Soraya Darabi: From @NYTimes to revolutionising fashion with Zady, everything connects.

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Meet Soraya Darabi, the woman with fifteen years of Digital Media experience.

Soraya’s career ignited when she saw the need for a person who understood digital in New Media. This realisation occurred when she noticed that journalists around her did not understand RSS (Real Simple Syndication) feeds – which allow users to collate multiple sources of digital media and read them in one place. As a reporter, this allowed you to write a story way ahead of the pack, and to produce and publish it online before it appeared in print. This was an opportunity not to be missed.

Soraya sent her CV to Conde Nast to be David Remnick’s assistant at the New Yorker.

Soraya says: “For those of you updating resumes, I encourage you to make the interest section funny or eye-catching because people do pay attention.”

By not labelling her interests and only writing “Reading Blogs”, Soraya’s love for media and eye-catching resume led to her receiving a position in the Digital Team at the New Yorker. Internally, this job involved using social news tools to keep up with news in real time. This, she says, is where a pattern started to emerge in her career.

It was around this time that Soraya started taking the approach of a Charles Eames quote “Eventually, everything connects.” Although out of context, Soraya believes “that if you look at your career, there are certain touch points that somehow just appear organically, and you recognise that everything you learned up to a point is leading you to what your destiny is meant to be.” In what would later become a pivotal moment in her career, Soraya stumbled across a job listing at the New York Times for Manager of Buzz Marketing or someone who understood Social News. At the age of 23 she was entrusted to head their partnership with Facebook. This is when the New York Times became the @NYTimes, an abbreviation much more convenient to type. Soraya claimed the handle without asking permission, and it’s become the one we are all familiar with today.

After being the first fan of the page, Soraya has watched it grow to a surplus of eleven million likes, in addition to growth in the other social platforms.

“My time with the NY times was pivotal towards entrepreneurship because we began to grow and expand the social media following from the single digits to multi-multimillion digits. This brought in millions of dollars through ad sponsorship opportunities to the newspaper.”

“Immediately I fell in love with the business side of how New Media works. The ability to productize what you’re doing is very sexy.”

Partnerships became a sweet spot for her, and so it was time to join a startup. Soraya entered the cloud computing space and joined the team at Drop.io. Although this bewildered her colleagues at the New York Times, it seemed like a natural migration to her.

 Soraya’s Success

Within the 6 months of deciding to leave the NY Times, two things happened in conjunction:

  1. Soraya’s first ever interview she gave to a business publication about the work she did in the New York Times became a cover story for Fast Company. One morning, she woke to find 30,000 emails in her inbox from Twitter followers and people who had read the article.
  2. The cloud computing company Soraya worked for was swiftly acquired by Facebook.

“So the decision to me, based mainly on intuition, was perceived as a success to the world. I often talk to the founders now between perceived success and actual successTo me, I was still living in the same studio apartment in Brooklyn, I was eating the same cereal, but externally I all of a sudden had an overwhelming network presented to me. If I have a reputation of being the queen of networking, it’s because that opportunity was handed to me by result of media and perceived success.”

Around this time, Soraya was advising the company Food Spotting and jumped on board as the third partner. She assisted with growing a user base of 6 million customers. Predominantly through organic marketing, traditional media and partnerships.

“You can’t do that anymore. You can’t grow an app entirely from love from iTunes, media and partnerships. These days it’s a very different beast.”

Concurrently, whilst starting the Angel investing arm of her work, Soraya and her business partner began Zady. “An e-commerce Company focusing on a transparent supply chain, ethical fashion and deep storytelling. It’s a business that is aimed entirely at millennials who want a deeper sense of where their products come from. Each product comes with a long-lasting story of how that product came to be, and why it was made with a deeper commitment to environmental standards.”

“If I were to bucket my career into three camps…

  1. There’s a part of me who will also be obsessed with traditional media, and interested in the way that media is converging. Old to the new.
  2. Excited about launching businesses, and seeing new ideas get off the ground. I am not the world’s best operator, as soon as a business surpasses 15 employees it is passed my area of expertise.
  3. There is a still part of me that is excited about spotting opportunities for growth in companies that are purposeful and purpose-driven.”

From Soraya’s talk, the Lightning Lab XX crew have learnt to be nothing but themselves. “People who like us will resonate with us, and with our product. By establishing what your identity is, and asking yourself: Why are you doing the things you do? You will find your tribe that you speak to and connect with.” – Bri and Dené, Sipreme.

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