Derek Ross: Yeah. I saw something where it was like, you know, you really spend a lot of your twenties figuring out who you are again, so to speak. It’s like, even for myself, like now I’m really, I really feel like I’m stepping into who Derek is.
And a lot of it, I feel like I lost in the midst of trying to keep up with the Joneses so to speak, right. but now I’m like, wow, like what could I’ve done if I had really stepped in into, and embrace who I was, you know, at an earlier in age, you know, where would I be today? And, you know, try not to go back and look back and get stuck in the past.
But it’s a great blueprint for how we engage and connect with people today and, and the message that we leave the next generation on, you know, when they’re talking about career and this and that, it’s like, well, first let let’s really get back to the foundation, that’s really going to serve you throughout your life.
Mango: On that point, I would love to hear kind of what brought you into this industry, why? And your first experience with your first job, I always find very interesting.
Abha Bowers: So. I swear since I was in utero, my dads always said, what’s your five- and 10-year plan, plan, plan… so I’ve always looked ahead as to like, what’s next and what, what am I looking for?
And, you know, he had said, this is great that, you love people, but like, you’re not going to, you’re not going to be a doctor. Everyone in my family’s a doctor. He’s like, you belong in business, that’s your personality. And I’m like, well, business is incredibly vague, going back to knowing that I liked people and math.
I found an internship at Merrill Lynch that was half finance and half marketing. And I was incredibly lucky to have a mentor who immediately saw like you can crunch numbers, but you need to do more than be behind the mahogany desk, it wasn’t just for me and who I was. So he had introduced me to a contact at an ad agency and I will never forget.
I went to interview for an internship, a weeklong internship, and I had to take an elevator to get there. I can see it right now, and I ding and the doors opened and I felt everything I fell in love. It was the weirdest sensation, but my heart knew before my brain did, and I felt the energy I’m attracted to energy and teamwork.
And I saw there was a war room and someone had all this stuff up and they were working on a great pitch and people were collaborating in a cubicle and someone was running around with all these papers, cause you know, back then we had to print everything and we didn’t have all the digital luxuries that we have now.
And I knew this is what I wanted. I got to work with so many different people touch so many different brands and I love thinking about people and psychology. So every brand has a different type of consumer and you have to become that consumer to understand how to market to them and meet the need that they’re looking for.
It’s not just being them and trying to trick them or sell to them, but what is the problem? How can we make their lives better? and from then I was absolutely hooked.
Mango: What was your first role?
Abha Bowers: I was an account coordinator.
Mango: What did you, I mean, what are some lessons you learned at a, at a young age of being an account coordinator that you take with you now?
Abha Bowers: That you have to respect every position. Every position is so integral. The grunt work is not just for any type of role but you can make yourself something, even at that ranking. So I remember when I went in, I wanted to learn everything I could learn. And this is back when I had to learn how to crop images.
And I would stay late to crop images. I would volunteer to go purchase wine for the big meeting that we had coming up. I’d always ask questions. I think the biggest takeaway for me was trying to understand all of my teammates. So we had you know, designers, we had researchers, web builders and I, I, I didn’t know any of it.
So I had to, I would look at someone working in Adobe and be like, this is fascinating. How did you, how did you actually draw this for our print ad? and have them actually take me through it. So then I could also understand, if I’m asking someone to do something about how long, you know, would it take and what does it involve and how much thinking goes into it?
So a lot of the times, you know, you’ll have clients or folks who don’t take that time and say, well, why does it take that long to do that? And it behooves you as an account person who speaks to a client to explain, well, this is the process. This is a thinking and really respect everyone’s skills that they bring to the table.
Derek Ross: Right. Nice. You know, when you were talking, the thought of lessons came up. And I’m curious to see, like, what was, what was one of your early lessons as a young, you know, professional coming in at maybe at that account coordinator position or an earlier role where it kind of taught you something that you, you carry today and I’ll give, I’ll give an example.
So when my, early on in my career, I was so caught on being perfect. Like I had to get everything right. I had to do it right. And my supervisor at the time, asked me to mail FedEx labels to the client, some packages and send 10 hats, 10 shirts, you know, I’m like, okay, go. I got this. I put them in 10 individual FedEx boxes, a t-shirt a hat, and mailed them all to the client overnight.
10 individual FedEx packages and the client called the next day and was like, don’t you ever, you know, it was funny now looking back on it, but like, you know, I sent overnight 10 different packages and the cost was like, maybe what, 300 something dollars when it all could have gone on one package. And so it, it really, it really helped me to break that mode of perfection early, and to just really ease into the role and ease into who I am.
