Tell us about yourself. Who or what inspired you to get into advertising and marketing communications?
My name is Hana Visaya and I am a Senior Project Manager here at People First RPA Advertising. I am a proud member of the greater advertising and marketing community, and I entered the ad fold in a unique way. Out of college, my first real-world job was a unique rotational program for a commercial print manufacturing company, where I learned a variety of foundational business skills I still use today. Eventually, I wanted to be much closer to the creative side of the work we were producing, so after I graduated from the print rotational program, I joined my first ad agency as a Print Production Assistant, and later found my way into my current role in Project Management. Today, I still love mobilizing passionate creatives and other agency teammates to do good work. In addition, I’ve developed a deep passion for our company philanthropy group (RPA Cares) and diversity and inclusion initiatives (RPA Represent). It’s important to me to give back and help people feel “seen.”
What is your opinion on the current state of diversity in the industry? Have you seen a significant change since the start of your career?
I was recently asked to describe the current state of diversity in our industry using just one word. Reflecting on today, early 2020, the single word that came to mind was POSSIBILITY. Living in Southern California, especially Los Angeles, diversity is more or less in the air that we breathe, from our neighborhoods to the ethnic restaurants we frequent. Diversity is a given in my everyday life, and I’m personally so grateful for that. I don’t take it for granted. In the landscape of advertising and marketing, however, while we’ve certainly gotten better, I think we’re still just scratching the surface of what diversity and inclusion seeks to do.
We’ve definitely made significant strides though. When I started at my first real ad agency in 2012, no one talked about diversity in the urgent way we do today. When I started at RPA in 2015, diversity and inclusion started to emerge in the greater ad community (and even beyond) as a necessary business priority. After all, our work as advertisers affects society, and permeates into the social consciousness. Seemingly overnight, diversity in advertising became an urgent call to action: We needed to reflect the wide variety of human beings in the country and in the world.
As an industry, we’ve started to talk the talk, and we’ve started the education on why diversity is business critical (e.g., enhanced creativity and greater quality outputs). And we even started to walk the walk: hiring diverse candidates, casting diverse talent, celebrating diversity in our work, and bidding diverse directors and photographers with much more intention and purpose.
In our quest for parity, there is more drilling down below the surface we need to do. And in my opinion, more deep discussions need to be had and more allyship-in-action is needed to achieve greater levels of inclusion and belonging.
Diversity is a broad term; is there a disconnect between what companies and individuals consider diversity?
Diversity is a broad umbrella term indeed. The individual mind might jump to typical demographic identifiers when defining diversity, things like gender, age, race, ethnicity, class, sexual orientation, religion, geography, education, and marital status. Most companies, on the other hand, might immediately think about diversity of thought, diversity of communication, and leadership style. I say this because almost all of the demographic identities are things you can’t legally bring up or factor into an interview or hiring decision. On the other side of that hiring decision, diversity and inclusion in practice can be tricky. No matter what, the intersection of identities is inevitably tied to the individual, and the collection of those identities affects how they show up at work and how they are received at work. It matters. We need to discuss that impact and address it accordingly.
Over the years there’s been a rise of roles focused on Diversity & Inclusion, introduction of quotas, and other possible solutions. What have you seen to be the most effective and where have you seen these initiatives fall short?
In my view, diversity should be a life-long educational pursuit and the very best Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) professionals know this. The work is often personal, vulnerable, and doing it in earnest and without ego comes with mistakes and a passionate commitment to continued learning. Personally, I don’t think anyone can ever professionally “master” or become a full-fledged “expert” in diversity and inclusion. There are definitely strong leaders in this space, but hiring a D&I role alone is not a single end-all solution to a company’s various diversity issues and goals. Similarly, quotas alone don’t properly attack the lack of inclusion. If you can consistently get a diverse group of new hires, but they all leave after a year since they don’t feel supported, you have failed on a critical half of the D&I goal.
That said, I am a big fan of multi-faceted solutions that hit three key areas: mentorship and access to leadership, company-wide education and accountability, and company policies that promote allyship to historically underrepresented groups with the aim of parity.
Within your agency what’s being done to increase/maintain the diversity of talent?
RPA has really done a great job over the nearly five years that I’ve worked here. We’ve still got serious amounts of work to do, don’t get me wrong. But what we have accomplished so far is really awesome and fills me with pride. Since 2016, we’ve really hit the pavement with our RPA Represent in-house Diversity and Inclusion initiative. We’ve hosted a number of culturally relevant panels, and used diverse voices in the agency to educate the entire associate body on everything from Black History Month to Lunar New Year in February to Hispanic Heritage Month in the fall and everything in between. We have given platforms to our female Associates, our LGBTQ+ folks, and our resident Arab Americans, Asian Pacific Americans, and Native Americans. And we LOVE mentorship and training opportunities for all Associates. We can’t get enough! I’ve personally benefitted from a new training program called RPA Up to support a diverse class of mid- to senior-level talent. This came out of our RPA Represent initiatives as well. We’ve also got T.Tuesday, a training initiative to provide additional leadership and job/life skills to Associates of all levels. The T. Tuesday content is consistently amazing.
Looking to the client side, are there any brands you think should be commended for their efforts?
I love and cherish my time to unwind in front of the TV, so I must applaud both Hulu and Netflix for the representation I consistently see in their original content. The commitment to diversity and representation on both streaming services is top notch.
As for our clients, I work on Honda, and I do happen to know they ran a social campaign around Chinese New Year recently. And I know for myself and the rest of the Asian Pacific RPA Represent Committee, that was pretty cool to hear about!
Is there something that gives you hope that the advertising industry is on the right track to a more inclusive future?
In the recent years of my career, I’ve gotten much more comfortable in my own skin. And while my confidence still ebbs and flows, I feel psychologically safe to bring my authentic self to work. I truly feel like I belong at RPA Advertising. I myself feel included, like my voice has a place here. There’s the hope. I want others to feel it too.