September Alumni Spotlight: Mika Deshmukh

SPOTLIGHT ON Mika Deshmukh, T’19

“I can confidently say that I wouldn't be in my current role without their mentorship. It's easy to get caught up in the day-to-day responsibilities of your job, but I definitely recommend building connections with your team members and trying to find a couple of mentors in your workplace who can help you navigate your time at that company and beyond.”

September 28, 2021 | By Alina O’Brien





What’s your favorite accomplishment from Duke?


I "studied away" the fall semester of my junior year for the Duke in NY Arts and Media program. We had a big creative project due at the end of the semester, so I decided to try my hand at making a zine after seeing the zine wall at a small gallery called Chinatown Soup. My zine was focused on exploring personal style and gender identity, and incorporated a mix of interviews, photography, and written pieces centered on critical theory. I found the process of creating it to be so rewarding and was really proud of the final product. It ended up being displayed on the zine wall at the same gallery that inspired me to embark on the project, so it was really a full circle project! That project, as well as the rest of my semester in NYC, showed me that I needed some sort of creative element in my work.



Tell us about your experiences at Ogilvy and into consulting. What inspired you to take this step? Why Chicago?


I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, but only decided I wanted to return there after college because of an advertising internship I did in the city after my junior year. That summer made me fall in love with all of the live music, art, and great neighborhoods here. And my internship in the strategy department of mcgarrybowen sparked an interest in advertising strategy. I had so much fun conducting customer experience research, digging up consumer insights, and providing communications recommendations, plus was able to work on Disney Parks, Hershey's, and Hallmark during my ten-week program.


My senior year, I applied for and was accepted into Ogilvy's Associates program, which is a rotational program for recent graduates. The Associates Program is a great way to learn about advertising from different aspects of the industry – I rotated through customer engagement strategy, consumer PR, and social strategy. I ended up staying on as a social strategist because the work was fast-paced and growing so rapidly, given that companies were allocating more of their marketing budgets to social media due to the pandemic. I wore a lot of hats as a social strategist; every day was a combination of community management strategy, content strategy, and analytics work. Ogilvy was a strong way to start my career in advertising because it provided me the opportunity to work on Fortune 500 clients with complex business needs.


I left Ogilvy in March of this year because I was offered the position of Managing Director at a Gen Z-focused and Gen Z-led start-up called JUV Consulting. I was excited to take a risk and apply my corporate advertising knowledge to a more diverse and nimble company. It was an absolute whirlwind from the start. I wore so many hats and did so much during my four months there. I oversaw the bulk of our client projects (lots of TikTok campaigns and strategy decks), managed client expectations, handled inter-agency relations, edited client contracts, wrote up project budgets, directly managed nine team members, reviewed all of our client deliverables, and so much more. While I only stayed at JUV for four months, the experience made me a lot more adaptable and confident in asserting my point of view, which is crucial when you're beginning your career and are usually one of the youngest people in the room.


Now, I'm working as a strategist at Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness, a healthcare and wellness advertising agency. We focus on both patients and healthcare providers, so there's lots of interesting qualitative and quantitative research to be done. I decided to make the move to Saatchi & Saatchi because I realized that I wanted to stay focused on the strategy career track and was looking for more challenging clients to work on. Healthcare and wellness advertising also feels a lot more tangible and impactful for me!


Were you expecting to end up in the current industry you’re working in? How is it treating you?


I started out at Duke thinking I'd be a chemist, and then thought I'd end up working in a fashion business career. My junior year internship at an advertising agency pleasantly surprised me, so I just decided to go with it, even though I had barely heard anything about advertising during my time at Duke. Working at an advertising agency is a great way to get exposed to different industries and to learn how to adapt to a fast-paced environment. There are also lots of opportunities to own projects as a junior-level team member. However, advertising is notorious for having poor work-life balance and underpaying entry level folks. I recommend trying to enter the industry through a rotational program because they tend to pay better and to set boundaries so that work isn't preventing you from having a life. Certain agencies are also known for having better work-life balance than others.


How was mentorship factored into your path?


I became super close with two of my managers from my rotational program at Ogilvy and I still rely on them for career/life advice today. They were fantastic mentors to me even when they were managing me, pushing me to work on things outside of my comfort zone, offering me advice, advocating for me, and helping me set SMART goals to further my growth. Since I left Ogilvy, they've both been massively helpful when it came to navigating my job changes, new roles, and learning how to advocate for myself independently. I can confidently say that I wouldn't be in my current role without their mentorship. It's easy to get caught up in the day-to-day responsibilities of your job, but I definitely recommend building connections with your team members and trying to find a couple of mentors in your workplace who can help you navigate your time at that company and beyond.


Thinking back, what led you to join BOW? How did it impact your time at Duke?


I joined BOW because my freshman year roommate raved about the events and I thought that it would be smart to build up some sort of business knowledge during college! I had no idea that it would turn into such a dominant part of my Duke experience. BOW taught me all of the soft skills that have helped me thrive post-college, but also exposed me to women in all sorts of business careers that inspired my own career goals. Given that I had no knowledge of business careers when I joined BOW, the events I attended opened my eyes to all the career possibilities I had before me. I also spent two years on exec as Chair and then VP of Mentorship, which showed me the importance of leadership and teamwork within an organization. I really enjoyed the process of collaborating with the other women on exec and was always so proud of the amazing events that we would put together. Being surrounded by such ambitious and focused women in BOW also helped me stay inspired and on track throughout my time at Duke.


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