Pam Fujimoto: Forcing Change in Her Career, Industry
Pam Fujimoto knows that good things take time, and a gentle push.
Straight out of college, she landed a role as a junior art director at WONGDOODY working with one of her role models, Tracy Wong. But it wasn’t dumb luck that got her the position — it was her persistence.
As a graphic design student at the Art Center College of Design, Pam spent her time crafting and cultivating a design portfolio that was called “the best student design book” that WONGDOODY co-founder Tracy had ever seen. When an entry-level role at the agency opened, things seemed to fall perfectly into place.
When it came to Pam getting the job at WONGDOODY Seattle, her dedication over the years to create quality student design work ended up sealing the deal. Plus, it didn’t hurt that she had been in contact with Wong before. In fact, she said her interaction level with him was “a level right below stalker, really.”
Making connections and entering award shows can be intimidating for any student, and especially for one that’s an introvert like Pam, but ultimately it ended up securing her a position that allowed her to flourish as a creative.
"Professionals see that and a lot of the people like me and some of my peers go around judging award shows, and we judge the students’ stuff too," Pam remarked on the importance of entering student award shows. "So we see that work come through and we’ll remember it if we like it."
After some time at WONGDOODY, Pam made the move to New York’s Chiat Day to advance from art director up to art director/associate creative director (the more acronyms, the better). It was during that time that Pam worked on one of her favorite projects: her team was tasked with creating the first campaign for Absolut Vodka in 20 years — and “In An Absolut World” was born.
From politicians with Pinocchio noses to Upper West Side apartments with enviable rent, the campaign called out aspirational behaviors that would only exist in a perfect, “Absolut” world.
After Chiat Day, Pam moved to Seattle-based Creature to be a full-on creative director and then returned to WONGDOODY in Los Angeles as executive creative director. While back at WONGDOODY she spearheaded the agency’s new intern ("Wongtern") program as well as a Women in Advertising scholarship ($5,000! apply apply apply!). Often times she would even find new interns for WONGDOODY from the applicant pool.
Along with scholarships and intern programs, Pam founded June Cleaver is Dead, now "The Motherboard."
There, Pam has built a team of thousands of highly-engaged, loyal and diverse moms focused on creating and critiquing advertising that spoke authentically to mothers (this means ALL mothers — single moms, moms of color, LGBTQIA moms, first-time moms & more).
Through all her accomplishments, including her current role as a creative director at Twitter, Pam still faced one foe that’s seen far too often in the creative industry: imposter syndrome.
“I think it’s hard because what we do is intangible,” she said, “And we kind of are in an industry where we’re validated or we depend on some level of validation from our peers — that’s how you know if your work is good or not.
“If just you thinks it’s good and no one else in the world thinks it’s good, then it’s not really good, right? Because it’s literally for public consumption. So, there’s just a struggle with that.”
Though imposter syndrome and insecurities might be difficult to grapple with, Pam still urges young females entering the advertising industry to make their voices known.
"Don’t be afraid to speak up. I don’t know that I did when I was a junior — I don’t think that I really did, and I feel like agencies are ready and listening for everyone to give their ideas and start initiatives."
“If you’ve got the confidence, you’ve got ideas, you’ve got things that you want to do, don’t be afraid to start them and let them be known…” she said, “Just don’t be afraid.”
Above: Twitter's new head of creative opps recently took her talents to Cannes Lions, where the brand built a beach with experiences related to Twitter's most influential conversations & showcased the platform's ability to power widespread participation with a brand.
Pam also learned not to be afraid of her other workplace obstacles. As an introvert, she doesn’t exactly love public speaking or having people look at her, but it’s what her job calls for. When she has a presentation or big client meeting coming up, Pam prepares thoroughly so she can get out of her comfort zone and step up to the p̶l̶a̶t̶e̶ pitch.
“I’ve overcome it by just forcing myself into some situations that were challenging for me, again and again.” Pam said.
Instead of staying where she’s most comfortable, Pam knows she has to get out of her natural, introverted state to do her best work. She might be the most over-prepared person in the meeting room or in front of the presentation deck, but she doesn’t think that’s a bad thing.
“Having to prepare more because I don’t feel like I can wing it as well or it’s not as natural for me, has actually been help for me,” she said. “Because I am then more prepared for a meeting, for a presentation, or to answer a challenging question, or whatever.”
In addition to leaving her comfort zone in the office, Pam also knows when to break out of that zone in her career. She knows when she wants to make a change and follows that intuition all the way through.
"It’s never like a definite for-sure thing, like any time I make a change I’m like, 'I know 100% this is the change I’m going to make.' It’s more of the, 'I want to make a change.' And that's just the thing I'll continue to do."
It’s what has led her through all her major career shifts, especially her most recent transition from WONGDOODY to working as a freelancer in Los Angeles, to taking over creative leadership and mentorship at Twitter.
“I just need to sort of force myself into situations where I have to be trying these new things.”
Throughout her time as a creative director, she has consistently been leading the charge on new ideas for the industry and bringing in fresh, new faces to the table.
It’s pretty obvious that trying new things aren't out of the ordinary for Pam – that's how she's gotten this far.
Check out more magnificent works of art by Pam right over here.