25 Mar WSB Inspiring Woman: Jou Pabalate
- Tell us about yourself?
Manila born, Riyadh bred—I’m a third culture kid who considers the capital as my hometown. I consider myself an urbanaut, cities keep me curious, food, creativity, spaces, people; it gets my wheels turning. I’ve been in Saudi Arabia for almost 30 years, I’ve seen it evolve, and some days it surprises me still.
- What made you start Destination Riyadh & all the other editions?
Destination Magazine was the brainchild of Rumman Company, and our publisher Ms. Enas Hashani and Editor-in-Chief, Maria Mahdaly. I joined Destination Riyadh when it first launched in the city 6 years ago and ran the operations/editorial team here as the regional editorial manager. I joined the magazine because of its vision; it wanted to show the sunny side up of the country. I particularly was keen to give a voice to Riyadhis and honestly, I wanted to be able to whip out a copy whenever I hear the words: “Riyadh is so boring” in a conversation.
We used to be three magazines, Destination Jeddah, Destination Riyadh, and Destination Sharqiya; serving as lifestyle magazines and city guides. In September of last year, we combined into one national title: Destination KSA, aligned with the vision 2030 and wanting to serve the entire Kingdom. When we relaunched, they offered me the role of Managing Editor.
- How long have you been in business in Riyadh?
I returned to work in Riyadh back in 2009, but didn’t get back to copywriting until 2012. I joined Destination in 2013, after being a freelance writer for various agencies.
- Have you had formal training in Journalism & Publishing or are you self-taught?
I’m a bit of everything, I’ve taken Journalism as early as high school, I was the editor of our school paper. When I entered the University of the Philippines, I opted to take up Philosophy as a pre-law plus, it was still a chance to read and write a lot. I took up a hodgepodge of electives in communications, semiotics, and social studies, which became a good foundation for when I decided to become a non-fiction writer / get into publishing. I also received a lot of mentorship over the years. Even now, as a managing editor, there are areas of it, I’m learning from others. I’m thankful and absorb random
I also believe in self-development, with our access to information these days, there’s no excuse for not trying to get better at your chosen craft. I read and research a lot about the areas I work in and my projects, and make time to take courses even if they’re self-paced.
I don’t consider myself a journalist though, I look up to journalists that report on hard news and do in-depth reportage. I would want to do so one day but right now, I’m a curious content producer, sometimes writer, sometimes editor who enjoys orchestrating creative endeavors. I also enjoy spinning stories and letting people see things in a new light, and that’s the PR/Communications person in me, I think.
Tell us about your passion projects?
Right now my passion project is Saudi Design Week (SDW), where I’m currently part of the organizing team. I’m handling the Press, Communications, and Outreach arm but I honestly enjoy dabbling here and there; whether it’s logistics or doing research on our next edition. SDW is a collaborative endeavor, which is something I love, you see different people, different communities gather every year to build something awesome from the ground up.
- How did you get involved with Saudi Design Week?
I’ve always been drawn to creative projects, and have always thought Basma and Noura Bouzo, the founders behind it were doing something great and can have lasting impact in the Saudi creative scene. I’ve kept tabs on their works and projects. How I got involved was through a good friend, Wided Khadraoui, who worked with SDW and introduced me to the team back in 2016.
I started by heading the volunteers mobilization team, which was an amazing experience—working with different youths and just being in the middle of the action. I was hooked from there on out.
A bit of promotion here, if you don’t mind; our 2019 edition of Saudi Design Week is happening this year. If people want to get involved too, as exhibitors, volunteers, etc, send me an email.
- What is a typical day like for you?
I don’t have a typical day, *laugh*, there’s a loose structure there but it really depends on what step of the publishing cycle I’m in. We’re either preparing for an issue, developing it, or on our deadlines, rushing to send it to print. In the past months, with my new role, I was between Riyadh and Jeddah often so having a flexible routine worked better for me.
There are fixed moments, It always starts with coffee and catching up with catching up with my team: writers, teammates, contributors, (Destination has offices in Jeddah, Riyadh, and desk in Sharqiya—yes, we’ve embraced the remote working setup to an extent and it works for us). Running the operations, which also means doing the research, you need to consume content to make it.
I usually have an interview, meeting or an event a couple of times a week— if I don’t I’d probably be catching up on work and projects for a couple of hours at night (with Netflix playing on the background). I do make time for other things, I play squash, read, go on walks, travel when I can.
- What do you enjoy the most about your work?
The rush, the hustle, and seeing it make even an inch of a difference in the end.
- What is the hardest part about your work?
I thought it was chasing time, and sometimes it is. But one of the harder things I learned lately, is having uncomfortable conversations— as a result of decisions you have to make; and being in a way, okay with that discomfort because you see the bigger picture.
- What advice would you give women considering starting their own business in the Kingdom?
I don’t have my own business but I think I tend to have what others call an entrepreneurial spirit— which I prefer calling “having hustle”.
My advice is to seek out others, and have conversations, you need to bring your idea out into the world to know if it works. Be okay with the word, NO— follow it up by asking Why?
If you still think it’s worth a shot, take it. Businesses like projects need to be agile these days— fail fast, fail often, fail better. It beats not trying at all.
- How can people find opportunities in Riyadh?
In groups, social media, and events. I believe in the power of networking and fostering connections. When opportunities don’t come to you, make them: Host your own gig fest or do a work hangout in a café, it’ll also attract others.
- Where can creative women go to network in Riyadh?
Work remotely in random hotspots around town. Visit places of interest to your field. If you’re an artist, do walk-ins in a gallery. Inquire about exhibitions, talks, or even community events happening around you. Explore your other interests, including having a hobby and find like-minded people— Recently, we joined a little dog club for our two dogs
Opportunities come from everywhere, you just need to be open enough to spot them and follow through.
- Do you have a quote or motto that you live by?
Live what you love.
Be a verb, know your Nouns, live your story.
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