Next Creative Leaders: Maite Albuquerque

Posted on Nov 02, 2016

Why did you go into advertising?
My parents always told me to find an ordinary career that was secure and stable like being a lawyer or an engineer. So of course I did the opposite and chose the freshness and surprise of a career in design.

You came to New York from Brazil with sheer will. Can you share that story?
After a terrible day at work I came home and told my husband I needed a big change. I wanted to move somewhere and start fresh! At the time, I didn't know anybody that could give us contacts in the US, but I had made up my mind and I was going to find a way to do it.

So me and my husband would spend days on LinkedIn finding the names of all the CDs in an agency we admired and then we'd try all the possible email combinations of their names. Each day we picked a country, searched, wrote crazy amounts of different emails combination and send our story in the hopes of getting at least one reply back. In one day alone we could send as many as 700 emails. Less than a year after we started the research we moved to New York City with nothing but 2 bags, a few hundred dollars in our pockets and lots of dreams.

What made you put yourself forward for Next Creative Leaders?
I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to work with great creative leaders that are women. And to be honest, I'm tired of saying that I'm lucky for that. It should be a common thing to work with great women creative leaders. So instead of complaining, I decided to be the change that I wanted to see.

Who was the woman that changed your career trajectory?
I remember my first day at StraberryFrog. I had moved from Brazil 3 days before and I was so nervous. My English was terrible, I was far from home and everything I knew was that I knew nothing. But every fear and insecurity dissipated completely when I met my Creative Director. So there came this petite blond german woman named Corinna Falusi. She was so curious about me and was so generous that soon I felt like I had nothing to fear. She was never a "No" person and always asked why I believed in the things I said and done. By doing that she boosted both my creativity and my love for design. I believe that we are all a collage of the people we meet and of the stories we share. I feel so lucky to have the chance to meet and work with her.

What piece of creative work are you most proud of and why?
At the end of 2015, I did a project for Google Made With Code, in partnership with the White House called "Holiday Lights." It was an interactive installation where we invited girls to light up the National holiday trees at the White House with the power of code. We hoped to show them that coding was fun and not a stereotypical "boy coding in the basement" thing.

The project was a huge success, and was featured in The New York Times, Washington Post and even got a shout out from president Obama. But what made us truly happy is that we inspired over one million girls to try code for the first time.

What do you consider your biggest accomplishment?
I once did a project for an non-profit organization called Nanhi Kali that ended up providing ten years of education for over 58,000 Indian girls. No award can give me more happiness than that.

If you could go back five years in your career, what advice would you give to you?
Do what you gotta do first, ask for permission later. When people see your dedication, the result is almost always a positive smile.

You started a side shoe business this year. How has that helped you in your agency job?
I think everybody needs a side project. Work can become pretty automatic and when that happens your creativity gets watered down. Side projects keep your mind fresh and help you have a wider perspective about work. That's why I always try to have as many side projects as time allows.

By starting my sustainable shoe line, Caiques Shoes, I've never felt so fulfilled. It's such a symbiotic exchange of good! My experience in Advertising is helping me build my brand from scratch while my work with the shoes is helping me to be more creative and a better designer.

Any secret creative weapons?
I think I'm a very empathic person and I think that helps a lot in the creative process. When you are able to switch perspectives and think out of your own "culture box" that's when you create something that's meaningful.

You mentioned that you like to move around. Why is that?
I think feeling uncomfortable is the best creative fuel. When you put yourself in a new situation you reinvent yourself. Moving also helps me be more open to people and to different ideas. We were all born learners and it's good to keep that curiosity flame alive inside us.

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