Sarah Tukua

Sarah Tukua

Year of Graduation: 2003

Major(s): Communication

Current Position:  Group Account Director, AJF Partnership, Melbourne, Australia


Please give a brief description of your current role?
I'm in a leadership position at a successful independently owned advertising agency in Melbourne, Australia where I work on some of Australia's most iconic brands. It's a fantastic way to learn about the country, its culture and elements of its economy.

My current role has several dimensions. Most importantly, I build and maintain relationships with clients, in order to develop an in-depth understanding of their business. Another big part of my role is setting a vision and course to help agency teams drive and manage the day-to-day communications activity of the brands we work on. I rarely work in isolation. My role is dependent on a large agency team of wildly talented people made up of account management staff, strategists, writers, art directors, producers and the agency's founding partners. We work together to define each brand and give them meaning in today's world.

What path did you follow to get to your current position?
When I entered college, I never intended to go into advertising. At first, I was pre-med and envisioned a future flexing my muscles in the world of nutrition. I very quickly fell out of love with the direction the sciences were leading me and pursued humanities courses instead. They allowed me to expand my potential horizons in the business world and, also, to explore areas of intellectual interest to me like communication theory, foreign language and art. Advertising was a career path I stumbled upon via an internship my senior year at St. Ben's. I will never forget the first time I stepped into an ad agency. It was a place filled with high energy people, and creation was at its core. The place seemed to overflow with new ideas. After that, I've never turned back. I've been in the agency world since that internship. Along the way, I've moved agencies (in St. Cloud and Minneapolis) and changed roles all in the name of seeking out the next challenge.

What advice/suggestions would you have for students who might be interested in your career?
Embrace the power of persuasive storytelling - both verbally and written. This is something we do every day in our interaction with others, and almost every aspect of my job depends on it. During your university years, you really have a chance to hone these skills. If it's chatting at a party with friends, in your class work or in front of a keyboard, take every opportunity to strengthen and refine writing and presentations skills.

What skills are important in your field?
The ad industry is extremely dynamic and to keep pace, it's essential to have an insatiable curiosity, to never stop learning and to be able to adapt to change with ease and grace. Other important skills successful ad execs display: practicing positivity, critical thinking, problem solving, not dwelling on the past or sinking too much energy in what you cannot change.

What is the most satisfying/rewarding part of your position?
There are two, but the first is less tangible on paper than the latter. First, relationship building across the agency, with external partners and with clients. Once solid and trust filled relationships are built, teams become unstoppable. Second, I love building brands from ground up and launching them into the market. There's something really enticing (and daunting!) about having a blank canvas to work from.

Most challenging?
The most challenging aspects of my role are also the most rewarding, so in a way, I mentioned most of my biggest challenges in the earlier sections. Advertising wouldn't be a labor of love for me absent of challenges.

What activities/experiences were helpful at CSB/SJU (and elsewhere) in preparation for this career?
I didn't know or appreciate it at the time, but it was hands down all of my oil painting courses in Art. From the series of classes and independent studio work, I started to understand and appreciate the creative process, and I learned how to talk about it. It was incredible practice to create a painting and then have to explain what I made and why.

(October 2016)