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Sunday, February 9, 2014

Our Future Entrepreneurs

One of the many interesting things I've been doing in retirement is mentoring high school seniors involved in the L.A. Futures Academy.

On Thursday I went to TBWA\Chiat\Day with two of the Light Bringer Project staff –– Paddy Hurley and Kelly Phillips –– to speak to students from Dorsey High School's School of Business and Entrepreneurship  who have been creating a video with the intention of reimagining Dorsey, That school sometimes gets a bad rap but in reality has plenty of students like these who are college-bound and not in the least bit interested in settling for anything less than superior achievement for a bright future.

We reviewed the video and then I spoke to them about the importance of appropriate attire, conversational speaking and a well-written resume when preparing for summer internship interviews. They were actively engaged in this discussion and asked really good questions. I was asked to give them tips because I interviewed dozens of prospective interns at the high school and college level throughout my career. 

A lot of people associate Tom Coston's nonprofit Light Bringer Project only with the Pasadena Doo Dah Parade and the Pasadena Chalk Festival.

But the fact is that most of what they do on a day-to-day basis is all about providing pathways to success for children and teens in public schools in Pasadena, Los Angeles and San Francisco through arts and communications programs.

TBWA\Chiat\Day is one of the L.A. Futures Academy corporate partners. In this program, high school seniors are mentored by key staff at this and other major advertising agencies, and other mentors like yours truly come in from time to time.

Security is high. The reception area is upstairs in the yellow building and an enclosed, elevated walkway leads to all the action in the agency. 

Nobody goes across that walkway without being signed in and name tagged. I remember this well from my days in private-sector advertising and public relations before I went to work in the public sector. 

Industrial espionage is a very real issue in agencies. Here they make security appear more casual than it really is. "If found wandering, please return me to the Gatehouse."

Across the covered walkway, the cavernous agency is where very talented copywriters, graphic designers, production managers and many others create award-winning campaigns for big-time, worldwide clients. This is just a portion of the vast area:

Another mentor on Thursday was Melissa Heitman, executive project manager at TBWA\Chiat\Day. She guided the students through the process of managing a project, including overseeing every detail, following a timeline and working within a budgets.

The title on the screen when I took this photo was Be Fearless.


Two additional shots from Thursday's visit:

A large black RV emblazoned with a red dragon is parked outside the building. It was not in use at that moment, but ordinarily the interior serves as an innovation studio to stimulate the untapped creative ideas of staffers outside the hustle and bustle of the agency.

Paddy and I carpooled, and as we were driving through the parking lot to leave the premises an ad van pulled in. You can't tell from the photo, but the film "Avatar" was showing on the side of the van in very high definition. I think if I saw this while I was driving on the road I would be terribly distracted!

I want to thank everyone at TBWA\Chu iat\Day, Dorsey High School's School of Business and Entrepreneurship and of course Light Bringer Project.

I also serve as a mentor at the Technology Academy at Foshay Learning Center. The curriculum includes a communications and marketing component.

There are plenty of mentoring opportunities out there. I highly recommend that you give it a try, no matter which organization you work with. And you can tailor your time commitment to suit your schedule.

I took most of the photos myself; many thanks to Paddy Hurley, Kelly Phillips and TBWA\Chiat\Day for some of the others.


  1. I'm sure you had to have super-clearance to take the internal photos. Enjoyed your tour and, by the way, the program is lucky to have you.

  2. Thanks, Karin. I was only allowed to take internal photos in that conference room, but I found the internal agency photo with the woody and the surfboards on their website, so that's fair game. I credited them for the photo, of course.