In this month's episode, we talk with Shelly Dominquez Lieder who is the VP of Accounts at TEN35 ad agency. To start the episode, Melinda first asks Shelly what her big dream was growing up and Shelly says that it was to be an Avon lady. She thought it was the coolest thing to walk around, ring people's doorbells, and make women feel their best selves. Her family always likes to bring this dream of hers up and embarrass her about it because they always thought that she would go to school and do much bigger things than that, which she did. Shelly says now that she is in marketing and advertising, she is still showing up and helping people think about what they need to do to be the best version of themselves. So, in some ways, she is doing what she dreamt of but in a bigger way. Shelly then talks about her growing up in a Latina family and how the women are supposed to cook, clean, take care of the house and they don’t look beyond that. She is grateful that she could talk about her dreams with her mom and grandmother and they were always encouraging. They would say to her, you are going to do that and so much more. She says growing up, she always had that pressure on her shoulders because the women in her family would tell her that she will become the best version of herself and succeed in ways she didn’t know were possible.
Melinda then asks Shelly how growing up with a Hispanic background shaped her journey and what kind of hurdles did she have along the way? Shelly responds with, growing up with a Mexican family they had aspirations for her but also, very strong opinions. She says when she first selected her major at college her family would question her and ask “what are you going to do with that?". She says at first, she thought she was going to go to law school because she wanted to argue, fight and bring social justice to all. Her family would say to her things like, “there is no way you're going to make money right away” or, “that is ridiculous, try again”. She says when she finally told them that she was going to major in marketing they were very supportive and could see the picture. She says she always planned on graduating, then working at an ad agency. However, when she graduated in San Antonio, Texas, there were not a lot of ad agencies around her. She had to think fast about what she could do and where she could go. Very luckily, she received a job with a beer company in her early twenties. She says that the beer industry is very male-dominated but her company was Mexican-owned, so it felt familiar. She says that every day she felt like she was just trying to be heard, seen, and feel important. She knew at that point she wanted to go do other things and finally find the ad agency she has been dreaming about. Through her connections, she was able to get her next job at a Hispanic-owned ad agency in Dallas, Texas. She said she still didn’t feel right at this one because they never took her ideas seriously, so she moved on to another Hispanic-owned agency. She said it was the same thing again, she was constantly fighting for a promotion and staying quiet about how women weren't being treated equally in the workplace there. She says at the same time she happened to meet her current partner at TEN35. She would notice when their teams were pitching how much she loved how he led their team, he would empower everyone in the room to speak and be heard. She knew that they were her connection and she wanted a future with TEN35. Later on, he was opening up an agency in Houston, Texas, and asked Shelly if she wanted to be a part of it. She said, “YES!”. She says ever since then she has been a part of TEN35 and that they empower women in a way she never knew was possible. Shelly says it's phenomenal that close to 70% of their team members are women, and almost 90% are in a leadership role. She felt very excited that finally after being put down at her previous companies, she found a home and a place to truly utilize her skills and to also empower and bring other people along so they don’t have to go through the same struggles that she had to go through.
Next, Melinda asks Shelly if she thinks this happens to other Hispanic, Latina, young women that are recruited into companies but in reality, are held back and restricted at their job. Shelly responds with yes. She says when you find that tribe, like the one she has at TEN35, they make it a point to get together. Whenever they pull out a junior from their team and hear that they are struggling, Shelly and her tribe always want to help them find their voice. Shelly’s tribe being filled with other Latina women has helped shape the leader she has become.
Melinda then asks since Shelly is in a leadership position, how does she lead differently to make sure she is bringing other women of color into the mix? She answers with, “I lead with purpose and grace”. She says if she is going to be involved in a leadership role, it needs to be purposeful and actionable. She doesn't want to be there just to look pretty and check a box. She wants to have an actual purpose in what role she plays. She says with grace, everyone stumbles and falls and you recover. She says, “how do you extract that out for it to not happen again and how to rise stronger.” For her, whether it be personally or professionally is done with purpose and grace.
So how does TEN35 make companies more culturally conscious? She says it comes to them in different ways. A lot of companies were ones they previously worked with before they were asked to take a harder look at themselves and to make sure that they were doing what was right. Current partners often ask them for advice and make them double-check videos, ads, casting, music and more, to make sure they looked right. A part of what they do is to make sure brands are being culturally conscious and relevant.
The next question Melinda asks Shelly is if she has a role model that has stuck with her and how did she come about finding this role model? Shelly says that there is one woman who sticks out in her memory and she is so fortunate she met her. This woman is the one who started telling Shelly that she can do it and taught Shelly how to find her confidence in the workplace. She would always remind Shelly of who she was and how other women outside of her bubble are were overcoming the same hurdles she had.
They tie the podcast together by explaining the importance of networking for women and how far it can take an individual. Melinda also shines a light on how important it is to push your team and how it is incredible that Shelly always does so, even when someone is uncomfortable, and that is what makes her a great leader. Shelly says that she wants to continue to grow with TEN35 and help other women grow within her organization.
Learn more about TEN35 and Shelly by visiting their website.