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Career Stories - Dallas

Account Supervisor
Chisholm Mingo Group, Inc.

...I got an opportunity to do a lot of stuff. From formulating strategy to ad design to sales to buying mailing lists to making copies to defrosting the refrigerator...

My path into the advertising industry has been an unconventional one. I attended Hampton University and majored in Psychology. My aim when I entered Hampton was to become a Psychologist. After my sophomore year, I joined the Army ROTC program. Primarily because I wasn't sure what I wanted to do after school and figured by becoming an Army officer I would have a guaranteed job, get to travel, and learn some valuable skills. Upon graduation, I was commissioned as a Lieutenant and had a three-year active duty commitment.

My plan was to do my three years and make a move to the private sector. I had absolutely no idea what I would do, but I was definitely going to 'make my move'. A strange thing happened after a year in Korea and another at Ft. Dix, NJ, I started liking what I was doing. Nearly seven years later, after living in Oklahoma and Germany, I had learned a lot about people, life and myself. I feel blessed for what the experience has taught me.

I decided to leave the military in 1994 and linked up with a headhunter who specialized in placing junior military officers. I knew I had developed some marketable skills, but still wasn't sure what industry or career path to pursue. I like to talk, so I did well in interviews with companies offering sales positions, but my Army experience taught me how to be a manager. Sales or management, I couldn't decide. So...I went for the money.

My first job after the Army was as a production manager at a major manufacturer of printed circuit boards. I had 35 people who visually inspected finished circuit boards all day. They looked at circuit boards...and I looked at them look at circuit boards. The money was good...real good, but after a year I had to go. I don't know if you remember the Dunkin Donuts commercial featuring the line "time to make the donuts", but that's exactly how I felt. Following nine years of active Army service, the boredom was killing me.

After a year in the private sector, I no longer had the label of being a 'junior military officer', and it was difficult to revisit some of the opportunities offered during that first job search, but I knew that sales was a better place for me to be.

I got a job with Reuben Donnelly, a Dunn & Bradstreet company. At the time, they were the sales organization that represented telephone company yellow pages sales in the New York area and in other markets around the country. That...was a fun job. Commissions were high, company car, they had no competition in the market, and they treated their sales people very, very well.

The thing that was most helpful in doing yellow pages sales was that very few industries could use yellow pages alone and be successful. Therefore, for me to succeed I had no choice but to learn and understand how to give businesses advice on all aspects of trying to get & keep customers.

While at Donnelly, I read about a man named Andrew Morrison in Black Enterprise magazine. Andrew had a marketing company called Nia Direct that specialized in targeted direct response advertising. I called Andrew for about three months because I wanted to get him to buy advertising in the Business-to-Business yellow pages. I finally got an appointment after about the 25th call. Unfortunately, he didn't buy anything. However, about eight months later, Andrew called and told me he was expanding his company and asked me to come interview. It was the best no-sale of my life.

I joined Nia Direct in January 1998. As one of 10 employees [8 in NY, 2 in ATL] in a small African American owned agency you got an opportunity to do a lot of stuff. From formulating strategy to ad design to sales to buying mailing lists to making copies to defrosting the refrigerator. During my time at Nia, I also went back to school to earn my MBA. The beauty of working at Nia Direct was that my role was to bring in business selling direct mail programs and servicing two major existing clients. In other words, my schedule was what ever I wanted it to be. That may sound like fun, but to be successful, I had to put in a lot of hours.

I left Nia Direct in October 1999, and joined The Chisholm-Mingo Group. Strangely, my introduction to the company came from a friend whose cousin worked here. What is strange about it is that her job in sales came from an introduction to my cousin who worked at Merck pharmaceuticals.

At Chisholm-Mingo I work or have worked on the US Army, US Navy, and US Postal Service accounts. After eight months with the agency, I was promoted to Account Supervisor, and became the lead person on the US Postal Service account. The thing I believe was most instrumental in getting the promotion was my willingness to do the 'dirty' work.

Advertising is all about research. Learning as much as possible about the client/product, the industry, and the target is the foundation for building an effective message. Learning to gather, digest, and analyze large volumes of information quickly is an invaluable skill that can make your job easier. I've also learned one of the biggest obstacles to analyzing data and developing a message is understanding that your own personal feelings & ideas can't be allowed to influence how you evaluate a situation. Let your understanding of the research be your guide.

The best advice I can give to someone wanting to enter the advertising field is to read as much as you can about the industry and its trends. Information is everywhere, grab it, learn it, and where it fits...apply it. Ask questions, and be clear about what you want to achieve. The advertising/marketing business has many disciplines. It's good to know something about all of them, but focus on what you want to do whether it is creative, account services, media, or research.


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