I had the pleasure of meeting Brittany Anderson at the University of Illinois, where we were both advertising majors and worked on the National Student Advertising (NSAC) competition together three years in a row. Her work ethic has always been contagious and it encouraged me to work harder and smarter while we were in college. Brittany is fiercely intelligent and has never been afraid of a challenge and tackles everything head on in her work and in life. She inspired me in just how much she accomplished in college, so I knew she was going to go on to do big things once we graduated and joined the real world. And I definitely wasn’t wrong.
Nowadays, Brittany is an Account Director at DSplus, a digital strategy and marketing company dedicated to the success of Toyota’s family of brands. At DSplus, Brittany oversees media strategy, product marketing and project management. Her deep experience creating media experiences between consumers and world-class brands ensures that Toyota and Lexus dealerships are always meeting the changing needs and expectations of current and future car buyers. Like me, she is a 2011 alum of the Charles H. Sandage Department of Advertising at the University of Illinois. She is also a die-hard Chicago Cubs fan (go Cubbies!) and enjoys spending her free time with friends and family, staying fit, and going to see live music.
Brittany is the girl always on top of her game, inspiring other women (and men) that they can achieve anything with hard work and determination. You’ll see just how hard she’s worked to get where she is today in our interview below!
Brittany, thanks so much for being a part of the Shine On series! Can you share your story for those that aren’t as familiar and how you got to be where you are today in your career?
I joined my company seven years ago as just the third employee, days after graduating. At the time, I jumped in not knowing much more than that it was a new company within Publicis Groupe that focused on providing a robust digital marketing toolkit for Toyota dealerships. I had learned that the company ensured that their customers received the right message at the right time throughout their automotive lifecycle. Knowing the opportunities that would likely be ahead by joining such a young company, I passed up offers from better-known Chicago agencies to take a chance on a new venture.
Over these least few years, I’ve had the opportunity to work closely with leaders throughout the organization and had great managers who allowed me to take chances, make big decisions, and lead important initiatives as I moved up the ranks. I started as an entry-level Digital Coordinator supporting on all things production, digital strategy, and even some copywriting and art direction. As a three-person company trying to get ourselves off the ground, we all had our hands in every basket to ensure we were successful. From there, I moved on to an Account Executive role overseeing Denver and Portland area dealerships. In this role, I honed in on my client management and presentation skills, while consulting on and ensuring our products were making a real difference for our clients. I was then promoted to Account Supervisor and built out our social media department to further support our dealership clients with social media and reputation management services. I also got to hire my first two reports. After that, I moved into the Management Supervisor role and widened my expertise to all things product marketing and strategy, and took over the management of our project management team. Today, I am an Account Director and continue to oversee the product, media, and project management departments, while also supporting all new business opportunities and building of pilot programs.
That is quite a story – and so admirable how you’ve been able to grow with your company! Throughout the last seven years, what has been your best career decision? What would you say has been the toughest?
I believe my best career decision so far was taking the leap of faith and joining my company when I did. At the time, there was a lot of pressure to join agencies like Leo Burnett, Digitas, among others. My decision was questioned by many, but I didn’t let it get to me. I knew I was going to work with great people on the world’s best automotive manufacturer and really had an opportunity to do something special. The growth of the company from three to 35 employees and the incredible amount that we have been able to accomplish in just sever years, makes me thankful for that decision every day.
While there isn’t necessarily one particular tough decision that I would choose to expand on, I will say that being a leader in a fairly young company offers a number of opportunities to make tremendously important decisions that will impact the future of the organization. In those micro-moments, tough decisions must be made to ensure we continue on a path of success and build the right solutions for our clients.
I think that is so admirable that you accepted a job that wasn’t typical upon graduation. Going into work every day, what excites you most about your job? What do you find the most challenging?
The most exciting part of my job is that no one day is ever the same. We are in a fortunate position where we have great relationships with our dealership, agency, and brand partners and for that reason, they come to us frequently to support on new and exciting initiatives. We get the opportunity to build new strategies and products for our clients to continue to ensure they are staying ahead of the curve and pushing the envelope in the changing retail landscape. This includes building unique communication strategies for customers who are constantly demanding tailored experiences from their favorite brands.
The most challenging part of my job is what I call “meeting mania,” which is my phrase for being in wall-to-wall client meetings, partner meetings, leadership meetings, team meetings, 1:1 meetings or interviews from 9-5PM. Now, I know people knock the necessity of meetings, and I’m not here to do that. Meetings are a critical part of ensuring the business is moving, folks are on the same page, and that the team is clear on expectations, but it is a constant struggle to balance this schedule with actually executing and delegating work. As I prepare for my week ahead every Sunday, more often than not, most upcoming weekdays are already 80% full of meetings. That means that I must block the remaining windows for executing on the most important things, checking in with my team, etc. I’m also lucky to be able to use my train commute on a hotspot to extend my day and knock things out, but it requires careful planning to ensure my time is well-spent.
I totally hear you on meetings! It can definitely be hard to actually get the meat of your work done when your calendar is full of meetings. Speaking of time well-spent, how do you balance life and work responsibilities?
I believe balance starts with great time management and planning of priorities, both personal and work-related. What has worked well for me is to schedule each day in :15 increments. In order to keep that schedule organized, I use a project management tool called Asana. Every night, I create new tasks and shift existing tasks that I plan to complete in the coming days. During that process, I apply timestamps based on my open windows in the order of task priority. This planning includes both my work day and one-hour commute in and out of the city. By doing this, I feel in control of my days and know what can be accomplished based on my schedule. Separately, working out at least five times per week really helps me maintain a mental balance to be my best self each and every day. When I don’t hit my preferred threshold, I can feel it mentally and physically, so it is a huge priority for maintaining a balance with my fast and furious schedule.
