Perspectives: Women in Advertising: Christina Cooksey, Director, Moment Studio.
In honor of International Women’s Day, AdForum is showcasing the achievements of women in advertising in the month of March through a series of interviews. We would like to thank Christina Cooksey, Director at Moment Studio, for taking the time to offer her thoughts and reflect on her career.
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?
Christina: Our culture is rooted in creativity, innovation and making. Everyone is a creator in some right, and that really shapes the way we interact and the way we work.
The advertising creative industry is predominantly male, but at Moment Studio we actually have more female creatives than males. The strong presence of female creators and leaders impacts the culture in a really positive way.
The solid representation of female creators and the strong presence of makers of both genders inspires a sense of equality that isn’t often felt in a creative organization. There is a natural curiosity amongst our team, and the gender mix results in an empathy for all target audiences and consumers – ultimately impacting/improving the work we deliver
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?
Christina: From my experience, the biggest (positive) change in the advertising industry since women have started breaking into executive management is a stronger presence of mothers in the agency work space. At every agency I have ever worked there have been significantly more fathers than mothers on staff. I think there is a strong perception that being a mother and working in advertising are not mutually achievable.
Over the last few years I have seen a shift in the parental demographic with a new wave of mothers in the agency. Many of my advertising peers ventured into the land of motherhood. At the same time, I, myself, became a mom. This current generation of female advertising leaders are re-engineering the work force and showing the new generation of female professionals that they don’t have to choose between a career or a family.
In our agency, a parental support group started by one of our managers who is a mom has gone a long way to foster balance and encourage moms (and dads) to connect and find resources to manage a demanding career and a home life. This shows younger employees that women can be in a position of power but don’t have to sacrifice personal satisfaction to be a leader.
AdForum: What do you consider the biggest personal achievement in your career that still fills you with the most pride?
Christina: Growing Moment Studio from a small creative offering with only three full-time employees to a creative/production agency of over 30 people has been exciting, challenging and wholly rewarding.
I’ve had the opportunity to inform our services and shape our product in ways I never expected, and I’ve had the distinct pleasure of hiring almost everyone one the team – which has been an incredibly humbling experience. Assembling our unique, multifaceted team of makers and developing a culture of collaboration and innovation is something I am beyond proud of.
Building something distinctive in the industry and evolving it in a landscape that is constantly changing is something that brings with it a ton of challenge and a ton of reward.
Side note – the single day I am most proud of in my career is the day I came back from maternity leave. After a joyous maternity leave (I was so lucky to have an easy newborn!), I was nervous to embark on the life of a working mom. Does work-life balance really exist? I had heard it was a myth, and was hesitant to learn the truth. After 3.5 months away from the office, it was stressful, emotional but also exciting to come back to work – a place I had loved so much pre-motherhood but felt like a new venture after time away. Also, looming ahead of me was the need to again exercise the results-oriented side of my brain that had been shelved during maternity leave.
I was so proud of myself for not just making it through that day, but for allowing myself to be energized by my return to work. I was able to (mostly) keep guilt at bay throughout the day, appreciating the pictures and check ins from the daycare but also enjoying speaking with other adults in a business language in which I was still fluent even after time away. At the end of the day I felt accomplished and excitedly left to refocus on the tiny little baby who needed me so much and the home life that equally begged my attention. That day really set the ‘new standard’ for me – and helped me frame up the ‘balance’ approach that works for me to this day (well, as much as any approach to ‘balance’ can).
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?
Christina: When I am at the office, I give 200% to my job. I am there to be an employee, a leader, a mentor. I am there to take meetings, ask/answer questions, come to solutions, and advance the work product. I feel a strong responsibility to make an impact during my work hours.
When I am home, I give 200% to my family. I am there to be a mom, a partner, a planner, a caregiver. I also try to carve out little bits of time for myself whenever I can.
This doesn’t mean that I don’t answer emails late night, or work on a project once in a while on a weekend. But I do try to keep boundaries as much as possible – especially during kid-awake hours. It keeps me more focused, keeps my brain fresher and more creative. It allows me to be PRESENT wherever I am.
It allows me to enjoy my work (and work family) at work, and my home (and family) at home.
That, and I try to get AS MUCH sleep as humanly possible. With a toddler under 2 at home, there is never enough sleep – but I try my best. The more I get, the sharper and more “on” I am.
AdForum: Was there a job you had at one point, outside of advertising, that prepared you most for success later in life?
Christina: Yes, the restaurant industry. In college I worked in both a steak house and a country club during summers and holidays. There are so many similarities to restaurant work and advertising. In both you are delivering a product AND a service. And in both, you have to make sure both the product and the service are good.
If you only deliver a good product (food/work) but the service is terrible, people won’t come back. But if the product is terrible and the service is great, you won’t get repeat visits either.
I can’t stress enough to my team how important the marriage of good work AND good service are in advertising. One without the other is a lost game. And I think anyone who has worked at a restaurant (for tips!) knows this.
AdForum: Can you reflect on a mentor that helped guide you in your career and tell us what made them special?
Christina: I have been incredibly lucky to have amazing female mentors, bosses and clients throughout my career. From the soft spoken yet solidly assertive manager during my college internship (June Greist) to my results-focused teacher-boss at my first advertising job (Stacy Ingram), my wildly efficient and persuasive client at that first ad job (Vanessa Carlson Bueno) to the fast-talking firecracker smart director at my first NY agency gig (Teal Williams), my leadership style has been shaped by the women I have been so lucky to learn from.
These mentors collectively taught me that style is personal and substance is essential. Each in her own way was incredibly effective in getting the most from their teams, delivering work and getting results. And from those learnings I have developed my own style of leadership.
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?
Christina: The best way to inspire the next generation of women is to recognize and nurture talent. That means hiring for potential and mentoring towards results.
My best advice: As women in this industry we can’t be afraid to pursue the career we desire and ask for the track we want, but we also need to put in the legwork and be ready to improve based on feedback. Don’t expect time in the industry to result in growth. Demand feedback, be able to critique your own performance and learn/improve every single day. And don’t expect anyone to manage your career for you – take all the help, support, mentorship you can get, but ultimately manage your own success.