Hebah Fisher: What I've Learned
I tell stories with my friends for a living, that’s what I do.
Both my parents are fantastic storytellers and telling stories around the dinner table was one of the bedrocks of my upbringing. We have always had stories in our family.
Listening to the radio in Dubai would legitimately hurt my soul. Mainstream media in the Middle East speaks to my parent’s generation, and not to mine. This is a huge problem because 65 percent of the population of the Middle East is under the age of 35.
I used to manage a start-up incubator in Dubai, and every day I would meet hundreds of entrepreneurs who were doing incredible things, but I never saw their stories in the media. Where were all the human stories?
I had a quarter-life existential crisis where I was struggling to come to terms with my purpose. I spent a few days recording voice memos to myself defining what I thought I could do well, and that is how we ended up starting Kerning Cultures.
In my previous job, I felt that I had stopped learning. I am definitely my father’s daughter and am very curious by nature. So I wanted to pick a profession where no avenue was off limits – so every episode we do is an exploration into something that most people (and us) are not aware of. Whether it is looking at water management in the UAE or migration patterns of people in the Middle East. It is fun that this is the day job.
I’ve always been more of a listener, which I think lends itself to being a good podcaster.
Putting together a radio documentary is like working out a puzzle. You are always thinking what shall I add? What does this need in order to tell is part of the story?
I love getting to know the heart of people. In an interview, you only have a short time to build trust, so it is important to create a safe space to allow people to share their stories and vulnerabilities in the knowledge that they will be protected.
The essence of a good story is the same thing we all learnt at primary school: there needs to be a beginning, a middle and an end. You set the scene, show character development over a journey which builds to a climax or a plot resolution. If you can throw in an unexpected surprise then that is an added bonus.
As an Egyptian-American I feel I have taken the best from both cultures. I have my American father’s straightforwardness and strong work ethic, and my mother’s generosity and kindness.
Being half-and-half, you are always an outsider straddling two different worlds—that is the perfect combination for being a good journalist. You know enough that you can get close and built empathy, but you aren’t too close that you miss a lot of the details, and you ask the right questions so that someone who knows nothing about the story can appreciate it. I think that is a natural byproduct of being a hybrid.
I probably don’t invest enough in management philosophies and theories – rather than making it up as I go along.
I love it when our listeners write into us and say things like, “I was listening to your podcast while driving to the office, but I arrived before it was finished so I just sat in the car listening until it was done”. Being able to create those moments is special, but it definitely takes a lot of work curation.