D&AD Meets is a regular series where we elevate the work of need-to-know creatives who have been through D&AD programmes Shift and New Blood. Each interview features new talent deserving of a spotlight, the ones to watch, and the ones to work with. Here, we speak to Russie Miessi about their journey from running a club night for the QTIPOC community to learning to trust their instincts as a strategist and becoming a D&AD trustee.
Tell us about yourself, how old are you and where are you from?
I'm Russie aka Yana aka Yanaboth but to be safe, Russie. I'm a 27-year-old creative from London. I’m currently a Social Strategist at Born Social, working across platforms, and was previously a Planner at McCann. I’m also 1/5 of Fax no Printer which is a cultural insight platform. I also used to run an emo pop punk club night for the QTIPOC community, which has currently taken a backseat because I want to put my energy into my new job, but I think I might bring it back at some point.
Tell us about the work you do. What are your career highlights so far?
I’m currently doing strategy for a book publishing company at Born Social. Being a strategist is all about the research, it’s about thinking about what the company is doing, what others are doing, and what people are saying in different communities. It’s about being consciously inclusive and creating a narrative behind the facts as to why people act a certain way, and then creating the direction of what a brand should be doing based on that. I’ve learnt that every Strategist is different, and everyone you work with is different and that’s valuable. The blessing and the curse about strategy for me is that it really is just up to me and my opinions and what I should suggest. It’s a lot of pressure in that sense. I think the highlights of my career so far though are my passion projects, like Fax no Printer.
Can you tell us a bit about your newsletter Fax no Printer?
Fax no Printer came to be because I felt like the whole advertising industry needs to be challenged more. I wanted to create a publication where I could challenge people’s thoughts and start a conversation. I wanted the platform to be led by others like myself who are deep within culture but also be able to champion voices of those who are newer or undiscovered in the industry. I had a discussion with my manager at the time, Rob Scotland, Head of Strategy at McCann London, saying I wanted to talk about the opinions of people who had been in the industry for just a few years — a bottom-up approach if you will. He really supported and encouraged me.
I then started it with my friends. The group consists of Abigail Meakins a talented Account Exec, Amaal Mohamed, a Brand Manager and Designer, and our new fam Rahel Petros, who’s Digital Marketing and lastly Maryan Abshir who is a Junior Strategist. We're all from different walks of life and all passionately here to speak to our sectors and also create and push news we really enjoy. It’s us saying “this is who we are, and this is what you need to know”. I did it in my own tone of voice with a hundred jokes in there which is why I think people relate to it.
What was your break into the creative industry? Did anyone help you on your career journey so far, if so who?
My break into strategy has been a range of different people supporting me on the way. Gerrard Chrichlow, one of my first mentors from D&AD when I did the Shift programme made me aware of Black Strat, a group of Black strategists, and that group alone has supported me many times. I met some amazing people through that group. I honestly can’t even remember if I knew I wanted to be a strategist first or if Gerard helped me find that path.
Rob Scotland, Head of Strategy when I started McCann London is another mentor. He was also the first person who I told about the idea of Fax no Printer and he encouraged me to push forward with it. He helped me step it up and find my voice.
Lastly, Chloe Davies. I had the utmost pleasure of meeting her years ago through UK Black Pride. She also works within strategy and I would say not only her knowledge, drive, passion and humour but she as a person has grounded me and helped to hone my skills in life and in strategy. She’s someone who I’ve always looked up to and I am continuously proud of daily.
I would also say it’s not just about mentors but the friends I’ve made along the way who have helped my journey including those friends I’ve made and worked with at FNP and at McCann. I think friends in the industry are important because they help you look at things differently and unpack ideas in ways you wouldn't have maybe thought of them.
You were part of D&AD’s Shift Program and are now a D&AD trustee, can you tell us a bit about your experience?
So the Shift programme came about at a very perfect time of my life because I had handed in my notice for my previous job, and two weeks before that job finished I got an email saying I was invited onto the programme. I always go into everything with the mentality that it’s as good as you make it, so that’s how I entered the Shift programme. Seeing such a diverse group was really refreshing and I really enjoyed the course, though some tutors were definitely better than others. I didn’t have a laptop at the time so I remember I was doing all the work on my phone or borrowing laptops at D&AD, and I didn’t have a job at the time, so I was basically just hustling. It was intense and tough but I know I’m lucky to have been able to jump right into the industry, kind of like a slingshot.
Being a D&AD trustee is amazing too, just to be in a room with so many creative minds. It’s important for diverse people to be a part of the conversation. I’ve made amazing connections and had some great chats with Dara (Lynch, COO at D&AD). I can’t wait to step into the role more and give more actionable suggestions.
Can you tell us three creatives who are doing interesting work? This is your chance to shout out creatives on the rise.
I love this question but would point out they are doing creative work but not all Creatives in day to day trade.
Bernice Mulenga, they’re an amazing photographer, super insightful, creative, multidisciplinary, and a visionary. Someone I’ve looked up to before I even stepped into strategy.
Tyla Grant. I’ve yet to meet them but I’ve been keeping up with their work from afar. Tyla is the founder of the non-profit Black and Neurodiverse, and raised £7000 in 7 days and has been distributing grants for assessments for those experiencing hardships.
Ben Conway. Anyone who gets the pleasure to work with such a smart, creative, culturally connected Creative, just know it’s a blessing. I can honestly say my work has improved just by being able to work alongside Ben.
What advice do you have for someone trying to break into the creative industry?
I would say the most important thing is to be authentic to yourself, because if you're pretending to be someone else, everyone expects you to be someone you're not. So that's the biggest thing. I think also, and it sounds small, but take breaks, like a lunch break, take your evenings off, clear your space, have other hobbies and try and find ways to live and socialise outside of work. You may have weaknesses and things you don’t like doing but that’s fine. Always work on yourself. I hate presenting. And yet, when at McCann, I would present every two weeks and I would gladly do it, because you might as well become good at the things you hate doing. And I’d say any work you have out there that you want people to see, keep those links updated and be proactive in getting that work seen. Most importantly, have fun!
Get in touch with Russie Miessi here.
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