POSE&FOCUS: WOMEN IN ADVERTISING - ANNA KONDRASHOVA
Anna really knows how to network and use resources online and here in Los Angeles to navigate the job hunt and give back. She has grit, determination and a very strong work-ethic. As a foreigner and during a recession nonetheless, Anna had to tap into her Mizzou Tiger Alumni network and utilize Linkedin to land her first gig working at RPA as an intern. Through ThinkLA she built a family, myself included, in Los Angeles and also gives back by mentoring others today. Within this post, I think those that are faced with challenges will really find value in Anna's words. Once you read her story, you'll realize anything is possible! I am pleased to share her story with you as this week's highlight for Pose&Focus: Women in Advertising.
For those that are not familiar with the industry, please provide a description of what you do. I like to say that I save the media world one campaign at a time. I am a seasoned digital media planner and buyer. In simple words, I plan and buy digital media for large national brands. In real life, it is much more complicated and involves developing custom plans and programs for specific initiatives, negotiating deals, bringing campaigns to life, building relations with clients and media community, mentoring the team and the list goes on and on.
How did you first become interested in advertising? What made you want to pursue a career in this industry? I grew up in Russia where the word “advertising” didn’t exist at that time. When I was a kid, my mom found an article about Public Relations and thought that it might be an interesting job for me in the future. That stuck in my head for years so I happily took a PR class in college and hated every minute of it. Since I was going to a Journalism School with Advertising Sequence as one of the options, I decided to try it out. I took a media planning course as one of my electives and I knew right then that my career path was chosen.
What is one unexpected expectation/duty of your job that most wouldn’t know? The most unexpected expectation in our industry in general and my work specifically is that everything is a priority and everything needs to be done right away. Sometimes I wonder if people think that media agencies are just a magic factory where Santa’s little helpers make things happen overnight.
What does a typical day look like for you? Does it include any daily rituals? There is never a typical day and that’s what I like about my work. It is never boring and time flies so fast. You can have your to do list and plan your day around it in advance, but it all goes nowhere because a new fire drill pops up that shapes the day in a completely new and unexpected way. My only daily ritual is getting a cup of coffee as soon as I get to the office.
What are the top pressures in your position? Sometimes trying to meet unreal expectations and juggling a million things at once. As a director, you have to wear multiple hats and be responsible for making things happen for the agency and clients, while at the same time taking care of your team, being a good manager, leader and therapist.
What personal traits do you contribute to your success? And Why? I am very passionate, hard-working and I love the people I work with. I also don’t quit no matter what life throws at me and put 110% in everything I do. I think all these traits helped me to get where I am at today.
Advertising is a people industry, it’s built on relationships, networks and connections. I strongly believe that people are the main resource in every company and that culture is the key. I have built very strong relationships throughout the years both within my team and in the industry. (I met two of my best friends at my first agency and they became my family for life!)
Media is a fun job, but it is also very demanding and challenging. You have to be passionate about what you do and love people you work with in order to deal with pressures on a daily basis. You have to work really hard to do a good job, but it’s totally worth it! The hustle pays off.
Any big success stories that stand out the most when looking back at your career journey thus far? You would think that big campaigns or awards come to mind when you ask this question, but it is not what stands out for me. I am a part of the ThinkLA Mentor program and have been partnered with a very intelligent young lady from one of the LA agencies. We connected from the start. She was going through a career change in her life and leaned on me for guidance, advice and support. She also needed an objective point of view from a person who doesn’t have a personal stake in her situation. From supporting her in making the decision to coaching through the interview process and salary negotiation, I tried to be there every step of the way. When I got a call from her saying that she got the job and thanked me for all the guidance, I felt really happy. Happy and fulfilled. I felt SUCCESSFUL. I have been very fortunate to have amazing mentors in my life who had a very strong impact on my personal and professional growth. I would love to give back by helping industry newcomers, share my knowledge and experience and hopefully use my personal story as a motivation for them.
What was your professional highlight within the last year? I have been working on automotive accounts for the past 10 years. Canvas recently won Annapurna (movie studio) entertainment business and I was very fortunate to help onboard the new account and actually work on the movie “Detroit.” I not only went through the bootcamp of learning “entertainment,” but most importantly I got to work on a film that I was really passionate about. I felt it was a perfect blend of a new professional challenge and a passion project. It was definitely the biggest highlight of the past year.
