Alessandra Lariu



University of Plymouth in England - Communications Studies Major + Master's Degree, Electronic Publishing

Alessandra Lariu, a former creative director from various advertising agencies decided to take her talents elsewhere in March of this year when she left her 'big agency' job at McCann Erickson in New York to focus her time exclusively on SheSays, an organization that exists to further women's careers in digital. Chosen as "One of the Most Creative People of 2010" by Fast Company, Ale is a mentor any agency woman would want to have. And just last week she launched SHOUT, an extension of SheSays that aims to foster a community of like-minded creative women who can simultaneously relate and push one another's boundaries. And then to sweeten the deal these women get compensated for their feedback and ideas, even if their ideas aren't chosen as the final client selection.

When Ale isn't running her own company and mentoring other women, you can find her writing a monthly column for a Brazilian magazine; teaching at Hyper Island, Miami Ad School and Boulder Digital Works; volunteering on the board of the Advertising Council; and designing and building a house from scratch. She says she loves being busy, and based on that last sentence we can tell that isn't an overstatement!

Ale attended school and university in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and obtained a degree in communications studies. She then received a scholarship from the Brazilian government where she faced fierce competition as there were 50 people to one vacancy to do complete a master's program abroad. She now has a master's degree from the University of Plymouth in England on 'Electronic Publishing.' She says the title still makes her laugh because at the time, in 1994, CD-ROM's were king, and she started producing for CD-ROMs and the Web doing a lot of design and coding, which is how her career in digital started.

Read on for advice from the mentoring pro.

When you see something wrong, change it. How? By doing first and asking later.

How did you discover your current job?

It discovered me. I was fortunate enough to be at the top of my career in Digital Advertising in 2007, and was always invited to speak at conferences and judge industry awards. At the conferences and industry events I met the other SheSays founder -- Laura Jordan-Bambach -- who was, at the time, the only other woman at top of her digital career. Because we were the only women at these gatherings we decided we were going to start something to get more women to be at the top of their careers. We wanted more competition! This was when we started SheSays.

What is your typical day like? What types of things do you do in your job?

SheSays runs free monthly events, a free mentorship scheme, an awards scheme, digital courses, and we also do career management/recruitment.

In June we launched an 'evolved collaboration' platform called SHOUT where women in advertising will be able to work together to reply to client briefs. And they'll get financial rewards for participating.

So, my day goes from setting up the new platform and talking to our technical partners all the way to mentoring people, organizing SheSays events and courses, interviewing people for jobs, talking to clients, doing admin work and a bunch of other things that are associated with having your own company.

What is the most rewarding part of your job? The most challenging?

The most rewarding is to see women learning and progressing in their careers.

The most challenging is building a working platform for women that no one has ever attempted to do before.

What is the biggest personal sacrifice you have to make because of your job?

I now earn 1/8 of what I used to earn at my big ad agency job. I no longer fly first-class and expense expensive dinners. ; ) But the rewards of doing something that matters, and that will help women change the way they work, is far more satisfying than hanging out with a bunch of ad people in Cannes.

What is one lesson you've learned in your job that sticks with you?

So many! My favorite is: When you see something wrong, change it. How? By doing first and asking later.

What do you feel is the biggest challenge for women today, particularly females in your industry?

I feel a lot of women have good intentions and start organizations like SheSays to address that. But these organizations are really fragmented and have their own voices. I wish organizations like Girl Develop It, Ladies Lotto, TEDWomen, FAB NY, Digital Divas, AWNY, womcom and Women 2.0 could unite for one cause: Make the world a better place for women to work.

But if we are talking specifically about the work, there are fewer women on top because women have a different management style (a better one according to Fortune magazine), which is not recognized by the male bosses promoting them. It's a legacy thing. Male bosses need to recognize that the best replacement for them is not someone like them -- i.e someone with a bossy attitude. On the contrary, it's someone who's going to nurture and grow the work force -- keeping them motivated through self-respect and not fear.

I'm not a bra-burner by the way. I like men. But I just wish some of them could recognize that women are amazing managers.

Who are your role models?

Cindy Gallop and Joyce King Thomas

What are some of the rules you live by?

One thing that defines me is that I like doing and not talking about stuff. My organization is called SheSays, but it should be called SheDoes!

I basically hate talkers.

In the advertising industry I always thought a big idea was nothing without a great execution.

What advice do you have for girls who want to be in your industry?

Be curious, enthusiastic, and never, ever, stop learning. These qualities are irreplaceable. Everything else can be taught.

Where do you see yourself five years from now?

I want the Shout platform to be the best place for ad women to work in the world. Whether you are frustrated at your full-time job and want to do something on the side, or you are on maternity leave, or you have decided you want to teach from Monday to Wednesday and only work Thursdays and Fridays ... I'd love if I could give women a great work-life balance and let them take control over their careers without the tyranny of a 9 to 5.

And for clients who have brands targeting women, I want to be a great alternative for them to get their marketing solutions taken care of.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Just a call to action for any women in marketing, digital and advertising to join SheSays and SHOUT. You won't regret it.