Career Paths: Ahmad Islam ’92

A graphic reading "'Find something you love and become great at it! Gain as much experience and explore as many opportunities as you can. - Ahmad Islam '92, CEO of TEN35." Pictures Ahmad.

Ahmad Islam is the CEO and Co-Founder of TEN35, a full-service advertising company that has worked with numerous high-profile brands such as Meta, PepsiCo, American Express, and Microsoft. A 1992 graduate who earned his B.S. in Business Psychology, he is a Chicago Area Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame inductee. TEN35 was a Black Enterprise Agency of the Year while his first agency, commonground, was an Ad Age Small Agency of the Year. Islam is also involved in the non-profit sector, establishing Gabriel’s Horn Foundation and serving on the Make-A-Wish Foundation and AUTISM Speaks boards. Learn about his Career Path below.

How did you reach your current position?

My current position is the culmination of merging my passion for creativity and marketing with my entrepreneurial spirit. I was an ideas person even as a child. Owning my own agency allows me to be entrepreneurial while developing ideas and strategies for some of the world’s biggest brands.

When starting out, I took jobs with amazing companies that enabled me to build the pedigree and experience required to reach my current role. My time at NIKE proved a six-year “apprenticeship” in brand marketing greatness that inspired my journey. I leveraged this experience into the Vice President, Account Director role at Leo Burnett, where I oversaw the development and implementation of the $100 million, Effie Award-winning “Army of One” campaign.

In 2003, I decided it was time to begin my entrepreneurial journey. I founded commonground, which became the go-to partner for brands that wanted to connect with Black, Hispanic, and youth consumers across numerous categories. After selling my first agency in 2014, I helped launch TEN35. TEN35 has become one of the top diverse agencies in the industry. Under my and my partner’s leadership, it will continue to be a trusted resource for brands seeking to have a meaningful voice and grow their business in culture.

How did Miami University set you up for success in your career?  

Miami provided me with a great foundation for learning and developing many of the “soft skills” that have made me successful. While I didn’t realize it would prove so impactful at the time, my experience as a Business Psych major continues to shape my humanistic approach to marketing and creating emotional connections with consumers.

What is your best piece of career advice for current college students?

Find something you love and become great at it! Gain as much experience and explore as many opportunities as you can.