You Can't Control Everything: Anna Kaplan, Mindgruve

Anna Kaplan Kaplan
VP, Account Management Mindgruve

Tell us about yourself and your current role.

My name is Anna Kaplan and I’m currently the VP of Account Management at Mindgurve, a modern marketing agency based in San Diego. I’m a proud wife of 9 years and a mother to a 2 year old boy. I am an orthodox Jewish woman so my faith, connection to community, and family is incredibly important to me. I’m consistently trying to create the right equilibrium that allows me to be happy, fulfilled and successful in all aspects of my life.

What is the culture like at your agency?

At Mindgruve we have an incredibly collaborative and diverse environment. Being located in the heart of San Diego, Mindgruve brings together people from all professional backgrounds, as we are not your typical ad agency market.

How does that culture mesh with the juggling act that is being a working mother?

I’m very fortunate to work for a company that respects and celebrates working parents - both mothers and fathers. Many of the employees at Mindgruve, both men and women, across all levels and departments have families, which is unique for an ad agency.

In what ways has being a mother changed how you approach certain aspects of your job?

Becoming a mother has made me far more empathetic and understanding. The older I get, the more I realize that everyone is grappling with something, so giving people the benefit of the doubt comes more naturally to me after becoming a mom.

I’m also very conscientious of making sure everyone, regardless of if they have kids or are married, is able to do the things they need to do. There shouldn’t be a bias that only people with kids should be able to come in late or leave on time. I’ve worked in environments where it felt like employees were penalized for not having a family and that isn’t healthy either.

What would you say are some of the most rewarding aspects of being a working mother?

I don’t know if anyone truly “has it all,” but it is incredibly rewarding to have a little person and husband who loves you and want to spend time with you, while at the same time, having an incredibly rewarding career. In some ways, my home life and work life allow me to use different muscles. I take the lessons I learn at work and I apply them at home, and vice versa. I am confident that I am a better partner and manager because I am a mother.

What are the biggest challenges that you’ve dealt with?

In terms of my son’s life, I have missed several of the big milestones because I was at work. I remember getting a photo while I was in a meeting of my son giggling on a swing for the first time. I was so happy that he was loving the experience and so sad that I wasn’t the one pushing him on the swing in the park.

I am very fortunate to have a team of teachers and relatives who love my child and spend quality time with him every day. They make sure to send me photos of things they know I’d want to be there for.

Another challenge is that sometimes I feel guilty if I have to miss an important meeting because my child is sick or needs a little more time in the morning. That doesn’t happen often and I can usually find solutions that allow me to balance being a working mom and a full time VP.

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

To be honest, I’m not sure I do this well. I am fortunate in that I absolutely love what I do. So even when I am working, I am doing something that I am deeply passionate about.

Being a mom, I have learned to appreciate the small moments that I used to take for granted.  

I do yoga and meditation at home, it helps when doing it, but it also gets me in the mindset to take a deep breath when things don’t go as planned- both at home and at work. Motherhood was a hard lesson in “you cannot control everything”.

I also try to be present, truly present. So when I am home I try to mentally be present with what is happening there. When I am at work, the same thing- I try to truly focus on work vs. feeling guilty I am not at home.

What professional achievement are you most proud of? Tell us a bit about it.

Two career highlights stand out in my mind. The first was when I was the lead account director on the Target Holiday Campaign for two years. The scope, scale and caliber of work was outstanding. The second year I worked on that project, I was pregnant. When we finally launched the first spot, it felt like giving birth.

I also worked with the global team for Samsung that launched their first DTC retail experience (Pinshop) at the London Olympics.

Where do you see the possibility for change for future working parents?

Providing longer, paid maternity leave is critical to not only women’s success, but families’ at large. Women need time to heal, bond, and start to create a new normal for themselves and their families.

Going back to work early is detrimental to the success of that woman, and ultimately is bad for companies. They risk losing great employees because of shortsightedness.

We also need to give men longer paternity leave. By giving them time to bond and create holist family routines, you are allowing that family to figure out how to work together as a team, for the long term.

Who are some working mothers that you admire/look up to?

I have tremendous admiration for single moms and military moms whose significant other is deployed. Working in San Diego, several of my colleagues fit into that group. I see the tremendous strength they carry day after day to be the best they can be at work, and then be “on” full time at home with few breaks. I have so much admiration for those women.

I also admire Evin Shutt, the COO of 72andSunny. I will never forget the advice she shared when I first started at the agency. Evin told me that she strives to be fully present at work, when at work. And when she is home and spending time with her kids, she is fully mentally and physically present with them. Although she mentioned this well before I had a child, her perspective has stuck with me and is something I try very hard to follow.

What is your favorite Mother’s Day campaign of all time?

This isn’t a Mother’s Day campaign specifically, but the work Wieden Kennedy did with P&G “Thank You, Mom” for the Olympics is outstanding. That campaign has stuck with me for years - as an advertising professional, as a mother and as a consumer.

I am also a huge fan of the #sharetheload campaign created by BBDO India for the detergent brand Ariel: ( Again, not a Mother’s Day ad specifically, but this brand created a very powerful piece of work that started a conversation about reexamining and redefining traditional household roles.

Kraft’s Mother’s Day Away campaign is also incredible because it leans on a real truth that sometimes moms just need a break. We all feel guilty saying that, but for a company to realize that and lean into it, is amazing. I love that they are helping moms across the country have time for themselves and that they are part of the conversation that it is ok to say you need a break.