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Creatives you need to know: Dillah Zakbah, BBH Singapore

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Dillah Zakbah
Dillah Zakbah Credit: courtesy of the subject

Dillah Zakbah started at BBH Singapore in 2009 as a personal assistant. But she didn't stay one for long.

"I kept begging for a chance to try something else," she say. Luckily, she had champions who gave her projects blending tech and creativity, and some six months in, she was promoted.

"They could have been like, 'You're doing a good job as a PA, stay there,' but instead they said, 'You have dreams, let us show the ad agency you can do more.' "

Zakbah left BBH after a few years; for a time, she worked at a tech startup—a work-chat app called Pie that Google acquired—alongside two other former BBH staffers. She also got her master's in computer science remotely from Stanford University. And when she returned to BBH Singapore in 2016, it was in the role of creative technology lead, working on splashy projects including Nike Hyper Court, a joint project with Google on connected basketball courts in Manila. Each court "unlocked exclusive HD basketball content direct to mobile web," according to Nike, and let players access training videos on the courts without using expensive cell phone data. They also mixed tech and art, with the terrain covered by massive portraits of NBA stars by artist Arturo Torres.

Zakbah, a native of Singapore, spent months in Manila for the project, hanging out with the kids on the courts, figuring out what training they needed, unraveling the local tech challenges and making sure the videos worked for everyone, even those with basic phones. And though she's more of a soccer person, she made progress on basketball: "I can actually get the ball into the hoop now!" she says.

Zakbah describes her role at BBH as "a creative who also understands how tech works—it's being very much a right brainer who happens also to be a left brainer." She liked tech as a kid, she says, and took summer classes on Java and HTML. "While other kids were on the playground, I was sitting in a dark room, learning how to code. I loved playing with code and tinkering, and I also loved creativity, but I never thought I could mix the two of them together."

Zakbah is involved in the Moonshot Challenge, a creative accelerator program launched by BBH Singapore and Women in Tech Asia. She also mentors female students.

Interesting personal projects have been in the mix as well. For Valentine's Day 2017, she launched Feminist WingBot, a humorous Facebook Messenger chatbot dispensing pickup lines rewritten to be more woman-friendly and positive. It's still up and running. Message the WingBot to ask for pickup lines, and you get suggestions like, "I better get a library card because I am checking you out ... a copy of 'The Feminine Mystique.' "

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