Company: Small Army
Interviewee: Brianna Lonergan
Interviewer: Kiki Asuncion
Kiki: How did you get started in advertising?
Brianna: I came to Small Army as this being my first job in advertising, so this is all I know in terms of work experience. As far as how I got into advertising—I decided later on in my college career that advertising seemed like a really interesting and fitting industry for someone like myself. I started looking a little later than I would have liked once I realized how difficult it is to get started. When I did eventually complete my bachelors and masters degrees I went on the job hunt. I learned that you pretty much always either need an in or experience with an internship to get an entry level position. In hopes of kicking off my career in something I would actually like to do rather than just getting a job that wasn’t completely what I was looking for just to pay for students loans, I found Small Army while doing online research. Small Army was willing to take me in for an internship as a post grad. I knew it was unpaid but I figured I’ve already been a poor college kid for a few years now, so I came in and I quickly figured out this is where I wanted to be and this is what I wanted to do. After a few months they did offer me a full time position and that was a few years ago so I’ve been here ever since.
K: I understand that Small Army is a very different agency in terms of culture. If you had the opportunity to move to a larger agency, would you like to branch away from the intimate climate here?
B: I think at this point in my career I have a lot to learn both from Small Army and a smaller agency. The great thing about working with a small company is that you get to wear many hats and that means more opportunity to grow. I think it’s a unique situation where you get to take risks—engaging in things you aren’t necessarily comfortable with or are new to you. A place like this gives you that support to learn and to hone skills you didn’t even know you needed or might be good at. It’s something that has enabled my coworkers and I to find out what we like and don’t like. It’s a very flexible situation when you work at a small agency. It’s definitely more conducive to the learning process as opposed to a larger company where you might only have a certain task and you’ll move up from there.
K: What does your job title as an Account Executive entail?
B: It entails a little bit of everything. So being an account executive is a really dynamic role, especially in a place like this. You will be involved in all day to day operations, with clients—ensuring they get what they need, listening and understanding your clients—and also in turn working for your team. You work for your creative team to ensure their vision is communicated and making sure feedback is articulated properly. You are there for both parties. Essentially on any different day I am working on two different sides and trying to make it as collaborative as possible. With that comes a lot of responsibility in terms of just day to day tasks but there’s also a lot of thinking and strategy involved. There are a lot of thinking and writing and discussions that allow you to become a more confident version of your self—in terms of being a project manager and in terms of being a leader, both on your account and as a part of the larger team in the larger agency. Being an account executive is a rewarding role. It’s a great experience that lets you exercise that creativity we all have within us. By all means I think what is really great about Small Army is that we are all trusted to give our opinions openly. We are all aware that we everyone here has a creative side too, otherwise they wouldn’t work in advertising. We can all be collaborative and sometimes even laugh and joke about the idea that account people think they can do it all. Being an account executive is a really great role because everyday its different. For some that is not ideal, but for me it fits. I’m glad I chose the industry that literally let’s me do it all.
K: I understand you decided on the advertising industry path late- how did you rework your career path?
B: It was more taking the leap of faith to find if this is the right industry for me. Again being a post grad intern is a little scary. I came to understand what advertising is really all about- of course it’s a really sexy and attractive industry as a whole because you think of videos and commercials and Mad Men. I always laugh when people ask, “Is advertising like Mad Men?” I just say it involves more PowerPoint. Once I graduated and still had that flexibility, I knew this was the time to do it. I knew it wasn’t going to get easier if I waited. I think it was more a leap of faith than reworking a path and the cards unfolded how they needed to.
K: When you decided to go into advertising, did you know you wanted to go into account management?
B: I did. I think my personality and my character traits are built for this job. I grew up in an environment where almost my whole family was small business owners so my whole life I never really knew anyone to be “off.” Business is always “you get out of it what you put into it” or “the harder you work, the smarter you work, the more benefit you reap and the more you will succeed.” So with an industry like advertising, I think that upbringing in that kind of environment translates really well. This job is not your typical 9 to 5. This industry is known for being dynamic. It is something I really enjoy being involved in. There is always moving, always changing, there are always new challenges and I think it really goes back to the self-rewarding aspect. Though this is not my own business I treat what I do as though this is my own responsibility to take on what’s in front of me and do the best I possibly can. Not just for me but for everyone around me. In a small agency our successes contributes to the success of everyone around us. When someone else is successful in turn we feel it. There is so much benefit to be gained by working hard and knowing you will get out of it what you put into it. At a place like this that work is recognized. When I found an industry like this—I’m a talker, I’m very open, I like my purple hair—everything just fit.
K: You touched on the fact that advertising is not the typical 9 to 5 industry. Can you give us a look at a typical day in the life at Small Army? Does everyone actually work well into the night?
B: Well it’s always changing. Workloads can vary depending on how many project you’re managing that are active. You might have things that have been on hold and are all of sudden running again. It completely varies and I think that Small Army promotes a healthy work life balance. Jeff doesn’t want us here late into the night but I think he trusts us to know that if we feel there is something that needs to be done for a client, or somebody here, that we will do it. It takes what it takes. Everyone shows it and you will see people pulling late nights here and rolling in at strange hours. Its something that gives you an opportunity to work on your own time management skills and break the habits of procrastination that I know most everybody I knew in college had. For me it taught me how to ask for help. I’m a very “do it myself” kind of person but when workloads become a little too much and we might feel the client might suffer, that’s when we trust each other to say hey I need help with this or support. We all jump in a do the best we can. There is really never an opportunity to say hey, that’s not my job.
K: Can you give us a look into the company culture at Small Army?
B: I think that we operate very organically. Everything is collaborative process. We always promote working together and trying to overcome any tasks or challenges at hand with an open mind. The fact that we all trust each other plays a role in our success. I think that we do have a family—which happens with any small company. Sometimes you need to know when to separate, sometimes you need to know when to speak up, sometimes you need to know when not to. I think it allows us to be very open with each other and that’s what needs to prop us- not just for us but also for our clients. If I have an idea I’m comfortable enough to go to my CEO and have it looked at and responded to. It’s something that my direct supervisor has really been able to foster on my account team, in terms of making sure everyday is a collaborative process. To some degree we are all close and we understand we have lives outside of this place and we are interested in each other. As a culture it’s really amazing—you build trust when you get to know people on a personal as well as professional level. When everyone is able to talk about their lives and experiences and interests, you get to learn so much more about people strengths and what they bring to the table and it is just by being close and collaborative. It proves helpful in especially challenging situations. In know that the person next to you is your teammate and will help you take on this task or challenge. It’s like going to a friend, not a coworker, and trusting they can be the best person you can have next to you. It’s a really conducive environment to the creative process. We have fun. When I sit back and look at my job I still feel really, really lucky and proud of myself that I made it here, and that a place as great as this was willing to give me an opportunity. It’s a really impressive culture that I would never trade.
K: What do you see for the future of Small Army?
B: Small Army has big things happening. We are definitely gaining ground in terms of our credibility in the industry, We sometimes forget that we are a pretty young company. We started in 2002 and Jeff and the rest of the team has done such an amazing job to make Small Army what it is and we are all really proud of that. We are growing with our clients and we are committed in getting everyone involved. There is so much more to be done and so much more stories to tell. I would say watch out for Small Army.