woman @ work
Music is a language that transcends boundaries and shares emotions unlike any other. Rutaba Yaqub, Senior Editor for Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh at Spotify, has been a vital force in promoting regional music and culture since 2020. She bridges the gap between local artists and global audiences on the platform. “I did my bachelors in software engineering, but I started working for a music streaming service before I graduated,” informs Rutaba. You! Magazine sat down with her to catch up on her journey, passions and trailblazing achievements so far. Read on...
What was your first job?
My first job was to curate a seamless listening experience for our audiences in Pakistan.
What are your current areas of focus?
I am now a Senior Editor for Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka at Spotify. That entails being hands on with music and culture in my region, as well as using that expertise to discover and spot trends, genres, artists, music, that will resonate with our audiences. And then surfacing them to users that gives them an opportunity to enjoy and discover new music and artists.
What do you like most about your job?
Getting to listen to great music every day and discover new artists. I am working for an international music streaming platform that encourages artists, especially female artists, and has opened door of endless opportunities for them. It’s quite thrilling to see the music scene evolving at a global level.
What are Spotify’s top discoveries that are your favourites?
We discovered Nehaal Naseem, Jawad, Abdul Hannan, Farheen Raza Jaffery, Rozeo through our ‘Fresh Finds PK’ playlist that features new discoveries from Pakistan every month. We just celebrated its 2-year anniversary and we have already showcased around 346 artists through this initiative. What’s even more fascinating is that artists who feature on ‘Fresh Finds’ witness anywhere between 200 per cent to 5,000 per cent increase in their monthly listeners within 6 months of joining the playlist.
Being a woman at a senior position, what kinds of challenges do you encounter?
Women are often thought of as emotional and unable to make logical decisions. Battling with that mentality is tough. Some of the great leaders I have worked with have been women.
Does your organisation promote gender equality?
It doesn’t just promote gender equality but takes actions to ensure equal representation of women across the board - whether you are an employee or an artist.
Tell us about some of your most defining projects?
I think I was the most excited when we launched Spotify in Pakistan, some three years back. So many people came together to make that happen. Knowing what impact it would have on the music industry and artists’ lives made it really special. Besides that, the EQUAL programme is very close to my heart - a global initiative aiming to amplify the work of women artists across the world including artists from Pakistan. We launched it in Pakistan last year (2022), featuring a number of powerful songs revolving around women empowerment.
In your opinion, what is the biggest obstacle to women’s career progression?
I think women are taken for granted for being great multi-taskers because of the assumption that it comes naturally to them. That effort is not recognised or taken into account when talking about their development and compensation.
What are the positive points of being economically independent?
I think all South Asian women will agree that the biggest advantage of being financially independent is the freedom of choice that comes with it. I am not saying that it’s true in all cases, but in mine at least. It has given me the liberty to choose my own way of living.
What has been the key to your professional success and who have been your biggest mentors in your career?
Being part of the music industry for over 10 years really helped me get where I am today. Professionally speaking, I have had some amazing managers in my early professional years that really helped shape how I work. Ahmer Naqvi and Amna Asim are two of my favourite mentors from my past jobs. And of course, I am surrounded by some amazing leaders at my work now who are really helping me with my development.
What’s a leadership lesson that you have learnt that’s unique to being a female leader?
There is a lot of work to be done to achieve equity for women across the board. Which means there will be times when you have to fight for it. And that can be exhausting and uncomfortable. Sometimes you might second guess yourself. It’s very important to surround yourself with allies and other women who you can use as a sound board and rely on their support so you don’t feel like you’re in it alone.
What does a typical office day look like for you?
My typical day in office always starts with coffee, of course. And then listening to a lot of music and burying myself in data to learn more about how our audiences are listening to music, how is the music culture evolving, what are the current and future trends. And then applying those learnings to surface the right music to our listeners.
What’s your biggest accomplishment to-date?
Every time someone somewhere in the world will discover new favourite music through the work I have done, that’s an accomplishment for me.
What is your most treasured possession?
My peace of mind, which I try to keep in my possession as much as possible, ha-ha.
What genre do you think will be the next big thing?
PUNJABI! I think it’s going to get bigger than what it is in Pakistan right now. It’s already catching on really fast in the rest of the world and we’re starting to see more and more consumption and new Punjabi music in Pakistan.