#EmbraceEquity with judge Lisa Lebedovich
A Q&A with 2023 Photography & Illustration judge
March 8, 2023
In recognition of this year's International Women's Day (#EmbraceEquity) we wanted to celebrate all the talented hard-working women in our industry and so, we approached the women jurors of our three 2023 Awards competitions – Photography & Illustration, Design and Student – with a Q&A. We wanted to provide them with a space to discuss their experience in the industry today as well as share their advice to up-and-coming creatives.
Lisa Lebedovich, Executive Creative Director, Will, Vancouver BC
How did you end up in the industry?
Like many, my path was not a straight one. I originally wanted to become a photojournalist. I got my BFA from the University of Victoria and majored in visual arts and creative writing with a minor in film. I worked freelance for a few indie music magazines until graduation, and then I headed to the UK. I landed a job assisting for a fashion photographer in London, which was amazing. I loved being surrounded by creative people but saw first-hand how difficult it was to own your own business and hustle for gigs to pay the high studio rents. So, I headed home to Vancouver and went back to school, picking up a certificate in digital arts & interactive media from Emily Carr University of Art + Design. At the time, not many people in Vancouver knew web design, so that helped get my foot in the door at my first agency where I was hired on as Project Director of the Interactive Division – a fancy title for someone who didn’t really know what they were doing. But I worked hard and did my best to learn from everyone around me. Knowing I was a creative at heart, I worked in the evenings doing mock ads to try and impress the creative director. Eventually the persistence paid off and I moved into the creative department as an Art Director, and I never looked back. It was love at first brief.
What were your goals as an up-and-coming creative?
I was incredibly driven to do the best work I possibly could at all times. I wanted to work with the best clients at the best agencies and have the best creative partners. I wanted to build my book and win all the awards. It was all a bit me, me, me at first. Once I achieved some of those goals, and gained more experience and confidence, I realized there was way more reward and satisfaction in leaning into the collective. Working collaboratively with kind, smart and talented people and being part of an agency where everyone feels empowered is way more important than my ego once was. I feel privileged to call many of my current and former co-workers close friends.
Who was your mentor?
Barb Andrews was my high school photography teacher. She was unlike any teacher I ever had. She was opinionated, passionate and totally kick arse. Every summer she would go on a solo creative excursion to a different third-world country and return with all these incredible photos and stories to share with us. She was the first person to encourage me towards a career in the arts. She was a force.
On the advertising side of things, Chris Staples and Ian Grais left a big impression on me. They really cared about the value of creative and showed what it was like to really fucking love what you do. I learned a lot working with them.
What was your experience climbing the creative ladder?
I worked hard. There were definitely some late nights, but I also made time to have fun and enjoy agency culture, to keep some sort of a balance. I asked a ton of questions and always had a ‘keep going’ attitude. I cared a lot about the quality of work and ideas. I still do. Most importantly, I tried to be a good human to everyone I worked with regardless of title, and refused to stay at any place where respect was not mandatory. I also think an earnest love of the job helped make the climb more of a ride.
Do you feel the creative industry has evolved when it comes to fairness to women in the workplace?
When I started my career, I couldn’t name a single female creative director. And now I am one of many in Vancouver, which shows that progress has been made. But there’s more our industry can be doing to promote gender equity in the workplace– to ensure women are paid fairly, treated fairly, and are given the leadership opportunities they deserve. There have been a handful of experiences over my career that have been less than cool – assumptions made, and opportunities missed because I was a mother, or suggestions that a male presence in the room might help sell work into a client with an ‘old boys club’ mentality. I’m sure many women have their own versions of this, and I hope that with more women in leadership roles, this will continue to evolve and improve.
How has your career life influenced your life outside of work?
The demands of this industry can sometimes put pressure on other aspects of your life. It’s true you can ‘have it all’, just not all at once. Balance is something I’m always mindful of, not just in terms of making time for family and friends, but also leaving room for other creative projects that fill you up. I think I’ve gotten better over the years at managing the teeter-totter.
What is your advice to young creative women seeking a career in the industry today?
Stay true to yourself and follow what makes you happy. Work hard, ask questions, and surround yourself with good people. Don’t be afraid to use your voice to ask for what you want. You got this.