A few years back, Randi Zuckerberg tweeted that entrepreneurs must choose three of the following five items in life to focus: friends, family, fitness, work or sleep. I agree with this to a certain extent, and that this is true for any working professional, but in no way do I think this is a constant. Day to day, week to week, these items will flux and that is just the reality of the finite amount of time each of us has available. Per my point on balance, as long as you prioritize the most important things with the time you have available, these items will ebb and flow as priorities shift. You just have to ensure you are keeping a pulse on these items when they need rebalancing.
Wow, that tool sounds right up my alley! I’ll need to check that out. You’ve obviously been super successful in your career and I think a lot of that comes down to your inspiring work ethic. But in your own words, what would you credit your success to?
I credit my success to a handful of people and experiences. First, I come from an extremely hardworking, Midwestern farming family that instilled the importance of a hard day’s work to not only support your family but find joy and pride in every day. Both of my parents worked extremely hard to provide for my brother and I and that has stuck with me over the years. Neither of them were white collar, but that made me appreciate the hard work that goes into such professions. My parents got divorced when I was four, and I knew from an early age that if I was going to make something of myself and get out of Central Illinois, I was going to have to work hard to get there. My parents didn’t have the financial means to put me through college so I knew I had to do everything in my power to ensure I got into my dream school. And of course, that I needed to get a job once I graduated to pay for it!
Finally, I credit the Department of Advertising at the University of Illinois for providing incredible opportunities that helped me get ahead and out of my comfort zone, including leadership opportunities within the ad club, an out-of-state internship and believing in my passion for “digital” and technology. The department provides a ton of opportunities and experiences to help students set themselves apart from the pack, including the nation’s largest ad club (and many opportunities within), study abroad trips, and internships opportunities. One of those is the Stickell Internship Award, which I was nominated for by the department and selected as the top candidate in the country. The award included a Web Development Internship in Austin, Texas at T3, a fantastic local digital agency. Upon completing that internship, I returned to campus to lead the National Student Advertising Competition (NSAC) team of the American Advertising Federation (AAF) to a 4th place finish in the district my senior year. Both were absolutely priceless experiences that set me up to be confident and ready to hit the ground running as I started my career.
Speaking of the University of Illinois, I know you have stayed involved with alumni endeavors. Can you share a bit more there?
I try to stay very connected to the University and the Advertising department students and alumni. Some of the most impactful events as a student involved hearing alumni share their experiences in their careers. Now that I am one of those alumni, I try to stay close to both students and other advertising alumni by attending events hosted by the college. I attend not only to give back and connect with students, but also to get a pulse for the industry and trends. I also stay connected to previous co-workers and meet up #IRL whenever possible. I recommend leveraging technology to stay connected to those who you respect and learn from in the industry. Even if some connections are only digital with quick emails every now and then, it’s worth the effort and time. You never know what role a person may play in your future or how you could play a role in theirs.
That’s exactly right. You just never know what life will bring. On that note, what would you say has been the biggest challenge in your career or in your life and how did you push through it?
The biggest challenge in my life, without a doubt, was overcoming the death of my oldest brother, Mike. He was killed in a car accident when I was a freshman in high school. It was sudden, it was confusing, and it took all of the wind out of my sails for many months. It was extremely hard on my entire family, but watching my mom mourn the loss of her first child was especially painful. In my parents’ divorce, they placed me with my mom and my brother with my dad as primary caregivers (thank goodness that’s not a thing anymore), so I was my mom’s main support system throughout that very difficult time.
This was clearly many years prior to my career beginning, but the experience taught me how to push through very difficult times even when you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. I credit that experience for instilling in me how critical it is to appreciate every day you are given, every moment you spend with the people you care about and every moment you spend doing things you love and believe in.
That had to be so unbelievably tough…I can’t even imagine. I am so deeply sorry for your loss. Your perspective on your brother’s death and difficult times in general though is inspiring. There are so many people out there who are struggling, but it is important to remember the importance of each day and each moment spent with loved ones. It’s also good to find those people we can lean on and find inspiration from. Switching gears a bit, who has inspired you over the years and why?
My brother Dustin has been an inspiration to me for as long as I can remember. He is four years older than me and even though we were separated when our parents were divorced, we have always stayed close and been the best of friends. Growing up, he definitely knew how to push my buttons, but it came with a balance of truly caring to take the time to teach me about anything and everything (how something works, why something was a certain way, etc.). I was also always so impressed with how passionate he was and how he knew what he wanted to do with his career from a very young age. That passion also led him to be the first person in my immediate family to go to college. He worked extremely hard to get where he is today and truly loves his job as a sales associate at our local John Deere dealership. He continues to inspire me day in and day out as I watch him be the best dad to my two beautiful twin nieces!
That’s so heartwarming and I’m so happy to hear how close the two of you are! As we get to the end of the interview, do you have any parting thoughts or advice for fellow career women?
I advise all women to stay humble and always do the right thing whether or not praise is a possibility. Always go above and beyond for your clients no matter who is going to see the conversation. Work those long hours, when necessary, without telling other that you did it. And don’t compare yourself to others who may be moving quicker than you. Everything happens for a reason, and if you are good at what you do, your opportunities will come knocking at just the right time.
I think you hit the nail on the head there, Britt. It’s critical that women focus on their career path and their career path only. Thanks again for sharing your advice and your story! To keep up with Brittany, you can find her on LinkedIn.