EPISODE #7 || Mariam Guessous, Creative Director & Creative Entrepreneur

Mariam Guessous is a Creative Director who recently left her agency job to create her own vision and help bring positive change to the industry. She manages to tell it like it is—even sharing the lowest point in her career—while still being full of encouraging, self-affirming advice. Hear why sucking as a junior is okay, how to prevent burnout, and how to know when to leave the agency world.

Oops: In the outro I mentioned Mariam's new creative venture as I See You Well, when it's actually called I SEE YOU.

Heads up: I'm giving a talk on Finding the Right Fit on Wednesday, September 6 at 5pm PT, as part of a career insight series hosted by UCLA. It's free and open to everyone—just tune in on YouTube Live.

Also, I'm going to start using my Blue Yeti microphone for remote guests to cut down on the Skype fizzles on my end. It's probably more noticeable to me than you, but my goal is the cleanest audio possible!

Topics Discussed

  • Creating urgency around trips to whatever city you want to work in.
  • Building your portfolio without going to portfolio school.
  • Why sucking as a junior is okay.
  • Turning comparison into inspiration.
  • How to send a cold email to someone you want help from.
  • Preventing burnout in juniors and the decision to leave the agency world.
  • Why you should bring your full self to work.
  • Dealing with stereotypes in a strategic way.

Mic Drops

“The most challenging thing about being an art director is that in the beginning, you don’t have the skills necessary to do your job. You just don’t. Because art direction and design is a practice. The more you do it, the more you get better at it. So what typically happens is that the vision is there, you know where you want to get, but you just literally don’t have the skills necessary and it can be very, very frustrating.”

“Always give them a little something to remember you by. Every email is one more layer to yourself. Leave a little thing behind, don’t give it all in one email by sending a giant email.[…] This is who you’re missing, I’m pretty awesome, look at my work, look at this article. That way you don’t come off too strong.” 

“As long as you’re able to create from an authentic place at an agency, you’re good. But the second you feel like you need to censor yourself is when you have to start looking at other agencies. […] The most important thing to do is to take action and not just sit there and wait for things to get better. […] If you’re not fully comfortable and happy where you are, make a move. Talk to somebody. […] Don’t sit there until it’s too late and you have to do so much damage control to even find yourself again. As a creative, you have to practice radical self-care, because our brains are all we have, and you need to nurture it, always.” 

Resources Mentioned

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About Mariam

Mariam is a Creative Director and Creative Entrepreneur originally from Marrakech, Morocco. She recently quit her ad agency job to pursue her dream of building a hybrid agency focused on diverse, real and unapologetic voices. Mariam is the creator behind various movements including: The Madison’s Collective, Just Add Feminism and Elephant on Mad. Ave. She speaks four and a half languages and is passionate about Diversity and Social Good. When Mariam is not creating, she is reading, meditating and practicing yoga around the world.