#IWD2019 - A conversation with Nathalie Cusson
March 08, 2019
Nathalie Cusson is the Creative Director of Design at Juniper Park\TBWA and is undoubtedly a boss lady.
Nathalie has spent her career working in many different creative positions and has brought that wealth of knowledge to her team. Her passion for the arts extends beyond creative advertising to crafts like film production and animation, as well as print publication design and photography. Her versatility transcends the conventions and mirrors the core elements of Disruption.
As a former teacher, Nathalie has acted as a great mentor to the team and can often be found perched beside one of her fellow Designers, dissecting the work. It is this collaboration and persistence that has made her a great addition to our team.
We spoke to Nathalie about what her experience has been like as a female creative across several industries. Below is a transcript of that conversation.
Q: When you started out, were there any women in leadership roles that you could look up to?
Nathalie: When I started out, at the very beginning I didn't have any women references. Later on, I did. People like Paula Scher and then later in my life closer to me there was a Jane Hope, who just won the Les Usherwood Award last November.
Q: Do you think you don’t have very many women references because of the male dominance at the top of the industry?
Nathalie: Probably, yeah, that's probably the reason.
Q: Do you think that if there was more parity it would have helped you early on in your career?
Nathalie: I think what would have been nice, which didn't happen then, would have been to have some solidarity among women working in the industry. There was already a lot of women working in the industry when I started, and I started as a young art director in advertising. But what happened is that sexism was so common that the perception that a woman was not as capable as a man was even believed by women. So, it was hard because the ones that made it to the top were very protective of their space. So, they were hard on other women.
Q: Because it was tough to get together or confide within women in the industry, did you look for female role models outside of the industry?
Nathalie: No, not really. I when I was a student, I was also a baby sitter. And one couple I was babysitting for, the man was a Creative Director and the woman was an Illustrator. So, they had very different roles but they both worked in the similar industry and I admired both of their work. And I remember they had a big library of Communication Arts and at the time I never knew that this (advertising and creative) could be a job. So I sat down and I read. I couldn't wait until the baby would be asleep so I could read all the Communication Arts issues.
Q: Female empowerment has become a centerpiece of several brands. How do you feel about these campaigns and their focus around women specifically?
Nathalie: I think they're great and I think they're necessary and they really mark a step towards the future. Hopefully this will continue to exist but in not such a marked way, it will become the norm. So, I think it's a great step. I'm glad that people took the initiative to do something like that.
Q: Could you see gender parity becoming a norm for women in these spaces?
Nathalie: I think I see it happening. I think curiously enough there's a lot of progress done in the public eye like in companies or in the film industry. There’s a lot of talk about female directors and how they should be presented because there are tons of women directors, but we never hear about them. But where things are moving much more slowly is at home. According to studies, and I don't have the numbers, women still have the bulk of home chores like taking care of the kids, the food and all that. It still falls under their responsibility, so to speak. So hopefully the public movement will influence our everyday life as well.
Q: Within the creative industries have you noticed a change in gender issues over your career?
Nathalie: So yes, I have. I have noticed a change in gender issues in the industry but quite recently. For a very long time, it was male dominated. But unspoken. And all of a sudden people are talking about it and taking action to correct it. So, I would say it's fairly recent that there's more women in leadership. There's always been a lot of women, but they weren't necessarily in the leadership roles.
Q: What career advice would you offer to young women in junior roles in this industry?
Nathalie: So, the career advice I would give to young women in junior roles today would be to be confident and to trust their knowledge but also to be mindful of others and to be open to learn from more senior people.
Q: If you had a daughter, would you encourage her to get into advertising?
Nathalie: What I would do is I would encourage her to do whatever she wants. I think the sky's the limit. Today it's amazing for young people or young women that they have so much choice. That being said, I really enjoy the ride in advertising and design and branding. I have had a path that's not linear. I've tried many things. I've done film, film direction for two direction editorial. I think it's nice to touch a little bit of everything and the tendency today with young people is that they become more multiplatform which is great.
Q: Looking back on your career and the path that you've had is there any advice that you give to your younger self that you'd wish you'd known?
Nathalie: So, if I was to give advice to my younger self today, I would say be confident, trust what you know and don't take any shit. Don’t work until midnight or 3:00 in the morning or all night. And try to enjoy the ride.
Q: What made you feel like you were ready to take on a senior position?
Nathalie: I felt like I had enough knowledge that I could be a mentor and it's a very nice feeling to be able to share that knowledge. So, I experienced that while being a film director, while being a teacher and also while being a creative director or art director in a magazine where you direct a team. So being here in this agency is a really great place because I can sort of culminate all this experience and put it to use in one place.
Q: What's the best thing about women managers?
Nathalie: Oh my god. That's a really tough one. Because there are all types of leaders. And there's all types of women. So, it's really an individual thing. I don’t want to say women are more nurturing because there are women that are not nurturing. If we can all work together and if women in leadership are open to help pull other women to the top, then it's great but that mindset has to go for everyone. For women and for men it's the thought that has to be across the board. Otherwise, it's not working.
Q: How do you juggle home life and work life?
Nathalie: I love this question because this is a question you would never think of asking a man. But I will answer it. I think that balance is subjective. In my life, is there a perfect balance between home and work? Not necessarily all of the time. But seeking a perfect 50/50 balance of work and home life might be futile. Imbalance is ok, depending on what makes you happy.