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"There Are Lessons I've Learned with Every Failure"


R/GA Chicago's Jessie Morton explains how a producer’s job can be like a hero’s journey

"There Are Lessons I've Learned with Every Failure"

Multifaceted R/GA Chicago senior producer Jessie Morton reflects how she stuck through with the industry while pursuing her love for comedy and finding comfort in the discomfort of failing to grow.

Q> Tell me about your career path. What brought you to R/GA?

Jessie> I’m one of those uncommon people who went to college for advertising, got a job in advertising, and still work in the field. I have bounced between client service and production roles at various agencies, also bounced around the country for such roles. The journey included starting in New York at Bernard Hodes Group, then to Michigan for Real Integrated & DBA Worldwide, and finally to Chicago to work as a senior project manager at Vibes Media and now at R/GA as a senior producer.

Sure, there were some other factors with each move: family, friends, breakups and my implausible notion of becoming a wealthy and famous comedian (hence, the move to Chicago to study comedy at the birthplace of improv).


Q> What do you enjoy most about working as a producer? Did anything surprise you?

Jessie> Although not a typical 'creative' job, as a producer I often feel like I’m on the hero’s journey. 

There is always the departure. Leaving the safe zone (usually metaphorically and not physically) and entering into the unknown that starts a project whether it’s with onboarding with a new client, taking over from someone else, or scoping something never done before. Once, it was all three, when I was asked to cover jump in on building a proposal and scope for a project that would be handled in a different office with resources on rate cards with different currencies.

Then, once the project kicks off, there are trials and tribulations where I’m tested in battle, skill, and conflict. I may not succeed in each action but must continue to press on. Deadlines must be met. Budgets may be adhered to. Risk registers may be created. Known unknowns will be discovered. Along the way, I meet allies, enemies and mentors. Recently, I reconnected with one such mage who advised me on the language to use while countering an offer. I was successful in that endeavor and feel like since I learned my worth. His response: “I told you so knew you would.”

Having endured the hardships of any project, as every hero’s journey concludes, I return home. But I am no longer the same. An internal transformation has taken place through the maturation process of the project. A project retrospective may be conducted. 


Q> Any advice for someone just starting out?

Jessie> Best advice: Be ok with failing. It’s going to happen. And as you start out, it may happen a lot. 

The most compelling stories, just like real-life (and The Bachelor) always have one thing: problems. The hero must face problems, surmount fears, resolve tensions, or fail. The same is true for our own development: without problems and tension, there can be no growth.

I moved to Chicago to study improvisational comedy and working in advertising was a way to make ends meet and to ultimately pay for stage time. The biggest lesson I’ve learned from improv is that it’s okay to fail. I’ve had shows that have bombed. There have been times where I didn’t want to get off the backline and probably too many times where I thought I had the funniest line but it just didn’t resonate with the audience. I’ve failed. 

But I try now to fail forward. There are lessons I've learned with every failure. From improv, I’ve learned to be in the 'now.' Applying that to my career, when a project needs a scheduled shift or a creative re-alignment, I try to be present and map out our course of action.


Q> What makes you the most excited about a project you are working on/have worked on? 

Jessie> I’ve been fortunate in my career to work with many different people, in many different disciplines, with different experiences and unique voices. I’m encouraged every day to continue on my hero’s journey wherever it may lead (Lorin Michaels, I’m looking at you).

I’ve been fortunate at R/GA to start a local chapter of a larger RGA initiative within Diversity and Inclusion called Woman Up. Within this group, we create programming for the office that sheds light on gender inequality, supports underprivileged Chicago women, and provides a safe space for honest, ego-free conversations. This Woman’s History Month, WUP Chicago will be reading a book (Brotopia: Breaking Up the Boys' Club of Silicon Valley by Emily Chang), hosting a movie screening (Hillary), and leveraging some Not So FAQs among employees of all levels and genders.


Q> What are some of the biggest growth moments for you?

Jessie> Becoming a stepmom was one of the scariest and rewarding moments for me. Not only are these little humans looking to me for direction, protection, guidance, and advice, there is a sense of hopeful acceptance, genuine parental pride and intense gratitude that instantly comes with it. I try daily to not fail them and letting them know it’s okay to fail forward.


Q> Do you have any passion projects outside of work?

Jessie> Outside of work, I enjoy spending time with my family, drinking decent coffee, crocheting plastic bags together, reading subpar books, experiencing all sorts of theater, and only occasionally pretending that the floor is hot lava. 

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R/GA US, Tue, 07 Apr 2020 16:41:10 GMT