Member Highlight: Ammar Mahesri

Introducing the first in our new series of interviews to highlight our spectacular members! We’re starting with the following conversation between our Membership Co-Chairs, Chris and Caitlin, and our first highlighted member: Ammar Mahesri, one of our Diversity Co-Chairs.

Introducing the first in our new series of interviews to highlight our spectacular members! We’re starting with the following conversation between our Membership Co-Chairs, Chris and Caitlin, and our first highlighted member: Ammar Mahesri, one of our Diversity Co-Chairs.

Q: We know you’re a student at UT, what are you studying right now?

A: I am a 5th year double major in Business Marketing and Rhetoric & Writing.

Q: So what would be your dream job?

A: I think something where I can find a unique blend of those two, where I am able to make my own hours, but work in maybe consulting or somewhere in the ad industry as a creative director or strategist.

Q: I’m sure with your degree you have an interest in copywriting?

A: Yeah, definitely copywriting more than design.

Q: How long have you been with Ad 2?

A: I joined Ad 2 September of last year, 2017. It’s such an interesting story how I found out about Ad 2, because the place I was interning at over the summer called CultHealth which is an ad hoc pharma marketing agency in New York. My last week there I sent out an email saying this is my last week here if you guys have any contacts, please reach out to me- I’d like to know more about this industry and get my feet wet. This woman that worked there gave me contact info of Susy, who at the time was the president. I reached out to her asking if she knew of any opportunities available to aspiring ad folk in Austin. And she told me she was president of an org called Ad 2, and a few weeks later, there I was.

Q: You actually joined me on a committee, do you want to talk a little bit more about that?

A: Yeah while I was figuring out what to do in Ad 2, I came across Public Service and when they told me what it was about, which was basically working with an Austin non-profit to create a campaign free of charge for the benefit of that organization, I was immediately taken with it, it was definitely the most appealing of all the committees for me when I got there. I applied and just sort of went for it. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting. I was still very new to advertising especially in terms of what I wanted to do specifically account or creative- I had had a little bit of experience in both so I was just like, you know what let’s run with it.

Q: How would you compare your experience on that team to your course work, in terms of responsibility and application of skills?

A: I think the fact that I did decide to take on writing as a second major really did open up a lot more doors for me in regards to what I could actually contribute to for projects and the campaign itself. So coming in I knew I was assigned to creative and I knew despite having more experience on the accounts side this was still something I could see myself performing well in and the course work I did was actually very applicable to what I was doing – the copywriting and social posts. It was very writing intensive as copywriting is. Through proofreading editing and getting a sense of what it was like to switch gears between different styles of writing, different tones and voices, etc. It was actually a really rewarding experience for me.

Q: Did you feel like you got a better idea of how an agency role works considering that that team operates very similarly to an agency process?

A: Yeah, definitely. Especially after having just come back from a work experience this was really convenient in that I able to carry forth with similar practices. It was really relatable to what I was exposed to at Cult.

Q: It’s interesting too because you were an account intern at Cult, so you kind of got experience in the strategic project management side and the creative copywriting side. Very Cool.

A: It was a happy accident, so I’m glad I have that at my disposal.

Q: What do you love about Ad 2, or do you have any favorite memories?

A: I was a little nervous at first because I knew it wasn’t a college-centric organization. It was through Austin itself and I was not going to be interacting with people my own age, and that obviously to younger kids is a little daunting at first, but I loved how welcoming everyone was. But it definitely provided a new perspective on working as a young adult in this industry specifically but also I felt just in general. People are unique and leaving college, yes it is the close of a chapter, but it doesn’t mean that you lose yourself entirely.

Q: Glad to know we haven’t destroyed the idea of post grad for you!

A: No not at all! I actually love how warm and fun the people in this org are. It’s nice to be a part of.

Q: I remember being a senior in college and It became really scary because you are approaching this next chapter you know so little about. How do you feel knowing you’re leaving college with all the connections you’re gaining from ad 2, does that give you comfort?

