An Interview with Sabena Gupta, Forbes (US & Canada 2019) Marketing & Advertising

Bruno (HE) Mirchevski
May 22 · 9 min read

(#00022) — Creativity at its core is being able to see things in new ways and devise new solutions to old problems.

Journalism is a nation’s watchdog, and it goes without saying that this profession is invaluable for every single one of us.

Even though journalism has changed throughout the years in order to adapt to the needs of the audience, its core values have remained the same for many generations.

Above everything else, journalism exists to be the bearer of information, and of course to keep people updated about what is happening outside of their bubble. However, what earns this profession respect from the people is the ability to form their opinions, inspire changes, and influence the wellbeing of our society.

But behind thriving journalism, there are many things included. It’s not only the journalists, reporters or editors. There is a whole team involved to make everything work and bring the news to the people. From designers to marketers, there is a large group of people that join their efforts to deliver the best possible results.

Today we are not going to talk with a journalist, but with a person behind an immensely important part in today’s journalism — branding.

Sabena Gupta is a brand strategist for one of the most prestige newspapers in the world, The New York Times. She is a young woman that has counted many successes throughout her career, including the recognition she earned by Forbes’s 30 under 30 2019: Marketing & Advertising.

If you want to know how she does it, I advise you to keep reading the interview I made with her.

Bruno (HE) Mirchevski (The Logician):

Hi Sabena, thank you for taking the time to do this interview with me! Can you tell us more about yourself? Who is Sabena Gupta? How did you choose your career?

Sabena Gupta:

My pleasure! I’m a born and raised New Yorker, having grown up in Long Island and lived in New York City since college.

Growing up, I always felt equally influenced by both sides of my brain: the more creative right and the more logical/linear left.

I was really good at things like Math and Science, but my favorite classes and hobbies were always creatively inclined like English and Art.

That tension made it difficult for me to decide what I wanted to do in life and where I would be successful, but it led me to where I am in my Brand Strategy career today.

Brand Strategy is really a perfect field for people who want to exercise both sides of their brain and apply creative thinking to solving business problems.

Bruno (HE) Mirchevski (The Logician):

I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate you on making on the Forbes’s 30 under 30 list! Was this one of your goals? What do you think most contributed to this success?

Sabena Gupta:

Thank you so much! I wouldn’t say it was always a major goal of mine, but I remember hearing my sister, who always had a business-oriented career, talk about the list growing up and how she had respect for the people who made it; what I always appreciated about it, was the effort to highlight people across a range of disciplines and backgrounds since there are so many different measures of success.

Part of what I think contributed to my success is working for a company whose mission I believe in so strongly, and the role that The New York Times plays in society right now.

When you’re working towards a goal that you deeply believe in, it’s easy to be driven and put all of your energy into achieving that goal. I think it’s really that drive that contributed to my success at The Times and made people notice.

Bruno (HE) Mirchevski (The Logician):

As a leader of two cross-functional teams, what are the most important values that you demonstrate? What is your greatest strength? What is the most difficult part of being a leader?

Sabena Gupta:

My leadership style is born from having a lot of great leaders and managers before me. The quality that I found to be most valuable in a leader is the ability to trust the people on your team to execute, and see value in the individual expertise that each person brings — which is particularly important when leading a cross-functional team from all different backgrounds.

I see my greatest strength as being able to take a lot of different information and inputs, see clearly where the opportunities are and communicate that information effectively and inspirationally.

The most difficult part of being a leader, at least in my experience, is being able to relinquish responsibility that was previously yours to your team. That said, that’s exactly why it’s important to surround yourself with people even better than you at what they do.

Bruno (HE) Mirchevski (The Logician):

When it comes to motivation, how do you keep your team members motivated? What motivates you?

Sabena Gupta:

The fortune of working at a mission-driven company like The New York Times is that every single person who works there believes in the future that we’re working towards: to show people why quality journalism is worth paying for.

For that reason, reminding people of that end goal is a great motivation for myself and for my team. That’s also why I hope that the rest of my career will involve supporting mission-driven brands and helping them communicate more effectively.

Bruno (HE) Mirchevski (The Logician):

Can you tell us more about The New York Times? What makes it different from any other newspaper?

Sabena Gupta:

The New York Times is leading the publishing industry in the effort to marry profitability and quality independent journalism.

No other news organization has an even bigger newsroom than ever before, in a cultural climate where news organizations are under attack and the business model that used to keep them afloat is no longer effective.

