By Jacob Nelson
When she was an undergraduate at Northwestern, Marie Davidheiser thought she’d be a video editor. Then she worked for an Evanston local television station, and realized that working in an editing station was “the most boring thing.”
“It was not what I was going to do,” she said with a laugh during a recent phone interview.
Marie Davidheiser will be participating in the next MSLCE Speaker Series event on Wednesday, April 8 at 5 p.m. in Frances Searle, Room 1-441 on Northwestern’s Evanston campus. To RSVP, click here.
Currently the senior vice president and director of operations at Jack Morton, a brand experience agency based in New York, Davidheiser began drifting towards the business side of creativity her senior year of college. She took some marketing courses, and found her way to an internship in Australia, where she helped put together reality television shows based around dating games.
“These were brand new at that point,” Davidheiser said about reality TV. “I had to find couples willing to be filmed as they screamed at each other for thirty minutes.”
Though the experience wasn’t exactly what she wanted to keep pursuing professionally, it offered her a lesson that she still considers important within her field.
“The act of doing is a big thing for me,” Davidheiser said, “Not just talking about it, actually putting something live together.”
After graduating, Davidheiser moved to Los Angeles, where she took a job at a healthcare nonprofit and helped raise money to provide free healthcare clinics. There she learned the importance of skills that don’t get talked about as much in the creative fields, like budgeting and marketing.
“Every dollar you spend is going to someone in need, so you want to be super thrifty,” Davidheiser explained of her philosophy at her job. “Let’s stretch the value of each dollar.”
Eventually, Davidheiser decided that she needed to move to New York. With no contacts in the city, three suitcases, and a one-way plane ticket, she hopped a flight and didn’t look back. She began freelancing for Jack Morton, and eventually was offered work planning events to promote Nascar. She joined them full-time soon after, and turned the tiny account into their largest. Now, she leads the New York office’s operations.
“My job is to … ensure we’re following the vision,” Davidheiser said. She says it’s not hard to do considering she works with brilliant people who bring an innate curiosity to their jobs.
“The office is insane, the energy is infectious,” Davidheiser said. Maintaining a positive, productive office culture is important to Davidheiser, who takes the task seriously.
“It’s not about the ping pong table in the cafe, it’s about acting like a family and encouraging people and making sure we’re competitive,” she said, “I go into work all the time and I make mistakes… they’re going to support me.”
Davidheiser’s commitment to doing over talking has been a huge asset for her management career, and she advises up and coming professionals in any field to not get too caught up in perfection if it means not getting things done.
“I am not a perfectionist because I would be stuck. I’m really big on moving things forward, and if you fail, you move on,” she said. “The worst part of any leadership team is you stand up in front of a team and say you’re going to do something and it never happens. Everyone thinks the leader is about the strategy but their single job is to get results.”