Exit interview: VMLY&R's Lisa Hezila on 'change' as she ventures out of adland

Having spent 15 years with the agency, Lisa Hezila (pictured) has become synonymous with the Y&R brand. But now, she's ready to bid her farewell to adland.

She joined Paragon Y&R in October 2004 and was later promoted to general manager for Y&R Malaysia, working on clients such as Colgate, Campbell's and Cerebos. In 2013, she was named managing director of the agency and remained in the role even after Y&R's merger with VML last September.

In an exit interview with A+M, Hezila shares how she kept the passion within her burning during the past 15 years and her thoughts on moving on from VMLY&R.

A+M: How does it feel to move on from your role having spent 15 years with the agency?

Hezila: There were two things I experienced. First, it was emotional for me, as this has been my family for 15 years. I grew up, learnt so many things and worked with so many interesting people here.  Second, there was a moment when I knew the team was ready and I felt like my job was done, and that’s when the happiness kicked in.
I know I'm leaving the agency that I poured my heart and soul into with a strong leader and reliable team members.

A+M: How did you keep that passion within you burning bright during the last 15 years?

Hezila: Passion is the key driver in anything we do. When you are open to learning new things every day, when you embrace challenges with a solution-driven mindset, when you feel like you are accomplishing something – those are the things that keep you going.

My bosses have always said I have this massive energy and that’s what helps to ensure I just keep doing. It also helps that I work well under pressure and under tight deadlines; agency life gives me an adrenaline rush!

A+M: What are some of the biggest changes you've experienced in the adland over the past 15 years?

Hezila: The biggest change, by far, is understanding and optimising for the dynamic talent pool. Fifteen years ago, the talent background and expertise were straight forward, for a straight forward output.

Today’s talent pool comes from diverse backgrounds and specialise in specific, niche skillsets. It is about recognising how to best utilise that talent, whether it is for a specific output, or to be part of client's transformation journey.

 A+M: What skills do you think are required in today's advertising/marketing industry?

Hezila: The top skill today’s adland employees need is a "change" mindset. Meaning, you must be able to embrace the change in the environment, people, knowledge and in anything you do. We need people with that "change" mindset and skillset to keep pace with an ever-evolving industry.

 A+M: What are some challenges Malaysia's adland faces today?

Hezila: My answer to this has been very consistent from day one – it’s finding good, right talents for the job and the agency, and tahan lasak (perseverance) attitude! We’ve been incredibly lucky and grateful at VMLY&R to have a team full of people who check every box, and I’d like to think that it is a part of my legacy to have built an agency where we attract this talent.

A+M: What will you miss about Malaysia's adland?

Hezila: The fun, crazy, full-of-ideas people.

A+M: What are you most proud of during your time at VMLY&R?

Hezila: There were so many proud moments that it’s hard for me to pick one! I think the best feeling was each time the team put in their heart and soul to accomplish something. When the team and client becomes one family to achieve something, that sparks joy to me.

A+M: One tip for individuals eager to enter the ad industry?

Hezila: This is something else I have been consistent about since I started in the industry. “Big picture or don't join!” By this I mean, if you can imagine yourself sitting in the CEO's chair one day and are willing to work very hard for it, then go for it! There is no shortcut to success!!

(Read also: Meet Y&R Malaysia’s Lisa Hezila)