Bringing authenticity and finding your place in media  

3 August 2021
Rachel Andrada.

(Half the industry has between three and eight years’ experience. But we don’t always get to hear their thoughts. As part of a collaboration with GroupM’s Young Leaders Committee nCo, AdNews asked four of GroupM’s rising stars for their perspective on an industry hot topic.)


When you start out in media, the lines between work and play can be blurry.  It’s a balancing act building your professional reputation and being authentic in a highly social industry, says GroupM’s Rachel Andrada

Many of us enter media from a stroke of chance, but there are common threads between us all when we start out. One of those is learning how to balance the work-hard play-hard mentality. 

Maybe you knew where you wanted to be and sought out media and advertising. Maybe you finished a communications degree and ended up where the jobs happened to be at the time. Or possibly you were referred by a friend who gave you a general gist of the industry and said, “Give it a go. It’s not perfect. There are long hours here and there, a bit more maths than you might expect, but you pick it up and it’s heaps of fun.” 

The similarities in all of us that landed us our first media roles, include being ambitious, curious, willing to dig deep and, in one way or another, being good with people. Another common thread when we took our first role was that more often than not, we were blindsided by how media would be culturally and socially unlike anything we’d ever experienced before. Starting out at a media agency, I know I expected more button-up shirts and blazers, but I found the daily wear was more about T-shirts and media-white sneakers. The reward of Friday lunches and odd office pranks weren’t the sorts of things I’d seen coming either.

Once starting, our focus was on how to be impressive. We tried hard emulating the brilliance we saw from our seniors in a high-pressure, spreadsheet heavy, tools-heavy, meeting-heavy job. However, wider team structures, hierarchies and relaxed dress codes were a little hard to pick because most people around you seemed about your age. Then, when you hit your first few media parties, you couldn’t quite put your finger on how to carry yourself.

The tricky thing is working in high pressure environments, it’s best done when everyone knows and can rely on each other. The icebreakers are hardcore banter and social events.  You quickly learn that this is an industry where relationships have historically been forged over drinks, and those relationships become lasting professional networks and deep friendships that propel you forward in life.

But from parties and lunches, to catch ups and team WIPs, where’s the line between socialising and work? At the other end of the spectrum, what if you lean on the introverted side and you feel yourself forcing interactions? The lines often blur and the underlying feeling of wanting to impress, unintentionally turns into more time overcommitting and more energy worrying about the workplace. Eventually you learn how to settle in, albeit with some challenges and self-doubt, but sometimes without realising it, you run the risk of losing what makes you, YOU.

So, how do you embrace agency and media culture and maintain your authentic self? 

In the years since starting out in media agencies, I’ve learned from myself and those around me that it's possible for everyone to find a home in media whether you’re a social butterfly or on the introverted side. I’ve learned to turn the volume down on harsh expectations I put on myself and run my own race to reach my aspirations.  You don’t need to emulate others to become a superstar. It's about maintaining your authentic self, which becomes your centre of gravity and helps you navigate the industry.

Here are 3 ways I’ve learned to navigate the culture, finding my personal version of balance:

  1. Focus less on fitting a mould and have fun. But, lead with respect and working hard

The single most important thing I’ve learned is in media, you need to bring your whole self to work. You can’t compare yourself and spend all your energy trying to match other people, otherwise you get carried away. For example, watching others present and worrying you won’t be as good, you buckle under the pressure. Or trying to go drink-for-drink at a party, when that isn’t your style. If you feel different to others, own that and create your own mould. You might find that’s where your strengths lie.

  1. Get a mentor and don’t be afraid to open up

Having someone to lean on and have conversations with, who has been there and done that makes a world of difference. The key to mentor and mentee relationships is to relax and understand that both of you are learning. It trains you to be human with someone senior and over time you will notice confidence in being both professional and authentically yourself in more situations. 

  1. Listen to yourself

You need to have a degree of compartmentalising who you are at work and who you are outside of work. What this looks like is different for everyone, but the main thing is being able to distinguish what you need versus what the job needs. One of the most transformational decisions you can make is to give yourself one or two nights a week that you schedule something for yourself and yourself only. Book club, pottery making class, dance class, gym. Once you establish that, you’ll find you are more present and naturally more yourself at work as a result. 

Ultimately, it’s tough for all of us to navigate an industry where the social situations we face can be polarising in nature. If you can hold onto your individuality and the brilliant stuff that makes you who you are, it all starts to make a little more sense. It’s much more fulfilling too. Underlying all of this must be respect for your peers and your bosses and you will never go wrong. 

Rachel Andrada is a manager, marketplace at MediaCom and chair of GroupM’s Young Leaders Committee nCo.  



comments powered by Disqus