The Professional Journey of Devika Bulchandani, President | McCann New York

If you had to choose one specific creative piece (can be a song, photo, artwork, devika 1movie, play, etc.) that best reflects your professional journey, what would that be and why?
The movie Crazy People, because I surround myself with crazy people.

What was the turning point, or most important moment, in your career? How has this moment led you to the leader you are today?
It’s impossible for me to name one moment that has been a turning point because I don’t think my professional journey has been one of absolutes, but rather one of increments. It’s one that’s been marked by many different moments. It’s been like a mosaic, a collage, or a jigsaw puzzle, with lots of different pieces coming together. Those pieces are all people, opportunities, and clients, of which there have been many. It’s tough for me to point to one piece as a defining moment of my 25-year career, because it truly has been all of these pieces.

Tell us about a female figure who’s had a major impact in your life/professional journey – this can be a mentor, someone who’s inspired you, someone you look up to, etc.
The first is a person, Nina DiSesa. And not because she taught me to be a better woman leader, or just a better leader. I think the most important thing she taught me was to be myself—as a leader. When she was still at McCann and I’d come seeking advice, she’d finish by escorting me to the door and saying—”now get out there and be a player.” That was really empowering. She was giving me the advice, but letting me own the solution.  She would also say, “you should have some fun with it,” which lightened the situation when I was making something way graver than it needed to be. We all do, in the moment, when we think the problem is the end-all be-all.

The second is a symbol, Fearless Girl. What she stands for is perseverance, the fight, the underdog willing to take on the Goliath. She’s the notion that you can create noise by being dignified, and that you can be powerful by being silent and small. The metaphors that we put into the creative concepts have been a really big learning lesson. I often ask myself in any given situation: How would Fearless Girl handle it? Just how I ask myself: How would Nina handle it?

What is the bravest thing you’ve done in your career so far?
There’s no question that it was Fearless Girl. The bravest part was accepting that we didn’t know what was going to happen. We knew something would happen, and we knew it would catch fire, but we had no idea what the fire would look like. In the end, it was all-consuming. We created a blaze of a cultural phenomenon. And that outcome—that’s the reason why we get into this business in the first place.