#ProfilesOfTenacity: Smera Dhal

What does the word “tenacity” mean to you?

Tenacity means bouncing back.

What is your most memorable Grady experience?

Through Grady study abroad, I spent this past summer at the Creative Circus in Atlanta. While the course itself was rather rigorous, I got to spend every day with the most incredible and inspiring creatives. I’m grateful to say many of them are now my buddies here at UGA.

What are you passionate about?

I am passionate about people! I love getting to know someone new. The best feeling in the world is strengthening your connection with someone you love.

What or who has had the biggest impact on your life during your time at UGA?

The Cookout on W. Broad Street has kept me going through my darkest hours.

What has been your proudest moment in the past year?

My proudest moment has been being appointed a 2022 MAIP Fellow. This internship program focuses on promoting diversity within the advertising world, and I am so excited to have been placed with the Digitas agency for an Art direction internship this summer!

Dhal (far left) participated in the Creative Circus program in 2021.
What is an example of a time you used your studies and skills in a real-world experience?

Grady introduced me to the professional side of graphic design. This semester, I have begun creating posters, show announcements, and even cover art for local musicians. Check out “On Your Roof” by Evelia on all platforms, artwork by me!

What is the best piece of advice you’ve received from an instructor, mentor or family member?

When I was learning how to ride a bike, my dad used to tell me “sedha dekho, pedal karo” which in Hindi means “look straight, keep pedaling.” I apply it more metaphorically to my life now, and it keeps me focused.

What are you planning to do after graduation?

Make cool stuff!

What would people be surprised to know about you?

I like to make candles!

Where is your favorite place on campus and why?

There’s a bench right outside the Journalism building under the big magnolia tree. It doesn’t jut out, it’s obscured, but it’s got a wide view of Sanford Drive. It’s perfect for anything – eating, studying, people-watching.

 

#ProfilesOfTenacity: Shruti Muruganandan

Why did you choose Grady and your course of study? 

I decided on advertising as my course of study by sheer luck. I came into UGA without a clear idea of what I wanted to pursue and took ADPR 3100 upon the recommendation of my advisor, who suggested it because I was interested in a career that combined creativity with logic and critical thinking. ADPR 3100, or Principles of Advertising, introduced me to the field and to all the limitless bounds of possibilities of creative and strategic work, and I decided then that it was for me.

What would people be surprised to know about you?

My name in Sanskrit means “melody” or “music”. Not surprisingly, music was a huge part of my life growing up – I played the viola, the violin and even a bit of the drums. I was involved in Indian Carnatic singing and was a Bharatanatyam dancer for a while.

What does the word “tenacity” mean to you?

To me, tenacity describes someone who has the courage and determination to keep on the path they believe in, irrespective of what others think or do. Choosing the field of advertising often meant that I didn’t have anyone in my immediate community to go to for advice or guidance – I don’t have an aunt, a cousin, or a family friend in the industry that I might look to for assistance. It also meant that, as a woman of color, I don’t see many people who look like me or have a background or upbringing like me in my industry. My perspective is often unique compared to that of my peers, which sometimes leaves me feeling like the odd one out. Being tenacious means that regardless of any challenges I face or setbacks I must deal with, I am determined to stick to my path because I believe that advertising can be meaningful and powerful enough to create an impact and that I am capable of being in and thriving within this field. 

What are you passionate about? 

I really stand by the power of diversity and representation within the field of communications. A mentor once told me that marketing and advertising often serve as mirrors to society. What we choose to advertise and communicate often reflects our image of society and the people that we speak to. Knowing this, I don’t believe that advertising has reached its true potential, as many minorities of different backgrounds and perspectives are not spoken to or celebrated. Advertising has the ability to create and impact human culture and providing and striving for adequate representation in media and advertising benefits all parties involved. Advertisers are inherently storytellers, and it’s vital that the stories we choose to tell are inclusive of all. I’m passionate about this issue because I feel that advertising has the unique power to bring about real change in this world and I hope to help achieve this goal during my lifetime.

Who is your professional hero?

