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Alumni Advantage Newsletter

Unfair Advantage

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May 2014 Articles:

Alumni Advantage is a newsletter for current students written by members of the National Professional Advisory Board and their colleagues. It provides insider advice, insight and inspiration so that when our graduates enter the real world, they are ready to rock it.

by Stephany Bradford, photos courtesy Stephany Bradford


When I applied for the NYC ADventure scholarship, I knew I wanted my application to stand out as much as possible and demonstrate my skills as a designer. The only rules were to use an 8.5 x 11 piece of paper explaining why we deserve the opportunity and how we would pay it forward to other students. I folded a red 8.5 x 11 piece of paper into a tiny book with a short essay inside. On the back cover it said, "Unfold for a ripe surprise." Once unfolded, the red book transformed into a small poster with a "big apple" in the middle that said, "PLEASE PICK ME FOR NYC."

Once I was awarded the scholarship, I began to plan what agencies I'd like to know more about as well as lay out my objectives for my trip. It was extremely hard to pick only a few agencies. But through my own research and Joe Fairless' endless list of connections, I was afforded the opportunity to meet with three extremely prestigious firms: Pentagram, a design firm; MRY, a creative and technology agency; and Ogilvy & Mather, an advertising/marketing agency.

My objectives for the trip were as follows: first – to receive feedback on my student portfolio from industry professionals. In other words: To make sure my work was what they wanted to see in an interview. Second – to compare the working environment of a design firm versus an advertising/marketing agency in order to find where my skills might best utilized. Lastly – never having visited New York, I needed to determine if it was a place I even wanted to live and work in.



I arrived in New York Wednesday, April 23, high on ambition but extremely low on sleep, food and energy, as I'd spent every second of my time not only preparing for the trip but getting ahead on school projects, as well. After a good night's sleep in the gorgeous Flatiron Hotel, I was prepared to spend the morning at the world's largest independent design consultancy, Pentagram.

Times Square


At Pentagram, Larissa Marquez, a senior project manager, hosted me and introduced me to Natasha Jen, one of Pentagram's newer partners. I spent the morning observing Natasha's "team," a set of eight or so designers not much older than myself. I was allowed to see both current and completed projects and ask as many questions as I could. The designers were more than happy to spend 20 minutes with me each although they were very busy. Their approving smiles and nods while looking at my portfolio gave me a rush of relief as I realized I might just be good at this design thing. By the end of my time at Pentagram, I'd exchanged business cards with at least six new contacts. It was a dream-come-true just to spend a morning in a firm I hold in such high regard.

After Pentagram, I spent an hour soaking up the Flatiron district and tried some tacos from a food truck. The tacos had nothing on Texas, but the view certainly did.

Next, I was set to spend the rest of the day at MRY, an award-winning agency that creates digital work for clients like Visa, Spotify and Coca-Cola. I was in love with the atmosphere as soon as I stepped in the door. Where I had felt extremely serious and studious at Pentagram, I suddenly felt younger and more candid at MRY. I was hosted by Marketing Director Vinny Squillace who introduced me to David Yarus, general manager, and Lia Khayami, a creative who spent almost two hours with me discussing the industry, my place as a designer, and her experience of moving far away from home to work in NYC.



MRY is creating truly innovative campaigns that focus on beautiful, shareable, thought-provoking concepts. Viewing their work and hearing their philosophy gave me so much hope for the future of digital advertising. The most exciting part of my day was when, after looking at only three of my nine portfolio pieces, Lia told me I "had the chops" to start as a junior designer, no internship needed. She put me in contact with the creative services manager, and I'm excited to say that I'm considering a potential offer from MRY.



That evening, I got my first taste of Times Square with a friend of mine who moved to NYC following his graduation from Texas Tech two years ago. The next morning, I awoke with an email from Dan Langlitz, account director at Ogilvy & Mather, with an itinerary for my day. After touring the absolutely gorgeous offices, I met with a producer, a junior copywriter, and Amanda Sisk, the associate creative manager, all of whom spent one-on-one time answering my questions about life in the ad world. I also sat in on a conference call with the NASCAR account team and listened to them pitch their creative strategy for an upcoming project. I finished my day in the most beautiful way possible, by going to the roof of the office and enjoying the view of my newest favorite city.

I can't thank Joe Fairless enough for making this invaluable experience possible. I met every objective on my list and then some. I found out my work is not only "good enough" but also engaging and impressive. I noted that I felt more at home in an ad agency than I did at a design-only firm. Also, I now feel comfortable with considering a move to New York. This experience taught me so much about myself as a designer, a professional and as a person. I learned so much about the industry and the people who run it. This opportunity has already, and will no doubt continue to, open up various doors for me. I've already talked with countless students about my experience. I plan to visit Texas Tech in the fall to hold a more formal gathering in order to help my peers in their quest to discover New York and their place in the professional world.

Panoramic view from park

Stephany Bradford is a senior Communication Design Major and Advertising Minor from Lubbock, Texas. She has interned at a marketing firm in Lubbock as well as at a public relations firm in Dallas. This year she helped lead the Texas Tech Advertising Team to Nationals in the AAF National Student Advertising Competition as Creative Director.