ICYMI, in honour of our upcoming awards, we’re taking a look back (10 years to be exact), to see where our 2011 winners are now.
Today, we’re chatting with Steve Fontanot.
Back in 2011, Steve was managing director at Chieftain Communications. These days, he’s managing director at Havas Blvd.
Read more about Steve’s journey since winning a B&T 30 Under 30 award below.
Pssst – if you haven’t bought your tickets yet, you can do so here.
How did you feel winning a B&T 30 Under 30?
A perfect mix of pride and utter embarrassment. I had a smile on my face for weeks. I was proud to show the magazine to my parents, who, while very supportive, weren’t really sure what I did for a living.
Do you think you winning has affected your career at all?
It changed my outlook at the time. I didn’t plan to start Chieftain Communications at the age of 26 – I was too young to have a full grasp on agency operations, but I was full of determination and creative spirit. The team, for the most part, were older and more experienced than I was. With hindsight, I was probably experiencing ‘imposter syndrome’. Winning this award gave me the nudge to walk a little taller.
What’s your favourite part about the industry?
For my career, the industry has generally been a meritocracy…although I do appreciate that isn’t the case for everyone. It’s why I find it utterly unacceptable when I witness discrimination of any kind. I grew up in an immigrant household.
While we were always surrounded by love (in abundance), money was spent wisely. Once I got my first job, it didn’t matter the area I grew up in, the school I went to, or the people I knew…I am forever grateful to our industry for giving me that. While getting the first gig was tough (understatement), once I got that, my philosophy remained steadfast; ‘work hard and be a good human.’ Do those things and you will generally be rewarded in our wonderful, challenging and crazy industry.
What do you think needs changing?
Much is being discussed about diversity in our industry…but a deeper understanding is needed. One area that doesn’t get enough air, is ageism. We have the most wonderfully diverse team in our agency who inspire me, literally, every day. In an industry that can be obsessed with youth, I am proud to say that we have a team spanning six decades. Have you ever sat in meetings with colleagues that are in their 60’s and 70’s? No? You’re absolutely missing out. Add their knowledge and wisdom to the other great minds in your business, and you’ll go far.
What’s been your biggest achievement?
Selling Chieftain was a highlight. It was an incredible and nerve-racking experience, that taught me so much. As business leader and a human.
Arriving at the Havas Group is another highlight. In a world where holding groups are ‘deleting’ agency brands, getting asked to start a new one and being given the freedom to grow/think/act differently, has been a privilege. They were brave…I’d dare say it worked out for us both.
If you weren’t in adland, what would you be doing?
A failed beach-bar owner in Koh Phangan…the sandy shores of Thong Nai Pan Yai, to be exact.
Ultimate travel destination?
My soul is trapped between Sydney, Paris and Koh Phangan… great places to be stuck.
What’s a hidden talent you have?
Empathy…although I try not to hide it too much.
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