Category Archives: work

return to omnicom

Fourteen and a half years ago, I had my first day at Tribal/DDB.  This coincided with my first day in Los Angeles, the day after I drove Zippy the Wonder Saturn down from Vancouver.   I was 25, and I was heading to the big city to work in an advertising agency.  It was the most exciting – and one of the best – decisions I ever made, to pursue my career in digital marketing with an agency in Los Angeles.   I only stayed a year at Tribal before moving on to Integrated Media Solutions, but it was a great agency to start my career at, and gave me a solid foundation for #agencylife.

Today, I returned to an Omnicom agency when I started work at OMD USA, a highly decorated media agency.  A few things were different as I’m now obviously much older (and hopefully wiser) and more experienced, but I still felt a lot of the same excitement I experienced when I started in the binoculars building in Venice Beach.  This morning that moment was when I came out of the subway, saw the new WTC 1 tower down the street, and remembered with gratitude that I am living my dream.

I also dress very differently now for my leadership level jobs in NYC than I did fourteen years ago for my entry level role in L.A.:  today I wore a velvet jacket over a blouse, with black jeans and flat tall boots.  I also wear a lot of makeup that I didn’t need when I was a 26 year old assistant interactive media planner.  I’m going in to manage the assistant media planners (and the media planners, and the media supervisors, and the media directors) as an Exec Account Director.  So since I am now the management level grownup I was in total awe of in 2004, even though it is Friday, I still dressed up a bit:

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Best thing from my stint on L’Oreal: I learned how to use undereye concealer.

My first impressions of the job are positive, both in terms of the team as well as my role within it.  It will take me weeks to really understand the mechanics and politics and details, but my surface level impression is that this role is a good fit for me and for my own growth goals.  As I wrote a couple weeks ago, my career path was growing stagnant, as the clients I worked on became more limiting and less conducive to my own goals as a leader.  I needed bigger and better opportunities.  I’m lucky in that I was able to find a position that, based on my first day’s interactions, seems to be the step up in my career I was searching for.

Finally, one of the best technological innovations since 2004, aside from all the technology that actually makes my job possible, is the invention of better coffee machines.  I did not have to embarrass myself on day one by spilling coffee all over the break room as I did in 2004, but rather, was able to make myself look clueless by holding up the line while I got overwhelmed by the number of choices on the touch screen.  Progress!

a slightly shorter commute

Back in June, my commute was chopped in half.  My employer had been leasing a floor  in the Random House building at 56th and Broadway, but due to general agency growth (and our landlord evicting us) we ended up moving to the Parent Holding Company building downtown in TriBeCa, at 6th and Canal.  This reduced my commute by five of the ten miles that I had been biking on the rare occasions I still rode into work.

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Apparently though, that wasn’t short enough.  On November 30th, I’ll start working at a different agency: one that is 0.8mi closer still to home, reducing my commute even further to 4.2mi by bike (albeit a slightly longer time on a less speedy subway).

Obviously, shortening my commute by a further 20% isn’t an incentive to change jobs though.  I’ve been at my current agency for over four years, a long time in my industry.  And at some point this year, I realized my career growth had flattened into stagnation.  I haven’t had the right circumstances to actually move forward into the next level of account management, to get better at what it is I do for a living, for almost two years.  I joke a lot that my job is “glorified project manager crossed with Liz Lemon” but the reality is, I have not had the opportunity to do my best work in the last year and a half, nor have I had the right path to grow and become a better leader.

There is also a certain element of fear at play as well.  The digital marketing industry feels like Logans Run sometimes, a youth focused culture where the only people over forty are senior management.  If I’m not moving forward in my career, I worry that my age will become a liability.    Perhaps this is fear of aging more than an actual perception, but it’s one I’ve offset by getting promoted on a regular basis every two to three years. (It should be noted I also wear makeup, but refuse to dye my hair or consider any sort of Botox or Juvederm because why should I have to pump poison into my body to create an image of youth?  This entire society is messed up but that’s a whole other story.)

Mostly though, I’ve just been lacking in job satisfaction.  I don’t have challenges I can solve; I have challenges that become quagmires.   I don’t bounce into work and settle into a flow state where I use my experience and expertise all day to produce any sort of meaningful work.  Instead, I drag myself in and spend the day competing for scraps of an overstretched team, feeling like there is no progress to be made, which in turn, makes me feel like I’m not even good at my job anymore.  And I know I’m good at my job.  So when a recruiter from an even bigger media agency came knocking, I answered, hoping it would be the proverbial window opening to returning to a more positive situation.  And as I went through round after round of interviews, I actually got excited about moving to a new agency, and, by contrast, realized how unhappy I was at my current one.

