Interview by Breanne Thomas
Hi Jessica! You’re both a senior digital strategist and a teacher at Miami Ad School — can you tell us a little about your roles and your day to day?
So, I’d actually say that I’m more of a strategy generalist. While my current role at Essence Digital is set in the digital realm (primarily on the Google account), much of the work I do ventures outside of that. My main agenda as a strategist is to be the voice of the consumer; understanding their innate behaviors, their desires, what they love, what they hate and applying that to my client’s goals. Once I understand that at the core, I can add a lens of digital media and how they behave in that environment so we can reach them in ways that will resonate with them. At this point, all of us in the modernized world are digital to some extent and the lines between traditional media and digital media are almost entirely blurred. I get to blur a lot of those lines in the other parts of my day where I come up with interesting partnership ideas for our campaigns, both online and offline. As for my moonlighting gig at Miami Ad School, I teach budding art directors, copywriters and account planners on the skill of using strategic thinking to fuel great ideas and campaigns. I only teach once a week and sometimes host office hours to help students along with their major projects. It really forces me to manage my time well so that I don’t get burned out.
How has teaching influenced your professional career?
I must say it’s been the most rewarding and validating experience for me to date; it’s definitely quelled much of the imposter syndrome I struggled with for a while. Having a group of people (small and large) that depend on you to help them build towards a skill or career just validates my own knowledge and what I do each day. The advertising life can stressful because you’re in the business of customer/client service and selling ideas, and everyone around you is trying to be there very best if not the best. So, even when someone tells me I’m doing a great job, being an overachiever, I always think I could be better. Teaching a class, giving my students feedback and seeing them make progress, incorporating what I’ve taught them really gives me the confidence boost to believe in myself, that I know what I’m doing. I go to work each day like, “yeah, I know my s***!” Beyond the validation, the connection that I make with the students — most of whom are my peers — is the biggest benefit. My goal is always to make a positive impact in someone else’s life. Often the most impact comes from the conversations I have with my students after class; they look to me for guidance and advice on their career paths or their progress. It’s such an incredible feeling!
Do you have any advice for ladies considering teaching, whether just moonlighting or moving into something more full time?
If you have a skill, you should pass it on and there are opportunities out there that will compensate you to do it! Prior to joining Miami Ad School, I was teaching my own strategic marketing classes online and it was difficult juggling that and a full-time job. My advice for anyone interesting in teaching is this:
- If you don’t know what you would teach, look at what career schools or colleges offer in their curriculums around your field of expertise. When you find something you like, reach out to them, chances are they could use someone to teach part-time or have workshops they need instructors for.
- If you already have your own content that you want to teach but don’t want to go full-time yet, look into hosting courses on sites like Skillshare.
At some point, in the next few years, I’d like to teach full-time. Having the experience of teaching for an institution allowed me to better handle different classroom dynamics, gain skills to keep students engaged and ultimately, helps me build up a reservoir of content that I can tap into when I decide to go full-time. I highly suggest going that route first before you do it on your own, especially if you still need to keep a day job. There’s a quote that says, “those who can, teach,” and I truly believe that. The ladies I’m surrounded by in this organization are some of the brightest and most talented and there are people out there who want to learn from more women like us.