So. You know, with that said like what lesson, you know, did you learn early on in your career? Maybe even around the, the point of perfection, because it could be hard sometimes going into a new role as a young, you know, professional out of college and you want to make a great impact and you get so caught up in making great impact that you miss some of the lessons and you get caught up in perfection.
Abha Bowers: For the good, for the better or the worse. I try to think through what could happen. So for example, if we are entering a pitch, you have to think about technology. You have to think about number of attendees. You have to think about number of printouts, always pack extra. Is there food? Are people going to be hungry at that time?
How many people are there? Could someone be late with traffic? Could someone not find a parking spot, like today. Guilty. And try to think through different scenarios so you can be as prepared as you can be. Just like being a perfectionist that’s exhausting, but there are the basics that you really have to think through to make sure that you get the job done.
Mango: I’m interested in this part of your career too, cause you have great experience working on the agency side, but also the client side. would love to understand the differences of both and what gravitated you towards being back on the agency side?
Abha Bowers: Mm that’s a great question. so back to my father’s five- and 10-year plan I had to learn the industry and I went to account management because my perspective was, is the nucleus.
It gets to touch everything and learn everything. and you got to work with everybody. And you’re basically almost like the lead that like the boat that brings everyone together. you got to work with a client and you got to represent both parties, which is very interesting too, to have that balance.
But I also recognize that their entirely different perspectives. So if I go in my five- and 10-year plan and I say, I’m going to be agency side, well, it’s not just agency because there’s large, they’re small, they’re startup, there’s established. So I needed to touch all of them, which is what I did in my journey.
And then the same thing on the client side. What’s that experience like when you’re both a client that outsources to an agency and then a client that’s in house? So my first client experience was after my first agency experience and I went to work at Tiffany and company, and that was in-house marketing and it was a global brand.
So that was a whole nother ballpark. And it was very fascinating to understand the pain points that clients endure, by way of procurement, sometimes levels of approvals and really understand it’s all about trying to understand the other person right. And what is that process like? What are difficulties they have to endure to succeed, which then helps the agency perspective when you’re working with a client to better empathize and understand.
I understand how hard it’s to go through X, Y, and Z. Have we thought about this? We could get this done ahead of time. So you have enough cushion in the timeline to meet with procurement and all of those things, but client side, every business and organization has its pluses and its minuses. And for me at Tiffany’s, it was fantastic because it was my first experience to go global.
And that was when Facebook was just launching. And I got to launch in different countries for Tiffany’s with a brand-new product line. So client side to me was excellent by way of new product launches and development and the research that goes into them. and really getting that behind the scenes, look at how everything operates.
Agency side to me, I am an endorphin and adrenaline junkie. I’ve realized, and I really think it ties back to the moment in time that you’re in. So when I went back to client side, the second time was when I was having my children, and it was the perfect opportunity. it had a little more flexibility, a little more stability but it was still challenging in ways that at that point in my career, I knew how to manage, but still have time for my kids.
So I’m back in the agency world because my daughter’s sleeping. that’s why, and I miss the rolling up your sleeves and being on multiple brands and never knowing what’s coming your way in a day. what can come next week? What can you build? What can you offer? What can you fix? So what can you provide with a team of amazing people with all different backgrounds?
So that’s why, that’s why my heart’s in the agency side. I do love client side, but my hearts in the agency side.
Derek Ross: No, I, I, I love that. And I think it brings up a couple of, of great points. I think one is what kind of skills do you need? Because you, you spoke about being on the agency side. It’s very fast moving, different things each day.
And so everyone can’t do that. Just be honest, everyone can’t do that. So what, for someone who may be listening, who may say, you know what I may want to venture into the agency side, what would you say would be maybe the top three skills that you said someone who would want to step into the agency side would need to have?
Abha Bowers: I believe that you must have the mentality of you can may make anything happen. You can figure out how to make it happen. It’s a lot of just creativity and nimbleness. There’s always a solution. It may not be perfect, but there’s always a solution. So that’s number one. Number two is the ability to be humble and work well with teams.
If you don’t collaborate well or respect opinions of others, it isn’t the right position for you. And I’d say number three is dream big depending on the agency side and the leaders there, but you have the flexibility to define your role. You have the flexibility to find other solutions. You can bring your clients to help them.
Whether you want to venture into another position or add a new offering, the world is your oysters. If that excites you. That’s what I think are my top three for the agency world.
