Sometimes, when you’re thrown a curveball, you may just hit it out of the park. Believing in yourself and making changes early in your career is key to laying the groundwork for future success, says Deutsch New York CEO Val DiFebo. Here, Val shares valuable advice on compensation and knowing your value.
Tell us about what you are doing now.
My role can change at the drop of a hat, but running a vital business is at the core. Expanding the talent pool, anticipating client demands, finding new business, growing the agency and developing employee experience programs that reinforce our unique culture are just a few of the charges that come with running an agency. At the moment, one of my priorities is exploring different ways to hire diverse talent and create the inclusive environment that makes diversity thrive.
What are some of the ways you're supporting diverse talent and inclusivity in the industry?
As a member of the ANA’s Educational Foundation Board, our goal is to educate students about the diverse world of advertising today. One of my first initiatives was to broker and update the AEF’s “Industry Conversations” video series to feature stories with dynamic executives from various disciplines and backgrounds. We then created “Breaking Into Advertising,” an IGTV series with young industry talent providing relatable and valuable advice on starting a career in advertising. By sharing these stories, we’re able to pave the way for a more broad swath of people to enter the field, one of the most important issues facing our industry.
What do you see as a major challenge women face today in the workplace?
Women often face the challenge of being the family caretaker while also thriving at work. I’ve seen women (and parents) trying to hide the fact they have to run to soccer practice or a doctor’s appointment in fear that they’ll be perceived as less serious about work. And, women are still facing equal pay challenges in nearly all industries. It’s leadership’s responsibility to respect and empower people to show up as themselves every day and recognize that being a parent, pet owner, caretaker is a huge responsibility. We want people who understand responsibility and accountability. So, without judgment, we should encourage them to do what they need to do, and get their work done.
What's one piece of career advice you can offer?
Something I get asked a lot is, “How do you know when it’s time to leave a job and how much should I be getting paid?”
"...adding value, knowing your value, and being a critical team member puts you in a good spot to ask for more money."
It depends on the situation, but usually, it’s time to go if you’ve learned all you can from your current position and you’d be able to bring that experience to a new role. If you’re looking to leave your current job it shouldn’t simply be for a pay bump. Most likely, you could probably get that amount or more if you stay at your current company and find ways to make an impact where you have traction. When it comes down to it, adding value, knowing your value, and being a critical team member puts you in a good spot to ask for more money. Find ways to get an audience with senior executives, raise your hand to do additional projects, one area with tons of opportunity is new business. Recently, a new hire volunteered to provide general research for a keynote I was preparing, she went beyond the ask and over-delivered and you can bet I know her name and suggest her for projects and work that will continue to lift her profile.
What's one pivotal leaning moment you've had during your career?
When I was only 22 years old, I was tasked with putting together a presentation to share with the president of one of our clients. I was proud of the work and felt confident to pass it off to my boss who would do the presenting. The team, myself included, flew to California for the meeting where I was thrown a major curveball: five minutes before the meeting started, my boss informed me that I would be doing the talking. I was so nervous my stomach was turning.
Ultimately, I knew every morsel of the presentation, and I nailed it. Since that day, I never allow myself to be fearful of presenting to people more senior than me. I was lucky to get this experience at a young age and it gave me the confidence to make my arguments, no matter the audience.
Knowing what you know today, what one thing would you have done differently early in your career?
In retrospect, I would have been more aggressive about asking for compensation that matched the impact I was making. Today, the gender gap conversation is surfacing, but still has a long way to go, and I look for opportunities to mentor and embolden others to have conversations about proper compensation.
How have you found the right balance between your personal life and career?
"My version of balance consists of deciding on a few items to prioritize every day..."
My version of balance consists of deciding on a few items to prioritize every day, rather than trying to do everything and falling short. I like to put my priorities on a sliding scale of importance: if my son is performing at school, I might prioritize that on Monday, but on Tuesday, an important meeting might have to take precedence over other things. By weighing the impact and importance of each circumstance, I am able to create a healthy balance between family, work and other interests.
If you weren’t doing what you’re doing now, money or talent would be no object, what would you be doing?
If I weren’t in advertising I’d love to be a talk show host because I love extracting people’s stories. It gives me the opportunity to explore people and their passions, what makes them tick and how they view things. It’s also a tough task to truly listen to people while also being ready with your next relevant question. For me, that’s an exciting challenge and a chance to hone my listening skills and engage with people.