x
Advertisement
Scroll to Continue

To register, get added benefits and unlimited access to articles, Become a Member. Already a Member? Sign in.

Meet Ad Age's 40 Under 40

Our Second Annual List Showcases the Bright Young Stars of Marketing

Published on . 0

They come from different cities, countries and backgrounds, but this year's class of honorees have all managed amazing achievements relatively early in their careers. They have shown not just talent, but perseverance, drive and creativity that bodes well for the future of the business. We hope you enjoy reading about this year's class and learn some lessons and personal tidbits about them.

headshot
Chloe Alsop
Marketing Manager, Metro Trains
Age: 35

The infectiously cute, self-destructive characters of the year's most-awarded campaign, Metro's "Dumb Ways to Die," may never have lived to see their gruesome deaths had it not been for Marketing Manager Chloe Alsop, who originally sought to avoid the clichéd darkness that surrounds safety messages. Instead, she challenged McCann Melbourne to find a direction that would associate her brand with something less negative.

What is the best career advice you ever got?

Write well. Written communication is still, if not even more so, in the world of social media and concise communication, the most important skill to have.

What mistake have you learned the most from?

The mistake of not being cautious enough with both generosity and trust. Unfortunately people will screw you over—but I think most people need to learn this the hard way. I did!

What advice would you give young people trying to break into your business?

Don't do things that have been done before (don't be boring). Challenge rules and process. Ask "why?" as well as "why not?"

If you were not doing this job, what would you be doing?

A buyer at Net-a-Porter? Such an amazing success story.

Do you speak another language?

No, I wish I did.

Ever lived/worked abroad?

I lived and worked in the U.K. in my early 20s.

Pets? If so, what kind?

I actually just bought my first puppy! A shoodle.

What city do you live in?

I live in Melbourne, and yes, it's very liveable.

What is the first website you check every day?

Probably an Australian news site, maybe theage.com.au.

What app can't you live without?

It's a tie between Instagram and Net-a-Porter. Both provide an instant mood lift. One doesn't sting my bank balance as much!

Hobby?

Shopping online, KX pilates, lunching with friends and AFL (football—watching, not playing!).
headshot
Renie Anderson
Senior VP-sponsorship and partnership marketing, NFL
Age: 38

Growing up on a Kentucky farm, Renie Anderson never dreamed she'd end up on Manhattan's Park Ave. working for the nation's most-popular sports league.

But she's now one of the top female corporate sales executives in sports, helping add blue-chip sponsors such as Procter & Gamble and Walt Disney to the league's roster. And much of it she credits to her early experience on the farm learning "productive patience" and "perseverance." She remembers her father sleeping nights in a trailer next to the grain bins to make they didn't turn off and ruin the grain before they were able to bring it to market.

"A lot of the drive he had, not just to be successful but to survive, were instilled in me. I'm not just going to do average work. Who does average work? I guess you can just get by. But I want to survive -- and make sure I'm providing for my kids just like he made sure he provided for me."

After graduation, the journalism major moved to Los Angeles. But writing wasn't paying the rent. So she became the personal assistant to AFL Commissioner David Baker, learning the business of sports from the ground up, doing everything from balancing Mr. Baker's checkbook to cold-calling NFL owners to see if they wanted to buy AFL franchises. "I was like, 'What should I do first today? Do I call [Dallas Cowboys owner] Jerry Jones or pick up the dry cleaning?'"

Over her nine years with the AFL, she did everything from taking minutes in board meetings to personally picking up $30,000 in cash for T-shirt royalties. Eventually, she rose to director-sales and client services before moving into the big leagues with the NFL. "I did a little bit of everything at the AFL," she said. "It definitely takes a village to make things go."

What is the best career advice you ever got?

"Man your wall," from former AFL Commissioner David Baker and inspired by Joshua Chamberlain's Civil War heroics. Essentially, worry about your job and the rest takes care of itself.

What mistake have you learned the most from?

I make mistakes all the time, the key is not dwelling on them but move forward.

What advice would you give young people trying to break into your business?

Being passionate about sports is unremarkable. Master a skill and then apply it in the sports industry. Sports needs lawyers, accountants, publicists, etc.

If you were not doing this job, what would you be doing?

My dream job is writer or actor on "Saturday Night Live."

Do you speak another language?

Southern.

Ever lived/worked abroad?

No.

Pets? If so, what kind?

No.

What city do you live in?

Darien, Conn.

What is the first website you check every day?

NFL.com

What app can't you live without?

Metro North

Hobby?

Can a city be a hobby? I love New York City. So reading anything about the history, walking over the Brooklyn Bridge, or through Central Park, etc.
headshot
Kofi Amoo-Gottfried
Global communications director, Bacardi Rum
Age: 34

Kofi Amoo-Gottfried is one of those people who never thought he'd get into advertising. Born and raised in Ghana, the global communications director at Bacardi Rum thought he was destined for a career in investment banking. But he was lured into the summer-internship program at Leo Burnett Chicago after a job fair. After spending time at Burnett and Wieden & Kennedy, Publicis asked him to build the network's first majority-owned ad agency in sub-Saharan Africa, something he calls "the most personally rewarding thing" he's ever done. Since moving client-side to Bacardi, Mr. Amoo-Gottfried has been leading the brand's "Untameable since 1862" repositioning effort. "It's not often that the chance comes along to reimagine and redesign one of the world's most iconic brands," he said. "It's a lot of fun."

What is the best career advice you ever got?

On my first day in the business, my first boss said to me: "Your job here is to make me look good." Seemed facetious at the time, but it's really stuck with me as a notion on how great teams should ideally work. Everyone focuses on their job, and does it really well, and the entire team succeeds as a result. Another boss once said to me: "The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing", and it's really useful advice for just about anything - business problems, briefs, creative work, and life in general.

What mistake have you learned the most from?

Don't rush when it comes to hiring people -- no matter what the workload demands are. An agency is it's people -- and if you get it wrong, particularly when you're a small team/agency, it'll haunt you for a long time. It's the one time when it's a terrible idea to rely on your gut alone. Do all the due diligence. Tap into your network and find out everything you can from unbiased sources about the prospective hire, both in terms of role capability and cultural fit.

What advice would you give young people trying to break into your business?

It's all about the work. Immerse yourself in it. Look at every great idea as far back as you can go. It's never been more accessible -- not just the work itself, but the thinking behind the work and the critiques of the work. Soak it all up. Develop a point of view on the work and how it helps answer the fundamental business issue. It'll make for a better interview, and don't be afraid to share your point of view on the work at the agency/client where you're interviewing.

If you were not doing this job, what would you be doing?

I'm obsessed with behavioral economics at the moment, so probably something in that field.

Do you speak another language?

Native Ghanaian languages: Twi and Fante.

Ever lived/worked abroad?

Lived and worked in Ghana (Accra), the U.S. (St. Paul, Chicago, Portland) and the U.K. (London).

Pets? If so, what kind?

None.

What city do you live in?

London.

What is the first website you check every day?

Espn.com.

What app can't you live without?

Google Maps. I am completely directionally challenged.

Hobby?

I'm an absolute sports fanatic. No matter where I am in the world, what channel it's on, or what time it is, I never miss a Manchester United or Ghana Black Stars game.
headshot
Monica Austin
Senior VP-business and brand development, Shine America
Age: 30

Monica Austin is tasked with incorporating products of marketers like Procter & Gamble, General Mills, Ford and Walmart into Shine's programming. (It's the Los Angeles production company behind TV hits like "MasterChef" and "The Biggest Loser.") She also oversees merchandising, licensing and consumer-product development to help turn Shine's TV franchises into money-making off-air brands. For example, "MasterChef" has a line of pots and pans and a cookbook deal, and it's launching a Caribbean cruise this year where vacationers can mingle with past contestants of the show and watch live challenges.

What is the best career advice you ever got?

To jump in and get my hands dirty. You can't make a difference in a situation if you don't get involved. Most importantly, to find group of mentors and advisers -- a network if you will -- who can offer guidance, wisdom and laughter when needed.

What mistake have you learned the most from?

There are so many with so many lessons…! The theme being that if something sounds too good to be true it probably is, and always speak up when you don't agree.

What advice would you give young people trying to break into your business?

Ask questions and always raise your hand for more work. If you sit back you will be overlooked.

If you were not doing this job, what would you be doing?

I was very close to going back to school for architecture. I love interiors and design.

Do you speak another language?

Sadly, no, but I have grand dreams of speaking perfect French…le sigh.

Ever lived/worked abroad?

No.

Pets? If so, what kind?

Yes, two spoiled but adorable rescue dogs.

What city do you live in?

Los Angeles, in particular the Silverlake neighborhood. Your hood is very important in Los Angeles.

What is the first website you check every day?

HuffPo and BuzzFeed -- usually both at once.

What app can't you live without?

Instagram -- I have friends and family all over the world, and I love that I can get a quick visual glimpse into their lives. I am a visual person and believe that a picture really does speak 1,000 words.

Hobby?

I love Southern California for the ability to stay active outdoors all year long. I am an avid cyclist but love snowboarding, hiking, swimming ... anything outside!

Photo by Brad Swonetz for Ad Age

headshot
Asad Ayaz
Senior VP-marketing for live action and Marvel, Walt Disney Studios
Age: 35

Asad Ayaz's job operates on momentum.

The marketer behind Walt Disney Studios' live-action and Marvel films devises each movie's marketing campaign to boost the next release. November's premiere of "Thor: The Dark World" included a teaser-trailer for the "Captain America" sequel. Those films and campaigns for others such as "Oz: The Great and Powerful" and next May's Angelina Jolie-starring "Sleeping Beauty" remix "Maleficent" also incorporate their legacies, be they comic books or fairy tales. But the aforementioned campaigns are themselves steppingstones for a massive push still years away, "Star Wars: Episode VII."

"In terms of early planning and process and mapping out how our campaign looks, we're definitely already in the midst of it," Mr. Ayaz said, noting that a "Star Wars" TV show to premiere on Disney Channel and Disney XD is in the works. "It's a tremendous priority and huge lifelong dream to be able to work on this film."

What is the best career advice you ever got?

To always be humble and make sure you're generous in giving credit to others.

What mistake have you learned the most from?

I don't know if it's a mistake, but the single-most important thing I've tried to do and now do more effectively is really focusing on the success of our films and nothing else. When we work on a film campaign, there are lot of voices in the process -- filmmakers, executives, agents, talent. And I think it's really keeping your eye on the prize -- your opening weekend -- and having a smart, sustained plan for the success of the movie and not necessarily on making specific personalities happy. At the end of the day, the only thing people will remember is how the film performed.

What advice would you give young people trying to break into your business?

Always be open to learning as much as you can and flexible. Never have an ego. Identify a mentor for yourself early in your career.

If you were not doing this job, what would you be doing?

Journalist. I took a lot of creative writing courses in college, and I enjoy writing and have a curious personality. Being some kind of investigative journalist would be interesting.

Do you speak another language?

Two languages. Urdu, which was the original language of my family. And I also speak Spanish, which I took in college.

Ever lived/worked abroad?

I've lived abroad. As a child, my dad was posted as an ambassador to Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. I did live in those countries up until the age of 10.

Pets? If so, what kind?

Two cocker spaniels.

What city do you live in?

