Opportunista Ashley Buxton has cracked the code to cultivating her own opportunities to live her best life, both professionally and personally. Illustrative of Ashley’s courage, confidence, and determination is her journey in seeking her most recent professional role as the Group Client Director of Brand Experiences at Refinery29. In case you aren’t familiar with the powerhouse media company, Refinery29 is on a mission to empower a new generation of female leaders, doers, and consumers–celebrating their independent spirit with a mix of inspiration and serviceability that enables them to live their best, most fulfilled, most creative lives. (It’s no coincidence that for three consecutive years, Refinery29 has been featured in Inc. Magazine’s Top 500 Fastest Growing Companies, and in 2014 was chosen as one of Fast Company’s World’s Top 10 Most Innovative Companies in Style.)
Ashley’s beliefs and practices around creating her best personal life are reflected in her commitment to continuous learning, always welcoming new adventures, and never taking life too seriously. Her vibrant spirit and thoughtful approach to creating her own opportunities are worthy of a best-seller on ‘how to get your career and your life together.’ She’s figured it out.
Let’s meet Ashley and learn her story.
Name: Ashley Buxton
Location: Los Angeles
Title & Company: Group Client Director, Brand Experiences, Refinery29
Education: Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, UCLA
Describe your current role at Refinery29.
I lead the West Coast Brand Experiences team responsible for creating strategic brand partnerships for Refinery29. My team sits at the intersection of advertising and editorial. We develop innovative concepts and solutions for advertisers and oversee each project from ideation to execution. We challenge and push brands to co-create content that stands for something valuable in order to connect with the Millennial generation. My team works with over 100 West Coast clients spanning a range of categories. On any given day, we’re working with fashion, fitness, beauty, tech, and entertainment clients.
How did your interests, education, and past careers position you to pursue your current professional role?
Internships paved the way for my career in advertising. I moved from Northern California and went to UCLA where I decided to major in Political Science and pursue a career in law. At the same time, I was curious about other career paths, so I started interning in a variety of fields: politics, entertainment, and advertising. I always had an obsession with the entertainment industry given my personal love of movies and TV, so I interned at a talent agency, a production company, and at Yahoo! on their entertainment sales team. I realized that I was more excited about my work in advertising at Yahoo! than I was about a career in law. After graduating from UCLA, I returned to Yahoo! and dove into a career in digital advertising. I later moved over to Universal McCann, where I worked my way up the ranks of the Sony Pictures digital media team. Then I transitioned to Refinery29 where I currently work.
My internships allowed me to test out a variety of different career paths. I learned a lot about what I liked and what I didn’t like. Each experience helped me figure out where my passions were and it ultimately led me to a career that I truly love.
You mentioned your father was a journalist. How did he influence your career path?
My dad spent his career as a reporter and editor, and he taught me how to think critically and strategically. He taught me how important it is to uncover the root of the story – the ‘why’ behind the story that you are telling. When I was at UCLA, he and I would have long phone conversations about what I was studying and the papers I was writing. From Russian politics to the Chinese Mao era, he helped me develop a brain for critical thinking, which has ultimately helped me take a more thoughtful approach in my career. Every day I use his influence to help my team solve challenges by being a little less frantic and a bit more measured. This has served me well with every job I’ve had.
What do you love most about your current job?
In any given week, I can go from flying to New York to oversee a fashion photo shoot to San Francisco to meet with a global brand and present our big ideas for solving their major business challenges. Every day is an adventure. That mix of ideation, content creation, being on set, and watching it all happen is so exciting.
What does a typical workday look like for you?
I have two different roles to play every day. The first half of my day is spent ideating with my team on big ideas and solutions for our clients. The second half is spent collaborating with clients on content that is currently in production. Every day is definitely a mix of right brain and left brain—half creativity, half project management, all while making sure we are providing our clients with a great brand experience.
What is the biggest obstacle in your current role? How do you work toward overcoming this?
Every day at Refinery29 is extremely busy and fast-paced. Since there is so much going on in any one given day, I think it’s important to set aside time to think strategically about how we can create amazing work for advertisers to connect with millennial women. Sometimes those ideas and solutions don’t happen in 10 minutes, so it’s important to take the time and find the headspace to thoughtfully think about key projects—all while making sure we are still having fun!
You’re moving to another planet. How do you want to be remembered on planet earth?
I want to be remembered as someone who was always ready for the next adventure and who always made the most out of every experience. Someone who would move to another planet if given the chance.
It’s important to work hard while also never taking life too seriously. I think this stems from my mom, who also always says that there is always another adventure just around the corner. For example, when I worked at UM, my whole team went to the “This Is The End” movie premiere. I was determined to get my team to into the after-party. Not only did we make it in, but we also snuck into the after-after party. One of our recent college grads who was on day #3 at our company ended up having an in-depth conversation with Paul Rudd about baseball. It was a very unexpected first week on the job and a moment he said he’ll never forget.
What is the biggest career risk you’ve ever taken? How did it turn out?
My biggest career risk was joining Refinery29 and leaving Universal McCann where I had been for almost six years. I loved my clients. I loved my job. I loved my team. But I wanted to try something new and grow my toolbox of skills for the longevity of my career. So I took a leap of faith and joined Refinery29, a growing company that had just opened up its Los Angeles office. There were a lot of things I had to learn and it has been an amazing growth experience for me.
Do you have any regrets?
I make a point not to focus on regrets. I think it’s important to reflect on each moment as a learning experience. When I look back at my career, I’ve learned that it’s important to push myself out of my comfort zone and to create opportunities for learning. Changing jobs after 5 ½ years at Universal McCann and joining Refinery29 was a big leap for me. When I look back, I realized that pushing myself into a new experience was ultimately the best decision I have made for my career and I’ve grown a lot because of it. Sometimes new is scary, but it ends up being really great.'Sometimes new is scary, but it ends up being really great.' #fearless Click To Tweet
Do you have a passion project? If so, what is it? How are you working toward making that passion a reality?
