OMD launches diversity-focused fellowship program
30 November 2021

This article was originally published on Campaign.

It’s no secret that the advertising industry is facing two big challenges: lack of diversity and a talent shortage.

In response to that problem, media communications agency OMD launched The Nest, a diversity-focused fellowship program for emerging talent.

Developed over a year ago but delayed by the pandemic, The Nest was constructed by OMD U.S. CEO John Osborn in collaboration with executive director of human resources Aurelie Binisti to address disparities in its workforce and expand the definition of diversity beyond ethnic or cultural background.

For the program, Binisti recruited young and emerging talent from various diverse life experiences, educational backgrounds and races to receive training and mentorship across media and communications.

In September, The Nest welcomed its first members: Eric Villarreal, a military vet (USMC) with a master’s of science in threat and response management; Zyaira Speller, a May 2021 graduate with a bachelor of arts in race and ethnicity; Nicolette Wusu, a 2017 graduate with a bachelor of arts in fine arts, currently working in ecommerce customer relations; and Chantia Murphy, a May 2021 graduate with a bachelor of arts in English.

“Unlike most of our searches in the past for talent where we’ve searched for people that have a steep resume or media-related jobs, we recognized that there are people out there who are fast learners and are intellectually curious,” Osborn said. “With the right training and mentorship [we can] bridge [them] into the world of media.”

As part of the paid six-month program, the fellows will spend time learning across practices including integrated media planning, video investment, digital activation and marketing science. Nesters are asked to identify three particular areas they want to learn more about and join an account where they can rotate among each of the disciplines every month.

In the second half of the fellowship, they will identify their preferred practice, fine-tune their skills and transition to a full-time role. The first session of the program, which began on September 7, will conclude in March 2022.

The program’s structure allows talent to become multi-faceted and skilled in various areas, Binisti said.

That is true for Zyaira Speller, who said for her, the program has helped to build upon her interdisciplinary studies at school and develop valuable skills.

“One of the biggest pieces of advice that I had received in that transition period from graduation to being a full-time worker was to find a program that prioritizes my training and builds me up as a professional first, then everything else will fall into place,” she said. “In my six to eight month search, this was one of the first places that I was able to find that in a concrete way.”

While still in its early stages, OMD hopes to expand the program and increase the number of fellows per session. Binisti said the agency is also looking to bring in people with non-traditional career sequences such as women that have served as stay-at-home moms or individuals that took a sabbatical.

In the meantime, the fellows continue to learn and explore the world of media.

“One of the biggest gaps between me and my career goals was visibility and understanding what was out there,” Speller said. “This has become a clear way for me to come to terms with what I could potentially be [in my career].”

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