Sherman Oaks, Calif.

What is the first website you check every day?

Three.

What app can't you live without?

EW.com.

Hobby?

I just started CrossFit. It's hurting my knees terribly.
headshot
Andrew Bailey
CEO, North America, The&Partnership
Age: 37

Andrew Bailey started dreaming about a career in advertising at 8 years old, and by the time he was 12 he was painting signs for products in his grandfather's supermarket in Niagara Falls, Canada. On the creative path, he moved into high school with an apprenticeship at Canadian shop Tri-Media. Then he set off to business school to explore the other side of the industry, beginning his professional career at Leo Burnett Canada. Since joining Leo, he has worked across global offices for an agency called Deepend, bought and sold a digital agency he started with partners and served in a number of roles at BBDO's Proximity.

In 2011, six years after joining Proximity, he was appointed North American CEO. "The theme across my career is, I like building things," he said.

He recently left Proximity to build The&Partnership, a new U.K.-based and WPP-backed holding group. He's currently CEO of North America.

What is the best career advice you ever got?

If you're going to do something, you might as well do it with excellence. Besides that, you should treat everyone well.

What mistake have you learned the most from?

In one of my previous jobs, we had great momentum and decided to up our forecast for the year. It was a bad idea as we ended up chasing a number while we lost a few big projects and clients. It taught me to plan conservatively but push hard to overdeliver.

What advice would you give young people trying to break into your business?

Be relentless. Treat "no" as "not yet" and follow up. There are no substitutes for drive and very hard work.

If you were not doing this job, what would you be doing?

This job. I love what I do. But if this job weren't available to me, I'd be leading a group of dynamic people who believe they can change an industry. We'd work really hard, laugh a lot and change the world.

Do you speak another language?

I speak a bit of French and can understand some Italian. Just enough to be dangerous.

Ever lived/worked abroad?

I worked in London during the dot-com boom and have spent a lot of time on global-client assignments in Europe.

Pets? If so, what kind?

Yes. I love dogs. I have a Cavalier King Charles spaniel named Chloe.

What city do you live in?

The best city in the world, New York!

What is the first website you check every day?

The New York Times

What app can't you live without?

Uber. I love disruptive technology that makes things more efficient for both consumers and companies.

Hobby?

Work? When I'm not [working], I enjoy working out, trying new restaurants in New York City and traveling.
headshot
Michael Bassik
U.S. digital-practice chair, Burson-Marsteller and CEO, Proof Integrated Communications
Age: 34

After stints interning on the editorial floor of The New York Times and the Clinton White House, a young Michael Bassik decided it was time to try something new. In the heat of the 2000 election season, he joined AOL and built its political- advertising practice from the ground up. Before the start of his final fall semester, Mr. Bassik's team had sold the internet's first political ad.

Mr. Bassik hasn't looked back since. In 2011, he received a call from public-relations outfit Burson-Marsteller asking him to build out its digital practice. He accepted and now works with the likes of Coke, HP, Comcast and Ford, helping them meld their digital efforts with their overall communications goals.

What is the best career advice you ever got?

The harder you work the luckier you get. If you are the first one in, the last one out, if you are constantly striving to do better and to learn more, the opportunity is there for the taking. You can make your own luck by working hard and continuing to push and motivate yourself.

What mistake have you learned the most from?

One of the things I learned was that you can't be good at everything and you have to know what you're good at.

What advice would you give young people trying to break into your business?

Don't be so intimidated. Many of the people that are older than you are likely intimidated by you based on the deep knowledge that you innately have as it pertains to digital and social media.

If you were not doing this job, what would you be doing?

I'm a lawyer so probably practicing law. Either focused on political and election law or media law. I still can't get the political or tech bug out of my system.

Do you speak another language?

Spanish.

Ever lived/worked abroad?

I spent a significant amount of time in Spain.

Pets? If so, what kind?

No.

What city do you live in?

New York City.

What is the first website you check every day?

New York Times.

What app can't you live without?

The Delta app. I fly Delta all the time and I like their app.

Hobby?

I collect rubber ducks. I have about 100.

Photo by David Yellen for Ad Age

headshot
Andrew Bleeker
Global digital practice director of Hill & Knowlton Strategies; president and founder of Bully Pulpit Interactive
Age: 28

Communications experts inside the Beltway tend to be young and hungry and it's no wonder with people like Andrew Bleeker, 28, setting a high bar. As a freshman at Wesleyan University, Mr. Bleeker volunteered on the 2003/2004 John Kerry campaign and rocketed up from motorcade volunteer to web designer -- a job he mastered and later brought to the Hillary Clinton campaign. Upon graduating, Mr. Bleeker got a call from Obama for America asking him to run digital through the inauguration in 2009.

Broke after the election, the political junkie grew tired of waiting on a delayed government opportunity and decided to turn a few consulting gigs into a political-digital-advertising firm called Bully Pulpit Interactive, which is now a $10 million shop. He didn't stop with BPI. In 2011, WPP global public-affairs agency Hill & Knowlton Strategies tapped Mr. Bleeker to build and lead its global digital group, which doubled this past year, he said. The 20-something is currently straddling his leadership roles at both H&K and BPI.

What is the best career advice you ever got?

To not to ever go to your boss with problems -- bring options for solutions.

What advice would you give young people trying to break into your business?

The nice thing about politics is that we are constantly in need of volunteers. Find a candidate or organization you are passionate about and just try to pitch in. I got my first break in politics while volunteering as a driver in John Kerry's motorcade on the 2004 campaign. And within digital specifically, try to find a particular topic or skill to become an expert in. We have too many generalists and it is far easier to find a job as a specialist.

If you were not doing this job, what would you be doing?

Starship captain.

Do you speak another language?

Basic Spanish.

Ever lived/worked abroad?

Not lived, but travel overseas at least once a month for business, with the most work in Brazil, Europe and increasingly Africa.

Pets? If so, what kind?

A labradoodle named Watson.

What city do you live in?

Washington.

What is the first website you check every day?

First email is Politico's Playbook

What app can't you live without?

Uber– how else do people get around?
headshot
Yannick Bollore
Chairman and global CEO, Havas
Age: 33

The heads of the four biggest holding companies—Martin Sorrell, John Wren, Maurice Levy and Michael Roth—range in age from 60 to 70. Then there's Yannick Bollore, who was named chairman of No. 6-ranked Havas in September 2013 and global CEO in January 2014. On Feb. 1, he will turn 34.

As chairman, Mr. Bollore succeeded his father, Vincent Bollore, who spent about a day each week overseeing Havas in addition to his many other responsibilities running the Bollore Group. For the younger Mr. Bollore, Havas is a full-time job.

His initial involvement was low-key, joining the Havas board of directors about three-and-a-half years ago while successfully building up the Bollore Group's cable TV operations.

"He wasn't afraid of changing things, to meet expectations and make deals and strategic moves that let the channel grow in audience and ad revenue," said Dominique Delport, global managing director of Havas Media Group, who knew Mr. Bollore before his Havas days.

Mr. Bollore said he gradually took on more Havas duties, adding a VP role two years ago and a deputy CEO title in 2012. He believes in the long-term stability that his family, the largest shareholder with a 37% stake, brings to Havas.

"That gives us the ability to develop long-term strategy in a fast-evolving world," he said. "My main concern is not new business, but to make sure the right people are in the right place and clients are happy."

While other agency holding companies lack a public succession plan—who knows who will succeed Mr. Sorrell one day? -- the Bollores have a blueprint. Vincent Bollore, the sixth generation to work in the family business, will retire on the Group's 200th anniversary in 2022, and is already narrowing his focus to his pet project of electric-car batteries. Yannick, who started in the movie business before moving into media, will run Havas while another son, Cyrille, runs the Bollore Group's industrial activities.

Based in Paris, Mr. Bollore spends about half his time in France, a week each month in 24 York, and the remaining week in either Latin America or Asia. He rises early to catch up on the news, and did pre-dawn runs when he was training for his first marathon last year. When he's in Paris, "I wake up my girls for family breakfast." He and his wife Chloe have four daughters, the youngest just a few months old. Family breakfast is usually followed by a second, client breakfast.

In his Twitter feed, which is still mostly in French, he accepted congratulations for being named "Personality of the Year" at a December dinner in Paris is a prestigious French business group and two days later retweeted a picture of himself standing in front of a pink holiday tree in the New York office.

The next day, Havas' media business moved into the new building the creative agencies in New York already occupy, part of the Havas Village concept he helped start a couple years ago in Paris to bring together Havas' creative and media agency businesses under one roof. (Bollore Group is right next door.)

For the first nine months of 2013, Havas' revenue in France was up 5%, outperforming that market by 7%, he said. "The only reason that can explain that performance for me is the change in the organization."

The Havas Village concept is moving to other countries, and Mr. Bollore said a big global strategy meeting will be held Jan. 21 in New York with Havas' top 400 people. Last year, Havas held a similar meeting for creative agencies, then did media two weeks later. This year, it's all one meeting mingling creative and media execs, he said.

Do you speak another language?

Yes, English (French is native language).

Ever lived/worked abroad?

No.

What city do you live in?

Paris.

Hobby?

Running.
headshot
Chris Bruss
VP-branded entertainment, Funny or Die; President of Gifted Youth
Age: 30

From the suit-and-tie world of Hollywood agency CAA to the creative, loosely structured entity that is Funny or Die, Chris Bruss took an enormous leap when he signed on in 2009 to come aboard the Will Ferrell-backed branded content company. His initial role was to help produce celeb sketch videos, but that soon turned into building a branded-content team that turns out work for Chrysler, Pepsi and more that's not just shareable, but good. "From when I started, the marketplace has become much more savvy and evolved," said Mr. Bruss. "We made a ton of mistakes early on, but now people are able to better articulate what they want us to pull off."

What is the best career advice you ever got?

Always have a point of view/opinion.

What mistake have you learned the most from?

I've made so many of them, particularly early in my career at Funny or Die—hopefully I've learned from all of them!

What advice would you give young people trying to break into your business?

It's very hard, right out of college, to really know what you want to do with your life. So I usually recommend going and working at a place where you'll meet a lot of people and be exposed to a lot of different aspects of the industry—some place like a large talent agency. Because it is through the time spent there that you'll probably actually get a handle on what sort of path you want to pursue—and, also, hopefully make the connections you need to be successful on that path.

If you were not doing this job, what would you be doing?

Probably working at my family's 102-year-old gift shop/café in Kenosha, Wisc.

Do you speak another language?

No.

Ever lived/worked abroad?

I had to live in Mexico City for a month while working on a web series/TV commercial shoot. Have also done shoots in Johannesburg, Stockholm, and London… but have never actually ever resided/worked abroad long term.

Pets? If so, what kind?

Two dogs—poodle mixes/rescues—not sure the exact breed.

What city do you live in?

Santa Monica, Calif.

What is the first website you check every day?

FunnyOrDie.com.

What app can't you live without?

I don't have/use a lot of apps, but probably Google Maps… followed by the Delta Airlines app as a close second.

Hobby?

