The Road to SYNC Summit: In Conversation with SYNC Founders Omar Heraiz and Mustafa Sharara

Ahead of the inaugural edition of SYNC Summit, we sat down with the founders of SYNC School, Omar Heraiz and Mustafa Sharara to get all the inside deets on the hotly-anticipated event. From launching in 2020 as a school for the region’s creative talents to throwing one of the biggest gatherings of creatives in the Middle East in just two years, SYNC School embarked on a long and arduous path to get to where they are today.

How did the idea of Sync come to life? What was it like building it up from scratch?

We already operated in the creative industry, specifically in the advertising field as directors through ExcuseMyContent. Between 2016 and 2019, we came up with the idea for SYNC school. Then the soft launch of SYNC came to life in January 2020. We were baffled by the number of people who were asking to train with us as we were very young— maybe the youngest in the content creation industry 26 (Mustafa) and 29 (Omar) – which made us feel that there are probably older and more experienced people in the creative industry who are also getting a lot of calls from growing creators who want to learn from them.

Why did you feel there was a need for something like Sync here in Egypt? What kind of gaps did it bridge?

We felt like there was a way we could connect the trainers with the trainees in the creative field. There is a lot of aspiring creators, people with good taste, and good talent but with minimal skill or experience. While on the other end, there is established creatives with a wealth of experience and skill, but without an organized system to link them up. We felt SYNC would help the growing creatives to venture into the industry by meeting the right people at the right place in the right to jumpstart their creative careers. From here, we thought of designing something to bridge that gap between aspiring creators and established creators.

Sync was founded in 2019, so when COVID hit, the organization was still in its infancy. How did the pandemic impact Sync or alter its trajectory? How did it mold Sync into what it is today?

When the pandemic hit, we had already done a few workshops before on ground which were very successful. So, when we had to go online, we closed shop on ground and thought this would be the end of SYNC, but it was actually the beginning. It allowed us to reach more people than we ever dreamed of and make a global reach by delivering workshops, events and so forth. When we went online, people were attending workshops from anywhere and everywhere — pilots in the middle of the ocean, engineers on-site, at home, wherever. We operate in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Emirates, Algeria, Libya, Sudan, UK, US, Canada, Australia, and Palestine—more than 17 countries. When we created SYNC Facebook group “SYNC Community” we created a sense of ownership as it felt like there was a community for creators that is inclusive and anyone could be part of it, where no one is better than anyone. We could say we are very biased towards young talents. So again, we wouldn’t have thought of these things if we were not a digital community. So, I would say COVID is the best thing that has happened for SYNC.

What should people be expecting to learn and experience at the summit? Like, me, as a creative, why should I come to Sync Summit?

Attending the summit will affect different people in different ways. Firstly, and most importantly I would say inspiration. Inspiration is essential for creators, and it doesn’t just mean “oh this is cool or interesting” but it means seeing someone else handle the same problem, perhaps in a positive way. For example, a young creator would be facing a lot of challenges like a limited budget, but then you would listen to someone who has been working in the same field talk about how they dealt with the same issue, and you would feel very much relatable to those giants – these heroes whose work inspire you. There is also the in-depth aspect of it, which is learning, because besides the talks and panels, people sharing their stories, there are also workshops which are educational in all sorts of industries such as illustration, copywriting, and content creation. Besides that, there is also unofficial activities like networking, which is what we encourage at SYNC. We want the networking to be in a more of a gamified way so we will force people – in a nice way – to interact and network. This will be pushed forward in the talks, activities and exhibitions which will all take place at the summit.

What talks are you most looking forward to?

Honestly, it’s a very tough question to answer. We’re excited for a lot of talks. We are talking a total of 70+ sessions, 15 workshops and more than seven different activities within these three days. If we had to choose, we would say Ali Ali’s Talk, Hany Mahfouz, Karim El Haywan, Hisham Mahdy, Mohamed Baitie, Karim El Shenawy, Mazzika with Khalid el Kamar and Maya Fidawi.

How does Sync see itself expanding in the future? How will this summit give Sync a regional edge?

We started SYNC because we knew there was a gap, and our key to this gap was the know-how. We are education-based so our most important goal is teaching people through workshops, educational programs, and competitions. But unfortunately, there is a limited number of workshops due to the limited resources. We reached more than 4000 students with over 150 workshops, but we honestly want to reach hundreds of thousands maybe even millions. To reach this number of students, we want to create a prerecorded on-demand, well-crafted, well-done master class which is basically going to be the first Master Class platform in The Middle East.

We also want to send out the message that everyone is creative, regardless of if you work in that industry or not. We want to connect people online or on ground through our events or even through SYNC careers, which helped more than 3000 people get jobs through SYNC. We would say our core is education. We believe the future is education.

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