One of my professional inspirations is Anjali Sud, the current CEO of Vimeo. Sud is an Indian-American woman who became CEO of a (somewhat) failing company and spearheaded a bold repositioning of the brand to set itself apart from competitors like YouTube, and eventually, it grew enough to turn a profit and go public on Nasdaq.  I love that Sud wasn’t afraid to back down from a challenge and trusted her vision for the company enough to see it through to success. 

What has been your proudest moment in the past year?

I worked as a Strategy Intern at an advertising agency called Doe-Anderson this past summer through the MAIP program. It was my first time working in an actual agency and I was nervous that I wouldn’t be able to keep up. Looking back, I had nothing to worry about. My team was super welcoming and supportive, and I was given so many challenging and interesting projects to work on. Toward the end of one of my major projects, which was for a new client the agency had acquired and the first campaign the agency was creating, I received positive feedback from not only my strategy/planning team but also from the creative and account team. I felt so proud of the work I had done in that moment. It made me excited that I had found my calling and inspired me to continue creating meaningful work.

What or who has had the biggest impact on your life during your time at UGA?

My time with Talking Dog has had a huge impact on my personal and professional life during my time at UGA. I was accepted to work as a project manager when I was a sophomore and was absolutely terrified at the prospect, since I had little to no experience in advertising, let alone project management. I was totally convinced that they had accepted me on accident. However, I recognized that I had been given a great opportunity regardless and that I should take advantage of it, so I worked hard, learned so much about working on a team and with clients, and grew to be more confident and outspoken. I joined the Board of Directors the year after as the Director of Fetch during the pandemic, which presented its own set of challenges. It proved difficult to build connections with new members using only Zoom but Talking Dog cultivates an incredible and inclusive culture of support and encouragement and because of that, we were able to have an incredible year. Talking Dog gets brought up in interviews all the time because of how unique of an opportunity it is for college students, and I’m always so happy to talk about how much I learned from my experience and how much fun I had. Talking Dog is definitely a highlight of my college career!

What is the best piece of advice you’ve received from an instructor, mentor or family member?

This piece of advice wasn’t given solely to me – I attended the Publicis MCTP conference in 2020 and one of the panels presented in the conference was hosted by Ronnie Dickerson-Stewart, then chief diversity officer of Publicis Group, and Minda Harts, author of The Memo. They shared that “self-advocacy is one of the greatest forms of self-love.” It becomes easy, especially in corporate America, to want to silence your voice because you might feel that you’re just grateful to be here. But, it’s important to understand that people that hire you and want to work with you will seek you out because you have talents and gifts that they want. It’s important to recognize the power you hold and be your biggest supporter in advocating for yourself.

Muruganandan attributes some of her best memories in college to her involvement in Talking Dog.
What is your favorite app or social media channel and why?

I love Twitter! I hardly ever create my own Tweets but I love the community and expression that’s present on that platform. While the jokes on Twitter are incredible, I really like how people can share experiences, have conversations and build a broader community. 

Where is your favorite place on campus and why?

North Campus is a lovely place to be, but my favorite spot is on the lawns in front of the Old College. My freshman year, I spent a ton of time just sitting on the benches and reading or doing homework. It’s beautiful in the spring and the fall, and I love to people watch there!

Grady InternViews: Nhilynn Nguyen

This is part of a series where we ask Grady College students to describe their summer internship experience.

Briefly describe your internship and responsibilities. Graphic explains Nguyen is an advertising major working as a Social Strategy Intern for dentsu X remotely from Athens, GA

Every morning I wake up at 8:30 a.m. and get ready for my morning meeting with the rest of the team. This recurring meeting is to go over all clients, priorities and updates. Every day varies, but most of it is managing social media, collecting and analyzing data and providing insights to clients. Facebook Ad Manager has definitely become my best friend! After work, I have team project meetings and labs for my fellowship to attend. During these labs, we’re able to hear from companies and agencies directly on how they’re working to improve diversity and inclusion internally and learn more about those efforts.

My internship is fully remote! It’s been more challenging to network and get to know the rest of my team, but everyone has been really kind and has reached out to connect with me! 

Explain your opportunity with MAIP. 