How did you end up working in Los Angeles? As I mentioned already, I knew media planning was my calling so once I graduated from school I was deciding between NY, Miami, Chicago and LA. Miami had limited opportunities for advertising, NY reminded me of Moscow, Chicago was great in summer, but those windy and stormy winters are brutal. LA had the biggest opportunities for Automotive and Entertainment accounts and beach, palm trees and sun all year long. I packed my Mitsubishi Eclipse and drove fast and furious to the West Coast.
What was your first gig in the industry and what were the steps you took to get hired? Hmmm…my first gig in the industry can actually be a case study of what to do when everything in the world is against you. To start, I am a foreigner, so it was much harder for me to get a job since the company needed to sponsor me. Not too many companies are willing to invest in entry-level employees and pay extra legal fees on top of the salary. As that small barrier wasn’t enough, economy crashed in 2008, so when I moved to LA, companies were laying off people, not hiring. And last, but not least, I moved here by myself meaning I didn’t know anyone, had absolutely no connections with literally zero knowledge of how to get my foot into the door. I had to get really creative in my job search. I went from submitting my resume on agency websites to stalking people on LinkedIn and cracking the code of their email address combinations. When I was doing my online research, I came across the Think LA organization and purchased a ticket to a networking event. Since then ThinkLA really opened the door for me to LA advertising and brought a lot of great connections later in my career, however, that wasn’t how I landed my first gig. After 3 months of job searching, I found out that one of the former MU alumni is the Executive Creative Director at RPA. I sent him a note and got a response a day later to come in for an interview with P.S. “Go Mizzou!” That’s how I got my paid internship in digital media! J
What advice would you give women who are thinking of working in the industry? Go for it! It’s a very fast paced and challenging industry, but it is very rewarding. You work hard and play hard. I do want to say that “work life balance” is rarely existent in media, so be prepared. If you are interested in a 9 to 5 gig, media ain’t it, you are better off looking for something else.
What has changed in the industry from when you first started out? Is this change good or bad? Media Landscape is constantly changing and you have to be really on top of the industry trends to keep up. I started in digital so it was natural to me that all the traditional media has been “digitizing” in some shape or form. I think the biggest change was the rise of programmatic and specifically for media agencies to start taking it in-house. I always view change as a good thing. Change is essential for growth, it challenges the status quo and it brings innovation.
When starting out, any mistakes you learned from that you would like to share? I started out in the industry a bit later than everyone else and constantly kept comparing myself to others. Through the years, I realized that everyone has his or her own journey and each person’s career path is unique. Don’t look back and compare yourself to others, just keep going confidently in the direction of your dreams and things will work out the way they are supposed to.
In moments of self-doubt, how do you pick up and keep moving forward? There is a saying “Stop looking for excuses. The only thing holding you back is your inner self belief.” When things go down, I keep reminding myself how far I have come and that all the insecurities are just in my head. My other favorite saying is “Drink some coffee, put on some gangasta rap and handle it!”
With just three adjectives, describe yourself. Driven, passionate and caring.
What is one interesting thing about you that most people don’t know? I learnt to drive stick shift when I was 7 years old.
What does the word “success” mean to you? Being happy and feeling fulfilled in my personal and professional life.
As women we tend to have a lot of roles between home and work. How do you manage a healthy routine between personal and work responsibilities? I am the worst at it! Not even gonna lie.
What are your go to resources for inspiration? I love listening to NPR, reading Fast Co and inspirational books, and I am obsessed with TED Talks.
In advertising you get exposure to a lot of really great restaurants. What is your #1 recommended restaurant in Los Angeles right now? And what menu items are a must? I have a soft spot for Crossroads restaurant on Melrose. Their ARTICHOKE OYSTERS are a must to try.
What is one thing in Los Angeles you have been dying to do/try, but haven’t had the chance to yet? Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrored Room
Los Angeles Rapid Fire Qs: Top Pick
The Grove or Americana? The Grove. Americana is way too far for me!
K-ZO or SugarFish? SugarFish all the way
UCLA or USC? Neither. I am a proud Mizzou Tiger Alum. M-I-Z-Z-O-U!
Fast Track or Carpool? Carpool, I love having carpool buddies
Disneyland or Universal Studios? Happiest Place on Earth!
Thank you for your support in reading this post! Pose&Focus: Women in Advertising is my personal passion project dedicated to highlights women in the advertising industry through interviews and creative expression. Having been in the business myself for over a decade, I found it very important for women (and men) to support female leadership in our community & industry. Especially with our current political climate this mission is more important to me than ever before. I want our female readers to know when they come here they will get solid advice and actionable steps that they can use to elevate their own careers. To learn more about upcoming posts or when nominations for Vol.3 will open, follow me on Instagram or Linkedin for the latest news.
Thank you and be cool.