Sarah Tildsley is a Principal and Creative Director at ChappellRoberts. Throughout her prolific career she has used her strong business knowledge to push the boundaries and create the best work for her clients, while managing the next generation of creative talent.

Join us May 25th for the fourth chapter in our UNDIVIDED series where we’ll share more beautiful perspectives like Sarah’s. More information here.

Can you briefly describe how you discovered that advertising was a career that you could get into?

I was very fortunate in high school to discover my creative path. By chance, I took an elective course, it was called Commercial Art, and it had one Macintosh, a printing press, and the first assignment was to design a logo and a business card. I instantly fell in love with graphic design. So I found my niche and I went after it aggressively. I knew I wanted to go to an art school, I found Ringling College of Art and Design and thankfully was accepted. And the rest is history. I graduated with a major in Graphic Design and a minor in photography. I thought I wanted to work in New York in a design studio, but I saw a lot of potential in Tampa. Mainly the makeup of this market was and still is ad agencies, not design studios, so I gave advertising a shot. And it got me to where I am now.

You’ve seen Tampa and the advertising industry shift so many times throughout the years, can you tell me how much Tampa has changed since you started?

The positive change in Tampa has been amazing. Pretty much every aspect has grown which is incredible to watch. When starting my career I was going off of the gut feeling off of a twenty-year-old. To see all of the change come to fruition has been amazing. It really is such a great metropolis for a young person to be a big fish in a smaller pond — but still, have all the city and the opportunity that’s out there. I think currently, it’s a great city to start your career in. It was for me and it still is today.

Do you think there’s a specific aspect of Tampa that enables young people to grow here?

Based on my travels and my experiences it’s the makeup and mindset of Tampa businesses. Young talent is embraced and that’s because of all the efforts of leadership. That was Colleen Chappell’s main focus while she was the chair of the THEDC, she had an initiative to retain and attract young talent to market. That mindset is something that we all share, and that’s why we have such great momentum in the market. We all know that young minds are what’s going to take us into the future. It is that mindset and focus that is different from more established cities, ones that rest on their history or laurels maybe aren’t as open. But down here, it’s just wide open for opportunities.

Do you think Tampa has more equality in the workplace than other cities?

I think Florida, in general, is known as melting pot. There are so many transplants, it’s getting harder and harder to find natives, so with that there’s a level of acceptance. There’s not a clique. So there’s an openness and it’s easier to be accepted.

From leadership to staff, ChappellRoberts seems to be one of the most gender-balanced agencies in town. Was that intentional?

As an agency, number one, we hire for talent. We look for people who can make different contributions, we’re looking for diverse perspectives, different worldviews. It’s not really about gender-balance, it’s about diverse thinking. That’s what our clients need, so that’s what we offer with our team: diversity and diverse perspectives. Diverse thinking leads to better ideas.

As a leader can you describe your approach to managing young talent?

When young creatives come out of school, they have a fire, a passion and an excitement, and my focus is to harness that energy. Feed it and nurture it without squelching it, and channel it and guide it — that’s where the magic happens.

Do you feel that young people are entitled in terms of climbing the ranks in agencies?

Millennials get a bad rap for this entitlement thing. More than 45% of our agency can be categorized as millennials, and I can tell you none of our team show that characteristic. They are all hard workers and they strive to meet goals. With that said, it is a different day and age for workplaces. When I started, nobody had phones where you could access your work 24 hours a day. Not many people even had laptops so you could be mobile. It’s a different day and age in our workplace, and workplaces have adjusted to the needs and expectations of every new generation.

Do you think that in the day-to-day people are working more now that they’re more accessible?

No, I don’t think so. When I started my career, I would pack up to end the day at 8:30–9 o’clock at night. And I would pass by my Creative Director’s door and he’d say: “Where do you think you’re going?” Those were the hours expected in agencies. Now, we’re fortunate because we don’t have to sit in a physical building to do our work. We can go to dinner or visit a friend, then get back online and work to complete whatever we needed to get done for the day. There’s a lot of flexibility compared to the past when you literally had to be in your agency working with your team physically. That was physically hard. The hours put in may have been the same, but I think now we may have it easier.

Can you share some important lessons you’ve learned in your career and life?

I think career and life lessons are one and the same. The way that you live and the way you conduct your career are many times the same. There are a couple of main areas that young people need to think about in their life and career. One of which is to be a better communicator. The stronger your communication skills and the better you communicate with others, the better your life and career are going to be. The second thing is your personal brand. Knowing that the way you dress, the way you speak and what you do on your Instagram is part of your brand. And you will be judged by it. Your brand can be your biggest asset if you focus on it and if you make it true to yourself.

What traits define a successful person to you?

Everyone has a definition of success and it’s very personal. But to me, it’s a person who can do what they love with integrity, creativity, and passion while helping others along the way.

Do you have any advice for young women who are trying to break into a creative career?

I think we’ve come a long from the Mad Men days but there’s still quite a bit of work to do. We’ve made a lot of progress with diversity and equality. I have been involved since 2013 with a group called the 3% Movement. When they started their efforts only 3% of Creative Directors nationally were women, hence the name. 3% wants to change the ratio because the more varied the people who come up with ideas, the better the ideas will be. It’s not a feminist group, it really is to reflect the audiences we want to reach — we need to have more diversity. I would tell young creative women to be aware of groups like that and to reach out to other female creatives. Someone from the USF ZAP program could call me or email me and say: “I’m a female creative coming up in the industry, could we talk?” And my answer would be “yes.” Ask for advice, there are a lot of wonderful women in high positions in agencies all over the world. And I have found them to be very open throughout the years, and everyone has been very accepting. It is our duty to help each other as we continue to try and make this industry more diverse.

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The UNDIVIDED / Community chapter and interviews were conducted by Ad 2 Tampa Bay Diversity Director, Mouzel Manugas and designed by Tommy Eliason.

Join us May 25th for the fourth chapter in our UNDIVIDED series where we’ll share more beautiful perspectives like Sarah’s. More information here.