Having worked across a variety of sectors such as property, healthcare, technology and telecommunications, it may seem surprising that Archana Menon worked as a part-time sales assistant at a jewellery shop for two years.
Menon loved her job so much that if not for landing an internship at Mindshare, she may well have become a professional jewellery designer. Her first exposure at Mindshare, where she worked with the Unilever foods team as an assistant media planner and supported brands such as Lipton and Knorr, gave her a first taste of advertising.
“The collaborative aspects of this field impressed me the most! Every agency played an integral role in bringing the campaign to life. Being part of these sessions gave me an understanding of the importance of nailing the brief and ensuring that we’re delivering key messages - right from the start - to key target audiences,” she explained. Menon added that it was always amazing to see debates and tension end in amazing ideas.
Her amazement with what advertising entailed drove her to ultimately stay and pursue a career in the creative industry. As she climbed up the corporate ladder, she worked with brands such as Ova, Influence360, and RudderFinn, according to her LinkedIn profile. Eventually, with the wealth of knowledge and experience she had accumulated, she assumed the role of Mutant Communications’ country manager.
Read more from Menon below.
A+M: Who was the mentor who influenced you the most and how?
Menon: I have been really lucky to be blessed with mentors at every job who I still engage with, years later. One person who has inspired me immensely is Lina Marican, Mutant’s regional managing director. I love the way she challenges the status quo of how agencies have always worked, and champions our teams and their well-being while still ensuring that our clients get the best results. She leads with grace and kindness and that has been truly inspiring to me to ensure the same for the teams I lead. There have been others who have openly shared their knowledge, while nudging me to strive for more than what I thought I could achieve.
A+M: What's the harshest criticism you've received and how did you cope with it?
Menon: I would say probably the harshest criticism I got was as a junior – racing against time to meet deadlines. In this instance, the launch date was looming, and even though I had done everything by the book, I had to scramble over the weekend and ensure that we made it happen by the launch date.
I shudder to think of it, but the experience taught me the importance of accountability, planning ahead and what it means to be a project manager. It is always easy to point fingers and say it is the client's fault for not meeting the deadline. However, taking a step back and understanding their own pressures, where they are coming from and helping to set them up for success, makes a huge difference.
A+M: Describe your own management style now as a leader.
Menon: I'm always looking at ways to be better as a leader. It begins with knowledge and tapping on experiences of others before me, and striving to remain agile and open.
I have tried different ways in the past six years, and I found that flexing different approaches has led me to develop my own style of management. If I had to describe it, I would say that it is something of a mix between a democratic and coaching style, which I feel works to people's strengths and helps play that up. Essentially, I believe that everyone has leadership qualities and strengths that they can bring out in their team, and it is how you identify that and help them see it for themselves.
A+M: What's one thing you wished employees understood about being a leader?
Menon: That it is not just about the title - but really, I wish they understood that it is about the people and the business. There is also always an opportunity to be a leader in any position, and I think it comes with ownership and the drive to excel.
That aside, I also think employees always feel that they need to present their best selves to management. However, I urge my team to be as honest as possible with your leaders, as we have your best interests at heart.
So really understanding what your goals are, and what you need to be your best selves or even how you like to receive feedback. The more honest and transparent you are – the better we can support you.
A+M: What do you do during your free time?
Menon: Despite having to read all day long, I love nothing better than curling up with a good mystery-murder book during the weekend. My husband and I bought our first landed home, and we have been taking the better part of the year trying to decorate it and doing (meaning I watch my husband and support him mentally) a lot of home DIY.
A+M: Where do you find your inspiration?
Menon: Inspiration can come from anywhere - whether it’s a conversation with a good friend, or through research. I find the best source of inspiration comes from travelling and exploring new cultures.
A+M: What advice do you have for someone looking to start a career in the industry?
Menon: Research, research, research - there's so much to learn in this industry from other brands, thought leaders, and even from your everyday life. Really understand how different people think, and you will go so far.
A+M: What issue would you like to see the industry change in 2022?
Menon: More inter-agency collaborations. Having worked with some great clients who encourage this, we have seen some amazing collaborations come out of this, and the pie is big enough for us to grow and become better, together.
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