A: It does fill me with this sense of confidence and optimism. I’m more informed than I feel like some of my peers are because I’ve had this unique opportunity to be a part of something I know a lot of college students aren’t a part of, which is something I know that Ad 2 perhaps wants to change. It was chance for me that I found something like this just before the cusp of when I feel a lot more college students were looking for something like this. It’s not intuitive for college students to think of approaching an org from outside of school. I’ve definitely mentioned this org to a wide # of people in business, liberal arts, comms, you name it. When it comes up, it’s not something that a lot of people think about, which is unfortunate but I think that if that mentality shifts it can really have a great benefit on those people.

Q: Tell us more about you. What do you do for fun, what are your passions, do you volunteer?

A: UT student,  For my entire college career I have been a part of an acapella group, so I’ve been a singer and performer since the fourth grade. So I try and spread my wings as far wide as I can. I’ve done a lot of volunteering events not just through Ad 2, but through the group as well, I used to be a part of a leadership development group. I am a huge traveler, I love traveling, and try to do it as often as I can.

Q: What is your favorite place you’ve traveled to?

A: How recent?

Q: Top 3

A: Top 3 are Norway, Singapore, and Canada. I love Vancouver so much. I had spent barely a week there over the summer just driving through it. It’s so green and just pretty to look at. It is close to Whistler, which is also gorgeous and there’s a lot to do there. I just got a really good vibe from the whole city.

Q: What do you think is a major personal benefit you’ve gained from traveling?

A: Traveling to me is an invaluable experience. Not just for the self but also for the way you approach life and future endeavors or whatever it might be. Because you’re exposed to so many different things. And being from a fairly diverse background myself, I have grown up living that way, so my approach to travel and experiencing new things has always been very open. And I’ve never regretted it for even a second.

Q: Now that I know this, I was going to ask you do you want to stay in Austin, or are you open to other states or even countries?

A: As much as it kills me to say this because I love Austin so much and I love its people dearly, I don’t think I’ll actually be staying in Austin. My top two places are Vancouver and New York. I actually lived in NY for a couple of years when I was really young. That along with my repeated visits back to visit family and experience the city have really solidified my love for it. I would like to go back there, but as I said I’m really down for anything.

Q: Are you doing any special projects, or do you have anything cool going on in school right now?

A:The classes I’m taking right now are actually really exciting, in my opinion because one of them is a brand management course that just focuses not just on the foundations of branding, but goes a little bit more in depth and requires us to examine a lot of case studies and conduct our own brand auditing project. It’s taught over at McCombs and it has been really rewarding to me and the professors have been invaluable to me this year because they just provide so much knowledge about this thing that they’re studying that I just am fascinated by. So, I bother them constantly.

There’s also a reputation risk and crisis management course that I’m taking, which might sound straightforward, but there’s so much that we don’t take into account because it’s about your personal reputation and a business reputation and how to maintain that and propel it forward, so I really like that a lot. And then my last one sounds kind of boring; it’s called marketing information and analysis but it’s a lot more interesting I promise. It’s about finding and using data and data analytics to find trends in the market to provide that foundation as to why marketing teams do the things they do. My professor is kind of wild and he makes it a lot of fun, so it’s just an added bonus.

Q: So, we talked about your schooling, career goals, jobs…tell me what you think makes you unique as an applicant.

A: So, my whole shtick in college I guess has just been a little different from everyone else when I do discuss it with people. I came into UT as a business student, and I think like most people I had no idea what I was doing, but I felt especially clueless. So, I spent the first couple of years wandering around, not really sure what to do, because I felt like I was using certain aspects of my skill-set but not all of them, and it left me feeling with a sense of unfulfillment but I wanted more out of it. And finding a second major, along with the things I was doing with the performing arts and just being involved in any way I could through McCombs. I was in a leadership program for a year, I participated in a few committees through the undergraduate business council, but I still was looking for something a little more permanent and a little more rewarding.

So, with that addition of the second major I think the combination of those two, provided me with something that to this day, I have not heard of anyone else having. The things I have studied and the things I have gone onto do were a result of doing those things, and I’m always greeted back with surprise, interest, or both. I would like to say that my zest for new things, knowledge, and experiencing as many things as I can in a variety of fields sets me apart from most people. I know that the traditional mindset of people going into college and approaching a career is that it’s a very one-track state and people tend to not want to diverge off their path and want to get things as soon as possible, or want to get things done in the most convenient way. And I know not everyone feels that way, but I know that it tends to be the popular mindset and I just don’t adhere to that.