Derek Ross: And the second part of that question. you talked about your five and 10 plan and the, the different touch points to get to where you are today.
And so for someone who may be listening, being flexible with that journey how important it is it to take the time to really, you know, not rush the process but really take the time to really learn and to establish yourself in, in the different periods of your career, because you could be in one period right now and try to rush, you know, to get to the next thing.
But you’re not really taking the time to absorb where you are right now, to really learn everything that you can, that’s going to prepare you for your next. So, you know, what advice would you give to someone who may be itching right now, and they’re in a certain moment in their career, but they’re like, ah, I want to get to the next, like what, from your lessons and your journey, what would you, what would you leave them with?
Abha Bowers: Every time I ever got an itch, I would pause and say, have I learned everything I could learn? Have I talked to everyone that I could talk to? And if I felt that there was nothing else I could contribute to a company or client, then if you know, complacency is my biggest no-no. If I start to feel complacent, uh-uh you, need to find something either in your own time to supplement that, to keep you occupied because sometimes it’s not the career. It’s your life telling you, you need something new, but it’s not always your job. it could be a relationship. It could be an activity; it could be something to stimulate your mind or body. so that’s one lesson that I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older.
It’s not necessarily the career, but making sure that, you know, every single day, you’re not going to leave being like, oh yes, this is my life calling. But more so than not, you’re going to feel that you’re on your right path, but to really listen to yourself. Not societal recommendations, I know parents can be very influential. You see your friends and try to compare to them, but what makes you happy?
Mango: Yeah. I mean, even, even your role in Walk West over the last two plus years, your role has changed drastically throughout that. What are you most excited about in the next upcoming year for, or for Walk West?
Abha Bowers: There are so many things I’m so excited for. I’m excited for the unknown. I know this is going to be a very big year. I can feel it in my bones. I love this team that we have. We have worked really hard to formulate the team. I always talk about Captain Planet. I think we have a fantastic team of diversified thinking and experiences and life experiences, not just like a, oh, this person has been doing this position for a long time.
When we get to interview and we ask people, what’s your story. That’s always the first question I ask, I like to hear the story, and to understand where people have come from, how they were raised, what beautiful things or not so beautiful things that they had endured that made them who they are and bringing in all of those mindsets together to collaborate is really going to produce some beautiful things this year.
That’s what I’m most excited for. To be unleashed and just come at it and help our community and our clients and each other. And I’m really, I’m hopeful that we can get some more time together too. You know, let’s see how, how the world goes, but we’ll find creative ways to do it.
Derek Ross: So, Abha earlier, you talked about the, the difference between the agency side and the client side and how the agency side is very fast moving, ever changing. Can you talk a little bit about the importance of relationships and establishing relationships with the clients that you work with? In order to continue to grow and expand that relationship and opportunity.
Abha Bowers: That’s a great question, Derek. I definitely believe that it’s important to build relationships internally amongst your employees, but also treating your clients as an extension of your work family as well.
And I think my favorite example here at Walk West is with Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits, and that one came from a referral from a client of ours. And we had seen the RFP and they are all the way in Connecticut. We’re like, wait a minute. Do we send a chance, from Stanford, Connecticut with all of the amazing New York Agencies, were all the way North Carolina?
And I think I’d been at Walk West for about a month and I looked at the team and said, let’s do this. Like we are qualified, let’s go. And we gave it our all. And we had even had pre-pitch meetings where we sampled the wine to really, again, become the consumer and come with fresh ideas and the energy in that room. I’ll never forget. You remember Mango? Yeah. I remember in the office; everyone was so excited.
Mango: Josh Wine, by the way.
Abha Bowers: Yes. Josh Wine is one of the items in the portfolio. And so, you know, I think that it was with that, that belief and that excitement and teamwork that we really rose to the occasion and the client could feel that even though everything was done virtually.
Yep. So, you know, and that’s a great example, I think, because it started off as being purely web based, but we were very fortunate to be able to form deep relationships with our clients where the biggest word in any relationship in life, whether it’s personal or work or not is trust. And making sure that, you know, you have that established and that’s organic and it has to be earned with time and energy in what you put out.
But we have built a strong foundation of trust through the work. And now we’ve expanded this scope and the relationship to be able to provide other services, to assist our client dipping into media relations, some more research items, more creative. Just really become an extension and showing them that we’re not just here for you for this tactical item.
It’s not a transactional relationship with us. It is having your best interest in mind, bringing you ideas and really showing you the, the spectrum of what we can do together.
