Della Mathew SVP, Executive Creative Director at 22Squared

If you could attribute one other person or life event to your success, who or what would it be and why?

Hands down my husband. I could never have imagined having (or needing) the level of support he gives me. The only way I have been able to “do it all” is with his unwavering championing of my career. Especially since starting a family, he has picked up so much of my equal share of the parenting duties. He’s helped shape who I am as a person today and for that, I am forever grateful. 

What is the number one quality you look for in talent?

Oh, man. It’s hard to nail down just one quality. I’m going to go with curiosity because my definition encompasses so many attributes of curiosity. Curious people ask what if? Curious people crave independence. Curious people embrace DEI. Curiosity breeds passion. I could go on and on. But I love meeting talent who ask questions and are never satisfied with solving the same problems with the same answers over and over again. 

What is something the industry isn’t paying attention to that they should?

I think the negative effects of politics on culture and community will have a lasting impact on DEI efforts. Especially after last year’s Supreme Court ruling on Affirmative Action and hiring slowing down, DEI seems to be losing steam. I work at a company that, in my opinion, puts DEI at its core and fundamentally understands the benefits of diverse perspectives in advertising. It can’t just be a talent box to check – which ultimately sets up both parties to fail. It’s meant to be closely integrated into the fabric of an agency’s DNA, vision, and philosophy. It’s embedded in the way we work and the way the work is created. The industry seems to have moved on to other important topics bubbling to the top, I just wish they would remember that DEI is directly related to all of those topics. Making real changes takes continued effort, and if it’s ignored, the problems that have plagued the industry for decades will persist. 

What is the very best career advice you’ve ever received?

Gosh, I’ve heard so many good ones. I heard Jim Jenkins speak at Ogilvy once when I was very very young in my career and at the time he said, “The difference between a good script and a great one is a great creative director.” I’ve kept this mantra in my mind on both sides of the equation, replacing the word script with the word idea. It’s important for someone getting direction from a CD to understand that they not only deserve good creative direction but that they must demand it. If something isn’t clear or if you have a difference of opinion, make it a dialogue and don’t settle for less. As someone who is giving creative direction, it’s imperative to provide clear guidance to shape an idea but also the space and freedom for a creative to come back with their perspectives. 

What part of your role as a leader do you find most rewarding?

All of them? Is that lame? I love my job. I love the people I work alongside. I think there are so many people with so much to give. I guess if I have to pick one thing, it’s having the time to get the best out of talent. Helping them see how their idea or perspective can be turned into a creative solution. Being a part of that moment when it clicked that an idea they thought was stupid but were brave enough to share had a hidden kernel of genius we could turn into something real. Everyone has something to offer. The reward for me is validating that and building the skills and confidence within our teams to find those kernels for themselves. 

What are you most proud of in the last 12 months? Or, what milestones do you most look forward to over the next 12 months?

What I’ve been able to accomplish in the last twelve months is why I’m so excited about the next twelve months. I started at 22 two and a half years ago, itching to be part of a transformation. Joining a team of people with the ambition to take a 100-year-old agency and reshape it to thrive for the next 100 years. I knew it would be hard work and take some time but I’m finally seeing a clearer path towards the future. 

What has been the most challenging moment so far in your career?

I think being a woman at a certain age and trying to have a family was by far the hardest period of my life in regards to this industry but it may have been the moment I was able to flip the switch on what I was capable of. After a long journey towards motherhood and stretching my resilience to its limits, I came out on the other side of that journey with a sense of confidence and purpose I had never experienced. I was able to compartmentalize almost every challenge. I trusted my instincts more, both at home and at work. It transformed me into a much more relentless creative. I was working on IKEA USA at the time and I started approaching my role very differently. Slowly, my transformation was paying off in my career and the transformation of the work on the brands I touched.

By Sasha The Mensch