Building the Next Generation of Diverse Leaders, the OMD Way

By The Storytelling Revolution Archives
Cover image for  article: Building the Next Generation of Diverse Leaders, the OMD Way

"When people ask me if I went to film school, I tell them, 'No, I went to films.'" These are the words of the famous American film director, screenwriter and actor Quentin Tarantino. He learned the art of filmmaking by living it, by leveraging his transferable skills working in a video store and applying them to script-writing -- everything from understanding people's favorite genre to asking them why they enjoyed a particular scene in a movie.

OMD's Nest program fosters similar passions by embracing diverse talent who have not followed the predictable path to an agency career, but instead show such hunger and promise that it overrides their lack of media experience.

As the agency's accelerator program for emerging talent, the Nest addresses business imperatives by leveraging a diversity of background, generation, demographics, life experiences and thought. And OMD leaders say that has resulted in a 360-degree payoff across talent, agency, client and the advertising community at large.

Eric Villarreal, one of the 2021 Nesters, spent over 20 years in the U.S. Marine Corps in strategic planning and recruiting. He was looking for a post-military career that tapped into his passion for data-driven decisions and that would require a strategic mindset to solve problems. He also recently completed a Master of Science program in threat and response management, an important skillset in today's COVID-19 reality. Villarreal is now an integral part of the U.S. Army client account at OMD, providing support across media planning and execution.

OMD teaches Nesters about the world of media by immersing them directly into it with eyes wide open. This stimulates creative inspiration and helps refine skills in a new craft. Nesters spend "six months in a paid fellowship -- learning across practices that integrated media planning, video investment, digital activation and marketing science -- to build their media acumen," explained Aurelie Binisti, Executive Director, Human Resources, OMD. "At the conclusion of their fellowships Nesters identify their preferred practice and are offered a full-time role."

"The goal is to provide our Nesters with the tools and experience they need to succeed at OMD, and feel confident in bringing their diverse perspectives and life experiences to the job of driving business results for our clients," explained John Osborn, CEO of OMD USA, one of the architects of the program.

Osborn said that a big strategic focus at OMD is to "attract and retain an unfair share of talent out there, and the trick is to look at new, creative ways to identify them."

This marks a move away from a cookie-cutter approach to recruitment that has traditionally relied on candidates with an established track record in media. With the Nest, the agency is able to use a "wide lens" approach to identify talent who demonstrate intellectual curiosity, deep problem-solving skills, a passion for media and an appetite to learn, Binisti said.

The military skills that Villarreal has displayed can have a multiplier effect on other team-members. Osborn noted that the "frontline emergency responses that is a core military skill was something we had to learn and emulate with teams taking their cues from Eric." The learning is multi-directional and dynamic, where not only the new talent learns the media industry, but importantly established team members are exposed to new ways of solving a problem.

Osborn and Binisti both echoed the importance of acceptance, inclusion and belonging and how the agency embraces diversity in all its forms -- culturally, generationally, experientially and demographically.

Villarreal said he is energized by how his military acumen in data analysis and strategic planning correlates with the key learning themes of the Nest program.

"This depth of experience is something you cannot decipher from a flat piece of paper called the resume, but instead you need to go to the third dimension of life experience, inner motivation, drive and hunger to learn," Osborn explained.

"The success of the program relies on candid and honest feedback from the Nest candidate and the integrated teams supporting them," Binisti said. After spending three months evaluating key discipline areas within OMD, Nesters use the second three months of the program to focus on their passion areas.

When asked about what learnings from OMD have been most impactful, Villarreal replied speed of action, buoyed by an abundance of data. "In the military, we also have to act with high accuracy in a nanosecond, living in a VUCA [volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous] world with little data. But in the media industry, there is an incredible volume and velocity of data at your fingertips."

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