A Q&A with Areej AbuAli

Areej AbuAli
SEO Consultant | Founder of Women in Tech SEO

1. Have you always known what you wanted to do as a career?

As most people in SEO would probably say: No!

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a teacher and at one point, I even wanted to be an astronaut. There was also a phase during my teenage years where I imagined myself playing bass guitar for a rock band. 

2. What drew you to SEO?

I studied a degree in Computer Engineering but I never felt like a good enough engineer, even though my grades were high up there. I then did a masters in Business Information Technology and that’s when I first came across Digital Marketing. 

My first role after graduating was in a small agency who were looking for an Arabic speaker for an upcoming campaign. Within a month, I got moved to the Tech SEO team and it made sense. I really liked how Tech SEO was a bridge between computing and marketing.

3. What advice do you have for women looking to break into the industry as a beginner?

It can feel super overwhelming at first but please take it slow. There’s so much to learn in our industry, don’t try to niche down from the beginning, instead try to learn a little bit of everything. This will help you decide on what you enjoy doing and what you don’t enjoy doing so much. 

4. What do you love most about your job?

I currently work in-house for an e-commerce stationery brand. Other than the fact that I love stationery, having worked agency-side at the start of my career, in-house is definitely a better fit for me. You get full ownership and autonomy on the work you do and have access to as much data as you can possibly get your hands on. I sit in the Tech team and I’m surrounded by super smart colleagues, that’s definitely what I love most about my job.

5. What has been the biggest challenge in your career so far?

SEO changes all the time and it’s difficult to find your niche. When I was agency-side, I felt split across a large number of tasks and clients and I wasn’t too sure what I wanted to focus on the most. Once I moved in-house, I realised that I still had lots of skills to learn, such as stakeholder management and actually getting my recommendations implemented. It’s so important for our voices to be loud and to constantly fight for the budget to grow our teams and get the resources we need to do our jobs as best as we can.

6. How has COVID impacted you and your career journey?

As many others, I got to experience working from home for the first time and it definitely transformed my work life balance. Gone were the days where there was a minimum of 3 hours commute and being restricted on where we live based on our commute to work. I can never imagine myself going back to fully working in an office again. 

I think a hybrid model works best where you can go to the office once a week, see the team, have your meetings and so forth. I’ve developed a deep appreciation for my commute-free mornings and evenings, I can’t imagine going back to how things were before.

7. Does SEO have a diversity problem? If so, what can be done to resolve this?

Unfortunately, yes, as do most industries. I think it’s something that’s improving over time, the more we speak about it, the more we raise awareness, but there’s a long way to go. Diversity comes in all forms and shapes. My community, Women in Tech SEO, focuses on the gender side of diversity. But there’s diversity of race, there’s diversity of accessibility, and much more than that. I believe that communities like mine are important in raising awareness and providing a safe space but they’re only a first step. We need more allies, we need more partners and we need a proper movement in place to shake things up.

8. What is the Tech SEO industry like?

It’s interesting, there’s good and bad. On the one side, it can be very supportive and helpful where people share their knowledge and help one another. On the other side, it can feel overwhelming, daunting and difficult to access, especially for new joiners. 

SEO is always changing and that’s something that keeps us all excited and on our toes all the time. It’s part of what makes it challenging and at the same time, it’s part of what makes it fun. From a technical perspective, the focus on speed, accessibility and relevance will continue to shine. From an industry perspective, the focus on diversity and inclusion will continue to make headlines. 

10. Who is your inspiration?

My mum. She was in my life till I was 19 years old and then I sadly lost her to cancer. She was and still is one of the most hard working people I’ve ever come across, juggling more than one job as a medical doctor and still making so much time for her home and children. She had great time management skills and enjoyed the simpler things in life. I miss her and hope to be half the woman she was someday.

Personal Website: https://www.areejabuali.com/

WTS Website: https://www.womenintechseo.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/areej_abuali

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/areejabuali/

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