How did you get started in advertising? What's been your career road map?
Ethnically, I am Indian, but I was born in the Fiji Islands. I came to the U.S. when I was two years old when my family fled Fiji because of a political coup. We got a tourist visa to enter the U.S. Before we left, we met a man who was charging people $10,000 for an opportunity to get a green card as soon as we entered the U.S.
Upon our arrival in the U.S., we were presented with a green card. By the time we realized it was a hoax, we had overstayed and became undocumented. At the age of 23, I became Undocumented and Unafraid, and Queer and Unashamed. At this time, I joined passionate and resilient people to fight for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) and help people understand that immigration is a global issue and not just for people south of our border.
In 2014, as a strong and unified community, we helped the Obama administration do the right thing by partnering with hundreds of lawyers to provide him with the legal groundings to provide administrative relief to a category of undocumented youth.
Don Lupo Photography
As a recipient of DACA, my career in Human Resources has been relatively short but full of adventure and growth.
When I received DACA, I started to think about the opportunities that were not previously available or open to me. As a natural community builder and networker, I reached out to people and conducted informational interviews. I quickly learned that Human Resources would be the perfect blend of my love for business and people. In addition, I would be able to take my learnings back to my respective communities in two ways:
- I would learn how to support people from disadvantaged background with career planning, structuring and formatting their resume, branding themselves, and improving their interviewing skills;
- I would learn the how to help others like me gain access to opportunities not always open to people with my experience or those who look like me.
The overall goal would be to become a Diversity and Inclusion practitioner to aggressively impact corporate culture.
Three years ago, I accepted an internship that would give me a broad understanding of Human Resources and gain practical experience. After outgrowing that role, I found an amazing opportunity as a Human Resources Coordinator at my first advertising agency, Hawthorne. I loved working with some of the most passionate and dedicated people in the industry. I directly impacted Hawthorne’s culture by helping them create a culture of trust and accountability. I loved helping their agency grow and be a place where people loved waking up and going to.
A year later, I was offered an opportunity to join Innocean USA with more responsibilities and an opportunity to be a part of a dynamic group of HR professionals. I was able to quickly learn more HR skills and dive into areas of HR that I am passionate about – diversity and Inclusion, employee relations, recruiting, and change management. Currently, through sheer determination, I am working in a field that I’m passionate about and love: Diversity and Inclusion at Live Nation as a Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator.
What (who) keeps you motivated? Do you have a personal motto?
My mom keeps me motivated. She continues to sacrifice so much so that I can have the experiences and opportunities that I am having. She left Fiji to travel to a place she had no idea about, had the courage to leave her abusive husband, and thrive when all the odds were against her.
Personal motto: “Why not?” I have always been told that I cannot achieve my goals because I am either undocumented, queer, a person of color, or an array of other reasons. I think sometimes we hold ourselves back because of our own subjugation and what we think is “normal.” I always try to figure out a way around challenges and push boundaries as much as I can.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned so far?
I have learned that mistakes are your best friend. They help you learn and get better at what you do. It shows that you are in the arena and fighting to succeed. I have just learned how to be accountable for my mistakes, learn from them, and move on.
What excites you most about this industry?
Simply, it's the people. I think that marketing, advertising, and entertainment attract some of the most amazing and diverse people. Everyone is so passionate about what they do and creative that it makes work fun. Also, each day is so different that it forces you to find creative solutions to business challenges.
Where is advertising heading? What do the next five years look like?
The industry is molding to adapt to the changing demographics of people within the United States and abroad. People are rejecting binaries, labels, and identities that pigeonhole them. The blanketed approach to sell or entertain generalized demographics is not going to work.
Over the next five years, I think that the industry will be trying to understand how they can cater to this new demographic and rebrand themselves. For example, so many women are telling their #MeToo story and some are taking it a step further to make sure that we are changing who we are as a society and industry. We are going to have to move forward together and embrace the differences that make us unique and who we are. People want organization to reflect their values and the diversity that they see around them.
Why are you involved with ThinkLA?
I love ThinkLA and value their collaborative frame of connecting advertising agencies and supplying them with tools to be successful. I have been working with them for over a year through their Diversity, Inclusion, and Gender (DIG) initiative to help create tools and resources for our industry and highlighting opportunities related to diversity, inclusion, and gender for our industry, and allowing us to harness the power of our unique backgrounds to the greater good.
What advice do you have for those just starting in advertising?
Network and let people know what you are passionate about. Since I started a career in HR, I went to most networking events and met as many people as I could. During every interaction, I found a way to tell everyone and anyone that would hear me that I want to practice diversity and inclusion. The industry is very small, everyone knows each other, and most people are open to mentoring and supporting you.
In Adobe's recent "Creativity’s Diversity Disconnect" study, which highlighted diversity issues in the advertising industry, 54% responded that the industry was “getting better compared to five years ago,” while 7% actually said it was getting worse. And a resounding number of minorities described lack of access and seeing themselves reflected in the workplace. As a member of ThinkLA’s DIG initiative, what are your thoughts on these findings? How can the industry improve?
I am not completely surprised by the results. There has been a shift to address issues around diversity, but more work needs to be done around inclusion. Diversity needs to be done in an authentic way without ignoring the intersectionality of individuals with the support of people from dominant groups. Diversity impacts all of us and everyone needs to be involved to address these issues within their respective organization. I wholeheartedly believe that – together – we can get to a place where people can bring their full selves to the workplace.
Any closing thoughts?
Be yourself – your whole self – your authentic self. It makes everything so much easier.