Catch the fire of growth in Dubai

The Dubai Hearts & Science office can be found just outside of downtown in a busy, oceanside business district. It’s a fast-paced culture and not just because our Hearts have to hurry between one air-conditioned building to the next here to survive the warm summer months.

Their connected team of 40 is led by Fadi Maktabi, general manager of the Hearts & Science Dubai office. He’s been with the team since day one, back when there were only seven handpicked employees to start, and they’ve almost grown to capacity in their existing space now. (Yay!)

Fadi’s journey to Hearts & Science

No stranger to media, Fadi has spent the last 14 years honing his craft across agencies at Omnicom Media Group (OMG). When OMG approached him at the Cannes Festival back in 2016 and offered him the job to open up a new office in Dubai, he was pleasantly surprised.

Fadi shares, “When I got home, I did some research and absolutely loved the vision of the company. I’d never managed a company before but decided to take a personal leap of faith and accept the offer. It’s two years later now, and we’ve accomplished great things as a team.”


Mental health takes the front seat

Now, Fadi makes it his mission to create a culture in the Dubai office that feels like family. Everyone on the team have worked for years to build something from the bottom up. As a result, they’ve created a uniquely supportive culture.

One initiative Fadi is supporting this year is a focus on mental health. To kick off the opening workshop, Fadi asked the team, “Who here has experienced or struggled with anxiety at work?” Naturally, a few people quietly raised their hands.

Fadi continued to share his own struggles with personal anxieties in the workplace and how he tackled them. When he repeated the question at the end of the workshop, nearly everyone sheepishly raised their hands.

Part of the difficulty in addressing mental health issues in the workplace is the stigma surrounding them. To open up the conversation, the Dubai office has run meditation sessions, supported gratefulness lists, introduced stress workshops and introduced mindfulness practices.

“This initiative has really started to break down the stigma around mental health, specifically at work and how we approach people with tight deadlines and different opinions.

It’s refreshing to see how people are now approaching problems in the workplace. I’ve seen it make a difference.”

Dubai through the eyes of what we hold dear

The objects in our lives hold meaning. There are stories behind them that bring back powerful memories, and the things in our offices are no different.

In this regional spotlight series, we wanted to create a visual narrative of every office, so we asked each team to select five objects that have personal meaning in their space. Each of these objects tells a bigger story about the leadership style of the regional CEO, what they value, the culture of their office and of the global brand, too.

Back to his roots

Fadi actually began his career in media long before his first position within OMG. At 17, he started as a DVD sales representative for Virgin to make extra money. (We still remember DVDs, right?) The job had a monthly salary of $240 but represented so much more to Fadi.

“This job came at a time in my life when I needed the independence of working and making my own decisions…. When someone wants to buy a DVD, it’s actually a really interesting activity. It taught me how to interact with people. Sales is a massive skill set that I was able to learn early on.”

So when Fadi’s brother found this vest in the attic last year, he had it framed for him. Fadi now hangs it in his office as a reminder of how far he’s come. In turn, the vest also has become a great conversation starter that allows Fadi to share what he has learned with his current employees.

A stolen record player

As many know, Fadi is an avid record collector with almost 800 records at home. One of the first things he ever brought into his office at Hearts & Science was his record player, along with a small stack of about 50 records.

Often heard from throughout his office, the music quickly became a team favorite. So much so, that when Fadi left for vacation one week, he came back to find it gone! His team had moved it into the common area and refused to give it back upon his arrival. (Can you blame them?)

Fadi was elated to share his love of music with his team and has since found an antique 1920s portable record player for his own office. His team still knocks on his door occasionally to ask for a different record, Fadi obliges.

Here are the top hits of the Dubai office. See anything you like? Come over for a listen!

  • Queen’s Greatest Hits
  • Moby
  • Led Zeppelin
  • Buena Vista Social Club
  • Al Green

The moment you know you’ve made it

Nothing really feels “real” until you’ve passed your trial period.

When Hearts & Science first launched in Dubai, they were given space within an existing OMG building along with the support to build their company from scratch. In the early days, Fadi worked hard to win six new clients and eventually win OMG’s internal award “MENA Agency of the Year.”

One year after launching, the Hearts & Science logo was quietly added to the outside of the OMG building alongside long-standing agencies, OMD and PHD.

Naturally, because of the timing, Fadi likes to tease OMG, “You never put our logo on the building until you knew we’d be successful.”

The logo is now a reminder of all the work that went into the beginning of the Dubai office and how far they’ve come as a team.

Working with family

Team bonding experiences are usually fun, but you rarely get the opportunity to party as hard as the Dubai office did after winning Omnicom’s internal “MENA Agency of the Year” award.  To celebrate, the team went to Sri Lanka for a weekend of exploration across the island.

Every night the team would sit together on bean bags along the beach, talking or playing games so they could get to know each other better.

As the team has grown, they’ve had a lot of wins, group outings, dedicated work and resulting celebrations. These memories help them stay inspired to continue doing their best every day. (After all, who wouldn’t want another trip to Sri Lanka?)

“Our team has a level of curiosity. I really feel like they go out of their way to make sure the work they do is differentiated and that it challenges the end client.”

Become part of a global team

Having built the team up from scratch with new relationships, Fadi is constantly reminded by clients that they’re doing things differently.

“I get calls saying my team is doing things way too differently. Or that we’re not what they expect from a media agency. Good. That’s great news! We’re not here to do things the same. We’re here to do things differently.”

Want to do things a little differently with Hearts & Science? Check out our job postings and reimagine the future of media with us.