(This is a special series on the women leaders in media agencies. BestMediaInfo.com will bring to you stories that will explore gender bias in the industry, how to strike a work-life balance and what it takes to make it to the top through the lens of leading ladies in the media fraternity.)
Sejal Shah, Managing Partner and Head, Publicis Media Exchange (PMX-Mainline), Publicis,is one of those few women who have been in the media industry for a long time, climbed to the top and made their mark. Having started as a Junior Executive at Lintas (Initiative Media), Shah has worked with agencies such as IPG Mediabrands, Mindshare Fulcrum and Publicis Media across functions. She was also instrumental in building GroupM’s Central Trading Group (CTG), Shah was a founding member of the group.
“I was a part of the team that laid the foundation to some of the trading practices that are followed by the media agency networks even today. It was a very exciting time. Last I worked with GroupM, I was the trading head for Unilever for South Asia. It was at a time when the industry was going through many changes, with BARC replacing TAM, demonetisation and GST,” said Shah.
Of her 22 years in the industry, she has spent seven at GroupM. Shah joined Publicis in August 2018 and there too she is heading the CTG function.
BestMediaInfo.com spoke to Shah about her time in the media industry, gender politics at the helm and what it takes to make it to the top.
A life mantra that you follow.
God is in the details.
How do you manage your family/professional commitments?
The demands increase tremendously at a mental level as it's more a 24x7 job at the senior levels. It is therefore, very important to learn to keep that divide between time at home and at office, mentally. According to me, the quality of time that you spend at home is extremely important. To get some downtime is critical and it is more critical to spend this time with your family.
What are the key attributes that you think are critical for success?
The key attributes critical for success are integrity and focus.
If you were to re-start your professional journey, what would you change and why?
I would like to be a pilot because I love flying.
Does gender bias exist in the media business even today? How has the industry evolved over the last 15-20 years in this regard?
Media (planning and buying) has been quite lucky in that sense. During my 22 years tenure, I have seen a lot of women on top –be it Roda Mehta or Lynn D’Souza or Ambika Srivastava. These women were leading the way from the top. Media is less gender biased than many other industries. Having said that, there are times when you feel that you have to work towards breaking that ceiling. I have sensed it in my career at times, despite this being such a women-friendly space. I don’t think much has changed, majorly because this industry started off on a better note. There is a grudging acceptance coming in at the senior levels but women still have to work at ‘breaking the ceiling’. I am glad many women have managed to do that in our industry.
What is your recommendation to youngsters joining the media trade?
You all are entering a very dynamic arena. So, enjoy the ride!
[Discovery is celebrating the achievements of India’s high-flying women through its show Women Fighter Pilots. In line with its show, the channel has partnered with BestMediaInfo.com to celebrate the achievements of women leaders in advertising through the inspiring series – Discovery Women Achievers.]