AdForum: How would you describe the current overall culture at your agency? How would you describe the culture among your female colleagues and what are the differences?
Laura: We have a strong culture of collaboration and encouragement amongst the team. People at Tribal, both in New York and worldwide, are willing to go that extra mile for not only the client, but also for one another. We all support each other both professionally and personally. We have a significant portion of women in senior positions and this means the general office environment is balanced helps everyone achieve their goals. It’s clear to everyone that the more of a team player you are, the more you’ll benefit from being part of our Tribe.
AdForum: What do you see as being the biggest change in the advertising industry since women have begun to break the “glass ceiling” into Sr. Executive level positions? What are some of the challenges that still exist for women in reaching the upper echelon of management?
Laura: When I was born, my mother was the CEO of her own company in Sao Paulo and later she became the Chief Strategy Officer of JWT Brazil. So female leadership is something very natural for me, but I think we still struggle to find personal fulfilment with work-life balance. It was a challenge for my mother back in the 80’s and it’s a challenge for me now. Although some things remain the same, there is a big shift in the way women practice leadership. I see women today are much more confident about embracing their own leadership style and are less concerned with emulating their male peers’ approach.
AdForum: What do you consider the biggest personal achievement in your career that still fills you with the most pride?
Laura: I’ll be eternally proud of having the courage to launch my own company when I was 28 years old. After working for 10 years in strategy and planning I started my own business, Limo Inc., without investors, partners, and clients. Although I didn’t have resources, I had only one belief: the future of strategy would come from merging data and analysis with creative thinking – and I knew I could make a living from this. The company, operated very successfully for seven years and provided value to many employees, agencies and clients.
AdForum: How do you find the best work-life balance to help you stay productive and creative at work and to help you live a happy, sane life outside of the office?
Laura: That’s something that I’m not sure if I’ll be able to ever say that I’m satisfied with. Balance isn’t easy when you’re a working mom, completing a Masters degree in Germany, you teach, write and lead proactive, activist projects. What I practice, and have found to be effective, is to focus 100% on my day. From the moment I wake up, ‘til the moment I go to bed, I am fully present in everything that I do during that day. It actually takes a tremendous amount of effort to not lose focus and not get too concerned with any time other than the present task at hand/meeting, but it’s worth it. Another practice that I’ve adopted (it might sound strange, but it works for me!) is to make judgments based on the most mature version of myself: who I imagine I’ll be at 80 years old. I’ve found it helps me realise what’s most important and look at things with a broader perspective. Is that situation really a as big of an issue as I think it is? Perhaps not.
AdForum: Was there a job you had at one point, outside of advertising, that prepared you most for success later in life?
Laura: I started as an intern at TBWA when I was 18, so I have always worked in advertising. Even though I haven’t had jobs in other industries, I’ve had different roles working in various capacities at a variety of places within our ecosystem. Besides the entrepreneurial experience, that gave me white hair and incredible insight into human behavior and business, I’d highlight my experience as an academic coordinator and teacher at Miami Ad School-Sao Paulo. The time I spent in this made me a better person in so many ways. Teaching is an activity that involves all our senses when dealing with people as we’re essentially agents of their learning process. That’s a massive responsibility and it can be very fulfilling when you are committed to making it happen. Professionally, teaching made me humble and helped me acknowledge what I don’t always have the answer and that teaching, working, and life is one endless learning journey. If you asked the students I taught in 2004 and in 2017 about the general vision of strategy, they’d both share common foundations about building a brand. But the way the 2017 class thinks and acts as strategists working on a project today would be different from the ways the 2004 class would’ve approached it 13 years ago.
AdForum: Can you reflect on a mentor that helped guide you in your career and tell us what made them special?
Laura: I’m fortunate to have had many great mentors in my life. From my mother who guided me through the invisible culture in the ad workplace, to my bosses, the good and bad ones, who have helped me shape my personal values and style of leadership. There are also two people that were important to me during various moments of change and growth throughout my career. One of them is Regina Avila, a professional coach who guided me through an amazing, yet painful, journey of self-awareness. She helped me understand my weaknesses; what kind of reaction I could provoke according to my behavior and how I could react to people. I can say that Regina made me change my skin as a person. The second is the beloved David Slocum, Faculty Director of Berlin School of Creative Leadership, who made me believe that there’s no ceiling for me and that I can never question whether or not I’m capable of achieving a higher goal.
AdForum: How do you as a successful woman in your industry plan to inspire the next generation of women? In a few words, what advice do you have for women entering the advertising industry?
Laura: The best advice I can give to young women is that you should never miss an opportunity to learn and take the work seriously – no matter how big or small the task. Choose work that you will treat like your baby and that will make you feel proud, and try to encourage people to follow the same path.
Be conscious that your dream gets bigger when you are not dreaming alone, which means collaborate and engage with people as much as you can.
Be present and stay focused. If you have a work problem, before reacting too quickly and potentially making a disruptive decision, take a night to think about your next step or reaction, to make sure that it’s the right one.
And finally, always be ready to your next big opportunity because it might show up in front of you tomorrow.