Zeena Koda

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ZEENA KODA

DIRECTOR OF DIGITAL MARKETING AT MOTOWN RECORDS
WRITER, HOST, PRODUCER

LOS ANGELES, CA

How did you get started in your career – and how does your career reflect your personal aesthetic?

I began my career by being a musician. When I was in my teens and early 20’s I saw no other life than performing and writing music. Always the foolish artist, I held on to that sentiment for years and up until recently continued my passion as a vocalist with several different bands. Well as it turns out, the band did not make it man and I caught on pretty early that I’d need to find an alternative, tolerable source of income. I began working in the industry in 2006 at an indie metal label as head of PR, eventually parlaying my way up to a bigger label, then branching out as a DJ on SiriusXM’s metal station for almost 6 years. In the mix of this time I freelanced and explored my passions relentlessly, migrating my “day job” from PR into marketing and obsessing over all the digital nuances of this popular new mechanism they called “social media.” When one of the hip hop publicists left a gig I was working at, I made a crucial decision to take the “urban” world on. It came natural to me as someone who grew up listening to hip hop and the vibe of many of the key players felt very natural to me. I truly enjoyed towing the line between both the urban and metal worlds, which I came to discover were shockingly similar. Being able to steer the ship as both the marketer and interviewer has been key for me. The new paradigm for creative success is 360 and understanding the view behind every side of the lens is beyond beneficial. My personal aesthetic is 100% real and a by-product of my natural career progression. I aim to keep it morally conscious, classy and creative no matter what version of myself I am footprinting. Hard work and follow through will always be key drivers and there is nothing luck can offer, that can trump motivation and effort.

How have the women in your life been instrumental in your life and career?


Women have been everything to me and I revel in being able to learn from female mentors and collaborate with other female contemporaries. I make it a habit to ask other women I admire or respect on “lady dates” to learn more about them. There’s so much to be learned from other females in the biz and it is a shame when ego or insecurity get in the way. I like to surround myself with other women who are passionate about their concentrations, willing to collaborate and interested in all aspects of REAL life. As a woman it’s SO difficult to balance all life has to throw your way and it’s endearing to see how other women have navigated this road and excelled. Women deal with so much in life and career – it’s such a unique, underrated position to perpetually be in.

Cultural trends constantly change. What do you do to stay relevant, connected, and ahead of the curve?


Creep, creep and creep. I try to challenge myself constantly to meet new people and explore other options. One of the greatest mistakes any employee can make is complacency and I rarely accept anything less than my best. If you continue to challenge yourself to evaluate and grow, you’ll genuinely flow into the next stage of whatever that curve may be. Stay humble, stay empathetic, stay inquisitive and educated.

How do you keep track of your personal and business goals – and stay creative at the same time (even when you’re exhausted)?


It’s incredibly cyclical and to be honest, creative bursts come in waves. As I grow older, I really can take a look back at all the paths that I have paved for myself and appreciate each of these concentrations for the lessons they have taught me or headway each has given me in whatever area I’ve fancied. Maintaining focus is SO hard when you have a relationship to attend to, financial obligations to adhere to that aren’t normally very bountiful exclusively in a creative space and time flies by like a car in the fast lane. Never enough time or resource to get it all done. I think one of my greatest personal challenges has been learning how to tell myself “I don’t need to do this anymore.” Life is truly an endless list of checks and balances and things must come, as much as things must go. Making time to research and be inquisitive is key too, wherever the wind takes me I need time and clarity to explore.

How important are mentors? Who is your mentor?

I’ve had so many various mentors at different times. It’s important to be able to candidly express your real concerns and fears with someone who has achieved a level of success that you perceive to be respectful. A mentor can be anyone you respect, even if they are more of a contemporary. I’m used to working in a bullshit filled field and find mentorship in anyone that I actually respect and follows through. Minimal criteria to most, but basically the gold ticket that gets anything done and very commendable. Mentors are essential and it’s beyond important to have someone you can go to for both leadership and venting purposes.

What is your advice for women entering creative fields or starting their own business?


If you want to be financially successful, be ready to hustle 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. You never know which road could be the yellow brick road. I’m also a firm believer in bartering and (sometimes) working for free to gain experience. Although money makes the world go-round, building strong relationships and establishing your worth is everything. Sometimes the payout is nothing for a lot, sometimes it’s a lot for nothing. A great frame of mind for an ambitious woman involved in ANY biz. Perseverance and reinvention are also key because NO ONE STAYS ON TOP FOREVER. You need to learn how to play your cards and know when to hold ’em or fold ’em constantly. YOUR RELATIONSHIPS ARE EVERYTHING. It’s the unfair, yet stark reality of life. It’s why Ivy league sticks with Ivy league, handshakes and winks are more binding than contracts and seemingly random people swiftly arise to the top. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve encountered with marginal talent but a tapped in network killing it. Talent comes second to knowing how to move the king. The biz of creativity is a constant chess match and knowing the kings and how they move will make the difference.

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Place that inspires me the most…
 The beach and heartbreak.

I feel most powerful when… Being creative and producing creative things.

I love what I do because… 
I can’t commit to one concentration and I love the fire of inquisition and progression.

Best advice I have ever received… 1) Keep it moving. 2) You’ll never know the answer until you ask.

Connect with Zeena Koda on zeenakoda.com, LinkedIn, TwitterInstagram, and Snapchat: ZeenaKoda!

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