Sarah Al Jarman, Dubai General Channels Director at Dubai Media Incorporated Discusses Being a Woman in a Powerful Role

Lindsay Judge   |   05-12-2021

As an Emirati woman, Sarah Al Jarman is outnumbered by men in her industry, but she doesn’t let that stop her.


As Dubai General Channels Director at Dubai TV Al Jarman has one of the most important roles within the company, ensuring the smooth running of some of the region’s most important media outlets. Al Jarman graduated from the American University of Sharjah before joining CMI, the state-run media organisation of the Dubai Government. The group comprises of various media outlets including print, radio and TV channels. Heading up the TV sector Al Jarman is constantly looking for new ways to modernise and revolutionise the way we consume media in the region. Here we find out more about her role and the challenges she faces as a woman in a male-dominated industry.


Tell us a little about your role and how you got to where you are today?

As Director of General Channels at DMI, my role is to oversee and develop the Dubai TV channels. I manage the content, overall operations and programming strategy of the network. It starts with market research, development process of creative ideas, overlooking scripts and production process up until pilot and execution. My role is integrated into the entire ecosystem of content creation and broadcast.


What does a typical working day look like to you?

As television is an ongoing 24-hour platform that requires daily fresh content, my workday is divided into sections. The first consists of sector meetings with the main functions that run the channels including the research and acquisition team and the production team who are producing fresh episodes daily, and the programming team for planning and broadcast. On the other hand, it entails managing stakeholders whether it be production houses, international studios, media talent or our commercial advertising agency arm. It’s a 360 operation that is very demanding, yet very rewarding when you see the outcome live on TV.


How would you assess the growing media industry in the UAE and what is something that you think still needs to be worked on?

The industry is rapidly growing in the UAE and especially in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. I did my Master’s thesis on the industry here and Dubai has become the regional media hub in MENA. The complete infrastructure is set up from multinationals, production facilities, growing talent base, telecom networks, media city/studio city and the growing number of TV networks and VOD platforms based in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The creative economy initiative has also encouraged more talent from the region to move to Dubai, allowing them to grow and be supported by the government.


How do you think the industry as a whole in the UAE is adapting to new technologies and multimedia channels?

The adaption and shift in the UAE is fast. We have the strongest and fastest technical infrastructure in the region and the government’s target and objective is for smarter, leaner and technologically advanced entities. We are blessed that the government here is as advanced if not more than the private sector, which gives this industry a strong foundation to start with. Add the private sector to the mix along with the advertisers and a rich ground of subscribers gives you plenty of room for multimedia channels and an entire media ecosystem.


How valuable do you still believe print media is today?

I believe each medium brings its own value and purpose to the consumer. I’m not a believer that one medium replaces the other, yes you upgrade the mechanism of delivery but in its essence print media content is still being consumed daily whether be it on paper or online. For me I look at the mediums as tools that shift, are enhanced and become smarter but the core business is still very strong. At the end of the day, a strong credible brand remains influential with its loyal consumers regardless of how it is delivered.


What is the biggest challenge that you face in what you do today?

Working in a multiplatform corporation that owns a VOD platform ‘Awan’ it’s important to differentiate between a good show for TV or a series that works better for binge-watching online. We have been working on elevating the production standards of our content and differentiating between both platforms strategies. This takes time however and we are getting to understand the market better and to know which business model works, better be it advertiser or subscription.


You are one of the few women in such a senior position in your industry – how do you ensure that your voice is heard?

I focus on what I am creating and let my work speak for itself. As a female heading up one of the biggest TV networks in the MENA region, I am working with a new strategy that is more progressive and younger-skewed. We are launching original content which already shows a shift in thinking and content strategy, so for me, I speak through my work, hoping it reaches the hearts of our viewers. Once you have achieved that, by merit, you are naturally heard.


This month we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the UAE, what does this occasion mean to you?

It is a special occasion that is very dear to my heart. Even though I am younger than the union, I have witnessed the beautiful development and bloom of the UAE since I was a child. I am very proud of what the UAE has achieved on a local and global level in just 50 years. The civilisation and globalisation of the UAE we are witnessing is due to its wise leadership, progressiveness, openness and tolerance. This is a nation led by hope, love, empowerment and humanity. Nations growing with these core foundations can thrive much faster.


What is a message that you would send to your country on this occasion?

A message of gratitude and love. The UAE has given its nationals and residents the most beautiful, safe and comfortable life allowing us to achieve our dreams and lead better lives. We are blessed and lucky to be living it, contributing to the development and growth and giving back a portion of what it has provided us.



What is your fondest memory of the UAE from your childhood?

National days were always a sentimental patriotic occasion for me and I still remember the warmth and sense of joy and pride as a child, celebrating it in school and later with family and friends with cultural parades, traditional dances, delicious local food wearing colourful embellished Jalabiyas and gold jewellery. These will always be cherished and passed down to my daughters as they celebrate every year.


How will you be celebrating the 50th anniversary?

We have a full day media coverage of the festivities around the UAE with live studios around the emirates, Expo and this year Hatta who will be hosting the main festive event. So for the most part overseeing the media coverage and after that, I will be with my family.


What do you think the UAE has that no other country possesses?

The UAE is a beautiful combination of authenticity, indigenous culture, preserving its identity, traditional roots and origins yet it is extremely civilised, global, open and diverse. It’s home to many nationalities living peacefully, safely and respectfully together. In the region, it is the pioneering country focused on development, diplomacy, sustainability, technology, space and the future.


What is the professional motto that you live by?

Be your authentic self. I work within my femininity and character and I do not carry or put on a more masculine or aggressive role to be heard or taken more seriously. In fact, the more genuine I am to my nature, the more I have been able to connect and achieve more in the smoothest flowing energy. It carries a lot of subtle power along with acknowledging and listening to others goes a long way. In every aspect of my life, whether professional or private I have noticed the shift and improvement it translates into my life.


What is a message that you would send to young women hoping to enter the industry?

It is important to enter it for the right reasons and have a passion for it. This industry requires a lot of creativity, passion, patience and drive. You can accomplish so much more and reach places if the right motive is there. Media is demanding however very glamorous as well, so it is important to stay grounded, focused and not be intimidated by anyone as there is a need in this industry for young talented and bright women. Find the right platform that works for you, be open to learning from different fields, do not stick to one profession and find yourself a good mentor.


What is something that you would still like to achieve?

There’s room for a strong Arabic language Video on Demand (VOD) platform in the region. As content quality standards are improving with better scripts, talent and production, the launch of an Arabic streaming platform would add value.


Who or what inspires you the most?

As an energy practitioner, I have studied and been certified from different energy healing models including theta healing, Reiki, true balance etc. For years I have been enamoured and inspired by how empowering this tool is in all aspects of life. Some of the most influential teachers for me were David Hawkins, Joe Dispanza, Sonia Choquette and Eckhart Tolle. Each with its unique model, but they all come down to the essential messages of acceptance and fearlessness. The analogy I love is, ‘to live peacefully you become like a river stream with no resistance to circumstances accepting and flowing easily to where life takes you.’ With clear intentions, gratitude and faith you achieve a better quality of life altogether.