As Paul says, this is why we moved to New York City, so if I am not happy in my job, I can literally walk down the street for a new one.  I will now have the opportunity to apply my endless curiosity to a new client, build relationships with a new team, take on new challenges, learn from new people.  I’m psyched.  And I’m lucky.  I have the extreme luxury of having “job satisfaction” be a factor in my life, something I have control over.  Only in NYC do I have this, only at the center of the media buying universe can I have this many options, and only here can I work with the top talent of my craft.

My last day at my current employer is November 21st.  My first day at my new job is November 30th.  Change is always terrifying and exciting, but I look forward to it anyways.

the complete lack of glamour in business travel

I’m in Cincinnati!  Again.  This is what it looked like last time I was here in April.

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I’m sure I’ve written about this before, but I used to think business travel would be glamorous.  This is probably because I grew up in the 80s and 90s when being a Business Woman was glamorous. The truth is, there isn’t much glamorous or sophisticated about actual work, which is what business travel is for.  It’s an extra long day, extended with flights or drives or trains, during which time I can’t work, yet still need to get the work actually done.  I do not get to swan around exotic locations wearing oversize sunglasses and a designer scarf, showing up only to deign meetings with my presence, like I thought I would get to when I was much, much younger.  Most business travel, in reality, requires days of prep beforehand, follow-up actions afterwards, and no end of sifting through all the emails that came in as soon as the wi-fi cut out on my flight.

And yet, aside from missing my men, I don’t mind business travel.  Like advertising and business in general, it isn’t a glamorous activity, but it does enable include the part of my job I like the most: talking.  Not just talking myself, but having everyone talk, brainstorming, discussing, planning, reviewing.  The kind of meetings I travel for, are when we take a step back and look at the forest, instead of being lost in trees.  Being in a room of people all working towards the same goal, even a corporate, commercial goal, is exciting, albeit in a nerdy way, and that is what I travel for.  Despite all those promises made in the 1990s about “virtual meetings”, there is still no substitute for just sitting around a conference table.  It’s likely a descendant of storytelling, sharing ideas and concepts, which is a very human element to keep in business.

Still, I’m trying to figure out where I got the idea that business travel would be exciting.  Perhaps it was because I assumed if I was important enough to travel, I would be an Important Businesswoman in general.  And even without watching mainstream movies my entire childhood, I still managed to pick up, by osmosis, the idea that being in business would be exciting and sophisticated.

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Sigourney Weaver in “Working Girl”: an awful boss BUT a sophisticated terrible boss with an amazing harbour view from her office.  It should be noted that when “Younger” did a Working Girl riff this week, I died.

Where did the women of my generation get this idea?  Is it descended from the archetype Helen Gurley Brown created in 1962, the idea of the sophisticated girl about town?  Given that the woman used mineral oil as a salad dressing to discourage eating, I have my doubts about her mental stability in general.

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Small steps forward, ladies!  SMALL STEPS IN YOUR HEELS.

It may be more likely to stem from the increase of women in white collar jobs in the late 70s and early 80s, the daughters of the first feminist revolution, who grew up with wider horizons than their mothers – including the idea of having their own careers

Line graph shows the percentages of men and women working from 1948 to 2013.

Source: “Women in Top Management“, Sage Business Research.  Actually, it is a really fascinating article in general about the under representation of women in top management

Wherever this idea came from, it is nicely encapsulated in this Hark! A Vagrant comic strip.  This is the perception of the business woman in the 80s: all goals all the time.

What is it about being goal oriented, about being tough, that says “sophisticated” though?  It may be the association of businesswomen as being urban creatures, who would have to have the sophistication required to live in an engaging way in a big city.  It may be the idea of the intelligence required to succeed in an environment in which the odds are stacked against women.  It may even be the perceived lack of typical female insecurities, which is a whole other post.  I am still unsure what it was about this image that appealed to me so much when I was younger, much less how this image permeated pop culture enough to trickle down to me.

Regardless, here I am in Cincinnati, on a business trip, waiting for the end of the reggae fest at Fountain Square across the street so I can go to sleep, poking at a deck I’m presenting tomorrow, missing my men and eating a decidedly unsophisticated take-out salad from Panera Bread.

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Corporate reggae brought to you by Proctor and Gamble!

No one actually said business travel would be glamorous, I just assumed it.  And I suppose we all know what they say about “assume”…

making work friends

This morning, I was skimming Facebook and saw that a group of women from my office had gone out for drinks last night to celebrate a former colleague’s.  My absence from this group is not particularly telling or indicative of anything to do with me or my value as a person, colleague or friend.  It is just a group of current co-workers who have been going out as a group for years, while I sit anti-socially at my desk.

In fact, my anti-social status at the office is so extreme that I am missing the company picnic today because I didn’t cross-reference my work and personal calendars before making plans for the school closure dates.  Therefore, I am hosting Ben’s friends for a day of “please entertain each other” activities instead of re-bonding with my own co-workers.   Part of this is because I’ve been offsite for the past year, and upon returning, instead of attempting to re-bond with colleagues, I decided to hide at my desk and pretend I don’t know anyone anymore.