Travel. I travel quite a bit for work, but also travel a lot with my wife for fun. We try to make it to Europe once a year, and we try to go somewhere we've never been for New Year's (last year was Argentina; this year we're going to Vietnam).
headshot
Ashley Bryant
Senior Digital Strategist, 270 Strategies
Age: 28

After stints at Procter & Gamble and Weber Shandwick, Ashley Bryant got into politics as the Ohio digital director for Barack Obama's 2012 reelection campaign. How's this for ROI? Her work—which included overseeing website design, mobile and video—helped Mr. Obama win the hard-fought swing state. "It certainly made me a more well-rounded digital person," said Bryant. She's using that experience at 270 Strategies, a consultancy founded by top-ranking Obama campaign strategists that integrates "people-centered, grassroots organizing with smart digital strategies." Clients include Planned Parenthood and a political action committee that supports Hillary Clinton for president.

What is the best career advice you ever got?

To step out on a leap of faith: When I left marketing and PR to join the president's reelection efforts, I was very uneasy and really leaned toward not accepting the position. My mentors and family assured me that challenging myself to push past my comfort zone was what was going to make me a well-rounded professional and now I'm lucky enough to be able to use my social-media expertise for purposes beyond selling products.

What mistake have you learned the most from?

Early in my career I found myself making decisions based on the pressures of "keeping up with the Joneses"—I took jobs/promotions solely to have a better title and I felt I had hit the top only because I worked for sought-after companies. I learned quickly that I was stunting my growth as both a person and a professional by judging my worth by anyone else's standards but my own. I learned to set my own career path based on my passions and happiness, and I learned to never stop learning and educating myself in the social space because I never wanted to feel like I had hit a ceiling. There are always more steps to climb and that keeps me moving forward.

What advice would you give young people trying to break into your business?

This generation has actually grown up in the new digital age so it's much easier for them to view my field as a cakewalk, when in reality you have to be very tactical and strategic. My advice is to study the social and digital space beyond personal use and learn how to apply its value to a larger cause—and furthermore, never stop learning!

If you were not doing this job, what would you be doing?

Any role that would put me at an NBA or NFL game 365 days a year. I love sports, and ESPN is my lifeline, so being able to fulfill that passion would be absolute heaven.

Do you speak another language?

No.

Ever lived/worked abroad?

I lived in Essen, Germany, for one month.

Pets? If so, what kind?

Yes, an 11-year-old miniature schnauzer.

What city do you live in?

Chicago.

What is the first website you check every day?

msnbc.com.

What app can't you live without?

Instagram.

Hobby?

Writing, I love to write. I've pretty much narrated my whole life, "The Office"-style.

Photo by John Boehm for Ad Age

headshot
Marcelo Castelo
Partner and co-founder, head of mobile, F.biz
Age: 35

When Brazilian digital agency F.biz wanted to better serve its clients in the rest of Latin America, it was clear where Marcelo Castelo needed to move: Miami.

As a partner and co-founder, as well as head of mobile, Mr. Castelo is spearheading F.biz's international expansion as well as helping the agency bring U.S. digital knowhow back to Brazil, already a sophisticated mobile market.

Mr. Castelo moved from Sao Paulo to Miami in February 2013, and opened F.biz in San Francisco in July. (WPP bought F.biz in 2011, allowing it to take advantage of WPP office space and other services when it needs a presence elsewhere in the world). Part of the new-business opportunity he is developing now includes buying media in Brazil for international game developers, who are often based in San Francisco or fly in to mingle at conferences and events there.

"We're buying media for Candy Crush Saga in Brazil," Mr. Castelo said. For developers who may translate their games into 30 languages, Latin America accounts for about 10% of their business, he said. That's not enough to open their own offices in the region, but is a sizable enough market to promote their games.

"Latin Americans are consuming these games more and more," he said. "We explain the potential of this market. [For media buys] they only think of Google and Facebook, and don't know the Latin American players like UOL, Globo, Terra and others."

In Brazil, F.biz works for global marketers like PepsiCo, Heineken and Unilever, as well as local clients such as Netshoes, a sort of Zappos for sports shoes. One mobile app the agency developed lets users point their smartphones at someone's shoes to see how much that shoe sells for on Netshoes, he said.

From his new base in Miami, it's easier to understand the rest of Latin America than from Brazil, and faster to get to some countries, said Mr. Castelo, who travels weekly and has recently been to Mexico, Guatemala and Colombia. "We're doing regional projects in Latin America for Unilever and talking about global ones."

One thing hasn't turned out quite as anticipated. He expected his English to improve rapidly in the U.S. Instead, this Portuguese speaker is learning a different language: "Most of my meetings in Miami are in Spanish."

What is the best career advice you ever got?

When I left Unilever [in 2000] to start my agency, my boss there said, 'If you're good and you believe in yourself, you don't need to be afraid. Go for it.' This move I made from Brazil to the U.S. [in February 2013] is like that. Brazil is my comfort zone. It's hard to meet new people, in a new market, in a language I'm not 100% fluent. I'm not afraid of change. But I have to work hard.

What mistake have you learned the most from?

When we started F.biz we had to survive, so we accepted just about any internet job at widely differing prices. It was almost impossible to make money that way; what we earned on one client, we lost on another. After two years, we decided to just take long-term projects and turn down small, short jobs. That's paid off in long-term client relationships, like the one with our biggest client Unilever. We're their digital agency for many brands, both in Brazil and the rest of Latin America.

What advice would you give young people trying to break into your business?

If you want to enter digital, you have to like technology, and be good at math. Advertising is getting more scientific and involves measurement, and you have to understand the technology to see the opportunities. Our motto at F.biz is "We unite faith and science."

If you were not doing this job, what would you be doing?

As a partner and co-founder at the age of 22 "I can't see myself outside F.biz.

Do you speak another language?

Portuguese, English and Spanish

Ever lived/worked abroad?

Miami (since February 2013) is the first time.

Pets? If so, what kind?

No.

What city do you live in?

Miami

What is the first website you check every day?

Brazilian news portals.

What app can't you live without?

Dropbox.

Hobby?

I'm a fanatic of ultimate fighting, since 1993.
headshot
Brandon Cooke
Global chief marketing officer, McGarryBowen
Age: 33

Though he started his advertising career in account management, Brandon Cooke quickly realized he wanted to pursue business development. It wasn't long after joining Grey in 2005 that he landed on the new-business team, eventually helping run domestic and global business-development operations. In 2008, he moved to Gotham, where he rebuilt the new-business department and added clients like Best Western and Hitachi. But it's his work at Dentsu's McGarryBowen that's put Mr. Cooke on the map as a rainmaker. There he helped the agency win clients like United Airlines, Staples and Procter & Gamble's Aussie brand, and most recently, Pizza Hut and Maserati.

In July 2013, he was elevated to global chief marketing officer, responsible for all business development, marketing and PR globally for the agency.

What is the best career advice you ever got?

One of my agency leaders always advised: "Never take yourself too seriously."

What mistake have you learned the most from?

When I first started in advertising, I made the mistake of thinking that in order to be successful you had to be willing to give everything to the job and do whatever it takes to win. I quickly learned winning is defined in many different ways and you can be nice and caring and still succeed in this business.

What advice would you give young people trying to break into your business?

Find people in the business who inspire you and then don't be afraid to connect with them to hear their story and gain their support.

If you were not doing this job, what would you be doing?

I'd be an investigative reporter or a travel writer or maybe a professional stunt-car driver.

Do you speak another language?

Yes. Spanish.

Ever lived/worked abroad?

Worked for a summer in London.

Pets? If so, what kind?

Can a laptop count as a pet?

What city do you live in?

New York City.

What is the first website you check every day?

I don't really check one website everyday. I guess I'd say New York Times for news and Amazon in hopes I have something out for delivery.

What app can't you live without?

Seamless web. I'd starve otherwise.

Hobby?

I'm a huge history and travel dork. My friends hate it because I'm that guy that makes everyone take the official tour and won't stop asking questions.
headshot
Lauren Connolly
Senior VP-creative director, BBDO New York
Age: 38

One of the industry's hottest creatives, Lauren Connolly, might not have made it into advertising if it weren't for poetry.

The first was winning an advertising contest in the sixth grade. Her best friend was also president of Penn State University's ad club. But Connolly, an English major, was more interested in writing poetry. It was the verse, however, that led to her current path. After graduating as an English major, her art-director cousin put her in touch with a creative director in Pittsburgh, and without a portfolio to offer, she sent her senior thesis—a collection of poetry and fiction.

Hired at Marc, she spent two years there before accepting a job at BBDO in 2000 and has made a name for herself—particularly on the M&M's account—including buzzed-about Super Bowl spots and an assist on the Cingular launch

What is the best career advice you ever got?

Curate your own personal board of directors. Fill it with people who are honest. People who ask provocative questions. Who can provide professional insight. Who are diverse in background and experience. And offer perspective.

What advice would you give young people trying to break into your business?

Make personal connections. You'll be surprised to find remarkable professionals who will be unusually generous with their time and their advice.

If you were not doing this job, what would you be doing?

Entrepreneur.

Do you speak another language?

Only if you count Pittsburgheze.

Ever lived/worked abroad?

Not yet.

What city do you live in?

New York.

What is the first website you check every day?

No sites, just apps: Happier, Instagram, Twitter, Vine, Yahoo's Sportacular.

What app can't you live without?

Spotify.

Hobby?

International travel.
headshot
Pat Connolly
VP-marketing solutions, Condé Nast
Age: 38

Pat Connolly is something of a homesteader in the digital-ad space. So his jump July 2011 from Digitas to Condé Nast—a company deeply rooted in print magazines—was all the more striking. "I really felt that to continue to be involved with the digital age I had to go to a publishing company," said Mr. Connolly. He's since helped establish and grow an internal agency that creates marketing creative and content for clients to run across media from Condé Nast websites and magazines, to brands' own YouTube channels as a means to expand the company's offerings beyond traditional advertising.

What is the best career advice you ever got?

Surround yourself with people you're constantly learning from. If you're not learning, you're dying.

What mistake have you learned the most from?

Moving forward with an agenda before you get others on board. It doesn't matter what you believe, it matters what you can get other people to believe.

What advice would you give young people trying to break into your business?

Learn as much as you can from as many people and places as possible. This industry changes so fast, there's no such thing as an expert, there are only those who understand enough about the intersection of technology and the human condition to make educated guesses on what's next.

If you were not doing this job, what would you be doing?

Teaching. My wife is a college professor and I've always envied the role she plays in shaping minds.

Do you speak another language?

No.

Ever lived/worked abroad?

I led a team in Hong Kong and Tokyo when I was on the Delta Air Lines global media team at Digitas, so visited often, but never lived abroad.

Pets? If so, what kind?

My daughter has a frog; not a chance of anything beyond that.

What city do you live in?

Milford, Conn.

What is the first website you check every day?

Flipboard.

What app can't you live without?

Spotify, it's changed the way I listen to music.

Hobby?

I like building things. When you spend all day coming up with complex marketing programs and managing a large organization, sometimes it's incredibly gratifying to just build something yourself and appreciate the finished product.
headshot
Nathan Eagle
CEO, Jana
Age: 37

Nathan Eagle is connecting a world of 3.5 billion mobile phones.

In the developing world, the mobile phone is a communications device, PC and wallet. Outside the U.S. and Europe it's not uncommon for people to spend 10% of their daily wages on minutes. And for Mr. Eagle, all that adds up to a huge global marketing opportunity.