It’s an idea. Not a project quite yet. I need another entrepreneurial woman to partner with me on it. Did you know that per a Glassdoor study, men earn 24% more than woman on average? That drives me crazy! I even see this in my career. The wage gap is real. A lot of times I think that women are less confident than men to ask for that raise. My passion project—my idea—is creating a resource for women who are in the middle of a salary negotiation. Or maybe they just realized, wow, I’ve been working in the same role for three years, and I haven’t received a raise…Maybe I do deserve a raise?! Having a resource for women with contacts they can call or have a live chat with. That’s the only way that I’ve actually had the confidence to ask for raises – from my mentors who I called and they gave the courage to ask for my market value.
This would be especially helpful for women starting out in their careers to help them realize that they do hold a very strong market value, especially if they have recruiters calling them about other jobs. There’s a lot of leverage in that. Sometimes when companies make you an offer, they consistently call asking you if you’ve made up your mind. Or HR will present you with your raise as if there is no room to negotiate. But there is always room for negotiation.
What’s something you’re looking forward to?
My wedding. I’m marrying Chip Hooley next Memorial Day after dating for almost five years. I am excited to be a “Mr. and Mrs.” team. It’s going to be the most grown-up thing I’ve ever done. Having all of our friends and family there to celebrate as we join together as Hooley’s is something I am really looking forward to.
Five years seems like such a blur. When I look back to the moment Chip and I met, it seems like yesterday! I met Chip when my friend and former client Vanessa invited me to her friend’s birthday party. When I arrived at the party, I couldn’t find Vanessa, but I found Chip instead. He was standing in the back corner of the bar, but since he was the tallest guy there, I noticed him right away. I walked across the room to chat with him and he thought I was a waitress trying to use the register behind him. I was like—no! I’m trying to talk to you. Then he was intrigued. We’ve been together ever since.
What is something you see successful female professionals struggle with? How do you recommend they overcome this challenge(s)?
It can be challenging to not to second guess yourself. Especially in comparison to men. Sometimes I think women don’t have quite as much confidence as men because they’re being careful and don’t want to make a mistake. Sometimes with your bosses or in meetings, it’s better to be confident, and not second guess yourself, and speak up. Or if it’s a boardroom, take a seat at the table and speak your opinions, especially if you have something interesting to say. The guys in the room will definitely take a seat at the table, and they will speak up even if they don’t have as interesting things to say as you do.'Take a seat at the table and speak your opinions.' #girlboss Click To Tweet
What advice do you have for women starting out in their careers? More specifically, what advice do you have for women interested in pursuing a career in media and advertising?
I think that it’s important to be proactive and reach out to different companies where you want to work. If internships aren’t available, then ask for informational interviews. Use LinkedIn to research companies and people you’re interested in meeting with and reach out to them. Most of the time, people will take time for a 20-minute coffee meeting with you to talk about their careers. That can really go a long way. It’s all about establishing connections, especially in advertising. Half the time job postings are already filled before they get posted because of referrals. It’s important to get internships, to be proactive about reaching out, and to not be afraid of emailing people directly. Also, don’t get discouraged if people don’t respond to you. When I went after my first internship in politics, I applied to over 100 internships. I heard back from three of them. And I got one.
If you do have a coffee meeting with someone, follow up and keep the connection alive. Even if that person doesn’t have the answer or an available job for you at that given time, it’s important to maintain those connections. Especially since they took the time to meet with you. You never know down the road when you might have something to offer them or vice versa.
Is there any career advice you received that you wish you had taken, but didn’t at that particular time? Any advice that you’re relieved you didn’t follow?
The tricky thing is that people have a lot of advice to offer and a lot of opinions. Everyone has an opinion. I became conflicted in my past career decisions when I had so many people’s opinions that it clouded my vision of what I really wanted to do. It’s important to stay true to yourself and to figure out what career decisions are right for you. Weigh other people’s opinions, but ultimately you decide on the best career path for you.
How are you creating your own opportunities to live your best life?
Continuing to learn and pushing myself to grow opens so many more doors for me. If you would have told me two years ago that I would be on set with Adidas shooting a high fashion video, I would have said that you were crazy.
Pushing myself, moving past my comfort zone, and filling my toolbox with a bunch of different new skills is helping me to live my best professional life. It’s also important to balance this with your personal life and not say no to new adventures. It’s important to learn and grow from a vacation, or go to a dance class that you wouldn’t normally go to, or do something that is spontaneous or unplanned. Because you just might meet your fiancé.
Ashley is The Opportunista.
What did you want to be when you were 8 years old? A lawyer and a flight attendant. I wanted a “fancy” job.
Who is your role model? My mom. She has always given me the confidence to go outside of my comfort zone. She’s my cheerleader.
One word to describe you. Sassy.
Favorite way to unwind. Chip and I like to walk Baskin-Robbins. A long walk with with ice cream–best way to unwind.
Workout you can’t live without. Yoga Booty Ballet.
What are the most important professional skills that one should develop? Figuring out how to be the answer to your boss’s question.
The woman you dream of taking to lunch. Why her? Bozoma Saint John. She runs marketing for Apple Music. I saw her give the most powerful speech I’ve ever heard.
Tell us something you would not typically share in an interview. I really like spoken word poetry. It’s so inspiring and beautiful to listen to.
Let us know – How has Ashley’s story inspired you to create your own opportunities to live your best life?
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