Alumni Spotlight: Odalis Lopez

ADVERTISING – This spotlight series features T. Howard Foundation (THF) alumni working in advertising.

Odalis Lopez (THF ’13)(THF ’14)

Please describe your role.

I am currently an Account Supervisor at an advertising agency called VMLY&R where I manage the day-to-day aspects of developing 360° advertising campaigns from strategy, to creative development and execution, for high-profile clients. I build and manage relationships with key internal and external stakeholders, like clients, partner agencies, vendors, platforms, and more. My current brands include Milano cookies, Late July tortilla chips, and Pepperidge Farm bread/cookies, and some of my past clients include Verizon, CNBC, Saucony, Ferrero, and The Ad Council/The Alzheimer’s Association. I would relate my role to that of an Orchestra Conductor who is charged with unifying the performers, setting the tempo, executing clear preparations, listening critically and shaping the sound of the ensemble. In my role, my ensemble includes my creatives, strategists, producers, partner agencies, clients and trafficking team, ensuring that we’re all in sync to create our campaigns.

What do you enjoy most about your company?
I appreciate the connections I’ve made at my company. I am in the process of transitioning to production and they have given me opportunities to be behind-the-scenes in production to gain experience, like shadowing a producer and having a producer as my mentor. VMLY&R has given me great exposure and knowledge for my side projects of creating docu-style work.

In what way did this type of work interest you and how did you get started?
When I was in the process of selecting a major at the University of Maryland College Park, I thought I wanted to pursue Journalism, but I wasn’t 100% sure, so I decided to major in Communication with a concentration in Public Relations since it would allow me to take journalism classes, but still have the option to pursue other careers like Marketing. One of my sorority sisters had a friend who was looking for an entry-level role at an advertising agency in Miami working on multicultural advertising for Time Warner Cable. I applied for and got the job, then moved from Baltimore to Miami within a week after graduating and have been in the industry since, working my way from Miami to New York. All that to say, connections are very important in this industry!

How has your affiliation with the T. Howard Foundation influenced your career?
The T. Howard Foundation helped me get the opportunity of a lifetime interning with HBO. This kick-started my career in many ways. It made me realize how much I love the entertainment and film industry, but it also led me to a lot of other opportunities, like working on film screenings and my first role in advertising. Even since my internship ended, the T. Howard Foundation has connected me to interview opportunities at various companies.

What personal attributes have been essential to your career success? 
My mother instilled in me a hard work ethic and I’ve always had a curiosity to learn more. When I first began my career in advertising, it all felt very unknown to me. I thought transitioning to college was hard, but the transition to the workplace surprised me even more. I think my hard work ethic and curiosity drove me to rise quickly in my advertising career.

If you were entering this career today, how would you prepare to facilitate entry?
I would suggest applying for internships in related industries and remember that you can always craft your experiences to the role you’re seeking. For example, I interned in Marketing and worked with a lot of LatinX and community organizations at UMD. Even though I didn’t have advertising experience specifically, I explained how my experiences at HBO and with my personal passions tied to the Coordinator role I applied for. I’d also recommend taking any online courses or workshops to learn more about the industry.

In one sentence please describe what work/life balance means to you.
Work/life balance to me means learning to set boundaries between work and personal. I focus on work during the day and prefer to stay in the office (or stay online now that I work from home due to COVID) until I feel like my work is in a good place for the day. As a Supervisor, my manager doesn’t monitor me closely and it’s my responsibility to ensure project stages are completed in a timely manner. Once I feel accomplished for the day, I disconnect and do my best to not check work emails unless I am expecting for work to come in late. Now, it also means taking breaks during the day, taking PTO days and not letting tough days get to me.

Do you have any of the following at work? a mentor, mentee, sponsor, work BF or work spouse? If so, which one(s)? What are the advantages of having these relationships?
I do have a mentor! She’s a producer and I’ve truly enjoyed being able to bounce ideas off of her, learn more about her experiences, and get a glimpse into the production process. I’ve also had mentees and in those relationships, I appreciate being able to give them intel into things I wish I would have known or did differently. I think life is hard as is and we should reach back whenever we can.

How do you re-charge at work?
During the day, I may take a short walk to get some air, grab a coffee (I LOVE a good nutella latte), or listen to music to set the mood. Lately, I’ll start the day with Alicia Keys or Jhené Aiko, then throughout the day I transition to J. Balvin, Meg Thee Stallion, Harry Styles, or Miguel for motivation.