PUBLIC RELATIONS and COMMUNICATIONS – This spotlight series features T. Howard Foundation (THF) alumnae working in Public Relations and Communications.
Shamika Gentle (THF ‘17)
Account Executive, McCann Worldgroup
What do you enjoy most about your company?
I am an Account Executive/Storyteller at McCann Worldgroup, working on the Verizon 5G Home account. At present, I assist in the development of Go-To-Market strategies across digital, TV/OLV, OOH, social, and activation tactics. My team and I specialize in strategic media planning, branding, and product development. We are adept at building client relationships and maximizing sales by managing all productions systematically and logically. I’ve been a part of McCann Worldgroup since June 2020. During this time, I’ve learned so much about marketing. I enjoy working at McCann Worldgroup because I’m surrounded by talented people who focus relentlessly on elevating brands. McCann’s culture encourages creativity and great ideas. When I first joined McCann, 5G Home was more in the development and introduction stages, since 5G awareness is still relatively low. It’s been very fulfilling and meaningful to watch a product grow and be a part of the creative planning for such a revolutionary product. I enjoy working at McCann because it allows me to flex my creative muscles and participate in game-changing work.
In what way did this type of work interest you and how did you get started?
I first got introduced to marketing back in college, when I did a media communication major. As my minor, I began taking plenty of business courses and somehow landed in a marketing class that explored customer behavior/perceptions and how various data points can help drive smart and insightful business decisions. This class also taught me that you can get paid for your creativity and use that creativity to grow products, build commercials, plan events, manage sponsorships, etc. I quickly decided that I wanted to explore more marketing courses, so I met with my college advisor and requested to declare marketing as my second major. In the end, I graduated with double majors in Media Communications and Business Administration (specialization in marketing management). To get my feet wet, I began doing summer marketing internships very early on: D’Exposition & Partners, Lord & Taylor, and even Viacom. I got started in marketing by being willing to do free summer internships and putting myself out there to ask for assistance. For example, my DREAM internship was at Viacom, and I use my professional organization (Sponsors for Educational Opportunities AKA SEO) to refer me to this role. In fact, it was SEO that also introduced me to the T. Howard Foundation.
Has your career path been linear or non-linear?
My career journey has been far from linear. Upon graduation, my first role was in the financial industry as a financial junior broker. I was consistently on calls with prospects and helped clients with cash advances, lines of credit, loans, etc. However, in the back of my mind, I still wanted to be in the marketing space, so I quit after 3 months and was unemployed for 8 months. I used this time to tighten up my resume, practice my interviewing skills, and apply for jobs. I committed ~40 hours a week of applying and practicing. I interviewed with Snapchat, BET, MTV, and all the big brands, but most roles kept falling through. At some point, I decided to apply to grad school then I further polish my skills and build my knowledge. However, a few weeks before I was supposed to move for grad school in 2019, I received an offer from Verizon to be a part of their post-graduate program, an initiative that exposes new grads/career changers to entry-level marketing opportunities across New York and Miami. I couldn’t pass up on the offer, so I decided to postpone my grad school attendance until 2022. It was a great decision because the AdFellow program gave me the skills I needed to launch my career. During my time in the program, I worked with brands like Verizon, Jim Beam, Instagram, American Express, and Samsung. At the end of the program in 2020, Verizon’s creative agency of record, McCann Worldgroup, offered me a full-time, permanent position. Currently, I am in grad school working on my MBA in Marketing Analytics.
How has your affiliation with the T. Howard Foundation influenced your career?
I credit the T. Howard Foundation for where I am in my career. The launch of my career started with Verizon’s AdFellow Program, but it was the T. Howard Foundation that introduced AdFellows to me via the newsletter. I emailed one of the reps at the time, and she helped me through the entire process. First, I set up a call for resume assistance and overall program details. I even used this time to go over interview questions and other resources I should take advantage of. I was then added to an existing chat with current AdFellows, where they shared pro tips on how to stand out in the interview process. The group chat even hosted a panel discussion then prospects could ask as many questions as possible. Using all of these tips and more, AdFellows offered me a position, which kickstarted my career in marketing.
What personal attributes have been essential to your career success?
Being personable is one of the top characteristics that works for me. I’m able to light up a room to the point that people naturally gravitate towards me; for one, I use humor to connect people and excel in client management, making me easier to work with. I aim to remember small details about people to show that I’m truly listening. Employers want to see that you are both a listener and a communicator who is able to strive off of other’s emotions and persuade people. Small talk and beginning of meeting conversations are important. Outside of my personality, being able to problem solve is important as well. As widely known, challenges/problems will arise in all jobs, but being the person that can remain calm and assess options to resolve the issue is extremely important. For example, before I deliver bad news to clients, I always take a beat and draw out all of the potential solutions; this way I am more proactive and show that I’m an active problem solver. It also shows that I take initiative in doing research and have the ability to analyze issues and make sound decisions. Separately, I also make it my priority to help people along the way, meaning coaching my team members and motivating others. This skill helped me receive my promotion at McCann because I was able to show that I can be a leader that helps to solve challenges and keep the team motivated to do great work.
Are you extroverted or introverted? How does this show up in your professional life and how has this trait benefited you professionally?
I describe myself as both extroverted and introverted, but I will say that being able to hold conversations about almost everything will make you stand out. Personally, I’ve sat down with executives, VPs, seniors, and held great conversations. A VP once told me that I should always talk to people as humans because that’s who we are at the core, not a title or a position. With this advice, I began building even more authentic relationships, where I’ll ask about their kids and families, career mistakes etc. This way of communicating has led me to know senior level personnel on a more personal level, which has helped me get recommendations for opportunities and build my network. I’ve been in meetings where executives called me out in front of 100+ employees, just to ask how I’m doing, which shows the authenticity of the relationship. All the people we aspire to be are humans first, who were once unsure of their career paths. They’ve encountered similar struggles from being unemployed, doing menial work, being impacted by society, etc. Once you’re able to bring your true self to every conversation, you’ll realize how easy it is for others to believe in you and want to help you elevate to the next level.
Shamika’s Piece of Advice:
There’s no one piece of advice that’ll get you to where you want to be, but I will say that having a certain mindset will make you successful. Throughout my professional career, I’ve been unemployed, disengaged, confused, etc., but it’s what I communicated to myself that made me different from others. It’s easier to give up than fight past the tears to keep moving forward, but promise that once you accomplish your goals, you’ll feel 10x better. When I was receiving millions of rejection emails, I only kept one thing in mind–what could I have done differently? It’s important to motivate yourself and be consistent in what you’re doing. It’s important to set personal deadlines and quotas so you can work towards a goal. For example, when I was unemployed, I committed ~40hrs a week to apply for jobs and made sure I applied to at least 10 jobs per day and continued to push myself to meet these daily goals. Another piece of advice is to fully exhaust your options and resources. When I say this, I mean contact everyone you know to inform them of your journey. If you’re looking for an internship, you should be speaking to your professors, career offices, professional organizations, and peers. No one will know you need help or that you’re struggling if you don’t speak up and ask for help. In my career, I’ve reached out to recruiters on LinkedIn, asked for warm introductions, sent countless emails for referrals, etc. You have to be willing to put yourself out there to get what you want. The absolute worst that can happen is a no response.