Merlin Engage Alumni Interviews: Magali Ould - Merlin

Merlin Engage Alumni Interviews: Magali Ould

Merlin Engage Alumni Interviews is a series highlighting the experiences of former Merlin Engage mentors and mentees. Merlin Engage is mentorship program crafted specifically for our members that pairs executive-level mentors with talented mentees to shape the next generation of female leaders in independent music. This interview features Magali Ould, General Manager at Secret City Records (mentee). 

How did you hope that Merlin Engage would benefit your professional growth within the music industry?

The Merlin Engage Program arrived at a perfect time in my professional life when I was in discussion for a potential key promotion in upper management. Having no management background through education, I am the classic case of someone who has learned through experience from the bottom up. This had instilled a certain kind of confidence, but there was always this question that remained – was it enough? In so, my hope with the mentorship program was to help me grow the management aspect of my work, learn about the experience of peers and gain confidence to take that next step.

Mentorship can involve setting and then charting a path to achieve goals. Was this part of your mentorship? If so, can you highlight some of the goals you set for yourself during the program and how your mentor supported you in reaching them?

My mentor – Jenna LoMonaco (Head of US Marketing, ONErpm) – helped me question my overall career goals. What was it that I really wanted to achieve? Where did I want to be in five years? I’ve never really had a relationship in the industry where I could share some of these thoughts and focus on those discussions, so it was truly motivating. We worked on the management aspect of my role as well, basing our discussions in concrete, real-life examples. Sharing our experiences of navigating real issues with employees and work dynamics was tremendously helpful. It made me realize how similar our paths in the music industry are, and how valuable her insights were in helping me grow my confidence.

The music industry is known for its competitive nature. How did the program help you identify your unique strengths and how do you think those strengths will help you succeed in this competitive industry?

Jenna shared with me a great mantra: “Don’t mistake my kindness for weakness”, which I absolutely loved. When you have the opportunity to become a leader, you have multiple paths you can take to decide what kind of leadership you will embody. It’s entirely up to you to decide to become a forceful leader, or one that is genuine and open-hearted. It seems that by nature, broadly speaking, women tend to be the latter. That can sometimes be perceived as weak or inappropriate in upper management positions or viewed as a weak spot to benefit from. Speaking about our past experiences being under different types of managers, Jenna and I felt roughly the same about the kinds of leaders we were and wanted to continue to be (kind, open, with high emotional intelligence). It was a great conversation to better understand why that was actually a positive and powerful strength to have in this competitive industry. 

I also had a wonderful discussion with another Merlin Engage Mentor Megan Jasper (CEO of Sub Pop and Merlin Board Member) at Indie Week in New York during which she told me about how mothers contribute many extraordinary things to a company. The high level of multitasking and emotional intelligence needed to raise a child brings incredible strength and power to an organization. Being a mother myself, I had never really thought about it that way and genuinely felt it was an eye-opening moment.

How has your perspective on leadership and your own journey evolved as a result of your participation in the Merlin Engage program?

I’ve gained a lot of confidence in my leadership abilities since the Merlin Engage program. I would say my perspective was confirmed by the program. I think I already had all the ingredients to become a great leader, but the validation that came from these discussions and the understanding that so many other women had similar experiences to me was truly transforming.

Can you discuss the value of mentorship in creating more opportunities for female leaders in the music industry?

It was of enormous value! It truly felt a bit like a sisterhood, where everyone is there to help each other grow. It also helped create a network, which is not something that is easy for women to do when they do not have access to bigger seats at the table.

Can you tell us about your future aspirations within the music industry and how the mentorship program has influenced your professional goals?

Since the program I’ve become the General Manager at Secret City Records, which was a big professional goal! I’m only at the beginning of that journey. I still have so much to learn and work on in that position. My mid-term goals are really to honor that position and to give it my ultimate best. I would also like to help other women in the industry achieve similar goals and normalize the many feelings we have. We think it’s a part of our character or individuality when actually, so much of the hesitation and lack of confidence comes from the box that our traditionally patriarchal society has put us in. It’s much more universal than we think and when we realize it, we can overcome our fears, march ahead, and aspire to be who we want.

Finally, what would you recommend to future mentees in Merlin Engage?

Take a leap of faith and stay open-minded. Let the experience shape you even if it’s not what you had envisioned or planned. A mentor/mentee relationship, especially one picked by someone else, is a very interesting setting to get out of your comfort zone and gain valuable insight that you might not have your horizon set on yet.

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