The former MIT grad student has built a system that allows him to send nearly 3.5 billion people in 102 countries payments in the form of minutes, which means rupees, rubles, shillings, dirham, pesos and reals right into their pockets.

The former MIT professor developed the technology quite by accident as a Fulbright professor in Kenya. At the time he was building an app to help nurses text the inventory of local blood banks. Texting, of course, costs money. "By doing that we were asking them to take a pay cut, which fundamentally wasn't fair," he said.

So he built a platform to allow the World Health Organization to credit their accounts with 10 Kenyan shillings in exchange for each update. "The cost of the text and a penny or two thank-you," he said.

He founded his company as TxtEagle in 2009 and started looking for other applications for the platform, like marshalling a global workforce for, well, just about anything. He recruited luminaries like Esther Dyson, former AOL chief Jonathan Miller and former Akamai CEO Paul Sagan to the board.

The first mass application was for market research—pay a rural mother in Uganda, say, to complete a survey about she thinks about detergent. Marketers, it turns out, are very interested in finding ways to communicate with people in the developing world, and have very few means to do so.

Mr. Eagle was introduced to former Publicis exec and Akamai President David Kenny through the Boston-area tech community then, ultimately, Publicis CEO Maurice Levy. Mr. Levy not only joined the board, but Publicis invested to the tune of $15 million.

"We feel in countries which are developing and where information is difficult to gain -- it is quite complicated to have access to people," Mr. Levy said in an interview. "This is the future middle class, the ones who will become one day consumers. We think this can be of utmost interest for advertisers."

Mr. Levy asked DigitasLBi and Razorfish Chairman Rishad Tobacowalla to oversee Publicis' investment. "One thing that became clear to me—in certain countries like India there is only going to be one screen [mobile]. And it's the only screen," said Mr. Tobacowalla.

In addition to surveys, marketers have used Jana to incentivize actions, such as downloading an app, redeeming a coupon or watching a video, or sharing it with a friend. Unilever used Jana for its Lifebuoy brand in a push that paid 10 million people to watch a video on the importance of hand washing.

These are ad dollars, Mr. Eagle notes, now going directly to people, rather into the coffers of local media and billboards. "What we are trying to do is fundamentally redirect marketing to the people they are trying to reach," he said.

Still, the thing that still gets Mr. Eagle is he can send a payment to just about anyone in the world with a mobile phone from his laptop. "Just give me a phone number and I can do that in 7 to 10 seconds," he said.

What is the best career advice you ever got?

Make new mistakes.

What mistake have you learned the most from?

Doing the same thing for too long.

What advice would you give young people trying to break into your business?

Good luck!

If you were not doing this job, what would you be doing?

Running a research group at a university while looking for next big idea.

Do you speak another language?

I used to be passable at French, Nepali, and Swahili all at different times in my life.

Ever lived/worked abroad?

France, U.K., Nepal, Kenya.

Pets? If so, what kind?

I brought a cat back from Nepal and a dog back from Kenya.

What city do you live in?

Boston.

What is the first website you check every day?

Our member dashboard.

What app can't you live without?

Funbridge.

Hobby?

Consumer-grade drones.
headshot
Karrelle Dixon
Global account director on Nike, Wieden & Kennedy
Age: 33

You could say Karrelle Dixon's whole life has been leading up to last June, when the 33-year-old was named global account director for Nike at Wieden & Kennedy. With a pro career in rugby and two degrees in sports psychology, Mr. Dixon seems to have made all the right decisions -- culminating in him leading what is arguably one of the most coveted accounts in the ad industry.

Mr. Dixon, who was born in the U.K., grew up playing every kind of sport there was -- rugby, soccer and cricket, but also American sports like basketball and football. "I would stay up until 2 a.m. to watch the Chicago Bulls play in the NBA finals," he recalls. This was the golden era of Michael Jordan, and the school he attended was also very sports-oriented. (It was later turned into a sports academy.)

"While I was at school, I was the kid who read the newspaper back to front -- sports first," he said. "That's how I understand the world." In high school, Mr. Dixon played the U.K. equivalent of varsity rugby. When he graduated, he turned down a contract to play with pro rugby team London Wasps to go to the university, where he did business and sports. In his final year, he signed his pro contract with the Wasps, traveling to London from his college in Manchester two days a week.

But while playing professionally, he wanted to earn a master's degree (he now has two). He wrote a paper on segregation in sports, and an Oxford professor got him a full scholarship to that school, where he played rugby and researched the topic. "It was based on experiences I had growing up," he said. Often, kids of certain races are told they can only play a certain position -- and for black children, that's often sideline positions, he found. "Rather than predetermining through race where a kid should play, he should be trained in different skills."

But why get into advertising? For one, he realized playing pro rugby would never make him enough money. Second, he had family ties to adland -- his mother had worked at London agency Delaney Fletcher Bozell, where he had interned in high school in 1997. Working in the finance department on the third floor, he looked around and saw that all the minorities were in support roles: finance or IT. The first floor was where account management and new business sat. When he told someone that he wanted to come back after college to work in account management, he recalls the person telling him, "'Nope, minorities don't work in account management.'"

"If someone tells me I can't do something, I have to," he said. So after getting injured playing rugby, he tried for a job in new business at Fallon, London. For two years, he worked at the creative hotshop, which at the time was experiencing a boom, producing work like Sony's "Balls" and winning accounts like Bacardi and Orange. In 2006, Mr. Dixon went to Wieden London to work on Nike, where he worked on the "Run London" campaign and the World Cup. When the chance came to move to Portland to work on the same brand, he jumped at it. That also was when his wife gave birth to their first son.

Last June, Mr. Dixon had a meeting with upper management (his first in six years working for Wieden, he said) who offered him the role of global account director. That also was the week his second son was born.

Since at Wieden, he's worked on bringing the agency's offices around the world closer together. This year, every Wieden office with a Nike account -- which is all of them but India -- did a "Just Do It" campaign. He has also worked on "Find Your Greatness," Nike's brilliant, disruptive Olympics 2012 campaign. And later this year, he'll come full circle with the World Cup. "I want to deliver great creative across offices," he said. "Life's pretty good at the minute. And it's just because I seem to have fallen into opportunities that came my way."

What is the best career advice you ever got?

Know what you are passionate about, and then find ways to make that the thing you do for a living.

What mistake have you learned the most from?

On one of the first jobs I worked on, I forgot to check the estimate correctly and it almost cost the agency thousands of pounds. It made me remember to always focus on the details no matter how small.

What advice would you give young people trying to break into your business?

Be strategic in your approach to getting a job. Do your homework on the industry, companies and brands so that you can find an agency that you are proud to work for.

If you were not doing this job, what would you be doing?

I would be a teacher or headmaster of a school.

Do you speak another language?

No.

Ever lived/worked abroad?

I am currently as I am originally from London.

Pets? If so, what kind?

No.

What city do you live in?

Portland, Oregon.

What is the first website you check every day?

BBC News.

What app can't you live without?

Watch ESPN. "I just love sport."

Hobby?

Any type of sporting/competitive endeavour from 5-a-side football to tiddlywinks.
headshot
Coley Holnback
Marketing manager, global sponsorship marketing, Visa
Age: 26

You could definitely call Coley Holnback a multitasker.

After working with Visa on the Olympics in 2012, Holnback took over management of the onsite global visual identity for Visa at the FIFA Confederations Cup in 2013 in Brazil, for which she began learning Portuguese. She's now coordinating Visa's onsite presence for the FIFA World Cup slated for June and July—but this time she'll have twice as many stadiums and four times as many matches across three time zones to manage.

With an undergraduate major in finance and minor in marketing, the Colorado native gravitated toward marketing and specifically sports sponsorships. "I played sports growing up and I'm a huge Denver Broncos fan," she said. "Visa is one of very few companies in the world that has access to these major sports platforms."

What is the best career advice you ever got?

Build relationships with those around you and find a mentor you can learn from and trust.

What mistake have you learned the most from?

Taking feedback as criticism. Feedback is a gift and learning to take it as an opportunity to continue to evolve and develop your skills and not as a criticism is key.

What advice would you give young people trying to break into your business?

Find something that excites and challenges you. When you spend as much time working as we do, it is important that what you do keeps you motivated.

If you were not doing this job, what would you be doing?

I feel truly lucky to say there are not a lot of other jobs I would like to be doing over my own, but if I had to choose, it would be a NFL broadcaster.

Do you speak another language?

I am currently learning Portuguese.

Ever lived/worked abroad?

I spent a semester living in Spain in college and have had the opportunity to work in London during the 2012 Olympics and Rio de Janeiro during the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup. I am heading back to Brazil for the 2014 FIFA World Cup and can't wait!

Pets? If so, what kind?

Currently none, but will most definitely have dogs when I have a yard.

What city do you live in?

Colorado native living in San Francisco.

What is the first website you check every day?

A quick scan of Google News and then Bleacher Report to see what is happening in sports, specifically football and soccer.

What app can't you live without?

Pinterest.

Hobby?

Yoga, traveling, anything outdoors.
headshot
Gareth Hornberger
Director-content marketing, Jawbone
Age: 26

Social-media wunderkind Gareth Hornberger started his career at Razorfish working as part of a think tank tasked with uncovering how two-way media was changing the people's connection with brands.

That led to a gig a year later at client Levi Strauss & Co. helming the company's social efforts, which evolved in short order to industry-leading programs such as working on the digital strategy for its purpose-driven "Go Forth" campaign and crafting social marketing for Levi's "Water < Jeans"

Now at Jambox marketer Jawbone, he's creating content to elevate the audio marketer's cred when it comes to technology and culture. "My challenge is to think about how we can connect with consumers and surface incredible stories not just for marketing, but also product development," he said.

What is the best career advice you ever got?

Love what you do and you'll never have to work a day in your life.

What mistake have you learned the most from?

When I made the transition from being a contributor to leading teams, I had an eagerness to want to do everything myself. I learned very quickly that this approach doesn't scale nor does it enable those around you. The whole is always greater than the sum of its parts.

What advice would you give young people trying to break into your business?

Seek out mentors early and often. Invest in these relationships and you will grow at an exponential rate.

If you were not doing this job, what would you be doing?

Sailing around the world.

Do you speak another language?

Yes, Spanish.

Ever lived/worked abroad?

Yes, I lived and studied in Granada, Spain, when I was 18. The perspective I gained from this experience was invaluable.

Pets? If so, what kind?

Do succulents count?

What city do you live in?

San Francisco.

What is the first website you check every day?

Twitter.

What app can't you live without?

Evernote.

Hobby?

Experiencing new cultures is a source of energy for me. I absolutely love traveling and make a regular habit of exploring places near and far. I'm actually planning a trip to Patagonia in 2014.
headshot
Remi Kent
Global marketing and strategy lead, 3M
Age: 38

Remi Kent began her career in marketing at Bell South, but quickly discovered she wanted the classic marketing training that comes from the brand-management system of Procter & Gamble. After a 12-year career there as a key player on the growth of the Olay brand and later as assistant marketing director on P&G's Target Team, Ms. Kent, 38, earlier this year became the global marketing and strategy lead for 3M. There she aims to "take what I've learned and bring marketing excellence" to a company best known for such historical innovations as Post-It Notes and Scotch Tape.

