Embrace Your Own Style & Be Human: Tracey Pattani, CEO, BSSP

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Sausalito, United States
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How would you describe the overall culture at your agency?

We are a resourceful, creative culture that likes to make things and put them out in the world for reaction. We value accountability of our actions and push each other to see things differently, which means we need different people and different perspectives. It also means we need to be open and comfortable with debate and counter perspectives.


In your opinion, what do you see as the biggest change in the advertising industry since women have begun to break the glass ceiling?

The industry is far less cliquey than it used to be. This had a huge impact because a lot of talented people left the industry because of it. Conversely, it has led to more acceptance of differences which continues to have a positive ripple effect in terms of attracting talent, encouraging creativity and building a more sustainable company culture. It’s steady progress, but we aren’t done, the work that started with #metoo created a revolution that will serve us and our children, male/female of all colors, well into the future. 


Do you think that women still face challenges in our industry, and if so, what are they? 

Yes, but I also think we sometimes get in our own way on that. We have a different leadership approach that creates different reactions. This is part of adapting to long-term change and normalizing it over decades, so these things no longer get labeled negatively based on gender. Further, people assign to us what decisions we should make because we are female. Our part in this is not to listen to the voices that are telling us to be this way or that way. We are business leaders and contributors who face complex decisions every day, just like our male counterparts. Embrace your own style and be human.   


How should we tackle an issue such as equal opportunity? 

With commitment, patience, and individual responsibility. Progress often doesn’t happen overnight. What’s important is that we each do something, and we do it frequently, to create progress. I promise you this is not a one-and-done action. It means consciously picking an action every day/week/month that opens doors and minds. And not comparing each other based on speed, rather modeling commitment and effort. Just like any meaningful change, it takes time, there will be setbacks, and you must balance the focus on now and tomorrow. 


How did you find your way into the marketing communications industry, and what professional achievement are you most proud of?

I got disillusioned in college with my plan to go into journalism, so I asked around and went to career fairs. I found my way to an internship at Ogilvy and the rest is history. I believe that access and fate play an equally huge role in the career development space. We need to remember that for all generations to come and take steps to level those access points for students or anyone entering the workforce. 

I am most proud of becoming the first female CEO of BSSP. By comparison in the category, I took my time getting to this role, but it better prepared me for the unexpected. I was quickly thrown into COVID lockdown eight days after taking the reins, so I am also proud of how I’ve guided the agency through this unprecedented time and lucky to have such great talent that rose to the occasion. 


Who inspires you the most, either inside the industry or outside? Why?

To be honest, I can’t find any one person. Many people have surrendered to media ego and proselytizing. Tell me of someone who welcomes any opinion and respectfully engages in a debate characterized by critical thinking, listening, and working towards common ground, and that will be my answer!