Molly Shapiro - Conversations with Artists
You sampled a berry from our Miracle Fruit Plant, without knowing much about it — or about us. Are you normally a trusting person?
Yes, I am, but it depends on people's energies. If I don't sense that someone is trustworthy, I listen to my gut. I usually connect with people and it's really clear when we don't connect. I pay attention to that.
Why do you think some folks are easier to connect to than others?
Everyone is different, and I think those differences shouldn't be forced to be something other than what they are. That’s something I've been dealing with in my working life. I’ve come to understand that it's ok to work with someone you might not like and still be ok with myself for not liking them. I’m learning to accept that it's just the way it is — we don’t have to like each other - but we can work together productively. I’ve learned to listen to my senses.
What is the art of what you do?
There are so many things going on on any given day - and the navigation of priorities is really an art. It can be challenging to understand what needs to be your focus one minute and what needs to be your focus the next -- and how it’s all going to come together to achieve the day’s goals. I don't think most people master that quickly. It takes time and a certain mindset.
What's the secret sauce you bring to what you do, besides navigating and prioritizing?
I have a creative background — I majored in art and art history in college and I wanted to be an artist, but I never followed that path. Instead, I find a way to look at my work from a creative perspective so that I can do my job but still feel fulfilled.
What is that creative point of view that you bring to it?
I think about things in a different way, whether it's repositioning what the problem is or imagining a different solution. It sounds cliché, but I try to think outside the box and I've learned that from other creative people. I might observe the way that they approach different problems and I'll use that as inspiration. Improv has helped me a lot because I’ve had to learn to think on my feet.
Tell us about improv.
Two co-workers and I decided to join an improv group on a whim. I thought it would be good to help with public speaking because in my job I have to present all the time. Honestly, what I've gotten out of it is so much more than that. It’s almost a new-found self. I’ve discovered that I enjoy being on a stage with someone else - being goofy and weird and making people laugh. All of the exercises that we do, they're challenging me to do something different - to think differently in a fun and engaging way. The group of people that are in my class - they are phenomenal. I’ve never felt self-conscious about anything. No one judges, so it's been a really beautiful experience that one doesn't get to have in everyday life.
So you’ve learned to laugh at yourself a little bit.
I've always been good at that. And I’ve found that I actually don’t mind making someone laugh at my own expense.
Would you like to be a comic?
The idea of standup comedy really scares me — I don't like to be in the center. With improv, you're with a group, and what’s funny about that is I grew up hating being in groups. I always felt intimidated and would be so quiet. When I got to know people on a personal level I could be myself. Now, being in that improv group I can comfortably be myself. It's really nice.
You're a sculptor also, right?
I studied sculpture in high school and college and I loved it. I’ve been trying to find a creative outlet now because although I try to inject creativity in my day-to-day, it's not a creative job per se. I’ve begun to think about a sculpture that I’ve been wanting to do for a very long time with an old surfboard. I’ve done a drawing of the design and I’m really excited about it.
It's so interesting to have a personal project with a surfboard when you don't surf.
I've always loved surfboards, and this particular surfboard found me.
Maybe you need to learn to surf.
Yes, but there's a fear involved in that though because I'm scared of.....
Do you swim?
So what's the difference?
I’m ok if I can feel my feet on the ground.
Why didn't you follow the art history path in life?
My mom studied art in college and when I told her that I wanted to pursue becoming an artist, her advice was for me to find something more lucrative. So the compromise we found was that I would major in art and art history and I would minor in something else - which turned out to be writing and rhetoric. That allowed me to shape my story when I was applying to jobs. I know how to analyze things, I can write a good paper, I can come up with an argument and the art thing became the side gig.
Do you ever regret it?
Yes. I think that's why I've been trying more and more to do art.
On the other hand you have a steady paycheck.
Yes, and I’m thankful for that. But, I have a career coach and mentor and I was talking to her about my surfboard project. Her husband is a huge surfer and she’s been telling me that I really have to actually pull the trigger and do my project. She’s been really encouraging me to move forward.
The artist in you is alive and well. Why are you not pulling the trigger?
I'm pulling the trigger in a gentle way.
Don't be too gentle.
I think I need to see how this one goes and I'm definitely going to pursue it if it's right.
This is really exciting actually in that you're rediscovering the artist within and reconnecting to your dream.
I've wanted to reconnect with that side of myself probably since I left college . I've been finding my way through the business world. Now that I feel stable in that I can start doing things for myself. I think fear of failure is always been something that's stopped me, kept me from doing things. It's not unique. We are all terrified of failure.
Talk about the physical, psychological need to create.
I think a lot of people find art as a way to escape the day-to-day — creating, enjoying and relishing it. Art is that beautiful thing that's almost undefinable. It’s getting out of your head. I also think that a lot of the best art is made when you are in a depressed or some sort of unusual mental state. I’ve made some of the best art when I was depressed and anxious. It became my outlet. I wasn't over thinking it - I was just letting it happen.
Do you think you wouldn't have let it happen if you were happy?
I think I wouldn't have been as willing to let it happen - I wouldn't have followed the path.
You told us the art of what you do, what is it that you do?
I'm an account manager at Google, working in their Ad sales department. That's a very different thing. Not to say it isn’t a creative place to work — it definitely is in it's own way. But it doesn't necessarily align with the creativity that I'm trying to explore.
What do you love about your work?
I love working with and learning about other people; what makes them happy, hearing different life stories. Also there’s a part of it that brings me closer to my parents because they're in advertising and it’s similar. Now I get to teach them something new about advertising which is great. Watching my mom trying to understand what a search ad is is phenomenal.
I think you have to be in Google to understand that completely.
Yeah, maybe that's the case. There's something artistic about it and I like the challenge of discovering what that element is.
So how do you help your clients?
It starts with conversations — which range from understanding what their challenges are, to possible solutions, to what we can create together that hasn't been created yet. And yes, the conversations can get geeky.
The art of creating something that hasn't been created yet is pretty cool.
That's the power of Google.
So, you’re in advertising, you’re a sculptor, you're a budding improv artist - slightly comedic.
Slightly? I like to think I'm more than slightly comedic.
We'll take your word for it.
Molly Shapiro is a marketing professional at Google with a specialization in digital media and experience in digital media strategy, planning and buying for fashion and beauty brands. Molly is also an accomplished sculptor and we look forward to seeing her surfboard project come to fruition soon!