TAI Alum Marissa Lopez (’16) Shares How Undergraduate Experiences Influenced Her Career Path

Recent TAI graduate Marissa Lopez (’16) is now working as a Junior Art Director at BBDO in New York. Lopez has quite an impressive resume, participating in both the NSAC Ad Team and AAF’s Most Promising Multicultural Student (MPMS) program along with a variety of internships during her undergraduate career. Every unique experience that she had in college prepared her for the career she has now.

Marissa Lopez ('16)
Marissa Lopez (’16)

Lopez took advantage of all the internship opportunities she could. She had three advertising internships during her college career, at both large and small advertising agencies and directly for a brand. Working for such different companies allowed Lopez to get an idea of her ideal workplace.

“The summer before my Senior year was when I had my first advertising agency experience,” Lopez said. “I was an art director intern at Dieste, a multicultural advertising agency located in Dallas. I had the opportunity to work on Cricket Wireless, LaLa Yogurt, and AT&T accounts. When I returned to school in the fall I started an internship at Southwest Airlines as a digital marketing and design intern. I took this opportunity because I was interested in seeing the difference between advertising at an agency versus in-house. At Southwest I got to focus on how print translates into the digital sphere and website design. In the Spring of my senior year I worked at a smaller, boutique agency called Willow St. located in Deep Ellum. It was a great experience and I learned so much. The perk of a small agency at an intern level is the one-on-one time you get with industry professionals. During my time at Willow St. I designed packaging, a website and was constantly producing social media content for various brands. I think working at a smaller agency while still in college helped me to really focus in on my graphic design skills.”

All of these internship opportunities taught her some very important lessons that helped prepare her for her job today. While each taught her different skills and lessons, she took away several pieces of advice that can be applied to all internship experiences.

“Some of the most important things my internships taught me were how important work environment/company culture is, time management, and how to successfully handle direction and criticism,” Lopez said. “Once you set foot in the advertising industry you’ll be quick to notice that no one is going to hold your hand. It’s sink or swim, and you have to self-motivate and even fake it till you make it at times. The sooner you can get exposed to that, the better.”

Along with internships, Lopez had the opportunity to be a member of SMU’s NSAC Ad Team. She served as both a creative and a presenter on the team, giving her first hand experience in campaign design and pitching a campaign.

“My experience on the NSAC Ad Team was one of the most rewarding,” Lopez said. “At the end of the day, you have to be able to work with people regardless of what you do or where you’re working. Being able to be a ‘team-player’ is so cliché but it’s the truth. You want people to want to work with you. It’s how you get your hands on the best accounts and work. Ad Team is the closest experience you get to what working on a campaign at a professional level is like, and I’m so lucky to have gotten that exposure. I walked away with so much more confidence as a presenter, and also with a greater understanding of how important it is to put egos aside, be flexible and successfully work with others.”

Once starting her job at BBDO, Lopez quickly learned that while the campaigns she worked on in school have the same elements as campaigns at work, they also differ in many ways.

“In college when you’re working on campaigns for class or Ad Team, you have more creative freedom than you probably ever will again,” Lopez said. “Take advantage of that. The campaigns I’ve worked on at BBDO have a lot in common to Ad Team; there’s a brief, a target, a budget, a team you work with, and some type of deliverables. The biggest difference is the turnaround is not a few months, but instead a week, maybe if you’re lucky two.”

Lopez at MPMS awards.
Lopez at MPMS recognition.

While all of the previous experiences helped her gain skills and lessons for working at an advertising agency, Lopez attributes her current job to AAF’s Most Promising Multicultural Student program.

“MPMS is what got my foot in the door at BBDO,” Lopez said. “It was an extremely rewarding experience, and I was very honored to be given the award. It was so refreshing to see how diversity plays a role in the industry and how it is becoming such a large part of it. I was very fortunate to meet a BBDO recruiter that saw my potential at the awards program. Exposure and networking is so crucial. Take advantage of every opportunity, contest, award show etc. You never know who you will meet.”

After graduation, Lopez moved to New York to start her internship with BBDO. Soon after, she knew that she wanted to work there full-time, so she worked extremely hard to prove that she deserved the position.

Lopez inside the BBDO office in New York.
Lopez inside the BBDO office in New York.

“The internship was a wonderful experience, and I fell in love with the BBDO company culture and everyone I was working with,” Lopez said. “All of the creatives and the creative work I was surrounded by was extremely inspiring and I knew right away that I wanted to stay past summer and get hired on full-time. I did anything and everything over the course of the summer to prove that I deserved to stay. I worked late hours, weekends, and said ‘yes’ to every opportunity. After 5 months of interning, I was offered a full-time position as a Junior Art Director on the PepsiCo account and have been hard at work ever since.”

Lopez has used the skills she learned in her advertising and graphic design courses at SMU to achieve the success she has today.

“So much of what I learned in my advertising classes at SMU have translated and helped me in my job now,” Lopez said. “Being able to share and talk about your work is probably the most important one. You have to be able to believe in your ideas and get others to as well. At BBDO there are many people your work has to go through before it actually reaches the client, so you’ve got to be able to pitch and talk about it with confidence. All of the Graphic Design and Portfolio classes that required me to present and create presentations to show my work have all helped me so much today.”

Throughout her experiences, Lopez learned the importance of networking and being able to set yourself apart from others. She hopes that her advice can help current students achieve their goals as well.

“Network and meet as many people in the industry as you can,” Lopez said. “Most people are willing to help and share advice. Also, find a strength that sets you apart from others. It doesn’t even have to be a skill; maybe it’s a personality trait. Everyone is talented and creative, but find that passion or trait that’s unique to you and showcase it in your work, portfolio, or resume. People like to see passion. Also, just be nice. Working hard and being kind and genuine will actually get you places!”

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