Zainab Wadood was eight years old, growing up in South Africa, when an audiologist recommended hearing aids—huge devices, at the time, that would have encircled her head. “When he showed my parents, my father was like, no,” says Zainab, who progressed through elementary, secondary and even higher education, consumed by the constant effort to catch up. A college professor and supervisor noticed the issue and asked her to see an ENT. “After I got out of the booth, the technician said to me, ‘How did you get through your life?’”
She offers the story to explain her intense discipline and passion for education that considers the needs of its learners. “I want people to understand why tools and interactions are so necessary,” says Zainab. Fitted with a high-tech hearing aid, Zainab went on to earn a Master’s degree in Business and graduated at the top of her class.
Today, Zainab is the head of Health and Welfare for the Americas at WPP, the advertisement agency known as the “creative transformation company.” With 150 subsidiaries that comprise a huge, global network of advertising companies, WPP relies on Zainab to design a harmonized benefits strategy across the network. She balances design and operational capability with cultural acumen and strategy to bring the company ahead of market trends.
While the mission of Global Nomads drew her attention, the organization’s authenticity and welcoming approach held it. “They connected to my core values,” Zainab says. “The connectivity they foster speaks to my own experience of being from a developing country and wanting to use what tools and technology I could to learn about the world.”
Global Nomads welcomes her leadership and curiosity about every aspect of how the organization creates change. “I look at who I’m working with on the board and their passion is very humanizing to me,” says Zainab. “I will learn from them and, hopefully, they’ll learn from me.”