Ohio State University - Bachelor's Degree, Speech and Hearing Science + Minor, Marketing
When Amanda Skerski walks in a room, people listen. Not only does she exude professionalism, but she has a knack for communicating what the client wants and managing that with what the creatives want like no other. She’s also a woman who knows how to get things done — and to the highest standards. As a director of client partnerships at WONGDOODY, Amanda runs the Cedars-Sinai and Hollywood Bowl accounts. It’s her job to juggle multiple balls at once, keep everyone consistent and on-message, and oh ya, nurture client relationships like no other. After her last internship in college, Amanda knew advertising was the perfect fit for her, and she’s been in the industry ever since. In her spare time you can find her swimming, running, enjoying dinners with friends and helping animals one product at a time on her site Project Minnie.
Relationships are everything.
How did you discover your current job?
Every job I have had was because of a connection; my job at WONGDOODY was no exception. I sent my resume to WONGDOODY and couldn’t get an interview. A friend sent my resume to a friend at the agency, and I had an interview the next day.
I truly believe in job karma. If you help others when they are looking for a job, it will come back to you when you need it. In fact, I connected the friend who introduced me to WONGDOODY to a former client of mine and now they work together.
What has been your path so far to get you where you are today?
The biggest influences on getting me to where I am today have been the incredible people I have worked for. My first job was at an advertising agency in Cincinnati called Northlich. I worked for two special people: Kim Ferry and Todd Sebastian. Kim trained me on everything from how to write a conference report to developing positioning concepts. She taught me “the right way” to do things. In an industry in which there is little formal training, this was invaluable and has served me throughout my career. I worked for Todd next. He pushed me to be great and never accepted good enough. He showed me how agency/client relationships can be transformed by focusing on relationships, telling clients what they need to hear and not what they necessarily want to hear, getting the details right and exceeding expectations.
After five years at Northlich, I went to work at Leo Burnett in Chicago. There, I ran the Kellogg’s Snacks portfolio. Burnett taught me to be more than just a good marketer. I learned how to be a strong business person. I became entrenched in the client business and could rattle off week over week changes in volume and dollar sales for every brand I touched. Really understanding a client’s business — including relevant trends, consumer behavior, materials sourcing, production, pricing, line capacity, distribution, contracts, promotions and marketing taught me to see the big picture. When you truly understand the business, you can recommend solutions that can effectively drive the business.
Was there any one situation that helped you along your way?
I actually credit a person whose name and company I forgot long ago. When I was interviewing before I graduated college, I would start my pitch apologizing for being a speech and hearing major. After the interview, the interviewer politely explained to me that I was highlighting a weakness and to focus on my strengths and why I was the right person for an advertising agency to hire. That was an invaluable piece of advice from someone who didn’t need to take the time to help me but did so anyway.
What is your typical day like? Does it ever change?
Every day in an ad agency is unique. That is one of the things I love most. I spend a lot of time at Cedars-Sinai in meetings, but I also get to spend time writing strategies, exploring business building ideas, reviewing creative and working with our media, digital and production teams to bring work to life.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The most rewarding part of my job is that I get to work with such terrific people. I have often been asked what is the next piece of business I would like to work on. While most people pick a category such as cars, cosmetics, fashion or packaged goods, I have always felt the category is irrelevant. Working with smart, collaborative, down-to-earth people is what matters most. Working with clients who respect you and consider your recommendations, and partnering with internal teams that support one another, is far more important than working on a high-profile piece of business.
What is the most challenging part?
In the past year, digital media has become more and more important for the businesses I work on. I grew up working on large packaged goods accounts in which we used TV, print, radio, billboards and other traditional vehicles. Since clients are spending less and less in these vehicles and opting for online vehicles in which you can measure ROI, I have had to learn a lot about search engine optimization, paid search and social media. It is humbling and exciting to learn something brand new after over a decade approaching media in the same way.
What is one lesson you’ve learned in your job that sticks with you?
The most important lesson I have learned is that relationships are everything. Getting to know my clients has made working together a lot more fun -- and more importantly, it has built trust. A few years ago a client wanted to use a director we weren’t comfortable with, but she had experience with and wanted to use. The creatives were beside themselves, and we genuinely believed it would make for a weaker TV spots. I called the client and said, “We’ve known each other for a long time. I need you to hold my hand and trust me on this one.” The client approved the director we wanted and the spots were a huge success. They drove the business and won the client an internal award for excellence in marketing.
What do you feel is the biggest challenge for women today, particularly females in your industry?
I have never believed that women have different hurdles than men in advertising. We all face the same issues of a changing media landscape and the erosion of traditional agency/client relationships. That said, I do believe that strong, direct women who expect excellence are perceived as “tough” while men behaving the same way are seen as “just doing their jobs.”
Who are your role models?
My role models are the amazing women I have worked with throughout my career. They helped me be a better businesswoman, marketer and woman. My first boss, my planning partner at Leo Burnett and the media director I worked with at Starcom are all women I love, respect and admire for all they have taught me and continue to teach me.
Is there a quote or mantra that you live by?
The quote I live by is not necessarily work-related but is an important life lesson: It is more important to be happy than it is to be right.
What advice do you have for girls who want to be in your industry?
I would encourage girls interested in advertising to conduct lots of informational interviews with women in the profession, take an internship (even if it is unpaid -- mine was) and read lots of books on advertising, branding and new media.
I also would encourage them to hone their writing and presentation skills. We are in a communications business; it is critical to be an effective communicator.