Where Did They Get You?

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To overcome a conventional talent shortage, many firms have taken to recruiting from other sectors, disciplines or countries, bringing whole new skill sets and diverse thinking with them.  Marc Iskowitz talks with five surprising hires

AMY SMITH
Age: 29
Title: Group account supervisor,
HC&B Healthcare Communications
Start date: October 2002
Previous job/background: Account executive, ORBB Advertising and Design, Austin, TX; advertising major, University of Texas

Why did you make this move?
Tech was a natural sector for me to gain experience. In 2002 ORBB was being acquired by BRSG Austin. There was a lot of opportunity to expand my experience with different types of clients. I didn't know at that time I would be working specifically in healthcare, but I welcomed the opportunity. It was a natural progression from active trading firm ProTrader (an ORBB account) to KCI, the medical device firm. Both have specific regulatory concerns and service infrastructures they are trying to promote.

What was in it for you?
Learning a new industry that was extremely underserved. Across the nation, medical devices don't get a lot of focus by agencies. Planting myself more firmly in the healthcare industry, and those types of clients only, was a great opportunity to do something different, unique and marketable.

What was at stake for you?
Moving away from tech. But it was definitely worth the tradeoff. In orthopedics there are a lot of different specialties and needs, from wound care to spinal implants. I like learning about that.

THE HIRER
Kerry Hilton, President/CEO, HC&B Healthcare Communications

How did you find Amy?
With the ORBB acquisition came a lot of talented people, specifically Amy. She worked with ORBB on a number of non-healthcare brands—IBM, Dell. Shortly after, we migrated to a 100% healthcare focus. A former ORBB principal who is now an HC&B partner had a great healthcare background and served as one of several mentors for Amy.

What does she bring to the table?
A detail-oriented approach to account service. She is very passionate and is a great listener. The way she immerses herself into a client's business, one of them being a billion-dollar brand (KCI's wound care therapy VAC), is one of the reasons why we've had this client for so long.

What was at stake?
Taking someone from tech. But we felt because VAC was a new brand, doing a parallel hiring along the tech area was a good idea.


DALJIT TELYMONDE
Age: 38
Title: SVP, creative dir., The CementWorks
Start date: October 2005
Previous position/background:
ACD, Harrison & Star; group copy supervisor, FCB NY; pharmacy manager, Boots the Chemist (UK)

Why did you make this move?
I found pharmacy to be quite unchallenging, even though the degree was very interesting. I practiced for a couple of years in psychiatric and geriatric community care, in nursing homes, and then got so bored of dishing out advice to depressed housewives with yeast infections and little old women with piles…I had close friends in consumer advertising. I took them out for a pint at the local pub, and they taught me the difference between a head and a strapline. With that, I bluffed my way into advertising.

What was in it for you?
For some people to think that left-brained people cannot think in a right-brained manner or kick with their left foot, too, is inaccurate. Some of the best scientists are the most creative thinkers. Digging deep into a study and writing a headline or pulling a strategy from a P value is a craft. And I don't think I could have gone much further as a pharmacist as I have in advertising.

What was at stake for you?
That element of altruism. People in my little community where I grew up in West London used to knock on my parents' door and ask for my advice about their pills. It was also harder for me to make my family understand what I did. My parents couldn't understand why I was wearing jeans and baseball caps to work.

THE HIRER
Rico Vray, Partner, The CementWorks

How did you find Daljit?
Stephanie Wood, one of our ACDs of copy, referred her. Daljit freelanced for her when Stephanie worked for CDM.

What does she bring to the table?
As part of our senior management team, she brings that love of science and propensity for creativity, as well as the need to nurture and develop her [reports].

What was at stake?
I started out as a physiologist and worked in clinical research, then was an AIDS activist before switching to marketing and advertising. I'm comfortable hiring people who demonstrate creativity in thinking and also critical thinking. I'm a believer in hybrid vigor: the more diverse experiences, the more insights you can get.


JEFF ROHWER
Age: 35
Title: Executive producer, Incendia Health
Start date: June 2006 (freelance prior)
Previous job/background: Director, eMedia, Radixone; taught video production to at-risk teens; graduate, USC School of Cinematic Arts

Why did you make this move?

It combined a bunch of things I was doing: visual storytelling, trying to do good in the world and to educate others, and also my background in technology and Internet-based application development.

What was in it for you?
People are motivated by different things, but at the end of the day we like to feel that we are happy and effective at what we are doing. My way of doing that prior was to have to do all these disparate things. When I started working more closely with [Incendia], I realized that I could do it all here.

