For me it's the people: CNN’s Chris Abdullahi on his inspirations, mentors and Sickle Cell Disease.

We talked with Chris Abdullahi, project manager at CNN, about his work with Sickle Cell Disease, his love for his colleagues and the importance of a positive work culture.

“I don’t really have a lair, I have layers. ”

Who do you think had the biggest impact on your career?


I think the person who had the biggest impact on my career was one of my old managers at Iris, called Chris Grimwood. He brought me on permanently – I started as an intern there doing some really weird UI stuff for a video – he saw potential in me, and that was my foot in the door into the agency world. Ever since then, he's been my mentor and we speak often.


Where are you working now? And what makes it special?

I currently work at CNN, and the special thing about it to me is the team. Everywhere I've been, I'm been swayed by the team – the workload or what I'm doing doesn't really matter to me – the main question is, am I enjoying the environment? We spend 40 hours a week there after all.


So for me, it's the people, and I’ve even become their Social Secretary because of how fun it is to spend time with them.

What's the project you've got over the line in the last 12 months that you're most proud of?

For sure, it was the UBS financial investment banking project – it was a challenge! It's just the time constraints and the kind of understanding between all three parties involved, and then delivering an epic piece of work, which is obviously not that epic to everyone else — but it’s a year-long campaign, and hitting the milestones and persevering is incredibly rewarding. 


Have you ever thought about running your own agency?


I have zero interest in doing that! Being completely candid and honest, I don't want to be responsible for everything and everyone all the time — I’ll always deliver, but that doesn’t mean I necessarily want to lead.


How is talent treated at your current company? What are they getting right?

The thing that they get right in terms of talent is, they don't make you feel like you're a third-party vendor or you're outside the team. It's very close-knit. And I guess within the team that I work with, a very small, tight-knit team, We get so much done and everyone works for each other.


There's some big personalities in there, but they’re always put to the side and the work gets delivered — we're very collaborative — and I think that gives people the space to want to stay.

Tell us about your work studio.

My lair! I don’t really have a lair, I have layers. Different spaces for different mindsets. When I'm going to have a leisurely kind of workday, working at a middle-ground pace, I turn on my TV, watch some YouTube videos, and listen to some sports.


But when I'm super focused, my bedroom has my desk, and it really changes my whole work ethic.


Sound of Sickle, tell us more.

The Sound of Sickle is a charitable initiative that I founded with my friends. It's my baby. It's something that's really important to me, I think there's in life, you must have a passion for something outside of your work and your career. Founded with a group of friends.


It's my charitable initiative that's around raising Sickle Cell awareness within the general community. It's a blood disorder that affects many Afro-Caribbeans and I think there's not enough awareness or knowledge about it in general so I do everything in my power (because it affects me directly as well because I have it) to encourage people to help out. It's really important.


Thanks Chris!




Chris Abdullahi

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