One burning question: How to make an analog messaging medium like Post-It Notes relevant in a digital age. One solution Kent has worked on: The recently launched Post-It Note Camera in the Evernote iOs 7 app that makes it easier to save, organize and access color-coded Post-It Notes.

What is the best career advice you ever got?

Don't get distracted by what others are doing.

What mistake have you learned the most from?

Early in my career I thought it was most important to work hard and keep my head down, spending a lot of time with my own thoughts working on my laptop. I learned that it's just as important to build relationships.

What advice would you give young people trying to break into your business?

The core marketing function hasn't changed all that much. It's important to develop that master tool kit as a marketer.

If you were not doing this job, what would you be doing?

Traveling the world consulting.

Do you speak another language?

No, but I'm studying French on Rosetta Stone.

Ever lived/worked abroad?

No, but I travel extensively in my current job.

Pets? If so, what kind?

No.

What city do you live in?

Minneapolis.

What is the first website you check every day?

Weather.com (being in Minneapolis, it's important).

What app can't you live without?

Uber.

Hobby?

Travel and reading.
headshot
Jeff Klein
Senior director for marketing, Frito-Lay North America
Age: 38

Jeff Klein, who oversees the Doritos brand in North America, was a key part of the team that launched Doritos Locos Tacos, the hugely successful co-branded Taco Bell taco that launched in 2012. His job was to make sure the chip brand played a central role in the marketing. "We really want it to be undeniably a Doritos experience," he said. These days, he is busy with Doritos' user-generated Super Bowl ad contest, "Crash the Super Bowl," which is going global for the first time in 2014. He also serves as chief of staff to Frito-Lay North America CMO Ann Mukherjee, which puts him at the center of planning and agency management for multiple brands.

What is the best career advice you ever got?

Surround yourself with the best people. Sounds simple but it takes courage, especially early in your career when you are still trying to establish your personal brand in the organization.

What mistake have you learned the most from?

I've made plenty and I'm proud of most of them. When marketing to millennials you need to continuously push the envelope in order to break through and engage them. Not all of them end up on the highlight reel, but if you're going to swing for the fences you've got to expect to strike out once in a while.

What advice would you give young people trying to break into your business?

A career is a marathon, not a sprint. Early on, focus on building a strong foundation of competencies vs. specific roles. I've seen many young people race through experiences only to be standing on a house of cards when they were accountable for a business.

If you were not doing this job, what would you be doing?

General manager for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Do you speak another language?

Je sais comment parle un peu français, mais j'ai besoin d'aide pour traduire ce.

Ever lived/worked abroad?

I'm doing it! I grew up in a very small town in Canada three hours outside Toronto. I moved to Dallas six years ago with Frito-Lay from the Toronto office where I was brand manager on Lay's potato chips. I know most don't consider Dallas "abroad," but trust me, a move from Canada to Texas comes with considerable whiplash and paperwork.

Pets? If so, what kind?

No pets, but would love a dog if I could talk my wife into it.

What city do you live in?

Dallas.

What is the first website you check every day?

TSN.ca.

What app can't you live without?

I'm a slave to a lot of apps, but I think that Google Maps has saved my marriage more than once.

Hobby?

Avid runner, love to golf whenever I can, and grill giant pieces of meat on my Big Green Egg.
headshot
Todd Kline
VP-sales and partnership innovation, AEG
Age: 37

It's not everyone's résumé that can read: "Returned the NFL to Los Angeles." As VP-sales and partnership innovation at live-events giant AEG, Mr. Kline was part of the team that secured Farmers Insurance's sponsorship of Los Angeles' planned NFL stadium. While the City of Angels awaits a team to inhabit Farmers Field, the former GroupM Entertainment account director is focused on signing brands like American Express and Budweiser as sponsors for AEG's joint-venture TV network AXS TV and the company's Ticketmaster competitor AXS.com. Deals that could eventually make their way to Farmers Field. "I look forward to AXS broadcasting an event from there. I look forward to AXS being the ticketing agent for that field," he said.

What is the best career advice you ever got?

Stay true to your core values and apply them not just to yourself, but to your employer, your colleagues, and to your clients. You will never go wrong.

What mistake have you learned the most from?

Not listening to the best career advice I ever got (see above).

What advice would you give young people trying to break into your business?

There is no substitute for hard work and persistence.

If you were not doing this job, what would you be doing?

Wall Street/investment banking; I love the deal-making, the energy, the competition.

Do you speak another language?

Unfortunately, no.

Ever lived/worked abroad?

Never lived abroad, but I've been fortunate to work internationally for AEG and I am fascinated by doing business in other countries/cultures.

Pets? If so, what kind?

Yes, a dog.

What city do you live in?

Los Angeles.

What is the first website you check every day?

AXS.com.

What app can't you live without?

Uber.

Hobby?

My two favorites are spending time with all the amazing friends I've made along the way from Swampscott to L.A. and traveling anywhere with my wife.
headshot
Humberto Leon
Co-founder, Opening Ceremony, Creative Director, Kenzo
Age: 38

About 20 years ago, Humberto Leon left his corporate fashion job to live a dream with college friend Carol Lim. The Berkeley grads opened a boutique showcasing the unusual goods they found during their travels. That formed the roots of what's become the coolest name in retail, Opening Ceremony. The company is known for making once indie designers like Topshop famous stateside. It also partners with creative talents like director Spike Jonze (the company has released lines inspired by the director's films, like the recent "Her") and are now developing designer wearable tech for Intel.

headshot
Brian Lesser
Global CEO, Xaxis
Age: 39

Brian Lesser was only 26 when he was assigned to help brokerage TD Waterhouse build its first online-trading system. For Mr. Lesser, then a senior strategist at digital agency iXL, the project was a lesson in the way digital tools could transform any industry involving trading.

Fast forward 13 years and Mr. Lesser is applying the lessons he learned changing the finance industry to digital advertising at Xaxis, a WPP-owned audience platform that buys targeted digital advertising through machines, not humans.

What is the best career advice you ever got?

Construct a vision for your future—whether that be your own personal goals or what you want to achieve as a company. Make sure that vision is broad enough to withstand changes in the marketplace but focused enough to keep you grounded when things don't go exactly as you expect. Then work like hell toward that goal and don't get distracted by the noise.

What mistake have you learned the most from?

Like a lot of young people, I was easily distracted early in my career. I was always looking for the next big thing, rather than focusing on the opportunity at hand. So I jumped around too much. Especially within our industry, where there's always a hot new company or technology platform, it's easy to think the grass is greener somewhere else. However, your best opportunity is usually the one you've already got.

What advice would you give young people trying to break into your business?

Choose a company with a clear strategy and vision. Something that motivates you. Take whatever job they offer you and then work hard to make a difference. You'll eventually have the job you want within a company you believe in.

If you were not doing this job, what would you be doing?

I'd be a politician. I went through a phase in college where I was totally intent on becoming a lawyer, then running for office. I worked for a senator one summer and it was all I needed to change my mind and go into the family business.

Do you speak another language?

I've tried and failed to speak many languages including Hebrew, Spanish, and Italian.

Ever lived/worked abroad?

No, but I spent 160 days on the road last year -- mostly abroad. Does that count?

Pets? If so, what kind?

I have two young sons. It's all I can handle.

What city do you live in?

South Orange, N.J.

What is the first website you check every day?

The New York Times.

What app can't you live without?

Camera+.

Hobby?

My free time revolves around teaching my sons the skills I wish I had acquired or retained. Right now I'm teaching my 4-year-old how to play the drums. This winter it's skiing and how to win a snowball fight.
headshot
Carol Lim
Co-founder, Opening Ceremony, Creative Director, Kenzo
Age: 38

Carol Lim, alongside partner Humberto Leon, in 2002 co-founded Opening Ceremony, the globally-minded New York City boutique that has grown into one of the most respected arbiters of fashion and all things cool. The company now has outposts in major cities around the world and a robust online presence that smartly mixes editorial with e-commerce. Their influence transcends retail and in 2011 Ms. Lim and Mr. Leon became the creative directors at Paris fashion house Kenzo.

headshot
Carter Murray
CEO, DraftFCB
Age: 38

One of the most-watched hires of 2013, Carter Murray took on the task of rebuilding the reputation and client base of an agency that had a decidedly rocky few years. But only a little more than three months in at DraftFCB, he's made a number of notable hires and pursued a solid strategy of favoring smaller account wins rather than immediately jump in and pitch giant blue chips. Also on his résumé: president-CEO, Y&R North America; chief marketing officer and worldwide account director at Publicis Worldwide.

What is the best career advice you ever got?

Shut up and listen. (I'm still working on it.)

What mistake have you learned the most from?

There are too many to single out and, interestingly, many seem to contradict the other: never enough information; not following your gut instinct. Not being prepared enough; not acting fast enough. Not caring enough; caring too much. Being too open; not being forthright enough.

What advice would you give young people trying to break into your business?

Wear your heart on your sleeve and care about the work.

If you were not doing this job, what would you be doing?

Running a bar and real estate business on the beach in Nicaragua where my wife is from.

Do you speak another language?

Bilingual in French and three words of Spanish that my wife taught me: "Si mi amor."

Ever lived/worked abroad?

Germany and England for Leo Burnett, and England and France for Publicis.

Pets? If so, what kind?

I had a golden Labrador when I was a child who died in my arms from a car accident when I was a teenager. I still hope to recover from that experience as I would really love our family to have a dog.

What city do you live in?

New York, my favorite city on Earth.

What is the first website you check every day?

CNN.

What app can't you live without?

Spoiled I know, but Uber.

Hobby?

Travel (thank goodness), food and reading.
headshot
Shahendra Ohneswere
General manager, Life and Times; VP-Special Projects, Roc Nation
Age: 32

Shahendra Ohneswere believes that "there are enough places to find negativity on the internet." Also he doesn't like regurgitating content because he believes it's more fun—and useful for readers—when he puts out something totally new. Such are the tenets that drive him as general manager of "Life and Times," Jay Z's all-original content lifestyle site that features topics as diverse as Philippine boxer Manny Pacquio, music videos, driving an Aston Martin and being backstage at a Victoria's Secret show—a scope that Mr. Ohneswere says has evolved alongside the culture around it.

The exec quickly climbed the entertainment marketing and publishing ladder working for Marc Ecko and then as senior editor at Giant before Jay Z's team called him to launch the site. Mr. Ohneswere also works under the Shawn Carter umbrella on projects related to Jay-Z's album releases, merchandising and the Made in America tour. He's also VP-special projects at RocNation, where he oversees various creative projects related to sports, music and affiliated brands. As for how he juggles it all? "I don't know -- I just do," he said. It's a creative free-flow."

What is the best career advice you ever got?

"Will it to happen." A very prominent music manager once told me that he uses that phrase as his mantra. It's been quite successful for him and since I've adopted it, for me as well. Every time I've encountered a seemingly near impossible task, I've gone back to that line and it's worked.

What mistake have you learned the most from?

Following ALL the rules. When you start out, there are things that are nuts and bolts that need to be checked off. However, over time you learn that the ideas and projects that soar are the ones that are built on a solid foundation with some risk floating at the top. Too often we're regulated into thinking that because there are rules they need to be adhered to and not challenged at all.

What advice would you give young people trying to break into your business?

