Dynamic duos: Ayaan Mohamud and Helena Barroso Zarco

Impact.com's marketing director APAC Ayaan Mohamud and customer success director APAC Helena Barroso Zarco discuss their instant connection that began with rooftop drinks in Sydney.

In this new column, Mumbrella will each month ask two members of the same organisation that share a professional and personal affiliation, to share with readers the importance of workplace relationships in an increasingly work-from-home world.

Ayaan Mohamud: I met Helena at rooftop drinks in Martin Place in September 2019. She’d only been in Australia for two months and had worked in London with a good friend of mine. She brought Helena along for our routine Friday night drinks and we haven’t stopped talking since. My first impressions were that she was charismatic, funny, smart and easy to talk to.

I can’t put my finger on why we instantly gelled. Perhaps because we’re both immigrants (I’m German and Helena is Spanish), perhaps because we both lived in London for a long time, perhaps because we have so many common interests like travel, live music, dancing and exercise – all I know is that it just worked as a friendship from day one.

Curiously enough, Helena knew a lot about impact.com because she previously worked at a partnership and affiliate agency who works with us. This made her a perfect fit for impact.com so when a senior position came up in our customer success team, it was a no-brainer to refer her. I had no doubts about her capabilities; I knew she had an excellent reputation and I could see her strength of character. We’d also talked in a personal capacity about the culture at impact.com so she was sure it was for her. However, because of our friendship I stepped out of the recruitment process once I’d made the introductions.

It was no surprise that she got the role and whilst I had no qualms about working together, I’m relieved it’s been as seamless as our friendship. We’re in different areas of the business but work together on joint customer initiatives so it’s great to have someone who knows what I’m thinking almost before I do.

I’m also learning so much from her. Helena is more process driven than me and much better at setting boundaries. She’s used to working in strategic agency roles so will always sit down and figure out the process first. Because impact.com is still in more of a start-up, high growth mode, I often leap to the execution part first and figure things out along the way.

As everyone knows, the last 18 months have been a challenge to juggle our personal and professional lives when we’re all working from home, so I consider myself very fortunate to have Helena living five minutes from me in Bondi to support me on both fronts.

Helena Barroso Zarco: I’d relocated from London to Sydney for sunshine and adventure and when I found myself on a rooftop in Sydney a few months later chatting to Ayaan, I remember thinking – I could get used to this.

Ayaan has such warm energy. Most people are drawn to her immediately and I’m no exception. We cemented our friendship when we were both invited to an industry event on a boat in the harbour. Boats seem to crop up a lot for us; we went sailing around the Whitsundays earlier this year and celebrated many birthdays on boats in 2020.

Sometimes friendships work because of differences, but in our case it’s because we’re so similar it can be frightening. We love travel (we’ve been on numerous holidays together including spending last Christmas up in Port Stephens), live music, exercise (I convinced Ayaan to come to F45 with me and now she is hooked). It’s a standing joke that we often inadvertently show up in the same outfits or message each other about the same topic simultaneously. Twinning all the time!

I’d worked in the affiliate industry previously so I knew all about impact.com and its technology. I’d also heard Ayaan talk about her job and the team with such passion, it felt like the best next move for me.

There’s been no real surprises about Ayaan in a professional capacity since I joined impact.com in June. Only to say that quite genuinely, I have no idea how she does it. I can talk to her about an abstract concept I want to bring to life and five minutes later she’s mapped out an amazing customer event complete with ideal venue, format and design.

I also like that Ayaan is such a giver. I know she’s passionate about her female mentorship role with Macquarie Business School (which she encouraged me to do as well) and is pushing herself to be more visible in an industry that can be very white and very male.

During the pandemic she’s been a lifeline both as a friend and a colleague. Ironically, having worked remotely for four years, one of the things that attracted me to impact.com was their strong culture and workplace dynamic – but since joining we’ve pretty much been in lockdown. Ayaan has organised virtual happy hours and virtual team bonding events and we’ve managed to keep up our (socially distanced) walks and exercise as we are in the same LGA.

Ayaan on Helena:

Most memorable moment with Helena: There are so many but one of them is working out with Helena every day in Bronte park during the 2020 first lockdown. She would take a variety of F45 workouts from the app, write them on a piece of paper and come up with a daily program for us. We really bonded during that time and she convinced me to become an F45 member… we’ve been going together to the same gym in Bondi Junction ever since!

Best word to describe Helana: Charismatic

Most annoying habit or endearing behaviour: Spanish time vs German time. As a German I’m always early and she’s always late which is often funny to navigate when we have to go somewhere together… especially the airport. I’ll always be waiting in the Uber for her or arrive at a bar/restaurant booking by myself and wait for her. But she is never late when it really matters and that’s important.

Helena on Ayaan:

Most memorable moment with Ayaan: After the first lockdown last year when we kept each other sane, happy and healthy, we had our first night out in Bar34 in Bondi Beach, one of our favourites. We were so happy to be out, dancing, chatting with our other friends and realising how lucky we were to have each other as friends. I remembered in the peak of the night that we said how much we loved each other and how amazing and lucky we were to have met each other and become such good friends.

Best word to describe Ayaan: True friendship

Most annoying habit or endearing behaviour: The number of times that she feels bad or sorry when we do something nice for her. She’s one of the most thoughtful people I have ever met and she finds it strange when it’s the other way around which is very sweet.

If you and a colleague would like to submit your story to Dynamic duos, please email anna@mumbrella.com.au.


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