Since joining Deutsch LA nearly 10 years ago, Kim has lent her ability to inspire both clients and agencies to look at things in a new way on brands as diverse as Dr Pepper, Anthem Blue Cross, and HTC. Whether launching a new phone or re-inventing an $80 billion company, Kim believes that creative thinking must solve business problems in a way that drives dialogue and creates action out in the world. At Deutsch LA, she has built a world-class department of entrepreneurial thinkers who roll up their sleeves and help businesses grow.
Kim graduated with honors from UCLA. She is an accomplished equestrian, a passionate but untalented musician, and a voracious reader. Committed to nurturing local talent, she happily serves as an industry advisor to USC's Marshall School of Business and as an adjunct professor at USC's Annenberg School.
How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
My father passed away suddenly when I was in high school. So from a young age, I was in a position of not only responding to unexpected circumstances, but of helping others, including my two younger brothers, navigate them as well. My dad always said his dream job was to be an ambulance driver -- navigating through chaos to get people to safety. I try to live this ethos every day in my current role.
How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at Deutsch LA?
Before I came to Deutsch LA, I worked at small, independent agencies like the SF office of Kirshenbaum Bond. We didn't have a fancy management layer. We didn't have a lot of support positions. Succeeding there meant you were a kick-ass account leader AND you picked up a sponge to clean the kitchen. That feeling -- of being an owner, of taking total responsibility for the successes and the failures -- has given me great perspective at Deutsch LA. I've always approached my role from the perspective of, "How can I help?" I've never stayed in a specific swim lane. It's allowed me to contribute in bigger ways, like leading the charge on establishing our experiential and Hispanic marketing practices.
What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Deutsch LA?
The big wins are so exciting. We've been given the chance to work with some of the greatest brands in the world, like Target and VW. Also working with start-ups like Zillow, and more recently Hotel Tonight, and seeing them take the world by storm. It's amazing to work with smart clients that have literally changed industries and created entirely new ones.
The biggest challenges have been saying goodbye to people I love and care about. We put a major effort toward retention at Deutsch LA but people still leave for the next adventure. I appreciate that this is a part of the process, but it's hard. I spend more time at the office with my "Deutsch family" than I do with my husband and daughters! I miss people when they're gone.
What advice can you offer to women who want a career in advertising?
Be brave and take risks. I think a lot of women, no matter what industry we work in, chose flight over fight. We naturally tend to avoid physical risk, which is smart. But in the business world, we don't always take risks and let uncertainty or fear push us to just move on to the next thing. I challenge people by saying, "If you're not happy, change the job you're in, but don't change jobs." My career achievements have come from digging in. I've been at Deutsch LA for nearly 12 years, which is a lifetime in advertising.
What is the most important lesson you've learned in your career to date?
Find a way to say yes. Over the years, I've learned the power an entrepreneurial spirit holds and how to nurture, not crush, this mindset. Great work, great ideas and ultimately great businesses are born from entrepreneurial people; enterprising employees who may have different perspectives, but come together to find an answer, create a solution, or invent something that didn't exist before. By definition, an entrepreneurial person will always seek change rather than sitting idle or waiting for others to initiate change. And we need people like that to propel businesses, and the world, forward.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I reject the notion of work/life balance. I think it sets up an impossible reality for women to achieve. Really, I have two full times jobs -- my Deutsch LA post and mom to my two daughters. My strategy is two fold. 1) Forget balance, and instead nail the see-saw. Show up where it counts. Give your total and utter attention where it matters, and recognize that sometimes that's your personal life and sometimes that's work. I do not miss school performances. I did not miss the school pick-up the day after a broken heart. I also do not miss critical client conversations. I have never missed a pitch meeting. I leave it all on the field wherever I am. 2) Help others do the same. As the Chief Female Officer of Deutsch LA, I need to support the same behavior for all the women at our company. It's good for them, and it helps us attract and support amazing talent, which is the backbone of our business. I work to advocate for women within Deutsch LA as they manage the stress of career and family. For instance, I spearheaded the Deutsch LA Mom's Group, which is led by a parenting specialist and is designed as a support system within the agency, helping moms get real-world advice on the life and parenting issues we all face.
What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
Women have a lot of opportunities, and we have a lot of choices. The challenge companies face is making their opportunities enticing enough to keep women engaged in their company missions. My goal is to create an environment where women feel they have an incredible opportunity to do amazing work and build a great career, as well as build the personal life they desire. Having good intentions is not enough. As women in a position of influence, we need to build work opportunities that are irresistibly desirable to women. Yes, we're outnumbered. But equal pay and equal access is just the beginning of keeping women in advertising, especially when we're competing against technology and start-ups for talent. We need to shift traditional practices to make the idea of a career in advertising the best path forward for the strongest talent.
How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
Frankly, my biggest career opportunities have come from men. Mike Sheldon, Deutsch LA's CEO, has paved a real path for me, even making me a partner before I had really focused on that possibility. Mentors can help you realize the path you have not yet seen for yourself. I am resolutely appreciative for people who have pushed me in the very best ways.
Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I would have to say Malala Youfasazi, the 15-year-old Pakistani girl who was shot by the Taliban for her educational activism. The fact that she fought for the rights of women at such a young age and in such a hostile environment makes her one of the bravest women in the world, and a very powerful leader and role model for citizens everywhere. And the fact that she holds no animosity toward her attackers is astonishing. I love that she was recognized as the youngest-ever Nobel Prize recipient. Well deserved.
What do you want Deutsch LA to accomplish in the next year?
As an agency, we've grown and made huge strides in so many areas -- we've gotten better at what we do, hired even more talented people, and we are always looking for and adopting new ways to make our Deutsch LA family happier and more fulfilled. At the agency's beginning, we were just a handful of people with no accounts trying to set up shop in Los Angeles, a town that no marketer took seriously. We still haven't shaken the mentality that we need to care more than the rest and that we can always improve, even today as a major national agency. I'd like us to never lose sight of our beginnings and maintain an understanding that we can always be better. It's that mindset that fuels us to continue to invent, create, build and design.