Meet the woman making the world of advertising more human

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Hannah Keegan
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Sereena Abbassi, head of culture and inclusion M&C Saatchi

Work/Life is Stylist’s regular column about the professional routines of successful women. Here, Sereena Abbassi from creative agency M&C Saatchi talks us through her one day diary, from morning latte to lights out.

Sereena Abbassi, 34, is the global head of culture and inclusion at creative agency M&C Saatchi. She lives in Bristol with her friend, Lily.


At about 6.30am, but I’m up before that. I hate sleeping with curtains – strange, I know – so the sun will wake me up. The first thing I do is reach for my phone to check my emails and sometimes I answer them. I know it’s bad, but it’s easier.

I wear lots of colour. I love vintage clothes and will usually pair them with something from Arket or Urban Outfitters. Breakfast is a Human Food nutrition bar that I eat once I get to work.

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Making sure that M&C Saatchi’s employee-led networks run smoothly; helping CEOs across the company pin down a diversity and inclusion strategy that works for their local market. I also look after programming, finding speakers for our ‘lunch and learn’ initiative, for example. I wasn’t given a job specification, but I see it as making the organisation more human.


By already working on improving diversity in the industry. I had my own agency, where I was doing diversity training for the advertising world. M&C Saatchi was looking to hire someone in early 2018, my friend put me forward and they said, “We want her”. I jumped at the chance, as I wanted to disrupt from within. 


Begins on the train to London – it’s an hour and 40 minutes and I work on the journey. I do this three days a week and work remotely the rest of the time. I am a big advocate for remote working; I don’t see how you can feel creative in the same seat every day. My days are back-to-back meetings, yesterday I had 12 and it’s usually at least eight.

A big part of my job is sharing my network with the company. Take Black Girl Festival, for instance [the UK’s first festival celebrating black British women], that’s an example of a business I’d love us to partner with. Another is the photographer Francis Augusto, who I suggested for a project we did; he dazzled so many people in the organisation that they want to work with him on lots of different things off the back of that.

Lunch is usually a meeting with an industry colleague. I love the Peruvian restaurant Señor Ceviche.

In the afternoon, I tend to check in with the people I report to, then I’ll see how our employee networks are doing. These include BAME, LGBTQ+, parents’ and women’s groups and encompass mentoring and events. I try to leave at 6pm.

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Was having [theatre director] Jude Kelly speak at a board meeting about how we need to use our power and privilege to amplify the voices of underrepresented communities. She was phenomenal.


Is feeling like I never have enough time. It never stops. That’s why I’ve moved to Bristol, to create some space for myself.


Is when I see people have ‘aha’ moments. Not just understanding intellectually that it’s good to have diversity, but on an emotional level, too. You see their hearts expand.

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I’m out most nights, either at networking events or speaking engagements. I enjoy being busy. When I get a chance, I listen to audiobooks like Slay In Your Lane by Elizabeth Uviebinené and Yomi Adegoke. I’m asleep by midnight.

My Plan B: Lawyer

I’m fighting for a fairer, kinder, more loving world in my current role and that’s what lawyers do, too. I have always believed that you have to fight for people who don’t have the means or the tools to fight for themselves.

Photography: Holly McGlynn