What advice would you give your younger self?
I wish I had a little bit more fun and didn’t take myself so seriously when I was younger. We work in a fun industry. We work in a people and relationship business. I think I took myself a little too seriously. So the advice is to loosen up a little bit.
What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?
Personally, when I was in the jungles of Nepal … there was an invitation where you could bathe with an elephant, and I was like, I don’t know what exactly that looks like, but let’s do it. So I was on top of an elephant, and the elephant would go down into the river and roll [with me on top of it], and I thought I was going to die. … It was the most exhilarating, scary experience ever. It was awesome.
Professionally, it was a moment when I decided to pivot from my practitioner craft in media to pursue a degree in journalism. I resigned without a job. Without confidence in an income source. Without a clear and specific “next.” Given the years I was in media [in buying and planning], this was a scary moment for me. Yet, it was this decision to leave media that ultimately brought me back to it, but through a different door—a surprising facet and a cause that was not yet known to me. However, I did discover in the journalism school application process that I am a good writer and, more important, really enjoyed it. So I entered back into the agency world through the corporate communications door, back into the agency house. Best decision I ever made, albeit a vulnerable professional period.
If you weren’t doing your current job, what would you be doing and why?
I would be a chef. When the work week is over, one of my favorite things to do is prepare a meal for my family. I will spend two-and-a-half hours just on prepping. And there are certain things that I love, and I love all the cooking shows. And there’s such an art and satisfaction. It’s actually creating something—and creating something that’s nourishing for your family. I love the pressure of the timing, too, because serving is all about aligning timing—there’s a hustle that has to happen.
What should the industry do to encourage more women and people of color into its ranks?
This isn’t my quote, I forgot who where it was from, and it’s a paraphrase. A woman of color, a professional in our industry, was asked, “What is your legacy?” And her response was, “To sit squarely and confidently in my seat and in my role, and hold onto it for the person behind me who looks like me.” What we can do more of is ... hug the hand-raisers and reserve your seat for the person behind you. We all know that we tend to hire and promote people who kind of look like us. We need more people who look like us. And that’s how you change the economics. That’s how you change the numbers.
How do you expect emerging tech like Web3 and AI to impact your job in the future?
This is one of the most exciting territories that I have seen in my career—in terms of the impact of AI, in terms of how I do my job, how it redefines how a media planner does their job and the speed of certain kinds of executions. It comes with its jeopardies too, because we haven’t yet fully recognized what the potential of it is and the potential damage if it’s not governed properly.
In terms of the potential, [AI can be used for] reducing what may be considered high-labor, low-value type work in terms of validating certain kinds of ideas. … Generative AI could actually be a validation or perhaps stimulus to think about something very differently. I also think there’s something very valuable in these hybrid workforces where you have an AI tool, and technology education to be kind of another voice for you, especially in a remote working environment where we tend to get trained on an appointment basis. I think AI could be an interesting education partner, a technical education partner. So I find this super exciting. Certainly, it’s still developing ... but I see it as more helpful than harmful with the right guardrails in place.