Derek Ross: And I love that conversation around trust, because even when you started, you said this came from a client referral. And so you, you talk about the trust that you established with that client to be able to say, hey, I’m going to put my neck out there, my name on line, and, and really refer this new and potential client to you and, and Walk West. And that just expands that conversation around trust and why relationships are so important in that space,
Abha Bowers: I love living life of expect the unexpected. You might be behind someone at a deli and strike a conversation and never know that they’re so, and so, and so, and so, or related to your friend or life is just so funny and the world is so small.
No matter the person, no matter where you meet them, there’s always a way to make some kind of connection or something in common. And I think that this was a great example of, we, would’ve never guessed that this client would have referred us to this client. How did they meet and make that connection? We still don’t know. We tried so hard, but it was serendipitous. Right? And it’s like, do good work, be a good person. And I firmly believe the rest just happens.
Derek Ross: Awesome. And it takes us back to the West Side Story again, like you said, getting into that consumer story and taking on the consumer persona. So yeah. West side story still paying off today.
Abha Bowers: That’s right. That’s right. Just call me Maria.
Mango: I also loved your discussion about kind of mental health or, you know, balancing personal and career, and I know you love fitness as well as nutrition. Can you talk about what you’ve done in that space over the last year, that’s kind of helped balance you out?
Abha Bowers: I was really lucky to have a very good friend back in upstate New York where I’m from say, hey, come, come join this bootcamp with me.
It’d been a long, long, long time. And I, I don’t know if I can do this. And it started a beautiful journey of self-care. And you, you wouldn’t necessarily think, you know, going to gym for forty-five minutes is really truly self-care. But it, it really was for me, I realized that it wasn’t just thinking about my physique, but it cleared my mind.
Um, it was my own therapy session for myself in the mornings. And then I was just completely hooked and I met a wonderful and supportive community everywhere that I’ve gone. and down here, I’ve come and joined E3 fitness and the coach there is remarkable in the sense that she went above and beyond physical fitness and taught us about nutrition, water, sleep, mental health, self-care, stretching.
And she, she opened my eyes to all of the different elements where typically you think, oh, gym, physical must sweat must run. Must lift weights. Like I did it look at my calories where that’s really not what it’s about. It’s about setting goals. Being with a supportive community and looking at your life holistically.
So that led me into getting a certification in nutrition. So being a certified Nutri nutrition coach, I finished my curriculum and now I’m taking my test in the next few weeks. So wish me luck. but even so I have learned so much about it and everyone always says you are what you eat. And I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve rolled my eyes at that.
But in thinking about how do you fuel your body and your mind and your heart and your health. What example am I setting to my children? You know, how am I staying balanced? How am I feeding myself? So I can be the most productive person that I can be the happiest person that I can be. And in that journey of the last two years, that change is remarkable.
Remarkable, just giving myself that focus, literally changing how much water you drink a day a can make such a difference. So I’ve been testing and learning a lot in that space, but I think for me as a leader now it’s really taught me to not just look at a business as a business and the people as people, but being their coach and making sure that our team is well rounded and well taken care of from all perspectives.
If you aren’t healthy or, you know, in a good space with wellness, then it won’t be as great in the work realm. And we’re all humans that need each other, you know, more so than ever now. So having those conversations, getting to know every individual and knowing how you can best help and help them be their best self is really important.
Mango: So we’re recording this right after the super bowl. I do feel guilty about all the trick wings I ate on Sunday. Thank you. Way too many.
Abha Bowers: I mean, you have to have fun. Right. Life is a balance it’s in and it’s out. And if you had those chicken wings with super bowl, I hope you enjoyed them and you, oh,
Mango: I did a little too spicy, but they were good. Yeah. And one of those where like, you are still on your lips, I kind of still taste them now, but yeah, they were delicious going down.
Abha Bowers: Yeah. But it’s a good point. It’s not an all or nothing. Because then you had your spinach smoothie. Yeah. Right, right. Totally. So what is life, if not to, to it and love it. Right, and let loose, so
Derek Ross: I love that. I love that. And that that’s what talk west is about. Right. You know, so we, we went from west side story to now we’re ending with, you know, bootcamp and fitness and nutrition, but then, you know, mental health and how it all ties together and, you know, unleashing in the new year.
You, right. So that’s exciting and that’s really you know the point of, of this conversation today. So thank you for being, you know, vulnerable for being open for being authentic and sharing with those who listen and will, you know, take the gems away that you drop today and apply it to their lives each and every day. So thanks again for, for joining us today.
Abha Bowers: Thank you.