My failure to prioritize this kind of in-office socializing is probably why I am rarely invited to events outside the office.  On a daily basis,  I make the choice not to get up from my desk and talk to people, which results in not being invited to events outside of the workday.  And for the past few years, I have prioritized my son’s birthday over the company picnic – and then this year, the one year I could have gone, I invited three of his buddies over to hang out instead of sending Ben to chess camp for the day, so I am now committed to staying home with a houseful of ten year olds.

It therefore should not be a surprise that I’m  not invited to office social gatherings, and yet, I’m still sad and disappointed when it happens and I see it posted about retroactively.  It’s just so hard to get over my fear of socializing at the office.  I worried for years that people didn’t like me, and only put up with me because they were obligated to engage with me, a fear everyone has but that I actually had reinforced in me twenty years ago by a co-worker who told me that was how she felt.  Now I not only worry people don’t like me, but also worry that the obligation to engage positively with me is higher since I am management and sometimes, I am someone’s direct or indirect boss.

This is not a surprising phenomenon to many people, I’m sure.  There’s mixed feelings on work friendships.  TV teaches us that it’s the norm to have a workplace social circle, but I  have never had that kind of extended work/social life.  I am friendly with co-workers, and often remain good friends with people after leaving a job, but it isn’t a regular occurrence to have that kind of interaction.  I do not believe this is abnormal, especially for people with children and/or other priorities outside the office, and the New York Times seems to emphasize that work friendships can be weird and inconsistent by running articles on a regular basis talking about issues that crops up in these strange hybrid relationships.

Is there a not-awkward, non-creepy way to make friends as a grown-up?

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</script
 

It would be easy to be safe and just cocoon further into my loner, anti-social status, but that isn't what I want.  I know that my co-workers are people I would like spending time with if I wasn’t so anxious about it.  The problem is that added stress of thinking, “does this person like me or are they just putting up with me” kills most of the joy I would get from the encounter, and makes it difficult for me to reflect positively on the fact that this is a cool, smart, interesting person with their own perspective on the workplace we share and have in common.  It’s difficult to engage in a positive, meaningful conversation during a workday as it is – I’m always worried I’m  keeping someone from something more important – and then my fear of whether or not my presence is received the same way makes it even more difficult for me to engage in a verbal exchange that would add collateral to the friendship.

Therefore, I’ve  been hiding at my desk, nodding at people when I see them, smiling and saying hello, and praying I don’t have to actually engage because THAT IS HARD AND CAUSES FEAR.

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I empathize with this SO HARD.  It’s how I know Daria is really covering for insecurity!

I’m asking myself now, what can I actually do about this?  Do I have to come out and talk to people and put myself out there despite a crippling fear of rejection?  Do I have to make going to company events and happy hours more of a priority?  We’re moving to a new office soon, after all – can I make it a priority to talk to people there?  Can I engage more through the “Women in Leadership” initiative, making sure I show up for those events?  Would it help if i went into the office more days instead of working from home all the time?  What if I reached out more to co-workers, current and former, attempting to get to know them on a 1:1 basis and setting aside time to do so?

The answer to all of these things is yes, and the answer to everything is that I have to just work a little harder at engaging in meaningful social interactions, both in creating the opportunity to do so and in finding conversation to make that isn’t awkward when those opportunities come up.  That isn’t easy for me – I sometimes feel like I’m missing a critical part of the human personality, the part that puts people at ease and makes people feel comfortable with me, the part that makes me likeable.  That, however, is an insecurity for an entire other day.  For today, I need to go problem solve a way to get to that company picnic!

los angeles: day three

It’s been just over forty-eight hours since I came over the Tejon Pass, via I-5, into Los Angeles. And since then, I’ve been both to work and to my new home, and yes, everything seems OK.

  • The front of the building I work in is a two storey tall pair of binoculars. Really. I thought that was a Photoshopped image on The Agency site I saw, but it’s real. I drive between the giant lenses to get into the garage.
  • The house I live in has a kumquat bush in the backyard. I’ve never had kumquats before. It also has a lemon tree.
  • Everything about L.A. has an eerie deja-vu quality to it, but that’s from childhood vacations rather than actual deja vu.
  • The smog is so bad that I can’t see the mountains that surround the city.
  • My office is a block and a half from the beach, but I haven’t seen the ocean yet since I’ve been here.
  • Despite there being bike lanes and trails all over the place, and perfectly good sidewalks and buses, EVERYONE DRIVES anyways. And people get their exercise at the gym. They’re all exercise freaks, but it’s rare to see them getting it. Unless it’s in the form of surfing. Or possibly biking down in Venice Beach.

first day at work