Tough Career Choices and the Men Who Mentored, Sponsored Me

In 1995, mentors and sponsors were not even terms in the advertising industry nor a common practice in other industries in Mexico. People just had to figure out who to ask for advice, who to trust, and to do what they thought was best. Asking someone to formally be your mentor would have been weird, like asking another adult to be your godfather.

I was a Creative VP at Leo Burnett Mexico, which at that time was one of the top creative agencies in Latin America. As a result of my passion for Spanish Creative Work, I had strong relationships with top creative directors in Spain. In those days, Spain was one of the most respected countries in terms of advertising.

To make a long story short, I was offered an opportunity to spend three months as an intern at Casadevall Pedreño in Barcelona, Spain. But Leo Burnett’s policy would not permit me to “get trained” at another agency.

So, I had a tough choice: Take the internship in Spain, which provided no future career opportunity or guarantees, or stay at Leo in Mexico, which was one of the best places I’d ever worked.

After receiving a lot of advice, I heard from the ONE person I was reluctant to get advice from –  my father. My father was a talented, wise, silent man, and communication was not a key strength of his.

He asked me two simple questions:

  1. If you go to Barcelona, and you really don’t have the chance to learn and grow, will you ever forgive yourself for leaving Leo Burnett?
  2. If you stay at Leo, will you ever forgive yourself for not taking the chance at Casadevall Pedreño?

He ended by saying: “Never stop yourself from doing something out of fear,” and that he never wanted me to live with regrets.

“Never stop yourself from doing something out of fear…”

None of the advice from experienced advertising colleagues and friends measured up to my father’s two central questions. The reality was that, that there was no way was I ever going to forgive myself for giving up the chance to prove myself in Europe.

I resigned at the job I loved and took the internship at Casadevall in Spain.

It was not easy. It was a rocky start, but at the end of the day it was worth it. I had the chance to work for José María Pujol, learn a completely different way of creating, and be a part of an amazing team. I also had an unexpected and priceless gift: I made friends with people I still treasure and consider part of my family.

At Casadevall, José María Pujol became not only my boss, but also my sponsor. He didn’t only help me understand the industry and the market, he gave me visibility within the agency by giving my ideas credit to the head of the agency. Because of his influence, I was offered to stay a real job as a Creative Director. After working with him for a while, he helped me decide to come back to Mexico as a Creative Head for Ogilvy, even though he wanted me to stay in Barcelona as part of his team.

joshua ness meet

He made me face reality: why start an advertising career from scratch at 35 as an unknown Mexican creative in Barcelona, when I could capitalize on what I had built in Mexico using my newfound experience? He was honest enough to share with me that he was just a few months away from leaving the agency.

I came back to Mexico and was hired as an expat. In partnership with John Hoyle, an amazing British man who was the former General Manager at Ogilvy Mexico, we turned around the agency by winning important business pitches and the First Cannes Lion for Mexico, among other awards. And the best prize of all: becoming the mother of my amazing daughter, the best thing that has ever happened to me, which never could have happened had I stayed in Barcelona.

What did I learn? Sometimes pride stops us from listening to people who are around us. The take away: your boss can be your sponsor and mentor, if he is wise and has a good heart. Only work for people you can trust.