Our digital subscription business is not only effective but also perfectly in line with our mission to seek the truth and help people understand the world with independent journalism, beholden to no outside interests.

In addition to the success of that business model, we also cover a breadth of topics with truly unparalleled rigor, persistence, depth, and innovation.

What many people don’t realize is that the story you heard this morning on CNN or read in HuffPo was actually first reported by The New York Times. When we ask you to subscribe to The Times, you’re actually investing in the long term existence of this kind of journalism which is so important to the world.

Bruno (HE) Mirchevski (The Logician):

How do you encourage creative thinking? How much creativity has to do with success?

Sabena Gupta:

Creativity has so much to do with success — not in the traditional way that people think about it, but creativity at its core is being able to see things in new ways and devise new solutions to old problems. Everyone we know to be successful thinks creatively.

I encourage creative thinking in a couple of ways; first, I try to frame business problems that we continually face in ways that force people to think differently about them. Second, I actively try to turn off the work side of my brain for at least a few hours when I get home every day, even if there’s still work to do. Those quiet moments help clear my mind so that, when I face work again, I haven’t been thinking about it nonstop and am able to see things clearly.

Bruno (HE) Mirchevski (The Logician):

What is the one thing you wish you knew before you became a director? What is the best and the worst part of having such a job title at a young age?

Sabena Gupta:

I wouldn’t say there’s anything I wish I knew before I became a director. I’ve been lucky enough to have the support of a lot of mentors as I came up in my career, people who I’ve wanted to be like and who showed me the model of what it looks like to be a leader.

Having that model always made it clear to me what I was working towards, and the title was simply an acknowledgment of that.

The best part of having the title at a young age was really getting it in the first place; having the people I work with and whose support I seek actually say that I deserve this position. The other side of that is people who haven’t worked with me or don’t know how I got to where I am today have some skepticism around whether or not I deserve the position I’m in because I’m relatively young to have it.

Bruno (HE) Mirchevski (The Logician):

Do you have a life motto? Who is your biggest supporter? Can you describe what happiness means to you?

Sabena Gupta:

Related to my last answer, one of my favorite quotes is from Harry Potter: “Age is foolish and forgetful when it underestimates youth.

It’s really acted like a life motto for me because it reminds me that age really is just a number and there aren’t limits to what I’m capable of just because of how old I am.

I’m lucky to be surrounded by many supporters, but I would say my sister is one of the biggest. She’s always been by my side and supportive when I made life and career choices that others may have looked down upon, and she helps me balance practicality with goals that may seem far away.

To me, happiness just translates to having the time and the means to do the things important to me, and accomplish the things that I want to in life.

Bruno (HE) Mirchevski (The Logician):

Let’s say it is the year 2030. Where do you see yourself? Are there any milestones you want to reach by then?

Sabena Gupta:

I’m not sure exactly where I’ll be in my career, but I have other goals that I’d really like to accomplish in the next ten years. Food is something that I’ve always had a lot of love and passion for — another combination of both sides of the brain — and I’d really like to go to culinary school at some point. Beyond that, I’ve never lived outside of New York and would love to spend a meaningful amount of time in another part of the world!

Bruno (HE) Mirchevski (The Logician):

What would you advise everyone who struggles entering the business world?

Sabena Gupta:

The business world is not what it used to be; there are so many different kinds of careers that never even existed five years ago.

I would advise people to focus on what their strengths are, and frame those strengths in a way that makes it clear what a business or company has to gain from your skill set.

Business needs are changing faster than they ever have before, and as a result, many business leaders often don’t even know what they need until they see or hear it. I would advise people to show them what they need — you!

Success does not know any limits.

Success has nothing to do with gender, race or age. If you have the passion within you, and the skills required to show the world that you deserve what you are striving for, success will eventually follow.

No matter what niche or profession you are leaning towards, as long as you are passionate about something and that ‘something’ fulfills you, do not give up no matter how difficult things might seem at times.

Happiness is a choice and by choosing a line of work that makes you feel content, you get one step closer to living a fulfilled life.

“The Mission to Empower 1 Million Entrepreneurs”

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Bruno (HE) Mirchevski

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The Logician (Dreamer) 👁️ Don’t follow me. I am lost too!😎 Founder of HE Group - (Investor) 📈

The Logician

Don’t follow me. I am lost too!😎

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