The Multicultural Advertising Internship Program is a selective program for multicultural students in Advertising. Once MAIP fellows are selected they begin cultivating tangible, transferable skill-sets through Spring Training, a 12-week virtual series; connecting with their MAIP mentors and collaborating with cross-national teams on a project brief. Throughout the summer, fellows participate in agency-sponsored professional development workshops and seminars, which provide a deeper dive into the various advertising and media disciplines. 

As a MAIP Fellow, we are also selected by one of the partnering companies and agencies for an internship! So I am currently interning for dentsu X as a Social Strategy Intern under the Paid Social team. This internship is remote, so I have been working from Athens!

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?

One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced so far would definitely be imposter syndrome. As a newcomer and minority, it’s easy to feel underqualified and undeserving of the opportunities you receive but throughout this summer I’ve learned how to gain more confidence and feel more secure about my abilities. I’m thankful to the 4a’s foundation and the rest of my MAIP fellows for providing a space and community where I can be candid and honest about these feelings! 

What has been the biggest growth you’ve experienced so far?

My biggest growth over the summer has been gaining more confidence in my skillset and abilities. I’ve learned so much about paid social and I’ve learned how to do things more confidently!  Walking into this internship I felt very underprepared and anxious but as the weeks went on and I learned more about paid social, I’m able to complete tasks without hesitation! 

What is your advice for other students looking to take on a similar role?

The best advice I’ve heard so far is “the other side of adversity is an opportunity,” from the Chief Equity Officer for dentsu Americas, Christina Pyle. This has resonated with me after battling a year of Zoom university and the aftermath of quarantine. It can be really difficult to stay motivated when life keeps challenging you, but in the long run, opportunities will find you!

Grady InternViews: Grace Yeo

This is part of a series where we ask Grady College students to describe their summer internship experience.

Briefly describe your internship and responsibilities.

Rodgers Townsend is an advertising agency located in St. Louis, Missouri. They work with clients as big as AT&T and State Farm to smaller clients such as Smoothie King and George Foreman. As my first internship and being new to the advertising career, I am learning a lot by getting exposure to everything around the agency. I am a lead on a social media project to help improve our clients’ social media presence and help research with both client requested and proactive campaigns for Spectrum brands and State Farm. I attend lots and lots of meetings both internally for our team and with clients to discuss the campaign process and update each other with what all is happening. Even though I am interning for the account management discipline, I am having many 1:1 meetings with people of different disciplines throughout the agency to get a feel for what their role is and how their day to day may differ from mine.

The agency itself is hybrid. Those who want to come into the office can, and those who aren’t comfortable can stay at home. All meetings are held online via Microsoft Teams, so those who aren’t available in-person can still be in on the calls. I personally like being remote because I didn’t have to relocate to a city I’ve never been before. I like being in the comfort of my own home and not having to worry about navigating a new city.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?

The biggest challenge I’ve faced so far is learning to soak in any and everything. There is a lot of information floating around the agency because we have so many clients. I am sitting in on the behind the scenes of many campaigns and projects with different clients. My calendar is crammed everyday with numerous meetings, and it can be difficult to manage where I am with which client. I also have a lot of things to do hands on, so sometimes it’s hard to manage my time. Balance is key, and that’s something I’m still learning how to do!

What has been the biggest growth you’ve experienced so far?

I am currently on my 4th week of interning, and I can confidently say I know how my agency relates to each of its clients and how they work together. I know the roles and responsibilities of being an account manager and continuously learning the different roles of the agency. I like seeing the creative process from start to finish first hand and just being present in the “real world.”

What is your advice for other students looking to take on a similar role?

Take the leap of faith, and honestly just do it. Talk to people. There’s so many resources out there and other people readily available to help you with any and everything. No question is stupid. The world of advertising has the best environment, and that’s what drew me in from the start. Everyone is so genuine and kind and will be there for you no matter what. They want you to succeed. They want your creative juices. I love the collaborative nature of this field and how chill and laidback it is compared to a corporate job. It’s about teamwork and not about who has more power and gets to control what. Advertising is such a fun and unique job.

What lessons will you take back with you to Athens in the fall?

I have learned to be a soaking sponge. There will be a lot of information thrown at you, so take it all in. Take notes and ask questions when things aren’t familiar. No creative idea is wrong or bad, so share it. Working well in a group is a key characteristic, so all these things will come back with me to class in Athens in the fall.