The University of Oregon - Advertising, Emphasis in Journalism, Minor in Spanish
If you had asked then-college freshman Paige Campbell where she saw herself 20 years down the road, her answer wouldn’t have matched up with where she’s at today. A student interested in design, Paige didn’t discover her passion for advertising and public relations until her participation in a national competition her senior year.
Fast forward ten years and Paige was questioning if advertising was the right career choice. Feeling burnt out, she was considering going client-side and working in-house when she serendipitously met Frank Grady, the founder and chair of Grady Britton. Multiple promotions later, Paige is now running the firm as its president while she juggles life as a single mom.
How does she balance two of the most demanding roles? “You learn how to do it,” Paige says. “I wouldn’t give up either. I’m always going to be a mother to my son, and I’m also going to always take an opportunity like the one I’m in now at the office.”
Live life by your rules and you’re going to be just fine.
How did you discover your current job?
During my senior year of college, I declared journalism and advertising as my major. Late to the ball game, I was introduced to my major after taking a logo design class. Through that, I was part of a great group of people on an ad team and we competed nationally, representing a car dealership.
Then, because of that competition, I met someone who asked me to intern at her agency and I worked as the receptionist there. Next, I had an internship with the Portland Advertising Federation. At the conclusion of that internship, I was hired to become an account coordinator at the previous agency’s shop. I then moved to another boutique shop where I was an account manager, and then finally I moved to Grady Britton.
Around this time, I was burned out and thought I wanted to get out of the industry. But fortunately, I ended up meeting Frank Grady and he asked me to work as a contract employee for him while someone on his staff was on maternity leave. That was 13 years ago. I became president about two or three years ago. In between that time, I was hired as an account manager, but then I suggested the agency needed a director of client services. I ended up in this position and became a partner at Grady Britton about five or six years ago.
There have been a lot of steps throughout my career—I certainly didn’t have a ‘career path’. Never did I set out with my sights on this role, or even to stay in advertising this long. But when the opportunity to become president was put on the table, I felt like I could not not do it. I thought I might as well try and go for it— and now that seems like a hell of a long time ago!
What responsibilities do you have in your role?
I view myself as being responsible for 23 amazing, wonderful careers of people here in my company—as well as their lives, families and the experience they have here. I’m also responsible for all of our clients and the outcomes of their businesses, including the budgets they spend with us.
My ultimate job is to make sure that this agency’s delivering on the business a client hired us to do. Most of the time, I’m making sure our talented team here is provided for and have the resources and support they need to be their best. If I do that, then they’ll do amazing work and I know our clients will be happy.
What was it about your job that makes you feel it’s the right fit for you? What was it that made you stick with advertising?
As mentioned earlier, I didn’t know I wanted to get into it early. During college, I think what made me want to get into it was that I was a design major and I wasn’t sure how I’d get a job as, say, a sculptor. So this seemed like a way to be employable. But the further I got along in my career, the more I realized art direction wasn’t for me. As much as I love and appreciate great design, I wanted to be a part of some sort of visual communications entity.
When I was feeling burnt out, I was about 10 years into my career. Looking back, I probably wasn’t challenged enough. It’s not like I wasn’t working too many hours. I wasn’t finding inspiration. I was just going through the motions.
I had considered going in-house and focusing on one brand. But then, I ended up meeting Frank Grady around the time I was interviewing for multiple jobs. I began at the company working five hours a day and was there about five weeks when they landed the Xerox account. I then started working full time and woke up about two to three years later.
Is work/life balance ever a problem with you? If so, what is one no-fail tactic you use to create balance?
It’s a juggle, for sure. I think I don’t do anything extraordinarily well and I do a lot of things as well as I can. This was a departure for me, because before I had my son, I was a perfectionist and almost everything I did, I did extremely well.
Now I juggle really actively every day. I do a lot of planning ahead. I really tactically look at the next week and think, “OK, away baseball game on Sunday, orchestra on Tuesday …” and so on. I look at what needs to be washed, how many dinners we need to make during the week and those kinds of things. I try to give myself as much legroom as possible during the week when I have to race home.
I divorced about five years ago and it became pretty difficult for me to manage my son and run my house and my company by myself. There are only two hands. So I got a nanny, Alex, and he’s been with me almost four years now. He’s at the bus stop when my son comes home and gets him going on homework. I try to get home by 6 and the minute he goes to bed at 9:30, I’m back to my work.
There are definitely crazy moments, like when I travel, to keep the juggling going around my son’s routine and schedule. But you learn how to do it. I wouldn’t give up either role. I’m always going to be a mother to my son, and I’m also going to always take an opportunity like the one I’m in now at the office. You figure out a way to do it.
Right now, I’m working really reasonable hours. There are hot and cold periods. And it’s like that with my fitness and diet, too. I do try to think, “OK, Paige. Long-term outlook here.” Otherwise, my day-to-day is too rigorous. Thankfully, I also have great friends and a community around me who support me tremendously. I have emergency friends who can pick up my son for me if needed. I really have the best support.
Was there ever a moment in your career where you’ve thought, “I made it!” What was it?
I don’t feel that way … But I can definitely feel success for myself. When I step back far enough, I can look at what I’ve actually got going and the people working here; I know my son’s thriving and I feel like I’m doing OK and things are alright. And then I can acknowledge myself.
I’m really pretty driven in that it’s hard for me to be satisfied at any given time. I don’t sit there and look at the situation and think that was all me working my ass off; it wasn’t by design. Where I’ve gotten was mostly through working hard and staying focused, while also contributing, being a part of a team and looking at someone at the end of his career and respecting that.
What are some of the rules you live by?
Honesty, transparency and integrity. There is zero compromise there. I’d much rather have a very difficult, honest and truthful conversation than anything else. I don’t see any other way. And this applies to everything; whether it’s staff, clients or my son.
I also believe you always should do the best you can. And sometimes, at 2 in the morning, when you’re exhausted and what you’re doing might not be as smart or as brilliant as you wish it could be, you’re still doing the best you can. You’re not compromising all you have, even when it’s not an ideal situation. I also think tenacity around that is important, too.
What qualities does it take for someone to be successful in your line of work?
I think you’ve got to be primed in people instincts. The best people I’ve worked with are always reading their client and their creative team and adjusting on the fly. They look at what they need to keep things going. So you need a lot of instinct and a creativity nuance.
I also think problem solving is one of the “number one” skills. To be agile and able to look at a situation from different perspectives opens ideas up. And quite honestly, I think these skills are developed—you either have these capabilities or you don’t. And if you do, it’s practiced from there.
What one piece of advice do you wish you could tell a 21-year-old version of yourself?
A lot of things flash through my head: I think I’d tell myself to not be afraid, because now’s the time to do what you want and let yourself go. I think I was always really afraid to play at a certain expectation, because I felt there were certain rules of what you had to grow up doing or being.
I also didn’t know what I wanted to do. I didn’t really allow a lot of freedom in figuring it out.
I would also tell myself it always all works out. I’m doing probably exactly what I should be doing for myself and my son, even when everything gets crazy. I look back in retrospect at things in my life and I think, “That might be crazy, but that had to happen for this to happen.” Things happen for a reason. You’re on a path you should be. Live life by your rules and you’re going to be just fine.