The CEO of one of the world’s top ad agencies says her best career advice is based on her first job as a receptionist

DDB's global CEO, Wendy Clark.

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DDB’s global CEO, Wendy Clark.
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Jin S. Lee

  • Wendy Clark is the CEO of DDB Worldwide, a top ad agency.
  • She remembers powerful people often treating her poorly during her first job out of college, as a receptionist.
  • She says the best lesson she passes on to young people is to never let your ego be above anything, regardless of your role.

Wendy Clark became CEO of DDB Worldwide in February, making her the head of one of the world’s most influential ad agencies, with clients such as McDonald’s, Volkswagen, and Unilever.

At Business Insider’s 2018 IGNITION conference, she told the senior advertising reporter Tanya Dua that a job that would otherwise be a sidenote taught her a lesson she passed on to this day, especially to young people: Don’t be above anything.

Clark knew she wanted to get into advertising after graduating from college in 1991, but she was having a hard time landing a job. She saw a posting for a receptionist role. “I knew that if I could just get my foot in the door, I felt like I could work my way up,” she said.

“There were people who, when I was a receptionist, who didn’t treat me very nicely all the time and belittled me or thought less of me,” she said. “They had no clue what my story was, what my journey was. And I have never, ever forgotten that.”

Clark would go on to executive roles at the ad agency GSD&M, AT&T, Coca-Cola, and, most recently, DDB. She told Dua that her first job, in which she saw people in positions of power treat her poorly, inspired her to make herself available to her employees and not develop a superiority complex. This could be something as simple as her, the CEO, grabbing coffee for her colleagues for a meeting, she said.

“It’s whatever role you can do to contribute to an organization’s ultimate success, that’s what you should do,” she said. “And hopefully my leadership style exhibits that today.”

Clark’s interview begins in the video below at 2:25:13.