• Ella Wood

Ambassador // Nicole Rowett: Global Brand Lead

We caught up with Nicole to find out more about her story.

Tell us a little bit about yourself, what do you do and where do you work?

I am a Global Brand Lead with TBWA Chiat Day in Los Angeles. That means that I oversee various brands within the TBWA Chiat Day portfolio that cover the US, and in some instances, a more global footprint. The Brand Lead is ultimately responsible for guiding both the client and the agency toward a successful outcome.

I often compare this role to being a conductor of a symphony... you have all of these incredibly talented people at your disposal, and it's my job to ensure that the environment is such that they get to do what they do best - and thereby create the best work. Over here, people often refer to it as the Quarterback; you're calling the plays but it's those around you who lead you to victory.

Ok, enough of the metaphors...

What do you enjoy most about what you do?

Besides quoting bad metaphors?

In all seriousness, this is all about the people for me. Advertising is a melting pot of different perspectives and talents. It's these differences that make for interesting bedfellows. They create tension. They push you. They challenge you. They (hopefully) force you to see that there are many, many ways to look at one thing. This diversity of thought is what makes this business interesting to me. It proves to me daily that I don't have it all sorted and that there is still so very much to learn from those around me.

Having said all of this, there is still a huge lack of racial diversity in our business (especially in the US), and for all of our different perspectives, we're still not nearly diverse enough when it comes to more accurately representing the community which we're a part of. I am working on taking a more active role in addressing that, because if it's the people and our differences that I love about this industry, then I (and this industry) need to provide more opportunity and stand up for that.

How did you get started in the industry, do you have any advice for anyone at the beginning of their career?

I credit some luck, the ability to carry a carton of beer up some stairs, and the desire to be part of something creative with my start in this industry.

KWP! had posted a job in the Advertiser that was for an Office Junior. (I'm not sure if that role even exists anymore?!)

My brother worked at Y&R Adelaide at the time (when there was a Y&R in Adelaide!) and he showed me the advert. I was in my first year of university, studying Commerce at Adelaide Uni and it was an understatement to say I wasn't enjoying it. I told myself that if I got the job that I would stay for a year, learn some things, and then try my hand at uni again afterwards.

The job application process was thus: Write a one page story on how their (soon-to-be-promoted) office junior got his nickname "Cupcake". I managed to get past the first round with my story, and after proving I could carry a carton of Coopers Beer up the stairs and make a good cuppa, I was apparently hired. Fast forward 20+ years and I never made it back to uni...

For those starting out now, I don't feel it's quite so easy. I feel like the industry as a whole has gotten lazy and we hire what is familiar and known. Those who we know. Those who have a familial tie. Those who went to a school we know of. Those who look like us. This isn't always the case, but I feel it is happening more than it should.

So, my advice is primarily for those who are hiring: In your candidate pool, challenge yourself to include 20% of people who don't tick all of the boxes. Maybe they don't have the requisite years? Maybe they don't have any agency experience? Maybe they don't have category experience? I guarantee you, you will find a gem that is an amazing fit for your culture and team. And if you don't, you will have expanded your horizons on the kind of talent that is out there.

For those who are just starting out - I'm sorry, it's tough out there. Be prepared and have done your homework (yes, you should know the basics of their client roster, the kind of work they do, what the state of the competition is), but don't feel you have to show up with all of the answers - you're only just starting out. A strong sense of curiosity and a POV on who you are and what you want out of the role will be hugely beneficial in having a constructive and meaningful conversation with a future employer.

What challenges have you faced in the industry and how have you overcome them?

In all honesty, I've been very lucky in this industry. It has treated me well. Perhaps, more specifically, I have had some incredible mentors who have really guided my growth and set me up for success (Jamie Scott, I may or may not be talking about you).

If I had to think about the challenges, I think for me it has been finding my voice in an environment where I constantly felt like I wasn't entitled to be there. Good ol' imposter syndrome in full effect. I feel like a myriad of things contributed to that: Age (when I was younger), gender, or even 'role' (as an account person, there was a stigma that your job wasn't to speak up and contribute to the creative product).

Overcoming this sense of inadequacy was really a lesson in watching and learning. I have had the good fortune of being surrounded by some incredible mentors, people who showed vulnerability and were open in not having all of the answers. It made me realize that I too didn't need to have all of the answers, I just needed to be present, listen, and speak what was true to me. It's a muscle that you can exercise and the more you do, the easier it gets. I still catch myself every now and then hearing that imposter voice, but now it's easier for me to catch it and tell it to shut the 'F*ck' up.

How do you find working abroad, in LA compared with Adelaide, are there any differences?

Like anything, there are pros and cons. Right now, the US is teetering on the edge of great change. Necessary change. In all honesty, it's hard to not look at the headlines and question why we would stay in such an environment. But, at the same time, there is a groundswell of energy over here and it sweeps you up and carries you with hope.

Politics aside (if that can ever happen), I love working over here. There is a lot of opportunity at your fingertips and a sheer volume of clients and scale that is hard to come by back home. Having said that, the talent in Australia is second to none and I believe that incredible and ground-breaking work is sometimes more likely to come from the shores of Australia than it is to come out of the US. It is inherently more conservative over here and it's hard not to miss that risk-taking nature of Australians.

Do you think it's important for women to be in leadership roles, why?

Yes, yes, yes. Did I say yes?

Women lead differently. I don't need or want to argue that it's better, just that it's different. I've worked with female leaders who have made it harder for other women as it's what they themselves went through, and I've worked with some incredible female leaders, one of whom is the president of the agency I work at.

Seeing women lead, navigate and drive in differing ways is proof that I too can choose how I want to lead and grow. Those who I admire haven't shied away from being a woman, they've leaned into it. They navigate situations with strength, vulnerability & humility. They don't hide their soft skills. They embrace them. This is what makes them powerful. Seeing this proves to me (and other women around me) that there is always a different way to do things and that our approach could actually be exactly what a situation needs.

In the US, we've come such a long way when it comes to women in power within advertising (although creative departments are still heavily skewed male), but now we need to turn that lens to racial diversity and help bring up women of colour. As one fierce female leader I work with once told me "we need to carry as we climb".

I believe that it's in building women up, that we all rise.

... Oh, and as any white paper, bottom line, or Fortune 500 company will tell you - women in leadership positions is just good business!

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