has been a strong presence within the Women in Technology Society (WiTS) at Dalhousie. The society exists to support and celebrate female students pursuing technology-based degrees at the university, and strives to promote equality of gender and race within science, technology, engineering and mathematic organizations.
To establish a strong culture of female tech enthusiasts within the university and the larger Halifax community, WiTS invites successful women with backgrounds in IT to mentor new graduates or undergraduate students by participating in their events. This mentorship helps provide young women with knowledge and advice about next steps and how to move forward in their careers after graduation.
Beyond her commitment at Dal, Alshazly also mentors outside of the university through the Women’s Executive Network, the Women’s Employment Outreach (WEO), the Halifax Partnership Connector Program, and as a Business Advisor with e3 (formerly Entrepreneurs Forum). She also brings students and mentees to the agency to let them witness and experience opportunities and challenges first-hand. Some of them have even become long-term members of the tightly-knit team at the firm.
“This is how it is, you succeed and you share. I didn’t succeed just by trying. I had great mentors and people giving advice and support,” Alshazly says. “Sometimes all it takes is for one person to listen and give support, and that’s my focus, to see how I can help people in any way that I can.”