I recently had the honor of sitting down with Hirons’ Senior Vice President and Media Director, Rose Durbin, to talk about her experiences starting out in the advertising field. This conversation served as a way of highlighting Rose and the various lessons she’s learned in time for American Business Women’s Day, Sept. 22.
The blog post was originally published here.
How did your education prepare you for the business world?
“I attended Cathedral High School, then called Ladywood School, which was an all-female school at the time. Being surrounded by women allowed me to develop a great sense of self-direction and independence – I felt compelled to go for whatever I was interested in.
After high school, I was one of the first women ever admitted to Xavier University, which had historically been an all-male school. It was a completely new city and a new environment, but I found that my sense of self helped me navigate the male-dominated spaces. I didn’t start to have other women in my classes until I was a senior, so professors could always pick me out as the only woman in the room. I got used to being called on, and that taught me how to think quickly on my feet.”
When did your interest in business come into play?
“Although I was an English major, I intentionally took a lot of business courses. I saw a lot of my male colleagues being encouraged to pursue leadership roles – some business executives would help set them up with jobs – but women weren’t treated that way. I wanted to change that. I started working for the dean of business school, which gave me an opportunity to see that world from more of an insider’s perspective and to interact with my peers on a different level. I learned how to work with men and the other skills that I learned, critical thinking, not being afraid to speak before a group, etc., helped me to be taken seriously. Business careers were not always top of mind for women at that time, so people were sometimes taken aback.”
What inspired you to pursue advertising?
“My first job out of college, I worked as an assistant to the president of a company that contracted the production of military equipment with the federal government. I did that for a while and then took a sabbatical, which helped me realize my passion was really about studying human behavior. I took a job at an advertising agency in Cincinnati, originally doing some administrative work and assisting with their media buying. Not long after, they asked me to transfer to the media department full-time.
The thing that I love the most about media buying and planning is the combination of strategy and relationship building. I got to work with a lot of great clients, who were all still men at the time. One of my favorite projects in that role was handling the media trafficking for a major sponsor of the World Series.”
Was it difficult to work in a male-dominated industry?
“Yes, but I wouldn’t change anything about my career. Having the opportunity to hear the male point of view, in both contemporary and historical contexts, really helped broaden my understanding of the world and taught me to be open to differing opinions. When I got started in the late 1970s, all the clients were male, so it was important to understand how to build relationships with men. My experiences back then still continue to aid me today. In order to persuade a client to accept your recommendations, you have to know how to present things from their perspective.”
What does it mean to you to be a member of Hirons’ management team?
“I’m very proud to be a leader for a company that has a very open and inclusive culture. I believe in encouraging each individual on our team to be the best they can be and to continuously grow their talents. If your team members feel valued, that contributes value to the agency.”
Do you have any advice for other young women trying to break into the industry?
“It’s really all about stepping out of your comfort zone. I wanted something more than what I’d been told I could have as a woman, and I didn’t let that stop me. That doesn’t mean you have to do this alone though – I had mentors along the way.
Since there were many times when I would be the only woman on the team or in a room, I learned early that mentors really make a difference. That’s important for both women and men, to have people in your corner who can support you and instill confidence. Anyone who has an opportunity to be a mentor or to be mentored you really need to take advantage of that.”