Don't make decisions on based on conjecture. Just because everyone seems to be moving in a direction doesn't necessarily make it the best direction. If you really want to be able to be part of a cultural paradigm shift, you will have to learn how to take a chance on things that may feel completely out of the industry norm.

If you were not doing this job, what would you be doing?

Running a greenhouse. It's essentially the same line of thinking when it comes to tending plants as it does to creating content and curating culture.

Do you speak another language?

When I was younger, Dutch. But not anymore.

Ever lived/worked abroad?

Never worked abroad but I was born in Suriname, and lived in Jamaica.

Pets? If so, what kind?

A dog named Rumble. He's an Alaskan Klee Kai.

What city do you live in?

Brooklyn, N.Y.

What is the first website you check every day?

LifeandTimes.com.

What app can't you live without?

Menu Pages and Spotify. Food and music.

Hobby?

I've gotten really into horology and timepieces. As the world continues to go more and more digital, it's really interesting to see how fine watchmaking is still an artisan practice but just as accurate as a phone when it comes to time keeping.
headshot
Billy Parks
Exec VP-digital production and programming, Chernin Group
Age: 36

Billy Parks thinks way outside the box. Rather than air a reality series about a group of recent high-school graduates on TV, the Hollywood producer opted to stream the show "Summer Break" on YouTube -- and on Twitter and Instagram and Tumblr. In near-real time. With AT&T as a hands-on sponsor. "As producers we think we can figure out fucking anything," he said of his ability to puzzle together seemingly complicated productions. A longtime TV-commercial and music-video producer, Mr. Parks sees the series as the evolution of branded content as well as ways to distribute that content. "I think 'Summer Break' is the tip of the iceberg."

What is the best career advice you ever got?

Go with your gut.

What mistake have you learned the most from?

Never work for or hire someone you don't respect.

What advice would you give young people trying to break into your business?

Always be making something.

If you were not doing this job, what would you be doing?

Competitive ice sculptor.

Do you speak another language?

I was once able to speak very broken/laughable Spanish… but no more.

Ever lived/worked abroad?

I have shot all over the world, and I spent semesters of my undergrad in Zimbabwe and Australia.

Pets? If so, what kind?

Greenie, the Wheaton Terrier.

What city do you live in?

I live in Los Angeles, in the house I grew up in.

What is the first website you check every day?

Mediaredefined.com.

What app can't you live without?

Instagram.

Hobby?

Ninety-seven percent of my non-work time is spent with my rad wife and our two young boys. The other 3% will certainly involve brown liquid from Kentucky.
headshot
Michal Pasternak
Chief Experience Officer, Huge
Age: 34

While browsing Craigslist in 2004, Michal Pasternak saw an ad for a copywriter job at a small agency in Brooklyn and decided to apply. After calling her in for an interview, the agency, Huge, wanted to hire Ms. Pasternak but thought she might be a better fit for its interactive design team. For Ms. Pasternak, who accepted the offer, the switch has paid major dividends.

Quickly proving a star in the brimming field of user-experience design, Ms. Pasternak was soon working on high-profile projects such as a redesign of JetBlue.com. Now the chief experience officer at Huge, she's had a hand in redesigning NYC.gov and the soon to be relaunched TED.com. And Huge, which was all of 10 people when Ms. Pasternak got there, is now at 700.

What is the best career advice you ever got?

Don't just find a thing that you love, but a group of people you like and can learn from. You spend more time with your co-workers than your family, sleeping, etc. so you should really like those people and respect them.

What mistake have you learned the most from?

Not trusting my gut. When something looks good on paper but just doesn't feel right, you should trust that voice.

What advice would you give young people trying to break into your business?

Pick a website they think could be doing it better, or a mobile app. Then do the research. Talk to people, watch them use it and then make a better design.

If you were not doing this job, what would you be doing?

Improv, acting, voice-overs. Some mix of that. I love acting. I love improvising.

Do you speak another language?

Hebrew and French; a little bit of Spanish.

Ever lived/worked abroad?

Yes, I've worked abroad for short stints and was born in Israel.

Pets? If so, what kind?

A Chihuahua/Jack Russell mix named Kubrick.

What city do you live in?

New York.

What is the first website you check every day?

Twitter.

What app can't you live without?

I'm really into iBird right now. It's a $20 dollar birding app. It has every single bird in North America. There are photos and sounds. You can identify and find any bird. I would love to redesign it but the content is fantastic.

Hobby?

I'm a burgeoning birder. Since I've started to notice birds it's this new layer in the city that's existed but I've never noticed.
headshot
Amy Peet
Senior digital marketing manager, Chrysler
Age: 37

When you grow up in the Big Three automotive country of Michigan, what you drive is a big deal. Case in point: Amy Peet's stepfather, a longtime safety-lab engineer at rival General Motors, does not allow her to park her Jeep Grand Cherokee in the driveway when she visits.

In college, Peet studied journalism, but she could not shake her fascination with the automotive business. One of her first jobs was working on the GM credit card account at a satellite office of Mullen Advertising, Boston. Eventually, she moved to the client side. Now that she's at Chrysler, she has no regrets.

"This has been the most fabulous year and a half of my life. We're doing some truly inspiring things here at Chrysler. The products are amazing," said Ms. Peet. "It's very hard for my dad to look at my Jeep in the driveway," she said. "But I'm very proud of the work that I do. He's very proud of me too."

As head of digital marketing, Ms. Peet gets ribbed as the resident "nerd on the floor" is Chrysler CMO Olivier Francois. But she's more than willing to put up with the jokes. "This has been the most fabulous year and a half of my life. We're doing some truly inspiring things here at Chrysler," she said, from Will Ferrell web videos to Super Bowl ads.

As Ms. Peet travels around Detroit and the automotive world, her friends at GM and Ford tell her how much they admire the advertising/marketing work that Chrysler is doing from the Will Ferrell ads to Super Bowl advertising. "They're fearless around here. Which is a mentality that I just love."

What is the best career advice you ever got?

You need to prove yourself to others as much as they need to prove themselves to you. Always lead by example.

What mistake have you learned the most from?

The time that stands out the most for me is seven-ish years ago when working on an automotive website. Vehicle Configurators, Systems Integration and CGI met and we had to scramble to get a design eye to make the experience as realistic as possible for the customer. Things like dome lighting, chrome data and math data were foreign terms to me. All worlds collided at the onset of a new platform launch for an automotive website. We quickly learned how the vehicles could be lit that best differentiated the models in the most cost-effective way and how the order system impacted our data feeds and how to manipulate each so we could create the best experience for our customer. In the years to come this would only become more compounded with globalization of websites.

What advice would you give young people trying to break into your business?

Always try to round out yourself in every aspect of our business. In digital I always sought out what I felt I didn't have enough background in. If I had run a team on creative for websites, that meant I needed a production background. If I worked on creative, production and media for display, I needed analytics and measurement responsibility to complete the understanding. You can never stop learning. Every time you feel you have something mastered, customers change their mind on how they interact with you or behaviors they exhibit. You are a constant work in progress.

If you were not doing this job, what would you be doing?

I've always wanted to be a college professor teaching journalism or advertising.

Do you speak another language?

No.

Ever lived/worked abroad?

No.

Pets? If so, what kind?

I have an Akita mix named Bosco and a Papillion named Nacho.

What city do you live in?

Birmingham, Mich.

What is the first website you check every day?

Facebook.

What app can't you live without?

Weather.

Hobby?

Tennis, skiing and reading.
headshot
Sarah Personette
President, UM U.S.
Age: 34

Sarah Personette might be one of the youngest media-agency presidents in the business, and after only 10 months in the top job, she's made a dent. She spent the first five months reorganizing operations to focus more on rewarding talent and the agency's learning and development program.

In the past five months she created an executive leadership team; restructured the social practice; embedded social-media leads in every department, such as buying, planning, search and research; and inked partnerships with digital companies like AOL, Innovid and Kiip as part of an effort to better inform real-time buying strategy.

While making all those changes, she helped the shop win the global Hershey account and retain and win more Nationwide business in the U.S. She's balancing all that with a baby and another on the way. "I'm the first person to turn on lights in the office. I walk in at 7:15, get home to see my son between 6 and 8 p.m., when I'm not traveling, and I'm back online at 8," she said. Ms. Personette was most recently at Facebook, where she built and led the network's global agency team.

What is the best career advice you ever got?

Never take yourself out of the running. That is make sure people know that you are interested in that next opportunity.

What mistake have you learned the most from?

I don't think I have just one big mistake. I think I have tried hundreds of different approaches, experiments, ideas, ways of working, etc. in order to determine what works and does not work. It is the general idea of "start by starting" so you can iterate and improve over time.

What advice would you give young people trying to break into your business?

Be the master of your own education. There are thousands of resources available to us today. Do not wait for someone to teach you. If you want to learn something, then proactively seek out information, online training, and projects that will enable you to immerse yourself in that subject matter.

If you were not doing this job, what would you be doing?

I would be a teacher.

Do you speak another language?

I took six years of Latin growing up. Unfortunately, Latin really is a dead language so there is no one to start a conversation with.

Ever lived/worked abroad?

Through global positions, I have been afforded the wonderful opportunity to experience many cultures and markets. From China to the Ukraine to Singapore, every region of the world is so distinctly different yet the people are always welcoming and kind.

Pets? If so, what kind?

Yes, a rescue cat named Tucker.

What city do you live in?

Hoboken, N.J.

What is the first website you check every day?

Ad Age and Business Insider.

What app can't you live without?

Fresh Direct. When you are a mom on the go like me, the Fresh Direct app is the only way that we have food in our house!

Hobby?

Singing and yoga.
headshot
Scott Roen
VP-digital marketing and innovation, American Express
Age: 39

Having the word "innovation" in your job title can be a tremendous amount of pressure, but not for Scott Roen. The American Express veteran of 11 years spends his days reviewing all things Open Forum-related, from design and development to editorial and social-media content—roles he also takes on for American Express' Shop Small Circle platforms for Small Business Saturday. It involves daily interactions with contributors, experts, advisers, and small-business owners themselves as well as events, such as Open's recent live stream with Malcolm Gladwell.

What is the best career advice you ever got?

"Start with purpose." This has been a huge guiding focus for me, because you can get busy building product or running an effective marketing campaign… If you start with the purpose of what you're trying to do—your mission, what you're trying to do—it makes every other decision much easier.

What mistake have you learned the most from?

I'm really cognizant of timing. If there's one thing I have learned, it's timing is so important to success and failure to good and bad ideas. There are great ideas that are just too early or too late.

What advice would you give young people trying to break into your business?

If you want to be in this space, go out there and become an expert. Learn. Have that curiosity to try to figure out what's happening, and it's very inexpensive to become an expert in some of the most sophisticated marketing or technology areas. Find your passion and then pour yourself into it to become an expert in that field.

If you were not doing this job, what would you be doing?

I don't know what I would rather be doing. I genuinely feel lucky... I would want to consult and help business owners in new and unique ways. If I wasn't doing it here, I would hope to do it in a similar space.

Do you speak another language?

No.

Pets? If so, what kind?

I had two cats, but my younger daughter has allergies, so now they are currently living with his aunt. My two daughters are angling for a dog, but they need to get a hypoallergenic one.

What city do you live in?

Ridgewood, N.J.

What is the first website you check every day?

Open Forum. Twitter is right behind that.

