It is Black History Month, and every day this month, The Message is sharing Gavin Barrett’s short profiles of Black professionals from across the industry—marketing, advertising, PR, media and production. Barrett writes the profiles as a way to “fight invisibility,” an exercise in representation for an industry where representation must get better.
Bonjour Canada. Say hello to Élodie Doua, lead, digital project management at lg2 Montréal. Élodie began her career 11 years ago as a project manager in a design agency, followed her heart into the digital field, and has been there since.
Élodie truly believes a good product can solve real problems and educate people, and that, for her, is the draw of this industry. She loves that working in digital comes with constant change. “New technologies, approaches, expertise, you name it. It’s anything but boring,” she says.
Elodie points to Ingrid Enriquez-Donissaint and her diversity and inclusivity initiative Pre&ent as one source of inspiration. “It proves that you can be disruptive in an educational and empathic way,” she says. “I truly admire it.”
Asked about her most amazing career highlight so far, Élodie responds: “The general awakening of my peers and clients. I’ve sensed a shift in communications and interaction in the last two years; people are questioning themselves about their way of thinking and bias. It’s a step in the right direction.”
Élodie’s motto (which she learned from Melody Ouellette) is “Kill them with kindness,” and it shows. When dealing with sensitive DEI issues, Élodie is transparent with her team, focusing on education and discussion. “I always keep in mind that most people genuinely go to others with good intentions,” she says.
But she does challenge things that have crossed a line, and when microaggression, racism or tokenism are in the room. “I ask questions—about the purpose of the project or the situation—and speak up when something feels out of bounds.”
Speaking on how the industry could address systemic racism and become more inclusive, Élodie says: “We need to stop thinking that [just] because it’s not our reality, it’s not a reality. And, if the reality is not the one we aspire to, then we need to show others how it can be changed.”
Élodie thinks change is more likely to come through close collaboration, and advocates for inclusivity and diversity in everything she does. A believer in the butterfly effect, she takes every action she can, however small, “within every project, tool, meeting or interaction with clients.”
To young Black talent, she says, “Do not be afraid to be yourself. You do have an interesting vision to bring to the table, even if sometimes you’re the only one in the room with your perspective. That’s what’s valuable.”
My thanks to Ingrid Enriquez-Donissaint for nominating Élodie. Photo credit: Luc Brissette.
Derrick Oduro began as a digital artist in high school, and was set to work as a graphic designer after graduating from OCAD in 2018. Instead, Derrick was rejected and even ghosted by recruiters. After a few frustrating months, he had to look for gigs as a freelancer, an intern, or in contract roles.
“I was still seeing a lack of Black representation, which can be discouraging… in most rooms, I would be the only one,” he says. As a result, he keenly felt a disconnection and “otherness.” Even though he has never had a BIPOC mentor, he taught himself to use these experiences, good and bad, to shape himself into a better designer and human being.
Though inclined to treat instances of microaggression and racism as teachable moments, he also pauses to evaluate if it is worth his time, especially when faced with wilful misunderstanding, an unwillingness to listen, or attempts to invalidate his feelings and experience. “They will never know what it is like to be… a Black man; being cautious about the way you look and speak, changing your behaviour in public settings, being stereotyped and racially profiled.” he says. “To carry this burden whilst appearing ‘normal,’ ‘happy’ or ‘well-off’ daily is already a challenge on its own. I truly value my peace and sanity overall.”
Derrick wants more diverse industry initiatives for creative immigrants and international students who take that courageous leap of faith and move to Canada. He wants more BIPOC advancement, less discrimination, and commitments to report change at all levels, especially in agency leadership.
He wants the industry to fix its broken, unrealistic recruitment process by implementing wage transparency in job postings, by lowering experience levels for entry-level jobs and junior designer positions, and by paying interns. The status quo “is quite distressing for a recent graduate seeking security and stability,” he says.
“I must be the change I want to see, right?” Derrick says. “I am learning to speak up and to have uncomfortable conversations, protecting my right to tell my own stories, and embracing my cultural history, instead of giving (these) institutions the power to tell them for me, for us.”
Derrick loves being a mentor. “I’m all about inclusion and leading with love and kindness because both are free, and I know how it feels like to be excluded.”
And his advice for young Black talent is to “build a strong portfolio… surround yourself with those who inspire. Your results will show through… You are enough… Never settle for anything that does not align with your heart.”
Derrick’s current side hustle is DOMedia—a digital agency and collective workspace/hub for like-minded, marginalized creatives.
The project he is proudest of is his “Masculinity is a Prison” campaign, which tackles the mental health and well-being challenges faced by young adult men of colour. It was a winner in RGD’s 2020 So(cial) Good Awards, which just shows the kind of talent those recruiters missed.