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- Le 2 février 2018
Improving lives through communication on human rights
Lamia Burkart, Master in Management (2002)
Lamia Burkart graduated from Audencia Business School’s Grande Ecole programme in 2002 with specialisations in marketing and brand management. She had previously studied applied linguistics (with majors in English and Spanish) at the undergraduate level and entered directly into the second year of the Audencia’s programme via a parallel admissions scheme. After completing her master’s degree at Audencia, she went on to earn a Master in Communications at Sciences Po in 2004. A French-Tunisian dual national who grew up in Africa and in France, Lamia has worked in France, Germany, the United Arab Emirates and Switzerland.
Lamia is currently a social media partnerships consultant for the United Nations Human Rights Office. She works to raise awareness on multiple topics related to the UN’s work. “Communications is at the heart of human rights work. For instance, when UN experts release a report about human rights violations affecting minorities, the groups concerned may not be aware of it. That’s a challenge we are trying to solve through social media outreach.”
Lamia works to drive media attention to human rights initiatives targeting communities the UN works to help. This makes these communities aware of existing international human rights mechanisms. Currently, her work focuses mostly on discrimination-related issues globally.
“During my career in the corporate sector, I specialised in understanding consumers, segmenting and targeting the most valuable audiences for my clients. I am very eager now to use that experience for the non-profit sector and the UN, in order to better deliver knowledge of rights. I would like to move from merely reaching audiences to actually touching them and making a real and tangible impact on their lives.”
Lamia recently gave birth to a boy and took off a year to concentrate on raising him. She says that being a mother has made her rethink her priorities – namely, how she can contribute to securing a better world for her son to live in. She says this was key in her decision to focus on the non-profit sector.
Lamia confesses that organising her time is a challenge, as it is for most working mothers. However, she believes that a career in defending humane values gives her the energy she needs to balance work and family time. Ultimately, she says, her career choice is for her family and her son’s future.
Lamia loves the variety of her work. “In communications agencies, your work often falls into the same industry sector. For instance, I have a lot of experience in the automotive industry. My work is now quite diverse.” That includes the people she reaches: “Before, my audience was consumers; now it can be human rights defenders, victims, influencers or simply the general public – the people matter to me. I needed that kind of meaning.”
At the same time, Lamia notes this diversity makes her work quite challenging. “My expertise is in communications, but I also need to grasp complex legal and political aspects of human rights that are specific to each issue I am involved in – like business and human rights or minority communities – so I can help empower the global public. And my audiences now include activists, journalists and other media people, human rights experts, civil society groups and more.”
Personal interests and passions:
Lamia’s focused primarily on her family and work. When she can find the time, she also enjoys travelling and having new food experiences. She is also preparing for the Berlin half-marathon later this year.
Advice to students and graduates:
Lamia says that when she was younger, she tried out work in many different fields and didn’t really have a sense of direction. “I was rather good in many areas, but I had no precise idea about the career to engage in. So I would primarily consider the areas where I would get the best result with the least effort. That strategy was a terrible mistake!”
Her advice for people like her, who might not find their focus right away? “It can take a lot of effort to understand that you need to specialise in something.” For example, Lamia says that she expected her first position in a communications and advertising agency to be a dream job, but it turned out to be a major disappointment in her career. However, it helped her realise that her lack of specialisation was an issue, and she decided to focus on a specific skill set that would make a difference in her future career.
“I learned a lot. I realised I needed to specialise to become valuable. There were not so many strategic planners in media agencies at the time, as it was quite new, so I focused on that and on marketing research, as I understood it would give me a competitive edge. This specialisation was a great decision. Once you have the skills, you can move to a company or organisation that aligns with your interests and values!”
She also emphasises that it’s important to keep your focus on finding the right fit. “Don’t always believe the hype about famous companies. Students who go to a big-name school sometimes feel pressured to enter a big-name company. I think this can become a vicious cycle that creates a mould where diversity is lost. Working in a place where they embrace diversity is so refreshing!”
Last but not least, Lamia highlights the importance of gaining work experience in an international environment. “Working abroad, especially in a multicultural setup, has made me more self-confident … It requires getting out of your comfort zone, especially when moving overseas. Nowadays, it’s fundamental to increase your cultural awareness and your adaptability.”
Most memorable experience at Audencia:
“I was really happy with the school, its infrastructure and the opportunity to study abroad at the Fisher College of Business at Ohio State University – it opened many doors for me.” Lamia adds, “I have kept two very good friends from my time at Audencia. We don’t see each other often because of work and family commitments, but they are very close to my heart!”