What was at stake for you?
Part of my fear was going into an environment that I thought would be less flexible, more corporate, more rigid. That's why I hesitated for a while in terms of coming on full time. I still feel like I have a tremendous amount of freedom.

THE HIRER
Fabio Gratton, Co-founder, chief innovation officer, Ignite Health; CEO, Incendia Health Studios

How did you find Jeff?
We collaborated on a project six years ago. We really connected, because I went to film school at UCLA and he at USC. I've brought him in occasionally over the years [as a freelancer]. He started really working with us on a game we did for kids with type 1 diabetes. It involved storytelling, and he had that background.

What does he bring to the table?
Production: coordinating everything from the story, to actors, to voiceover, to the development of a Web site. Second: storytelling. Our background is really about how do you engage and keep people drawn into your experience as long as possible. [His] most unique and important aspect: we don't look at this industry from a traditional perspective. We look at what's working in every industry, from gaming to Hollywood to TV to online entertainment.

What was at stake ?
The biggest risk was more the perception [by] the industry. But at least…on the interactive side, people are recognizing that innovation comes from anywhere.


PAUL VELARDI
Age: 43
Title: President, Euro RSCG Life X2
Start date: June 2007
Previous job/background: Founder, RM/digital agency Boost (clients: Time Inc., Travelers Insurance, Crunch Gyms J&J); six years with Wunderman

Why did you make this move?
Before I started Boost, I had been managing director of a division of Lowe [Lowe Live] and, while I thoroughly enjoyed being an entrepreneur, running a bigger agency and having great resources was really what excited me.

What was in it for you?
The opportunity to make an impact in an industry. From my perspective, the market's a little bit underdeveloped in terms of what we could be doing. I feel I have the ability to make a great impact with an organization that I feel extremely comfortable and excited to work for.

What was at stake for you?
Leaving my own business, the advantages that come with that: running a company on my own [and] having the ability to make all the decisions on my own. But I haven't found it to be an issue.

THE HIRER
Doug Burcin, Partner, Euro RSCG Life; co-CEO, North America; president, Euro RSCG Life MetaMax

How did you find Paul?
X2 is the new agency representing all of the non-advertising functions and disciplines of Euro RSCG Life. We felt that the talent composition also had to be re-balanced with people from other areas, not in traditional pharma. We specifically took an active search [via recruiter].

What does Paul bring to the table?
He brings leadership that comes from outside the traditional way of doing business. And he brings case histories and best practices from some great clients. [He] has worked in relationship marketing in the digital space in banking, financial, automotive, etc.—areas where they're really much more sophisticated at building relationships and understanding their customers than we are.

What was at stake?
The question that was debated early on was how comfortable were we bringing in someone from the outside. That was the risk. Would that talent be able to acclimate quickly in the world of our pharma clients? But after tremendous and often contentious debate, we actually felt that that risk was really minimal.


AMANDA SENA
Account executive, Agency Rx
Age: 28   
Start Date: September 2006
Previous job/background: Genetics counselor, Winthrop University Hospital, Mineola, NY; studies in biology and medical genetics at Cornell University; M.S., Mount Sinai School of Medicine

Why did you make this move?
To get more exposure to the newest developing therapies. The account I work on now, Gleevec, is a breakthrough in specifically targeting the genetic basis of one type of leukemia. As a scientist and former clinician, I wanted to learn more about the business and marketing aspects of such a groundbreaking drug and the process that goes into keeping it on the market now that there is five years of post-approval experience. My science background has been a strength in learning about molecular monitoring and interpretation of patient response.

What was in it for you?
Pharmaceutical advertising allows for a wonderful creative outlet within the context of heavy science. This field also offers broader business experience with more opportunities for advancement than an academic setting.

What was at stake for you?
The ability to focus on one therapeutic area as opposed to all types of medical conditions and the absence of daily patient contact. However, pharma advertising offers the opportunity for daily client contact, and my skills as a counselor have helped me provide a similar advisory role for our clients, especially my strengths in assisting with decision-making and strategies. It's just a different context now than before.

THE HIRER
Cheryl Gerber, Talent acquisition partner, AgencyRx

Where did you find Amanda?
Amanda was brought into this agency prior to me being here. A headhunter submitted her name.

What  does Amanda bring to the table?
Amanda brings diversity, a clinical perspective and a fresh approach to the work.

What was at stake?
Amanda having never worked in this environment, there was a risk she did not have the capacity to endure the pace, volume and intensity of the work at an agency. I believe this is her first foray into a business setting. We also risked the client thinking we made a poor hiring decision.

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