Still Paving The Path: Heather Salkin, RAPP

RAPP Worldwide
Marketing/Creative Services
New York, United States
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Heather Salkin
Senior Vice President, Executive Producer RAPP

How would you describe the overall culture at your agency and would you say that there is a separate female culture?   

RAPP is a Culture First agency. Culture is an inherent part of our roots, baked into how we create innovative work – and how we collaborate along the way. We are optimists, who have seen first-hand that the most effective campaigns, programs, products, and platforms come from a team that balances creative energy and playful attitudes with a fearless drive to deliver intelligent, data-driven solutions. It’s RAPP’s strong culture that propels us to never give up on this vision. We find the smartest solutions - together. When we enjoy our work – and each other – the best ideas are born.

There are many sub-cultures within our walls – just like at any other thriving agency. And the Women’s Culture within our organization is one of the strongest I’ve seen. Gandhi said it best: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” The women at RAPP know that change doesn’t happen, without initiative. No matter what we do, we make an effort to lead with confidence. RAPP women support each other’s ideas. We make sure all voices are heard and we’re proud of how we represent RAPP in our industry. We know that we are still paving the path for the future women leaders in our network, and take our roles as influencers and thought leaders very seriously.


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

These days, there is a broader awareness of the true impact caused by many “subtle weapons” in the agency environment that historically held women back. They were easy to hide behind - even a decade ago. A lot of people don’t realize that humor is one of the strongest subtle weapons. There are many reasons for opportunity gaps in a creative industry related to gender but, when we dig deeper, we see that comments and actions that are hard to pin down have the most potent power. Previously, where we heard the inappropriate shared jokes, the laughing along with an offensive comment, the not speaking up – this is where I see the biggest change overall in our industry. Across the board, women – and men – are finally speaking up and saying, “Enough.” Ultimately, it all ladders up to women who are no longer letting this part of industry culture hinder a diversity of creative ideas being heard. I’ve seen creative innovation grow exponentially as a result of women breaking the glass ceiling. We have a lot more work to do, but we’re making strides.

What are some of the challenges that women still face in the industry?

One word: Mansplaining. We should all get together and write a book about this one. We joke about this all the time, as it’s still so prevalent in our industry, but we need to continue to speak up.

Let’s evangelize this simple rule: If she didn’t ask you to explain it and she has relevant experience, don’t explain it to her.

What steps do you take to ensure you achieve a healthy work-life balance?

Life is short. Without a work/life balance, one side of the scale breaks down. With technological advances, finding this balance becomes increasingly difficult. But I’ve used – and all women should use – those advances in our favor. It’s taken me several years to learn that the key to success, here, is utilizing dynamic scheduling practices and live authoring platforms to unite a remote team. I set and maintain boundaries with very clear communication and expectations. I have to give credit to the magic of telepresence, which has let me be in two places at once, many times.

What professional achievement are you most proud of?

A few years back, Bill Gates requested a demo of a VR experience produced by my team. He then tweeted about it to his 48 million followers. That was unbelievable.

Tell us about a mentor that helped guide you in your career. What made them so special?

I worked on Donna Farmer’s production teams at both McCann and BBDO, early in my career. She taught me, pause, step back and take stock of every situation, so that I could think, solve, and execute rapidly and effectively. Donna could handle even the most stressful situations in a cool, calm, and collected manner. She showed me the power of true partnerships and how all relationships work when they are mutually beneficial. Some of my strongest strategic partners in the industry are still with me from those days for that exact reason.

How do you as a successful woman plan to inspire the next generation of women?

I’m going to continue to lead by example and seek out opportunities to teach our future women leaders. I really enjoy taking junior talent under my wings and helping them bring their dreams to life – or even, first, exploring what those dreams might be. There is nothing more meaningful than real life, human experiences to make a young woman confident and fearless.