Mike Shaheen is a Copywriter at Publicis with a background in communication theory and sociology. He’s also a Fishbowl community leader for LGBTQ+ in Advertising.
If the story of your career was a book, what would the title be?
That awkward moment between birth and death.
What’s your go-to fun fact during ice breakers?
I was stranded on a deserted island once and was rescued by the Coast Guard.
What do you love about your job?
I think we’re lucky to be part of an industry that strives for diversity, acceptance, tolerance and embraces our cultural differences. While we still have steps to take, we’re much more progressive and open minded than many other career fields out there and that’s something we shouldn’t take for granted.
What’s the one thing you’d want to improve in your industry?
I think ageism is an issue we should take more seriously, because it’s something none of us are immune to yet we seem to blissfully ignore it under this false impression that it might be solved by the time we’re that age. We need to be the catalyst for the change we want to see. I truly don’t believe anyone is “past their prime,” if my 96-year-old grandmother can make a Tik Tok, there’s no reason you can argue my 45-year-old Creative Director doesn’t have another 30 years left in the industry.
Describe the best boss you’d ever have
Already had him, Federico Hauri, my first ECD. I had no formal ad school education and my portfolio was mediocre at best. I was still working on my bachelor’s degree when I got ahold of him. He could tell I had a lot to learn and most places didn’t think I’d make the cut. He took that risk and gave me a shot as a junior writer while I was still finishing college. He is incredibly humble, intelligent, and was always willing to give detailed and constructive feedback on even my worst ideas. I learned so much working with him and the wonderful tight-knit team at Y&R Miami; it was probably the best first job anyone could ever have.
What’s the worst mistake you’ve made at work?
I once misspelled my client’s name in the subject line of my first and only email to that client, and CC’d my entire team.
Which moment set you the career path you’re on today?
When getting my first degree, I would sometimes cross paths with a family friend who worked in the business on my train ride to class. He loved taking the time to look through my creative photography during those rides and always pushed me to keep expanding my creative thinking and imagination. Several years later he offered me my first gig as a photographer for their social media during a week-long advertising event in NYC, which really drove my interest in the industry.
Do you think it’s possible we’re living in an AI simulation?
Yes, in fact I think about it quite a lot. How would you know? You wouldn’t.
What’s your biggest pet peeve in a coworker?
Microwaving fish in the office.
Who’s your career crush?
Kevin Swanepoel, CEO of the One Club for Creativity, has such an amazing life story. From gut-wrenching war tales of times serving in his nation’s armed services to financial and professional setbacks that would give anybody nightmares, he’s managed to reach a level of success most can only dream of, but with the humility and humbleness of any average person on the street. I’m lucky to know him and have him as a mentor.
What song plays in your head when you have a huge meeting or you know you need to kick ass?
“Hell Chose Me” by Carnifex. I’m a pretty big metalhead.
If you weren’t in your industry, what would you do?
I’d be a Pokémon master, saving the world from Team Rocket and extraterrestrial alien Pokémon with an electric yellow rodent.
Favorite Instagram/Twitter account(s)?
What’s one of your favorite convos from Fishbowl?
It’s both heartwarming and disheartening to read through some of the responses, but I think it’s wonderful that we’re able to use an industry networking app to help people with issues in their personal lives, ones that many others may not understand but those of us with those lived experiences can help walk someone through. How you view your place in this world can determine how happy you live your life, and it’s important we support one another.
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