What app can't you live without?

Beyond Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, all of which are really important, Evernote, I can't live without.

Hobby?

I have a family, which is a pretty big hobby. I enjoy working out -- I've done a couple of marathons, a bunch of triathlons. I just did the York City Triathlon this summer, so that's probably my largest hobby outside of family and work. I've done a half Ironman and I'd love to do a full Ironman someday.
headshot
Melissa Rosenthal
Director-creative services, BuzzFeed
Age: 25

At the age of 25, Melissa Rosenthal manages a 40-person department that produces content for advertisers and consults on how they can write stories in the BuzzFeed vein. Sponsored content (or "social advertising," as BuzzFeed calls it) is the site's only source of revenue, which was reportedly $50 million to $60 million in 2013. She's also hiring a creative services team in London and soon, Latin America, as BuzzFeed continues its march abroad. Last year, Ms. Rosenthal's team created content for more than 500 client programs.

"I was the first creative" at BuzzFeed, Ms. Rosenthal said. "We were knocking on doors trying to convince businesses that the banner ad is dead (or dying)—that it's all about storytelling now. We started to see a shift in the industry."

Today, other media organizations, including storied brands such as The New York Times, are adopting native-advertising units, a concept that BuzzFeed has helped pioneer.

"Content is the next wave," she said. "People want to interact with brands like personalities and that's what we're about—building a voice for a brand and telling a story that's unique to them."

But it's often difficult to convince marketers that they don't need to be selling in every piece of content they distribute, according to Ms. Rosenthal. "It's not what you're selling; it's why you sell it—it's your story," she said.

"That's the way we've been working to shift the thinking of brands," she added, "And it's catching on and it's really excited to see."

What is the best career advice you ever got?

Always put yourself in situations that are outside of your comfort zone. The time when you grow the most is when you are uncomfortable.

What mistake have you learned the most from?

At a startup, things are happening so quickly that it's often hard not to operate "in the moment." Early in my career, I was not thinking about what my department would become three to six months into the future. Thinking proactively about where we would be and the tools that we would need to take us to the next level is where my priority lies today.

What advice would you give young people trying to break into your business?

Don't undervalue your abilities and your skills just because of your age. I'm 25 and I'm managing a department of 40 people. Although it took a lot of hard work to get where I am today, I never once thought of my age as a deterrent. The future leaders are our youth, you and me, and we should be empowered to take on roles that challenge and stretch our abilities.

If you were not doing this job, what would you be doing?

I certainly have found my niche in social and advertising. The passion that I have for what I'm currently doing is unmatched, and if the role that I'm currently in didn't exist, I imagine that I would be doing something similar.

Do you speak another language?

No.

Ever lived/worked abroad?

No.

Pets? If so, what kind?

Yes, I have a lovely feline named Wendy.

What city do you live in?

New York, N.Y.

What is the first website you check every day?

Multiple tabs -- BuzzFeed/Facebook/Twitter.

What app can't you live without?

Evernote.

Hobby?

When I'm not on the internet, I'm in the kitchen, cooking. I am also incredibly passionate about music and live shows, so I am often out supporting the bands that I love.
headshot
Kyle Schlegel
VP-marketing, Hillerich & Bradsby
Age: 36

Kyle Schlegel knows plenty about reviving iconic brands. A decade ago as Procter & Gamble Co. brand manager, he played a role in saving Old Spice from an attack by Unilever's Axe and the threat of being seen forever as grandpa's aftershave.

The 130-year-old Louisville Slugger brand is one of the most iconic in sports gear, but when Kyle Schlegel joined the company in 2012, it was newer brands such as Demarini and Maruci that had traction, particularly with top amateur players and Major League Baseball. Louisville Slugger was more loved than purchased. Its share of the $150 million wooden-bat market was 60% to 70%, and Louisville Slugger was used only by 55% of Major League Baseball players.

Yet the brand had 80% awareness among amateur baseball and softball players and affinity scores akin to those of Harley Davidson and McDonald's. Mr. Schlegel, who came to Hillerich & Bradsby in 2012, went about revamped the logo and launched MLB Prime, making Louisville Slugger the first brand to make the same product used by the pros available for top college and high-school players.

"The launch of the new logo in the spring was very well received, with about 60 million impressions in a four-day window," Mr. Schlegel said of campaign that was heavy on digital and PR, including an appearance on 24's Baseball "Opening Night" in March. Sell-in to retailers on MLB Prime, Mr. Schlegel said, has been strong, a good sign for next spring as well.

It was a hit. Louisville Slugger sales are up nearly 10% vs. last year, Mr. Schlegel said, with softball bats becoming the hottest in the industry and the baseball line "regaining some much-needed momentum going into 2014."

What is the best career advice you ever got?

Don't be afraid to try new things. At Procter & Gamble [where he was a brand manager on Old Spice], I tried to see the business through sales or finance or whoever I was working with to see it through their eyes and get them to think of marketing as a service that helps them do their jobs better.

What mistake have you learned the most from?

Assuming what the consumer wants without asking first. For the restage on Old Spice years ago, we thought the brand needed a whole new modern spin, and looked at a lot of design changes. And when we showed it to consumers, they just wanted us to get focused back on a lot of things that the brand was, not a complete overhaul.

What advice would you give young people trying to break into your business?

Always be looking for needs not currently met and how you can meet those.

If you were not doing this job, what would you be doing?

I guess I'd be training and getting ready for spring training, but that's where the talent ran out.

Do you speak another language?

No.

Ever lived/worked abroad?

Yes, at P&G Western Europe headquarters in Geneva and six months in Luxembourg while at Miami.

Pets? If so, what kind?

Yes. A Newfoundland mix named Moose who does pet-therapy visits to hospitals.

What city do you live in?

Louisville, Ky.

What's the first site you check every day?

EPSN.com

What app can't you live without?

Twitter, where my news of everything comes from these days.

Hobby?

Traveling, philanthropy, including Make a Wish Foundation board.

Photo by John Boehm for Ad Age

headshot
Nate Silver
Founder, FiveThirtyEight.com
Age: 35

Nate Silver is a celebrity. His data-driven political blog, FiveThirtyEight, has led to frequent guest appearances on talk shows. President Obama has uttered his name in public. People even walk up to him on the street occasionally to ask: "Hey, aren't you Nate Silver?"

"Usually I'm a nice guy about it," said the 35-year-old. "But every now and then I'm running really late to a meeting and I'll say no."

Indeed, he's emerged as a celebrity of the media world, poised to lead the next iteration of FiveThirtyEight. In July, ESPN lured him away from The New York Times to create a media property unto itself, with a staff of more than 20 people to cover five topics: sports, politics, economics, science and lifestyle.

"It's a very ambitious project because of all the things we want to provide coverage of and the journalistic quality we're striving for," he said of the site, which rolls out in the first quarter of this year.

His path to celebrity is an unlikely one. He's a numbers geek, having spent part of the last decade writing about baseball stats for the niche website Baseball Prospectus before shifting his attention to politics, a topic that brought him national attention (and a lucrative book deal). In 2010, the Times scooped up his blog, making it part of the newspaper's political coverage. The new FiveThirtyEight will be a standalone site.

"ESPN and Disney are companies that like to find ways to say yes to things if you have a good idea," he said. (Disney owns a majority stake in ESPN.) "In other newspaper cultures they're finding ways to say no to things."

That might be a reference to his former employer. His departure from the Times last year set media tongues wagging about acrimony between Mr. Silver and Times staff. But Mr. Silver said his exit was more of a business decision.

"The Times does a lot of things really wonderfully on the content and editorial side, but it brought in an executive from the BBC, which is literally a public trust," he said of the Times' CEO Mark Thompson. "I would want someone who's more aggressive about saying we want to make sure we find ways to reinvigorate our business because that's what's going to sustain profitability in the long-run."

To sustain itself outside election years, FiveThirtyEight will aim to cover topics beyond politics—though there will be plenty of that—or sports for that matter. "When you see the jobs report come out every month, we'll dive into what it really means," he said. To that end, the site will border on service journalism. "We want to educate and inform everyday people," he said.

What is the best career advice you ever got?

I saw Elon Musk's interview at TED, in which he emphasized the importance of listening to negative feedback. This is especially important as you gain more authority and people are liable to be more deferential to you.

What mistake have you learned the most from?

Taking a job I was completely uninspired by out of college.

What advice would you give young people trying to break into your business?

Spend more time doing and less time complaining. If you're unhappy with the status quo, then build your own profile, whether through blogging, social media or whatever else. While journalism is a tough field right now in many respects, the barriers to entry have never been lower.

Who has been particularly influential in your life/career?

My high school debate coach, Will Repko.

If you were not doing this job, what would you be doing?

Playing poker, perhaps.

Do you speak another language?

Spanish, sort of.

Ever lived/worked abroad?

Lived in London for one year (junior year of college).

Pets? If so, what kind?

No pets.

What city do you live in?

New York, New York.

What is the first website you check every day?

Twitter.

What app can't you live without?

Twitter.

Hobby?

Eating burritos.
headshot
Jay Sethi
Cover Girl North American Brand Manager
Age: 31

CoverGirl had three years of sales and share declines before Jay Sethi, 31, became North American delivery brand manager in 2012, overseeing retail and shopper-marketing efforts in 2012, including the brand's partnerships with the NFL and the "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire."

Even as the U.S. beauty business overall and nail polish slowed in 2013, CoverGirl grew sales and share both, led by a 2.7-share-point share gain in nails and 0.9-point gain in eye shadow for the 52 weeks ended Nov. 23, according to Nielsen data from Deutsche Bank.

"We've become more digitally and socially focused," said Mr. Sethi, "which has allowed us to reach the next generation of millennials." CoverGirl is all about pop culture, and both 'The Hunger Games' and the NFL have enormous fan bases," Mr. Sethi said. That all led the Association of National Advertisers to name him as one of its 2013 Marketing Rising Stars.

What is the best career advice you ever got?

One is not to be afraid to take risks, especially in the new world of marketing where consumers are bombarded with so much and you need to find ways to break through. …The second, starting out on the Walmart team taught me diversity of experiences early in my career would be extremely beneficial.

What mistake have you learned the most from?

Between working in [Chicago] politics and coming to P&G, I worked in IT consulting. I followed the money. I realized pretty early on I was pretty terrible at it. It taught me that following my passions and doing what I'm actually good at is important.

What advice would you give young people trying to break into your business?

Young people are very fortunate to have grown up as digital natives, and as they enter big companies, they're all looking to learn and compete more effectively in the space.

If you were not doing this job, what would you be doing?

Architect or entertainment industry.

Do you speak another language?

Yes, Spanish fluently, thanks to Mom.

Ever lived/worked abroad?

No, other than P&G travel.

Pets? If so, what kind?

No, I travel too much.

What city do you live in?

Baltimore.

What is the first website you check every day?

Huffington Post.

What app can't you live without?

Uber.

Hobby?

