Perspectives: Women In Advertising: Jolene Delisle, Partner, The Working Assembly.
By Jeff Finkle.
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?
Jolene: Our overall culture is collaborative and creative. We are a small team of 10, mostly female, and there is a real sense of camaraderie where information and ideas are openly shared. I think because most of the staff are women, there is openness and empathy that is exhibited daily.
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?
Jolene: A few years ago, when I was working at large agencies, the “boys club” was much more evident to me, or I felt the effect of it more. Every room was filled with male creatives, senior male leaders in charge and more often than not, the CMO and the client marketing team would be heavily male. Since starting The Working Assembly, we’ve purposely sought out female founded startups, companies and leadership. It’s satisfying for me to work on business that I find personally relevant and relatable, as well as collaboratively work with these female entrepreneurs to identify ways for them to grow their business from a strategic and creative lens.
AdForum: What do you consider the biggest personal achievement in your career that still fills you with the most pride?
Jolene: The biggest personal achievement I’ve felt is coaching and mentoring our female staff of young designers and creatives. I really value their talent and am honored they want to develop their career with us.
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?
Jolene: A big part of our company ethos is something we call the swiss army knife. We have one skill which is our primary “knife”, but we also have a lot of other tools we can rely on. It’s part of being a multi-disciplinary creative agency, and also just being interesting people. We encourage everyone to have interests outside of work, since it fuels us day to day. For me, I need to be able to step outside, visit interesting stores and museums, travel and have experiences that I can bring back and share with everyone.
AdForum: Was there a job you had at one point, outside of advertising, that prepared you most for success later in life?
Jolene: I think being a waitress helped prepare me for advertising. It’s a real social study! You have to understand and anticipate stranger’s needs and affinities, and also be able to relate to and speak with anyone.
AdForum: Can you reflect on a mentor that helped guide you in your career and tell us what made them special?
Jolene: I’ve been lucky to have a few mentors who have been helpful and provided a lot of inspiration and insight to me. One in particular, Angela Wei, who is a partner at Milk Studios / Agency, is a great example of a minority female leader, who I think has done a great job of honing her business and creative side to make great steps forward in an ever-changing industry.
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?
Jolene: I hope The Working Assembly can continue being an incubator for the next generation of talented female designers and creatives. In the meantime, I would advise any woman entering the advertising industry to use being (sometimes) the only female voice in a creative team to your advantage. More often than not, we’re advertising to women, and the profound insight and innate knowledge you have from just being female is more helpful and powerful than you know. I also would say to never cry at work! I learned that one early on. This industry is tough, people are hard on your ideas, and you can’t take things personally. Learn to check your emotions, and separate criticism of your work from criticism of you. It’s easy to blur the two since your work can be so personal sometimes, but you have to try. It took me a long time to understand the difference, but I was much better off once I did.