Alumni Q&A: An Interview with Advertising Alumna Kristina Jenkins

Kristina Jenkins, graduated from Michigan State University in 1997, with a degree in Advertising. Jenkins currently works as Head of Strategy for the Cashmere Agency in Los Angeles, California.  

We invited her to share her experiences with ComArtSci and Michigan State University.

Q. When you look back at your life and work so far, what gives you the most pride?
A. I’m proud that in 2020 I showed up as a compassionate, flexible and vulnerable leader despite the many personal and professional challenges of a pandemic. I ultimately guided and grew a team of Strategists and an agency organization, while helping some of the biggest, influential brands and their marketing leadership think about how they can
show up for people and in culture.

Q. What inspires you to work toward your goals and accomplishments?
A. I’m inspired by knowing I will have uplifting stories to share that can help inspire other people to work towards their goals and accomplishments.

Q. Could you describe a typical day in your professional life?
A. I wake up and intentionally start my day without technology, choosing to mediate or exercise and a healthy breakfast instead. Then I head to the “office” by logging on to my computer, checking my calendar to have an awareness of the day ahead and ensure I have breaks scheduled. No day is the same. I’m in lots of Zoom meetings having conversations about all sorts of topics from Gen Z, J Balvin’s collaboration with Deepak Chopra, departmental staffing and professional development, social listening tools, new business pitches, project timelines, Statement of Work templates, why everyone is talking about Cobra Kai, to what it means for a brand to be culturally relevant. I check in with my team of Strategists on how they are doing personally, along with reviewing thinking they are doing across the many brand projects we are working on (during which I usually learn something new, like Telfar, Cleo Wade’s “Real Leaders Lead with Love” hoodie and Deadass Beekeeping). I scan the New York Times. I introduce myself and our Strategic philosophy to the new Cashmerians who have recently joined us and think a lot about how Strategy can be a catalyst for innovation and elevation at the agency, and on and on and on. Then I blink and it’s time to log off. Lately, I’ve been thinking it’s time to come up with a new ritual to end the work day.

Q. What are some of the greatest challenges and opportunities working in your field?
A. The speed at which we have to work. Strategy is a craft and it takes time and there is less and less time for the craft these days, even when brands are asking us to solve really hard and important challenges. We have to be able to do brave, insightful thinking, and get the agency and client teams to believe in our thinking, really fast.

Q. What would you consider to be the defining point in your life or career?
A. A few defining points come to mind actually. First point...when I made the move from Account Management to Strategy. I was determined to do so no matter the challenges that came my way and was encouraged by the many people who were willing to help me in my ambitions. I remember getting my first Strategist role and thinking that I too would open doors to opportunities for people as someone did for me. I have, I do and will continue to do so. Second point...working with an incredible boss for a special chapter of my career and life. I would not be the talent or the leader that I am without working with her. Third point...encouraging a Strategist to bring his authentic style to the office and when he did, seeing the difference it made in his strategic work. Fourth a talk about my journey in Advertising and a student from the audience sharing with her Professor at the University she attended, that I was the first person who made her truly believe she could succeed in this industry. That meant so much to me.

Q. What is the most important lesson you have learned along the way? 
A. Always follow my intuition.
Q. What opportunities did you have at MSU or ComArtSci that helped you get where you are today?
A. I became friends with some fellow Advertising majors while going to State, who later inspired me to move to Los Angeles from NY and helped me settle in, once I did. I’m forever grateful.

Q. How do you give back to your community or motivate others to work toward the common good?
A. I’m very passionate about wellness and using my platform as a Strategic leader to demonstrate that we can be both successful in our work and healthy in our lives....that being always-on doesn’t have to be the path to doing great things. I also mentor the future talents of this industry, reminding them that they have quite the impact to make.

Q. What advice would you give to MSU and ComArtSci students?
A. If there is something you want to do or change, don’t tell yourself to wait until you have it all figured out or perfect to start doing it. Get started by taking some sort of small action towards the bigger goal. I describe this as just get it going.

Q. If you could offer a message of comfort or support, what would you say directly to students who are studying at MSU in these uncertain times?
A. I’m finding comfort in immersing myself in inspiration, articles and talks themed around the opportunity that could be in all the challenge, uncertainty, loss and disruption we are experiencing.

Q. ​During the global pandemic and the transition to remote work, what is something insightful, encouraging or hopeful that you have discovered about yourself, other people, or your career? We recognize a lot has changed in 2020, and we’d like to invite you to reply with a message you deeply want to share with the Spartan community.
A. 2020 and all the challenges the year brought, taught me to continue to unapologetically take care of myself mentally, physically and spiritually so that I have the energy to take care of and lead others (whether that be as a friend, partner, parent, family member, leader, neighbor, mentor, or whatever role I find myself in or aspiring to be in).

By Joe Strother

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