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Agency Life

The Gift of Presence

The Gift of Presence

Danielle Smith

Danielle Smith

August 7, 2019

Finding the right fit professionally can lead to the freedom of living in the present.

"I like change, I’m not good at a routine, and I’m comfortable with project-based jobs where things are always a little different and there’s always something new."

Havas Media Group Global Chief Growth Officer Erin Flaxman shares how uncertainty and hard times led to her self-discovery and growth. Now in her global position growing the business at Havas, Flaxman explains how she got to this point and what she values about her life experience and professional development. 

 

How did you start your career? What attracted you to a career in advertising?

Honestly when I graduated there weren’t any jobs and I had a political science degree. And I saw an ad in the newspaper that said “advertising agency” and I thought ‘that sounded cool.’ It actually wasn’t even an agency it was like a media buying company in Toronto and I had to do this crappy task where I would work my way down a pile of newspaper clippings to measure the ad and see if we were paying the right amount for it. They moved me after about six months because they realized I wasn’t going to last long doing that. 

At the time I was living outside Toronto with one of my friends and a stranger and my room was in the solarium because I was so broke I had to live in a room that wasn’t even supposed to be a room. It was like this patio covered in glass and I woke up every morning sweating. 

 

Tell us a little about your role at Havas? 

I traveled a lot as a kid growing up and my dad was an operations person so I think I inherited his organizational abilities. I’ve always been good at tackling confusing projects and figuring them out; it doesn’t really stress me out. I started out as a media planner and did that for twelve years. Then I went and did my MBA, took a break from the agency world, and eventually realized I liked it and came back. 

I like to learn things and I like to meet people. The gist of it is I like change, I’m not good at a routine, and I’m comfortable with project-based jobs where things are always a little different and there’s always something new. Not to sound corny, but I’m not happy if I’m not growing.

 

What do you like about having a global role and seeing the Havas Village model in action?

I really like global because I really like the diversity of people that you meet. I like the travel. I like the challenge of working with people from different cultures and helping pull diverse groups of people together. It’s hard to get people from all over the world to come together and reach a consensus on projects and decisions. 

I had a hard time for a long time because I just really wasn’t happy doing my job. I think it’s important, and I think about it a lot now: some employees just aren’t in the right roles. It doesn’t mean you have to leave the company, but you have to be honest with yourself about your strengths and hopefully get to a job where you’re better suited. Global and project-based work is best for me.

"It made me learn how to see things in a different way. I used to let myself get so wound up and wasn’t realizing how I was contributing to my own emotional health."

You have some cool hobbies? What are they and how did you get into them? 

I went through a very tough time. I was stressed at work in a job I didn’t like with a company that wasn’t a good fit. My dad was dying of Alzheimer’s, and I got to a place where the stress was affecting me. I just really wasn’t healthy. So I stopped and I took a year off. 

I started the year off by going on a trip to Africa. I did a volunteer trip, and then a fitness trip also in Africa off the coast of Kenya. Getting away from New York and going to a completely different world that I’d never been to was so good for me. I remember like weeping, openly weeping because I felt so happy. I came back to The States and my dad was in a nursing home so I was able to spend time with him and I really prioritized my health. I realized there was something I needed to do differently. I needed to learn to take care of myself. So I signed up for a women’s group called She Creates Change. It was six months long and I started going to these meetings that really helped me see how important self care was. Those women introduced me to meditation and that’s when I started thinking about yoga and Ayurveda. I read Deepak Chopra’s book called Perfect Health, which is all about the Ayurvedic approach to health but in a western, digestible way. 

 

How did this time off and the experiences of studying change you personally and professionally?

So I eventually ended up quitting my job again and went to a place called Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in Massachusetts. I did a year long course studying Ayurveda. We would do ten days of learning and studying and then an at home self-study. So I’m an Ayurvedic Health Counselor after taking that course. The certification doesn’t mean much because it’s not a licensed practice here, but I’ve completed phase one of the study. 

It made me learn how to see things in a different way. I used to let myself get so wound up and wasn’t realizing how I was contributing to my own emotional health. Now I have all these tools that I can use that immediately change how I feel. Recently I decided to do the New York marathon. This is my way of giving myself something to focus on for the next few months. Having a global job you can easily eat, drink, and never exercise. You’re just too tired and time goes by and you’re not healthy. 

 

What is something your colleagues don’t know about you? Or just generally surprising about you?

I guess I would say that I appear to be the most extroverted person, but I actually have a really introverted side. People will be surprised when I tell them I’m doing things by myself like traveling and those kinds of things. It’s really just a balance because on one hand I am so extroverted and so often I need to lock myself away and recharge. 

 

How do you inspire others?

By using humor and making sure people know they don’t need to take everything so seriously. You know it can be fun. It doesn’t have to be so stressful all the time.

 

What are you really good at?

Drinking wine…I mean, no, really I am good at talking to strangers. I can talk to anybody. I just don’t have any problem talking to strangers and new people. I like to just chat with people. I definitely got that from my father. Even when he was sick and in the nursing home my dad was like the mayor of the nursing home. So I definitely inherited the trait of being chatty.

 

What are you really bad at?

Sometimes I don’t have a lot of patience for people who…how do I say this…I don’t suffer fools gladly. I also think sometimes I’m not good at listening to people that I don’t agree with. 

 

What’s the best advice you ever received? 

