Happy Anniversary Heather! 10 Years at Vovia
Too seldom in life do we have the opportunity to show love and tell others how much we appreciate them. Today, it is my privilege to share with you how much I appreciate my friend and mentor, Heather Ilsley. Heather has been with Vovia for 10 years now, and we are so much better as a result. I have been lucky enough to work directly with her over these past 8 years, and over that time I have grown significantly; both as a marketer and as a person, and could not be more grateful.
I sat down with Heather this week and pulled together my hardest hitting questions for all of you to observe and enjoy. So, without further ado, let’s get into it!
- What made you apply at Vovia in the first place?
I met Cam and was working at a place that didn’t really value digital very much. I was really passionate about digital and knew it would get bigger and bigger, so when I learned about what Vovia was doing, I got really excited and took the leap of faith.
He was hiring for a specialist role, but we decided that wasn’t really a great fit, so about a year later I came onboard as the Director of Online Marketing, which was primarily focused in client service and strategy.
- Do you remember your first day? Tell me about it.
I remember how excited Cam was that he got me a red laptop. I remember walking in on my first day, in the basement office in the old Karo building, and just thinking to myself that this felt very entrepreneurial. Lots of smart people, big focus on doing the right thing, and a commitment to growing this thing together.
- What color is your toothbrush?
- What is your spirit animal? Why?
The quizzes say Llama… But I think it’s more like monkey because of my curiosity.
- Fave book?
Oh man, there’s so many. I’m re-reading one right now called ‘The Brain That Changes Itself’, which is all about neuroplasticity and the power of the mind to rebuild and adapt. Really fascinating read on cognition and the human brain and I am trying to use it to bio hack my own brain.
- Game of Thrones – what family?
Oh, Stark for sure. But I hate the cold! So maybe I could marry into the Dornish family to keep me warm. Surely there is a nice Dornish prince out there looking for a Stark girl.
- I understand you’re a survivor fan – what’s your luxury item?
A tarp! It’s function over fashion for me, and this will help me survive.
- Biggest Dream?
I want to see the world. The whole world. There’s just so many places I want to go and experience the culture. The more I travel, the more I find that people, all people, at our core are the same. It’s amazing to me how some folks have been through so much hardship, but still manage to find the light and are some of the happiest people I have ever met. It makes me want to live a better life and be a better person.
- Other than me, who do you admire the most?
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
- If you could switch your job with anyone else at Vovia for one day, and also gain their knowledge for that day, whose job would you want?
Definitely Brooke! She is just so smart, and the Marketing Intelligence folks are doing incredibly innovative and exciting things. Even to know just a fraction of what she knows for a day would be super interesting for me.
- What is your favorite summer activity?
Backyard BBQ with friends, music, a few cocktails, and some Extreme Bocce!
- If a movie was made of your life what genre would it be, who would play you?
It would probably be a comedy, and I’m going to go with Sandra Bullock.
- Knowing what you know now, what single piece of advice would you give yourself on day one at Vovia?
Two prongs to this.
- This is a company that rewards hard working people. If you take initiative, there is a tremendous amount of opportunity for you here. This is one of those places that encourages curiosity, rewards initiative, and will give you space to explore it.
- Now knowing what we know about privacy, I would be also more deliberate about the information that I give and to who, and would also want to set up Vovia for success in this space.
- Are you a morning or a night person?
I can be both, but have become more morning as the years go on.
- What is your favorite hobby?
Cooking when I’m at home, traveling and eating for external activities!
- How has your role evolved at Vovia over the last 10 years?
Oh wow, so I started as an Account Director type role when I first joined and handled the social at Vovia, as I was super focused and passionate about social media at the time. So, I helped spearhead some of the first social work we got into as an agency while also building relationships with clients, which was a nice blend.
When Susan joined our team, I moved more into business development which I really enjoyed and got to make an impact at the agency. Then, of course the biggest change was when Susan and Cam offered an opportunity to become a partner in the firm. This was a huge leap for me and has been the most challenging, yet most rewarding work that I have ever taken on.
Once I evolved and became a leader, the biggest learning curve was actually how to lead people. How to motivate people, how to keep things fair and equitable, and how to ensure that people feel valued and supported no matter where they are at in their personal and/or professional lives.
- What’s one word that is not a swear that you hate?
- Fave place?
Koh Lanta and Koh Tao in Thailand! I actually found the most amazing sandwich in the world on Koh Tao. (You can only eat so much curry!) The resto was about 45 minutes from the place I was staying, and I used to bet people the cost of the sandwich that it would be the best sandwich they ever had if they joined me. Let’s just say, I never had to buy 😊
- What’s one word that is not a swear that you love?
Beach, Ocean.. OOOOO vacation!
- What was the biggest challenge that you faced at Vovia over the past 10 years?
The dynamics of really understanding how to best support and lead a super smart and diverse group of people and being there for them in the way they want me to be there for them has certainly ben the most challenging. I am still learning every day, but it’s amazing to see my teammates and colleagues grow and rise.
- What is your favorite movie quote?
