Kelisha Brown wants to show the path for young Black talent

It is Black History Month, and every day this month, The Message will be sharing Gavin Barrett’s short profiles of Black professionals from across the industry—marketing, advertising, PR, media and production. Barrett writes the profiles on his own as a way to “fight invisibility,” an exercise in representation for an industry where representation must get better. 

Hey, hey #CanadianAdvertising… meet Kelisha Brown, senior product designer at Versett. Seven years into her career, Kelisha’s path has been full of many incredible lessons, experiences and relationships leading her to where she is today.

She studied advertising at Humber College because it combined her interest in art and psychology. The bachelor’s degree program connected her with fresh graduates and seasoned professionals, and the many connections she made with folks a few steps ahead made it easier to enter the industry.

Being in a predominantly white industry has meant that Kelisha never had a formal BIPOC mentor. But she still met many remarkable people who mentored her directly and indirectly, and has established great relationships with other BIPOC professionals via many online communities.

Kelisha puts self-care first when handling bias, microaggressions, or racism. When she is able to treat it as a teachable moment, she is direct and asks questions to help the other person reframe their thoughts. In tougher situations, when power dynamics may be at play, Kelisha leans on trusted advocates and adjusts depending on the severity and her comfort level.

Kelisha’s most amazing career moment? When her client loved their new brand identity so much, they gave everyone on the brand launch team custom-made socks as swag—an insider reference to the socks metaphor used to explain the brand concept.

Kelisha wants agencies to not only hire more BIPOC, but also retain them, listen to their concerns, and create policies to uplift them. “More pay transparency. More space to truly be authentic and share our experiences. More guidance and support for upwards mobility.”

Kelisha has decided to make herself available to discuss her career path with young Black women and women of colour. “I want them to see me and understand that what I’ve accomplished isn’t beyond their reach. It’s attainable. And regardless of what they’ve been told, or what they’ve heard, they are worthy of any opportunity they seek out.”

She advises young Black talent wanting to get into advertising to reach out to those a few steps ahead, because they want to share knowledge and resources. “All of us are working to make the path easier for those coming behind us,” she says.

Kelisha has chosen to spotlight her Becker Brand Identity and E-Commerce project (above) because it symbolizes great teamwork across multiple disciplines, and was also her introduction to the world of UX.

She discovered how much she enjoyed learning about user stories and how to craft a digital experience that was visually beautiful as well as intuitive for everyone using it—from customers to customer support. She gives her client a special shoutout for being “a wonderful co-creator, who loved everything we did and was so excited to launch their new brand.” It is a project that constantly reminds Kelisha of the importance of creative synergy between clients and agencies.

Gavin Barrett