Category: GEMA, GEMA Alumni Spotlight

Title:GEMA Alumni Spotlight – Zaby Currie (C’04), Head of Global Initiatives, Label & Artist Services at Spotify

Zaby Currie (C ’04) was an early employee of Spotify, where she led its growth through Latin America, built out operations for the Global Artist & Label Relations team, and currently oversees Operations & Strategic Partners for the Licensing organization. Prior to Spotify, she was Chief of Staff for AOL Advertising, and has also worked in artist marketing and management.

What was your first “big break”? Or, what is the most significant experience you have had that has made your success possible?
One of my most pivotal breaks was when new leadership came on board to AOL, and the new President of AOL Advertising, Jeff Levick, took a chance on making me his Chief of Staff. Although I didn’t have the traditional background for that role, having never worked in digital sales/revenue before, I had a strong desire to put in the long hours and learn as much as I could. The growth curve was great and I had the joy of taking example from observations and interactions with strong leaders. Key learnings were that that soft skills, such as the ability to effectively communicate across multiple stakeholders and cultures, are often key in restructuring and growing environments, as this gives flexibility and adaptability to pivot and grow with the business. I also saw how my innate curiosity was a strong skill, as I could be placed in new business and territories and quickly learn and build out relationships to execute on business strategies. That job ultimately led to me heading up Spotify’s expansion into Latin America. I am forever thankful for a boss who took a chance on me.

What is the most challenging part of your job? What is the most rewarding part?
As I am in an industry that is constantly innovating at breakneck speed, the challenge lies in managing an ever expanding list of priorities and pivots, whilst keeping the business organized and aligned enough to the flexible and efficient through these pivots.

The most rewarding is the people I get to learn from and work with everyday. Highlights in my career that originally seemed sisyphean (ex: launching The Beatles on Spotify) might not have reached their successful conclusion without a cross-functional team sharing a common mission, common values, and camaraderie to combat, pivot, and strategize through the good times and the bad. Also, many of my colleagues share a similar sense of humor, which is sometimes needed, as everyday feels like a new adventure!

What is a current project you are working on that you are excited about?
After 6 years at Spotify, and being part of an ace team that grew the company from the bottom up, it is very exciting that we now have IPO’ed and are a public company. I am currently working on a project rethinking how our Licensing team organizes, prioritizes, educates, and communicates within this rapidly expanding ecosystem. It excites me as pivoting from private to public company, and building at this scale and speed, is not a challenge you find everyday.

Are there any ways that you feel Georgetown especially prepared you for your career?
There are two elements from my Georgetown life and education that I feel most prepared me for my career. The first is the ethos of a “well rounded education.” By that I mean that Georgetown encourages students to be very curious in the way we learn and in life (underpinned by the diverse core requirements and the focus on community service and giving back). The second was Georgetown’s international DNA – from study abroad, to the classes offered, to the student body. Both of these elements sharpened my global outlook and understanding of the importance of diplomacy, strong communications, humility, and curiosity.
What is your best advice to those who are starting out in your field?
There are three main pieces of advice I tell people starting out in the fields of music/tech (though they apply to most any field).

Careers are long, but memories are even longer. In that I mean that you should always focus on building your career in a way that feels genuine and truthful to yourself. Reputation is everything, so always weigh out short term gains vs. long term goals. Roles and power positions can change in an instant, so make sure you are treating those around you at all levels with the respect that they deserve. Know your worth, but also know when to be humble. Clear communications and diplomacy are key and often underrated strengths.

Embrace, don’t fear, a circuitous path. Some of the most successful and interesting people I know had very non-traditional careers. But they took chances and stretched themselves in unexpected ways. Even if a move doesn’t seem linear, you never know the doors that open up!

People are Everything. In building a career, make sure to prioritize the importance of who you work for, and the team that you work with. That can oftentimes trump even business ideas, as that is the network that continues to expand, even as businesses grow or fail. My biggest joys in work, which have led to my greatest successes and unexpected opportunities, often came from taking bets on joining a team due to the people, sometimes over the job spec. That’s also how you learn the most, both in hard skills, but also in soft skills (ie: how to conduct yourself in tough times, etc.).

Best Business Advice Received:
I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have had a few amazing mentors in my career, which has showed me the power of mentorship and sponsorship. With that in mind, the business advice that most marked me, was when I was at AOL, and my boss made a point to tell me to “always take a seat at the table,” including a few moments I am forever thankful to, where he pulled the seat out himself when I was going to tuck into a nondescript corner of the room. It is important to have hubris and diplomacy at work, but also to know that even if you feel intimidated or are new to a room, you are in the room because you belong there, and you shouldn’t be afraid to dive into that honor and responsibility.

Trait You Most Admire in People:
Curiosity. Genuine.

Favorite Social Platform, App, Podcast or Website (other than your own company):
Currently the app Asana Rebel is top of my list, so I can have guidance for much needed yoga wellness whilst on the road.

Favorite Georgetown Professor:
I am a diplomat at heart, so in honor of being a History and English double major, I will mention a few teachers from both paths that really marked me. Professor Joan Holmer revolutionized the way I analyzed texts and wrote through her Seminar on Shakespeare. Professor Paul Betz I will be eternally thankful to, for introducing me to James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, which continues to be one of the most complex and beautifully written texts I have ever read, and the analysis of which was one of my greatest joys in college. Professors John Ruedy’s course on the Arab-Israeli conflict was probably my favorite overall course at Georgetown, through Yvonne Haddad’s course on Modern Islam, focused on Women in the West, was a true game changer. And finally, I tip my hat to the entire academic staff at Villa Le Balze – from art history where I first discovered my love of Caravaggio, to classes that deep dove into the geopolitical climate in Italy, Europe, and beyond, to Italian cinema, to the patience of our Italian language teacher — all in all, my favorite overall academic year.

Favorite Georgetown Restaurant or Bar:
I’m half French and was over the moon when I discovered the crepes at Cafe Bonaparte my senior year. Guilty pleasure was overindulging in late night Burger Madness at Wisies!

Favorite Georgetown Memory:
My favorite Georgetown memory was when I was accepted into Georgetown’s Villa LeBalze study abroad program. I remember going on a Georgetown tour Senior year of high school, and seeing slides (!) of the Villa, and thinking how amazing it looked, and how I never thought I could get accepted into a program like that. Fast forward to walking through Healy Lawn on cloud 9 as my dream had come true! The Villa was one of the most incredible and defining moments of my college experience. The intellectual joy of Georgetown classes, mixed with a wonderful group of now lifelong friends, whilst traveling through Italy, was an experience I’ll always cherish.