My experience of the Shadow month with Ms. Babita Baruah, J. Walter Thompson

“It’s going to be fine. I must not worry so much. I have worked in an office before so I can get through this.”

Calming my anxiety about the following day, I put myself to sleep. The next morning wasn’t like any another. It was the day. THE DAY! I was going to meet the Business Head and Senior Vice President of one of the most coveted advertising firms in the world, J. Walter Thompson (JWT). I was to shadow her for the next 30 days – which meant working closely with her, being mentored by her and being observed by her. Yes, my nervousness was justified and I had made peace with the fact. Little did I know that my experience at JWT would far exceed my expectations from the Programme. Fastening my seat belt and checking my (hypothetical) safety mask, I began my journey. Ms.Baruah, here I come!

“Vini Sharma? Is that you? I’m Bob. Please follow me.”

After 45 long minutes in the waiting area I am escorted by a person from the admin department. Hurriedly, I pick my bag and adjust my meticulously ironed shirt. On our way to her office, Bob briefs me about how busy her schedule has been. Looking around, I find a sea of twenty-year olds, casually dressed people, fixated on their humungous Mac screens. The interesting graphics flashing on their screens suggested they could be in creative teams.

And here I was, finally meeting my mentor. She seemed happy to see me and greeted me with a warm hug. I remember smiling a lot. Mostly because I was that excited. All my nervousness was gone. I didn’t feel tense or worried about what I was supposed to say. She made me comfortable as soon as I sat opposite her. She began speaking about why she loves Vedica and how much she likes being associated with it. We spoke about JWT, the month ahead, our common love for travelling and a lot more. My first interaction with her could not have been better. It reassured me that I was headed for an exciting one month.

The Shadow month coincided with the busiest month for the agency. August. It was the month where rebranding campaigns, client interactions, presentations with the senior management peaked. The high energy level of the place was just contagious. One could hardly feel dull in a place as energetic as that. I felt it grow on me day after day. Despite her busy schedule, the time I spent with her was highly fruitful. I’ve always believed that it’s easy for people to respect their superiors, but to respect and treat subordinates the same way isn’t a quality one finds often. I observed it in Ms. Baruah and it is immensely admirable. She would always encourage my opinions in meetings and during presentations.

But there was more. I found more mentors in the organisation than I had initially expected. Conversations with a few senior directors were highly enriching and contributed greatly to my overall learning from the month. It was heartening to see many of them so willing to speak with me about my month in the organisation, only making me wish I could have stayed for longer. Insightful, fresh and stimulating—these three words perfectly summarise my one-month stint shadowing Ms. Babita Baruah. The warmth and depth in all of our interactions was enough for me to feel that I had a mentor in her for much longer than just a month.

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