Ruth Esponda, Former Talent Agent, Lands a New Role as Strategist at Havas

Ruth Esponda was a talent agent who wanted to move into the communications industry. However, she wasn't sure whether to pursue marketing, advertising, or PR. Columbia's Strategic Communications program (now known as the Executive M.S. in Strategic Communication program) allowed her to explore all three. As she delved into consumer research and more, she realized that she truly wanted to be a strategist and recently landed a role doing just that at the global communications firm Havas. We spoke with her about what led her to Columbia, how she juggled work and school, and what she loves about the communications field.

What were you doing before the program? What motivated you to apply?

I was a talent agent for about six years working as a representative for actors connecting them with clients in television, commercials, voiceovers, and print. While it was a wonderful experience, I started to realize that I never had a role in the communications strategy.

I wanted to have more say in that process. In my company, I was in contact with ad agencies, so I understood a little bit of what they did and I wanted to be on that side of the table.

When I started to look for educational opportunities, I honestly was thinking of doing an M.B.A. I took the GMAT, and I had been gung-ho about getting that degree, but I realized it wasn't really what I wanted.

Then I came across the program of Strategic Communications, and it really spoke to me. The classes they offered covered so many different aspects of the process. That was great because I wanted to make a career change, but at the time, I didn't know specifically where I wanted to land: marketing, PR, or advertising. I felt like this program could open doors in all of those areas.

What role do you have now?

Now I'm a strategist at Havas Worldwide, which is a global agency. I'm pretty much at the beginning of the communications process. I get to do first-hand research, focus groups, you name it. I listen to the consumers, get the client on our side, and help shape that message. We do 360 work, and it's great to be a part of that experience.

Were you working full-time while you were doing the program? If so, how did you balance that?

Yes, I was working full-time. I basically made a commitment to complete the program. I focused and just put everything else to the side: hanging out with friends, going out. [laughs] Once you get into the swing of it, it’s kind of amazing what you can do with what time you have.

Also, I did both of my summer classes online during the summer. I prefer in-person classes, but due to my schedule, I didn't have a choice. My work schedule was so heavy that I just couldn't get to Columbia by 6:30 p.m. for classes, but I worked around it.

In what ways do you apply your knowledge form the program in your everyday work?

In everything I do! [laughs] WIth every new pitch, every new project, I use the concepts I learned from my classes.

What do you think was most valuable about the program?

I think it was the breadth and the depth of the classes that Columbia offered. We really dove into the heart of each subject. For instance, I took a class on research, and we got to field questionnaires and run our own focus groups at a professional facility. When we were taking our business class, we jumped right into different ways of approaching leadership in the business world.

With each class that I took, I got a different point of view on all these things. That allowed me to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. It opened my eyes to a new world of communications.

Learn more about the Executive Master of Science in Strategic Communication.