Traveling.
headshot
Kamakshi Sivaramakrishnan
Founder, Drawbridge
Age: 38

Kamakshi Sivaramakrishnan is solving a problem that has grown urgent for digital marketers: tracking people from their desktops to their mobile devices. A Stanford Ph.D. holder and former research scientist for the mobile ad network AdMob (which Google acquired in 2010), Ms. Sivaramakrishnan started her own company, Drawbridge, that year. Her idea was to develop a technology that would be able to anonymously match up users across their various devices and buy mobile audiences for advertisers using insights into people's web-surfing habits. With 45 employees and clients like Intuit, Uber, eBay, Groupon and The New York Times, the business is growing quickly. As of late November, revenue for 2013 was up by a factor of seven over the previous year.

What is the best career advice you ever got?

Hire slow, fire fast: Great people coming together to build great companies. I can't emphasize how important it is to have the right set of people around you and with you to build compelling products and value. Also, use your strength as a technologist to your advantage: Great products are built on a foundation of innovative and cutting-edge technologies. Being an engineer by training with a keen eye for product gives me the ability to shape the strategy and direction of the business.

What mistake have you learned the most from?

Hiring the wrong talent for the job. I was not convinced at the time of hiring that the person in question was the right person for the job; I didn't follow my instincts and gave in to a perceived sense of urgency around hiring.

What advice would you give young people trying to break into your business?

Come into this space and business only if you have a demonstrably superior piece of technology that materially and substantively moves advertising technology forward.

If you were not doing this job, what would you be doing?

I would have either been in academia pontificating to a group of graduate students on asymptotic results in information theory or a quant on Wall Street bringing some of the scientific algorithms to trading.

Do you speak another language?

I speak English, Hindi, Tamil and Malayalam.

Ever lived/worked abroad?

I have lived and worked in various states here in the U.S., including Massachusetts, New York, California.

Pets? If so, what kind?

None.

What city do you live in?

Palo Alto, Calif.

What is the first website you check every day?

Google.

What app can't you live without?

Gmail.

Hobby?

I paint nature and still life in pastel.
headshot
Ivanka Trump
Founder, Ivanka Trump products, including fine jewelry, footwear and apparel; exec VP-development and acquisitions, Trump Organization
Age: 32

Ivanka Trump has a Wharton MBA and a senior-level role at her father's real-estate empire. But she wanted a business to call her own. So in 2009 she got into branded products with a namesake jewelry line and lifestyle products that have sold for hundreds of millions of dollars, thanks in large part to her social-media acumen. Like the Donald, she takes her personal brand very seriously.

Ms. Trump joined the Trump Organization in 2005 with no sharply defined role after a test run at another real-estate company. A stint as a project manager for Forest City Enterprises in Yonkers, N.Y., validated what she calls her "lifelong dream to get into real estate."

"When I first joined, it really was upon me to determine which direction I was going," she said. "I had to figure out where I was going to add value, take initiative and do what others were not doing."

Her niche, she found, was a combination of financing and marketing. "I'm very capable financially; that's an area in which I've always excelled. I also have an intuitive understanding of brand and brand development, and the marketing around that. It's been genetically passed on to me from my father."

She spearheads a number of businesses within Trump, overseeing aspects of planning, marketing and interior design. For example, with her brothers, Eric and Don Jr., she's working to build and grow the Trump Hotel Collection to 30 high-end properties from the current 10. She's putting her stamp on a $250 million renovation of the Doral resort in Miami (the project description on the Doral website references "Designed by Ivanka Trump") as well as a redevelopment of the historic Old Post Office building in D.C., which is slated to open in 2016.

"Each year, we're adding new deals and acquiring properties," she said. "My father had been involved in hospitality for decades. [But] there was no infrastructure to support projects outside of New York. That was the opportunity."

Since launching her jewelry brand in 2009, Ms. Trump has opened retail outlets in New York and Beijing and sold products to department stores around the globe. In 2010, she launched an accessible footwear line, and after realizing she was on to something she added clothing and accessories. This year, her brand will do nearly $250 million at retail, according to The New York Times. She oversees everything from design to marketing, she said.

Now, she has her eye on international expansion and growth through e-commerce. "I saw tremendous opportunity for a design-focused, fine-jewelry brand positioned toward self-purchasing females," she said. "It didn't exist in the fine-jewelry space. Most were legacy brands with dead male founders and very stoic, cold intimidating retail environments."

Ms. Trump thus far has spent no money on advertising her product lines and has relied solely on PR and her social presence to push sales. It's working: Yahoo News named her as a top-searched retailer during Black Friday, among other more established brands with multi-million-dollar budgets. Social media "has given us the ability to express ourselves and let people in on various facets." Like her father, she has over a million Twitter followers and on Instagram she has more than 250,000 followers. But she doesn't attribute all of her success to social.

"I've built an amazing team of predominantly women who share my ideals," she added. "Women of my generation dress themselves in the morning for a dinner date but they also must be suitable for the office. I think that is very different from my mother's generation, which was much more of the mind that you have to assimilate with the male dress code to succeed."

Next on the list? An updated e-commerce presence for her product lines. "I'm involved in everything, almost unfortunately," she said. "It means I don't sleep."

Do you speak another language?

French

Ever lived/worked abroad?

No

What is the first website you check every day?

New York Observer www.observer.com

What is the best career advice you ever got?

Be Passionate. One needs passion, drive and luck to succeed.

What mistake have you learned the most from?

Early on in my career I was afraid asking questions would expose my inexperience. The reality is that I was inexperienced and asking intelligent questions of the right people is key to learning and growing (and avoiding mistakes.) I still ask tons of questions and hope that is always the case. You can't be an expert at everything.

What advice would you give young people trying to break into your business?

Challenge yourself. Also, take on the projects that other people are avoiding. It is a great way to learn and get noticed.

Pets? If so what kind?

No pets but I am sure our kids will start begging us for one soon enough!

What city do you live in?

New York City.

Are you right or left handed?

Right handed.

Twitter or Facebook? Both!

What app can't you live without?

Instagram.

Hobby?

Golf and Cooking
headshot
Chris Wallrapp
Exec VP-chief growth officer, Hill Holliday
Age: 39

As a politicial-science major in college, Chris Wallrapp saw himself going on to law school. But watching his older sister fall in love with her advertising career, he decided to give it a try. Five ad agencies later, he's running new business at Hill Holliday and racking up win after win, most recently leading the Interpublic Group team scoring General Motors' Cadillac. He started at GSD&M, followed by Carmichael Lynch, Fallon Worldwide, and Modernista.

"Throughout my career, I've been put in positions beyond my years because people trusted me and gave me a chance, and I'm really grateful for that because I learned so much that way," he said.

Along with Cadillac, Mr. Wallrath led the pitch to retain Bank of America – and ended up adding additional business from the bank. In his three-year tenure at Hill Holliday, he's helped sign up Major League Baseball, Cigna, Trip Advisor, Merrell and Capella University, boosting the shop to more than $200 million in revenue.

What is the best career advice you ever got?

Early in my career, a creative director gave me a simple bit of advice: "Listen. It can be the most powerful thing you can do in this business."

What mistake have you learned the most from?

Not saying "no" when it was the right answer.

What advice would you give young people trying to break into your business?

It's not about where you come from or what you've done or even who you know. It's about who you are and how you think. Be curious. Be driven. Be fearless. If you have an opinion, speak up. If you don't have an opinion, learn to form one.

Do you speak another language?

I can do a great duck call. Does that count?

Ever lived/worked abroad?

Being an Air Force brat, I was born in Germany, grew up in the U.S. and spent time in Australia working my way up and down the east coast.

Pets? If so, what kind?

We have a great yellow lab named Higgins. He seems to keep everything in perspective.

What city do you live in?

Boston.

What is the first website you check every day?

ESPN.

What app can't you live without?

I love music. I've tried almost every music app out there but I always find myself coming back to Spotify. And of course, Angry Birds for my kids ... and sometimes me.

Hobby?

With two kids under the age of 6, hobbies take on a different meaning (days of fly-fishing are few and far between). With that said, I can build a mean Lego airplane.
headshot
Will Young
Director, Zapps Labs
Age: 37

Will Young said he's constantly challenged to showcase Zappos as a place that sells more than just shoes, making it a destination by "pushing product that people aren't expecting from Zappos." One of his favorite projects, Glance, is similar to a magazine showcasing full on-trend outfit choices. As Mr. Young puts it, his group is "exploring the future of Zappos with nontraditional retail experiments," using tools like social shopping and user generated content.

"I don't consider myself a traditional marketer but I work closely with the marketing world, especially socially," said Mr. Young, citing Zappos Labs' products that leverage Twitter and Instagram.

Vancouver native Mr. Young planned to try the Bay Area for a year after graduating from the University of British Columbia. Now, 14 years later, he oversees 10 staffers at the three-year-old lab headquarters in San Francisco.

Mr. Young said he's so focused on the fashion and retail space that he invests, via a seed-stage investment group called VegasTechFund alongside Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh (whom he met playing poker), in new fashion and technology startups such as Combatant Gentlemen and Ministry of Supply.

What is the best career advice you ever got?

Stop caring about titles. Early on in my career, I just couldn't wait until I got promoted. I learned that doesn't really matter. Just keep working on things you love and good things will happen. Similarly, "Don't chase the paper, chase the dream" --given by P. Diddy and our CEO, Tony Hsieh -- is pretty good advice.

What mistake have you learned the most from?

Putting work before everything isn't worth it.

What advice would you give young people trying to break into your business?

If you are going to enter retail or fashion, you better love it. It will spit you out if you are just trying to make money from it. And you will hate life. Retail and fashion is hard.

If you were not doing this job, what would you be doing?

I would give investing a full-time shot. I love working with early-stage entrepreneurs.

Do you speak another language?

Not well.

Ever lived/worked abroad?

Does Canada count?

Pets? If so, what kind?

Crazy black-Lab mix named Louie. http://dayswithlouie.tumblr.com/

What city do you live in?

San Francisco.

What is the first website you check every day?

Huffington Post.

What app can't you live without?

Instagram.

Hobby?

Anything outdoors (surfing, cycling, running, hiking).
40 Under 40 may not work on your platform. Please view it on AdAge.com

This year's Ad Age's 40 Under 40 class is a diverse lot, but they do end up having a lot in common. Of those who answered our survey, 31 have bachelor's degrees and one-quarter have advanced degrees (one person in our class, in fact, holds two masters). Coincidentally, two of our honorees attended Wifrid Laurier University and another two went to Miami University in Ohio – though we can't say whether they were acquainted with one another there.

A full 18 speak other languages, and not just the expected Spanish, French and Italian – our list includes speakers or Urdu, Nepali, Swahili, Twi, Fante, Hebrew, Tamil and Malyalam. More than half the list – 23 -- have lived or worked abroad. Collectively, our group has worked for an average of 3.6 companies in their career.

On the personal side, 17 of our honorees reside in New York City or the surrounding areas; two come from the Los Angeles area; one lives in Palo Alto and three in San Francisco. The remainder call home Melbourne, Paris, Baltimore/Washington D.C., Chicago, Miami, Portland Ore., London, Minneapolis, Dallas, Louisville, Ky., and Boston.

Our honorees collectively own 18 dogs (three on our list own two dogs). There are only three cat owners. One confesses to owning a frog and another a collection of rubber duckies.

There are only three left-handers in the group. Those who responded to our survey are nearly split in their loyalties to Facebook (18) and Twitter (17). Among the apps they can't live without, the top winner was Instagram, followed by Uber, Evernote, Weather, Spotify and Google Maps.

In this article:

Read These Next