Q: You’ve got the creative path in college and the marketing and strategy side. Tell me how you think that prepares you to succeed in an agency because you have this pretty interesting dual perspective.

A: I’m glad you touched on that because I think that I have learned a lot of hard skills because of experiencing all of these different things, but I think the most valuable asset that has helped me a lot thus far has been gaining a sense of real empathy. I have been able to really understand so many different people’s positions and where they come from when it comes to their work because I have literally done some of those things, regardless of how long or short my time with that has been, it’s been able to give me this slight insight at least into all sorts of different things that people do. I think that has been so crucial in helping me find the strangest opportunities in the most bizarre situations. I’m not saying it’s the only way it happens, but in my experience the way I’ve approached it, that’s just how things sort of work out. And not to say that it happens by happenstance, but creating that sense of vulnerability with people by empathizing with them and really connecting with them can really open doors.

Q: What are your top 3 strengths?

A: My writing abilities, adaptability and public speaking

Q: Weaknesses?

A: I can’t make duck.

Q: What kind of work environment do you think you could thrive in the most and why?

A: I think based on the strengths that I presented Ii think working in a collaborative group environment is something that’s definitely suited for me because I love interacting with others and brainstorming with other people sort of feeding info off of each other. Being able to do that in my classes is one thing and it’s really exciting so I can’t even imagine what it must be like in a corporate environment that really has a strong sense of that.

Q: Why do you like that?

A: It’s just interesting to me. Thinking by yourself is also very rewarding, but I think the classic two heads are better than one, and I think a whole group can sometimes be better than two. You can quote me on that – Ammar Mahesri 2018... just kidding. There’s just something energizing about it.

Q: What do you love most about advertising

A: It kind of embodies the way I have approached my career from here on out in that it’s a little bit radical from what I’ve seen and I like that. It’s a little off the beaten path in the way people approach their work and the way people think through things, and that’s refreshing to see. Coming from schools and environments where that sort of mentality is not necessarily frowned upon, but it’s not necessarily glorified.

Q: As an Indian man yourself entering an industry that struggles heavily with diversity, how does that resonate with you, and do you see an opportunity to pave the way for other people or is it exciting for you to break a mold that the industry is kind of stuck in of being predominantly white and male?

A: I don’t know if I’m the person to pave the path, who knows, we might know later down the line, I’m not sure. But I do think having seen how the industry is traditionally structured there is a lot of room to grow and the more I’ve integrated myself into Ad 2 and just advertising in general, I’ve actually tried to expand diversity within the orgs I’ve tried to associate with.

Q: We should now probably mention that you are now entering the diversity co-chair role.

A: Yeah that’s pretty fitting. With that in mind I am going to continue to make sure that I publicize how important diversity within the workplace, not just in advertising, but across all industries is so valuable and so integral to a thriving business. So along with the blog posts I think we are going to incorporate a lot more diversity panels and not just diversity in the broad sense and sort of focusing on specific ethnicities, sexualities, identities and so on.

Q: Why do you think diversity is important to have in an industry that is so influential and that you’re producing content that is viewed by mass numbers of people?

A: You kind of just nailed it on the head with the question itself. The material we send out is supposed to represent the population itself and our population in this country is very very diverse and that’s something that might get lost in the ad industry currently, but I’m confident that we’ve been exposing that for what it truly is currently and I think we’re making some really great strides in turning that around and making material that is truly representative of the people we embody.

Q: Do you tie that to your empathy?

A: Absolutely. I do personally identify with the diversity aspect on a number of levels. Besides being of an Indian background, I come from a mother who is a Hindu and a father who is a Muslim, so in light of that sort of dichotomy, I was never raised with such stark separations in my childhood, but I was nurtured to have this very accepting mindset of all things especially coming from a background that historically has had so much controversy, being exposed to that at a young age and growing with it in a healthy way has made me the person I am now.

Dax PattonComment