This is not my fave, but the one that pops right into my head is ‘life is like a box of chocolates’. I think it really speaks to my internal curiosity, and also, chocolate!
- What do you feel are your biggest accomplishments since you started in 2011?
Winning ATB was a big deal for me and for Vovia. This win legitimized us as a full-service media agency, and put us on the map in the offline media world, where we were up to that point thought of as a digital only shop. That RFP was a killer, with many late late nights developing our response, but I will never forget the day the ATB staff showed up at Vovia unannounced with food trucks and a cooler full of drinks to announce the win and celebrate our new partnership.
- Biggest fear?
- What is the first thing you do when you get up in the morning?
Look at my phone… But I don’t like admitting that I do that!
- Time machine scenario – you’re in the DeLorean, where do you go and what do you do?
Ooooo, it’s too bad Game of Thrones isn’t real, otherwise that would be the first stop! I guess if I have to keep it real, I think the 50s-60s would be fascinating to return to. There was just so much cultural and social revolution happening and I think it would be neat to see and experience first hand. I wouldn’t want to stay though, as I would not make a good 50s housewife…
- If you could get a yacht what would you call it?
“The SS Performance”. (She tried to tell me not to post this one, but here we are…)
- What are some of your fondest Vovia memories over the past 10 years?
Oh Carsen, there’s so many! Most of them are probably inappropriate, but we like to have a good time. One morning that sticks out in my mind is the day Mike Gaudet and I pitched BVC. We were so fired up that we actually went for a beer, at like 10am, to celebrate as we were pretty sure we nailed it. This was the first time we co-pitched together and probably the first time we really saw each other’s expertise in action. Just so many good times! Great people, great dogs, it’s a really great environment here.
- Fave song?
Billie Jean by Michael Jackson! Even today when I hear this song, it makes me want to move.
- What is one of the things on your “bucket” list?
I want to travel to Turkey!
- What behaviour or personality trait do you most attribute your success to, and why?
Without a doubt, it’s my curiosity. This is actually a trait we really look for in our hiring process as well. This industry changes so fast that you really need to be genuinely curious and exploratory in your perspective in order to strive and succeed. Curiosity inevitably leads to continuous learning and growth.
- What is the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten?
Hmmmm, I’ve definitely had some adventures. Crickets, ostrich, kangaroo… This one time I was in an “Amazing Race-style adventure race” and I had to roll a dice at a challenge and you had to drink whatever the dice lined up with. Of course, I rolled the 6, which means I had to drink the swamp mix of everything – Snapple, bugs, cat food, and more in that cocktail…
- What will our biggest challenge be over the next 10 years at Vovia?
Integrating our systems, processes and team with the growing use of AI and automation. With the growing use of AI and automation and the shrinking of the world due to Globalization just increases competitive pressure.
That said, one thing Vovia does very well is service. The ease of doing business and transacting with someone, will always be incredibly important. The best campaigns and clients at Vovia, are the most collaborative ones. Organizations that have a service mindset and care about their customer, tend to always outperform organizations that have product or price mindset.
- What is one thing that annoys you the most?
People that don’t wave when you let them in while driving!! Also, just general manners and kindness. ‘Please’ and ‘thank you’ go a looong way with me.
- What is your biggest hope for the next decade at Vovia?
I’m really passionate about the user, the user experience, and making things as easy for the user as possible. It is so frustrating to me when companies don’t do very simple things for their consumers, and this feels like a big opportunity to help our clients and partners with over the next decade. It’s embedded in everything that we do, and we need to talk about it more.
- Describe what Vovia means to you in one word (or describe Vovia in one word)
Here I asked Heather to answer as fast as she could and if I caught her thinking I would skip to the next question. Here’s how that went…
This or That
- Coffee or tea – Tea
- Sweet or savory – Sweet
- Rice or noodles – Noodles
- Thai or Indian – Thai
- Movie or documentary – TV (not sure she understood the directions…)
- Cats or Dogs – Dogs
- Call or Text – Text
- Toast or Eggs – Eggs
- Ocean or Mountains – Ocean
- Facebook or Insta – Neither
- Music or podcast – Music
- IOS or android – IOS
- Fashion or function – Function
- Sneakers or sandals – Sandals
- Driver or passenger – Driver
- AI or automation – AI
- Cups in the cupboard, right side up or upside down – (this one took her a minute) right side up!
- Books, fiction or non-fiction – Non-fiction
- Movies, theatre or home – Home
- Action or horror – Action
- Mac or PC – PC
- Soup or Sandwich – Sandwich
- Ninjas or Pirates – Ninjas
- Sunrise or sunset – Sunset
- Paid or Organic – Paid
Here I said a word, and Heather responded with the first word she thought of!
- Marketing – performance
- Candy – delicious
- Backstreet – boys
- Performance – marketing
- Email – spam
- Team – builder
- Gold – medal
- 90s – music
- Karaoke – horrible
- John – Pieri
- Paid – media
- Banana – hammock (lol!)
- Google – monopoly
- Ninja – turtles
- Vovia – innovation
Huge congrats to Heather for her 10 year anniversary. And here’s to the next decade aboard the “SS Performance”.