You know what’s way better than any “30 Under 30” list? How about Fast Company's Most Creative People in Business list. Or Creativity Magazine's Creativity Top 50 list. Or Business Insider’s Most Creative Women in the business list. Jill’s name has appeared in all of them. And in that last one she ranked #5 (as in THE 5th most creative woman in the business). Add to that a Cannes Cyber Grand Prix and, yeah, you could say Jill’s resumé is a whole lot more impressive than, well, ours.
Also making Jill’s resumé are a Master Class at Hyper Island and a stint as a Creative Director at The Barbarian Group, a job for which she took a steep pay cut in the name of personal growth as well as career growth and reinvention (a wee bit of inspiration there for you young ‘uns and you old ‘uns.). You’ll also find a page of testimonials filled with the kind of accolades that make us wish we’d been lucky enough to work with, under or simply near her. Like the one that describes Jill as “an impossible mix of a battle-hardened, foul-mouthed, take-no-prisoners warrior queen and a compassionate mother figure you just want to hug.” Now, who would want to miss what a creative befitting of such a kick-ass description thought about getting older in the ad biz? Not you.
Is ageism something that’s affected you? What are some of the challenges you faced as a person who was getting older in the business? Do tell.
To be honest, I’ve been more impacted by gender stereotyping than ageism. That being said, ageism definitely hangs in the air. I frequently think about what I’ll do next when the inevitable happens. Do I want to go back to school to become a child psychologist? Open up a coffee/bookshop? Will there be enough freelance if I turn to the healthcare space which as a sector seems to be more open-minded about age? These questions and the increased cortisol levels that come with them surface in between blissful bouts of denial.
"I strongly dislike the term 'digital native' because it is inherently ageist."
Did the reality of the ad industry contribute to the decisions you made/the path you’ve taken?
Absolutely. I made a move to a digital agency for the sole purpose of expanding my field of experience. I saw how the media landscape was changing and made the conscious choice to step outside of my comfort zone from the bigger, more traditional shops to a small digital agency. I am grateful that i was given the chance. It was an awesome role for a phenomenal CCO but it required that I take a significant cut in pay. After a good bit of soul searching, I decided that it was a worthwhile investment to make in myself. I needed a kick in the pants. I really wanted to reinvent myself as someone fluent in the social/digital/mobile space. From there, I joined a tech company to continue my digital/mobile journey. I strongly dislike the term “digital native” because it is inherently ageist. None of us can control the decade in which we’re born, but we can’t pretend that stone carving is still the most effective medium either.
I also spend more money than I’d like to admit on hair dye and Juvederm. I feel that I have to work in this industry to be able to afford to look young enough to work in this industry.
"I feel that I have to work in this industry to be able to afford to look young enough to work in this industry."
What do you feel creative people over 50 can offer over someone 20 years their junior, things that are unappreciated, or just plain overlooked?
Wisdom and perspective. The same briefs, the same situations, the same team dynamics, the same archetypes tend to surface again and again in slightly different forms. Noobs go into fight or flight. Vets can remind them to breathe. Same reason I found Mad Men so boring. It’s hard to shock me. Who wants to go home to watch a mirror image of their day? Snore.
"I wholly believe in the old proverb 'be nice to the people you meet on the way up. You’ll see them again on the way down.'"
What is your advice to people who are nearing or over 40 in the ad industry?
Keep your network close. That doesn’t mean artificially attend industry events on a quest for the biggest business card collection. It means actively build meaningful relationships and try not to burn bridges. Thank the people who brought out the best in you and who believed in you even as you were making choices that they may not have made themselves—those rare gems of humans who offered you the gift of blind faith (Sandy, Terri, Ross, Ferg, Graham, Glen, Darren, Edu, Keller) find a few junior people to take under your wing and extend the same open heartedness.
People are everything in this business. When surrounded by people you trust and admire, your ideas are better. When you care about who’s at the helm, you work harder. When you take the time to really listen to a client’s point of view, the relationship is stronger. They may be willing to let you take a bigger swing later when there’s more at stake. When you take the time to help guide younger talent, it comes back at you like a boomerang. It’s all karma, baby.
Meet everyone you can for a cup of coffee be it a prospective employer or a recent grad. Drink so much metaphorical coffee that it stunts your growth and yellows your teeth. Be generous with your time and your ideas. I wholly believe in the old proverb “be nice to the people you meet on the way up. You’ll see them again on the way down.”
What’s one thing the industry could do to make you think they’re taking combating ageism seriously?
Even the most progressive companies with real commitment to diversity hiring do not see people 50+ as a diversity group. Mandating broader representation from an age perspective would be a start.
What do you see as potential solutions for ageism in the industry? Any thoughts on possibly unionizing?
Ha! I’m not sure how unionizing would work in light of the way teams and departments scale (and shrink) based on revenue. Part of the solution is this blog. Not blowing smoke—we need to talk about this. 3% Conference and Adcolor are doing amazing things in the diversity and inclusion space, but to the best of my knowledge, there’s no organization solely focused on ageism.
"I’ve become a sunflower in that I’m better at bending myself toward projects that fulfill me and people who appreciate what I uniquely bring to the table."
What are some positive things you’ve experienced as you’ve grown older in the business?
I was born with an overactive bullshit meter. I’ve always believed in truth and candor at all costs--even when it hurts. Especially when it hurts. Add a few decades of grit to the equation and that’s who i am now. My ideas are braver. I’m so much faster. I’m a time management ninja. I speak up. I’m a better ally and a stronger advocate. I trust my gut. I’ve become a sunflower in that I’m better at bending myself toward projects that fulfill me and people who appreciate what I uniquely bring to the table.
Who do you look to for inspiration?
My kids. Their sense of wonder is amazing to watch. The way they think and create blows my mind and heart open on a daily basis. (wait. Is this ageist?)