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Black and white image of Jamal Dauda in flowered shirt

99U Conference

How This Underrated Skill Can Help You Thrive in the Future

Jamal Dauda, global head of music at WeTransfer, explains why the best thing we can do for ourselves is seek a deeper understanding of others.

When we set the theme for our 2019 conference — The Creative Future — we imagined a future where creative skills are more pervasive and prized, and how that might reshape the world around us. As we prepare for the event in May, we’re asking our speakers to share a skill they think is important for all creatives to navigate what’s to come.


In these fast-moving times, Jamal Dauda, global head of music at WeTransfer, says it’s more important than ever to sharpen your listening skills. Jamal will be speaking at the 11th Annual 99U Conference, taking place May 8-10 in New York City.

Q. What’s a skill or characteristic you’ve cultivated in your career that you find to be futureproof?

A. Empathy. It might sound a bit airy, but taking the time and energy to truly cultivate understanding amongst colleagues and creative partners creates an environment where the best ideas can find life.

Q. Why will it be so important in the future?

A. There are a lot of sections of culture and society that feel more segmented than ever. We now live in a time where there is an endless number of micro-communities that have unique tastes across music, film, art, and other media and are able to digitally congregate. As time marches on, creators are being asked to tap into and authentically speak to a more diverse group of people and the only way to do that is by actively listening and consciously incorporating the input, feedback, and belief systems of the people you are hoping to connect with. The best parts of our civilization have always thrived in the light of shared understanding and I don’t foresee this changing soon.

“Being quiet and being present are often mistaken for being the same thing.”

Q. What’s a time in your career that you’ve seen that skill or characteristic at play in a way that made you realize its power? Please describe the event, and what you thought to yourself at that time.

A. It’s something that happens on a reoccurring basis. A large percentage of my job is talking to and coordinating with people tasked as representatives of the artist: managers, record labels, creative directors, etc. However, I find that my best work has always come from direct contact with artists or creatives in a space where they have the freedom to convey their thoughts and goals in an unfiltered way. There is a real magic that comes from just being able to listen and absorb pure creativity at the source. It often changes and reshapes all parties involved for the better and I find that to be an understated, yet very powerful experience.

Q. What advice would you give to anyone looking to cultivate that skill or characteristic?

A. Ernest Hemingway really had the best advice on this. He said, “When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.” It really does put you in a hugely advantageous position to listen more than you talk. Being quiet and being present are often mistaken for being the same thing.

Hear from Jamal and other creatives shaping the future at the 11th Annual 99U Conference, May 8-10, 2019 in New York City.

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