University of Washington, BA
Art Center College of Design, BFA
Pam Fujimoto, executive creative director at WONGDOODY LA, can say one thing with certainty about her job: “I hope they let me stay here.” While that sentiment is mostly in jest, Pam’s career path, beginning and ending at WONGDOODY with a few stops at other agencies in the middle, definitely proves being in the right place with the right mix of philosophy and people makes work feel a lot less like, well, work.
“Advertising is more than a creative field — it uses both sides of your brain equally, which is why it interested me,” Pam says. “It seemed fun, but like a legit job.” With an ever-growing trophy case of industry awards and a clientele list that includes Dickies, Absolut, T-Mobile and most recently Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, it’s evident she’s got the analytical creativity advertising demands down pat. Pam also credits her continued success to her natural curiosity, a healthy dose of tenacity and an approach to the intersection of life and work that allows her to enjoy both fully. In fact, just wait until you find out where she completed this interview!
Advertising is more than a creative field — it uses both sides of your brain equally.
We’d love to hear more about your career path. How did you go from college graduate to executive creative director?
At the University of Washington, I knew I wanted to go into advertising and had my eye on Art Center College of Design as my next step. But my book at the time wasn’t remotely competitive and I knew it. Thankfully, it did get me into Art Center.
I was fortunate enough to meet Tracy Wong when I was at UW (my current boss), who told me, “You’d be able to get a job with this book, and possibly work your way up to the one you want, or you could go to Art Center and get the job you want, right out of school.” So, it ends up, I did get the exact job I wanted out of school: as an art director for WONGDOODY Seattle, working for Tracy.
This all feels very circular I know, because after working other jobs, in both Seattle and New York, I ended up back at WD again, but in LA this time. I say “ended up” but it’s not a random occurrence; I feel like I’ve been on this path the whole time. I just got lucky that it ended up being an actual opportunity for me.
Was there a moment that helped you discover working in advertising was meant to be?
I’d always loved art, so I hoped to be able to do something where I got paid to do something I love. But advertising is more than a creative field —it uses both sides of your brain equally, which is why it always interested me. It seemed fun, but like a legit job. And so I guess I chose this path pretty early on; I didn’t serendipitously end up in advertising like a lot of people. It makes for a less interesting story though, with interview questions like this.
Where do you find inspiration, especially as you’re constantly looked upon to develop the freshest creative ideas?
I’m always stumped by this question, because I don’t really have a go-to for this; I’m just a curious person and I like learning new stuff. I watch tons of documentaries and I’m naturally curious. I love to explore new places (twice my husband and I have taken several months off to travel internationally).
With so many competing deadlines, how do you organize your day, and what does a “day in the life of Pam” entail?
Before I had kids, I just kept all my to-dos on a post-it note stuck to my laptop. But ever since I went back to work after having my boys (5-year old twins), I’ve been getting better and better at using my time more efficiently.
I wake up at 5 a.m. every day, often on weekends as well, to work for a couple hours before my kids wake up. My day is almost entirely meetings, so I don’t get much thinking time at work. This is when I can focus. I’m almost always home for dinner and bedtime. Because my husband is a saint, and takes care of most of our home-stuff and does the daily cooking, it doesn’t feel unmanageable, but don’t get me wrong — it’s still really hard when you have a family and work a job like this.
With what we can imagine to be crazy agency hours, is work/life balance ever a problem with you? If so, what is one no-fail tactic you use to create balance?
I enjoy both fully and I try not to feel like there’s this bank of hours called “work” and one called “life” where if I spend time in one bucket, I’m stealing from the other. For me, they blend into each other for me in a way that works. It might not for everyone.
Right now, I’m writing this on my laptop while at a campsite in Sequoia National Forest while my kids forage for twigs to throw into the campfire. The people in the next campsite are probably wondering what that Asian lady is doing on a MacBook Pro in the middle of the wilderness, but folks at my work would just nod. My husband definitely would.
Waking up early to work is the way I manage to clear more of my evening for time with Jeff and the boys.
What is the absolute greatest aspect of working for WONGDOODY?
Feeling I’m a powerful part of building something great, with people I believe in, and for an agency with values that match mine.
What is your personal code of conduct that you live by?
Integrity and directness, with kindness. And continuous improvement.
What qualities do you feel it takes for someone to be successful in your line of work?
Tenacity. Listening skills. The kind of person who can find something interesting in everything. Passion for what you’re doing. A desire to keep learning.
What one piece of advice do you wish you could tell a 21-year-old version of yourself?
Be fearless. And tweeze your eyebrows! They’re a mess, can’t you see that??
Where do you see yourself five years from now?
Hopefully they’ll let me stay here.