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Adulting in my PJs: Three months in advertising amidst a global pandemic
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Graduating amidst a global pandemic along with a slow incoming recession, this long due dream was put to halt
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Adulting in my PJs: Three months in advertising amidst a global pandemic

Graduating amidst a global pandemic along with a slow incoming recession, this long due dream was put to halt
  • Ananya S Rao, Strategy Associate, Dentsu Webchutney pens down her experience of working in an agency amid a global pandemic.
  • "Looking back at the beta version of myself from just three months ago", Rao writes, "I can easily say I notice a progressive upgrade from my previous self."
“Oh crap, I’m late”, I say as I realize this is yet another failed attempt at fixing my sleep schedule. A never-ending cycle on repeat, a copy of yesterday and of the day before that - all survivable, courtesy of the gleaming thought of my ‘first day’ in the real world.

Little me visualized the day I could call myself a quote on quote “young, independent woman.” A young, independent woman in the Mad Men industry, walking my way through office chatter, the infamous watercooler to my very own desk, taking in that much talked about ‘creative agency chaos’. Maybe finding a friendly face or two.

2020 had other plans, though.

Graduating amidst a global pandemic along with a slow incoming recession, this long due dream was put to halt...until it wasn’t!

A few months into the pandemic, I often found myself doing what I love, and doing what I do most: scrolling through social media. With a massive amount of online content talking about the ongoing global crisis, and job offers being rescinded, the internet was nowhere close to being a positive escape. So, I decided to, as the kids call it (as I call it), attempt to go on a small social media detox.

Ahem, needless to say, I couldn’t stand by my attempt for long. I curved back into my not-so-positive rabbit hole, only to know that I had missed out on the opportunity of a lifetime. A dream agency for many, let me rephrase, a dream agency for any, was hosting a month-long virtual internship, and I...was too late.

Looking back now, everything seems to have panned out for the best. Fast forward three months, here I am, working at one of the world’s bravest agencies, Dentsu Webchutney. An agency full of buzzing energy, ideas, passion, and compassionate people.

Working alongside some of the most brilliant minds in the industry, I knew I had to document my learnings. So, here are my observations over the span of three months:

Ask and Thou Shalt Receive:

Being fresh out of college, the outside world, the real world seemed to be nothing more than a big mean bully. But I was mistaken. When I looked around, I saw people eager to help, collaborate and brainstorm. Eager to create, achieve, and more importantly, grow in the process, together. A simple “how?”, or “I’m kinda lost, how do I make this work?”, or even a forthright “HELP”, and you’d see people bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to let you pick their brain!

Don’t be embarrassed of the “What?”, “WHAT?” “How?”, “HOW?”, “By When?”, “BY WHEN?!”. Just ASK! For all you know, your colleagues have gone through the exact same thing you’re going through.

How Many Teeth Do You Have?

As cliche as it sounds, a smile can do wonders. Now, I realize I made some of my closest friends without putting in any effort when I had a huge smile and ugly laugh floating around the room.

Working with people day in and day out gets tough when you can’t see them. These past three months, I’ve barely had any social interaction other than routine emails from HR and of course, meetings. But it helps to know that there’s a friendly face on the other side, probably experiencing the exact same feeling.

That being said, make it a point to turn on your camera, put on a bright smile, and let the other person know that you’re up to date on your routine dental checkups.

It Takes Two (or more) to Tango:

I often found myself questioning almost every work-related thought that crossed my mind. “Is it good enough?”, “What if this idea is super basic?”, “You can’t unmute yourself to say something this obvious!” It took me a while to realize that filtering my thoughts to an extent where it gets nullified helps no one. Agencies thrive on ideas. The good, the bad, the “what the hell?!” ideas are all part of the growth process-of mine and the agency.

“Everyone is so smart, brilliant, and absolutely flawless. How am I going to survive?” Gradually, I realized that ‘we’ as one collective unit are smart, brilliant, and flawless. Each and every one of us brings our own perspectives, opinions, and backgrounds to work together on the problem at hand. An un-escaping sense of liberalization pervades the environment of the agency.

A Powerhouse of Support:

Working in an advertising agency is truly one of the best gateways for personal growth. Looking back at the beta version of myself from just three months ago, I can easily say I notice a progressive upgrade from my previous self. The atmosphere and the people just help you become a better version of yourself!

I’m fortunate enough to be learning from people who are passionate about what they do, people who share without inhibition. For example, I’m learning from my manager, (though I’ll take ages to reach half his caliber), to Read. Read. and Read. To research, be curious, to be my unfiltered self, to start writing again, to document, to organize, to empathize, to learn, grow, and expand the horizons of my mind. From my colleagues, I learned to be resourceful, to be kind, to accept people despite their flaws, to be sensitive to the business, and other things that seem blurred between the lines.

The people around you help build you.

It's Never Too Early:

As grateful as I am, I was full of hesitations. Could a twenty-one-year-old really have an idea good enough to be presented to industry experts with years of experience? Could a newbie like me, be able to really compete in an Asia-wide competition with a mere two weeks’ experience in the real world?

Two weeks-old at the agency, I was ready to challenge myself. Though initially doubtful, I was encouraged by the company to take part in one of the most reputed advertising competitions, Young Spikes Asia. Not thinking of the outcome, rather taking it as a learning process, I dived head-first.

During the course of the competition, not only did I experience the advertising industry in a new light, but also my agency, its building blocks, and most importantly, myself. The learnings of my two-week sprint to compete enabled me to open doors that I didn’t know existed. I barely slept those two weeks, I was pumped with energy. My partner and I worked between breaks, squeezed in time here and there while the hours blurred away. We’re unsure if we’ll make it, but it was an experience worth cherishing.

Would I do it all over again, you ask?

As my manager says “...as long as it has a fruitful learning outcome, just do it.”