To live in the moment and not worry so much about the future or the past. 

"I like change, I’m not good at a routine, and I’m comfortable with project-based jobs where things are always a little different and there’s always something new."

Havas Media Group Global Chief Growth Officer Erin Flaxman shares how uncertainty and hard times led to her self-discovery and growth. Now in her global position growing the business at Havas, Flaxman explains how she got to this point and what she values about her life experience and professional development. 

 

How did you start your career? What attracted you to a career in advertising?

Honestly when I graduated there weren’t any jobs and I had a political science degree. And I saw an ad in the newspaper that said “advertising agency” and I thought ‘that sounded cool.’ It actually wasn’t even an agency it was like a media buying company in Toronto and I had to do this crappy task where I would work my way down a pile of newspaper clippings to measure the ad and see if we were paying the right amount for it. They moved me after about six months because they realized I wasn’t going to last long doing that. 

At the time I was living outside Toronto with one of my friends and a stranger and my room was in the solarium because I was so broke I had to live in a room that wasn’t even supposed to be a room. It was like this patio covered in glass and I woke up every morning sweating. 

 

Tell us a little about your role at Havas? 

I traveled a lot as a kid growing up and my dad was an operations person so I think I inherited his organizational abilities. I’ve always been good at tackling confusing projects and figuring them out; it doesn’t really stress me out. I started out as a media planner and did that for twelve years. Then I went and did my MBA, took a break from the agency world, and eventually realized I liked it and came back. 

I like to learn things and I like to meet people. The gist of it is I like change, I’m not good at a routine, and I’m comfortable with project-based jobs where things are always a little different and there’s always something new. Not to sound corny, but I’m not happy if I’m not growing.

 

What do you like about having a global role and seeing the Havas Village model in action?

I really like global because I really like the diversity of people that you meet. I like the travel. I like the challenge of working with people from different cultures and helping pull diverse groups of people together. It’s hard to get people from all over the world to come together and reach a consensus on projects and decisions. 

I had a hard time for a long time because I just really wasn’t happy doing my job. I think it’s important, and I think about it a lot now: some employees just aren’t in the right roles. It doesn’t mean you have to leave the company, but you have to be honest with yourself about your strengths and hopefully get to a job where you’re better suited. Global and project-based work is best for me.

"It made me learn how to see things in a different way. I used to let myself get so wound up and wasn’t realizing how I was contributing to my own emotional health."

You have some cool hobbies? What are they and how did you get into them? 

I went through a very tough time. I was stressed at work in a job I didn’t like with a company that wasn’t a good fit. My dad was dying of Alzheimer’s, and I got to a place where the stress was affecting me. I just really wasn’t healthy. So I stopped and I took a year off. 

I started the year off by going on a trip to Africa. I did a volunteer trip, and then a fitness trip also in Africa off the coast of Kenya. Getting away from New York and going to a completely different world that I’d never been to was so good for me. I remember like weeping, openly weeping because I felt so happy. I came back to The States and my dad was in a nursing home so I was able to spend time with him and I really prioritized my health. I realized there was something I needed to do differently. I needed to learn to take care of myself. So I signed up for a women’s group called She Creates Change. It was six months long and I started going to these meetings that really helped me see how important self care was. Those women introduced me to meditation and that’s when I started thinking about yoga and Ayurveda. I read Deepak Chopra’s book called Perfect Health, which is all about the Ayurvedic approach to health but in a western, digestible way. 

 

How did this time off and the experiences of studying change you personally and professionally?

So I eventually ended up quitting my job again and went to a place called Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in Massachusetts. I did a year long course studying Ayurveda. We would do ten days of learning and studying and then an at home self-study. So I’m an Ayurvedic Health Counselor after taking that course. The certification doesn’t mean much because it’s not a licensed practice here, but I’ve completed phase one of the study. 

It made me learn how to see things in a different way. I used to let myself get so wound up and wasn’t realizing how I was contributing to my own emotional health. Now I have all these tools that I can use that immediately change how I feel. Recently I decided to do the New York marathon. This is my way of giving myself something to focus on for the next few months. Having a global job you can easily eat, drink, and never exercise. You’re just too tired and time goes by and you’re not healthy. 

 

What is something your colleagues don’t know about you? Or just generally surprising about you?

I guess I would say that I appear to be the most extroverted person, but I actually have a really introverted side. People will be surprised when I tell them I’m doing things by myself like traveling and those kinds of things. It’s really just a balance because on one hand I am so extroverted and so often I need to lock myself away and recharge. 

 

How do you inspire others?

By using humor and making sure people know they don’t need to take everything so seriously. You know it can be fun. It doesn’t have to be so stressful all the time.

 

What are you really good at?

Drinking wine…I mean, no, really I am good at talking to strangers. I can talk to anybody. I just don’t have any problem talking to strangers and new people. I like to just chat with people. I definitely got that from my father. Even when he was sick and in the nursing home my dad was like the mayor of the nursing home. So I definitely inherited the trait of being chatty.

 

What are you really bad at?

Sometimes I don’t have a lot of patience for people who…how do I say this…I don’t suffer fools gladly. I also think sometimes I’m not good at listening to people that I don’t agree with. 

 

What’s the best advice you ever received? 

To live in the moment and not worry so much about the future or the past. 

Danielle Smith is the Communications Manager of Havas Group. She’s believes every meal can be tacos if you have tortillas and the heart to try.

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