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Ladies Who Lead: Tanya Dodaro, Co-Founder of On Q Communications

Tanya Dodaro is a co-founder of the marketing firm On Q Communications, which recently celebrated its 10 year anniversary. Clearly an expert at founding things, Tanya also dreamed up Busy Bees Child Care Centre, which operates simultaneously as she caters to the communicating needs of massive clients such as Universal Pictures, Baskin Robbins and The Heart and Stroke Foundation. Based out of Toronto, Abbey enjoys lazy family vacations complete with technology breaks, white button down shirts and her addiction to running.

SDTC: What does a day in the life of Tanya look like?

TD: A typical days means I wake up, get the kids ready, drop them off at junior kindergarten and at daycare. I run to the gym for a quick work out so I can get to the office on time. Then basically, I don’t know how the day passes by! It’s all focused on PR, social media, and writing proposals. This week I am writing three proposals for pitching new business. A lot of my day means following up with current clients. We very much pride ourselves on customer service. That’s really important and that’s why a lot of our clients have been our clients for years. It’s not just about getting the client and then passing it on to a junior person. Olivia (co-founder at On Q Communications) and I tend to be involved in all the major meetings and decisions that are being made. So that’s a typical day! Come home; make dinner, then off to swimming lessons.

SDTC: What did you study?

TD: I did an undergrad BA in psychology and then I went to Humber for journalism. It was a two-year program but I ended up getting a job after first year. It was on-air with a production company, so I didn’t want to go back. I started off as an intern. Within the first month, I was already starting to produce and I ended up on-air really quickly.

SDTC: What did you do in that internship setting to set yourself apart?

TD: It was just my determination. When I first started out with interning in general, my first opportunity was a 4 AM internship at CTV at the business desk. And I remember the middle of winter; I was up at 2:30 in the morning, shoveling pounds of snow off my car just to get to the internship. It was unpaid but I just wanted it so bad. So I think that’s what it was—determination and a willingness to try every single thing that was offered to me that would help further my career.

SDTC: How did you go on to start your own marketing firm?

TD: I shadowed a reporter at CTV and he mentioned that there was an internship at the production company. I called, I followed up and they hired me as an intern. I left there hosting and producing health and beauty television, which aired on a global network on Sunday mornings. And I’ve always had this entrepreneurial desire. It’s just always been a part of me since I was young and it just felt like the timing was right. I had just gotten married, and I went to lunch with my now sister-in-law. She came from a marketing background and we had very similar goals in terms of starting our own business and wanting to get into the industry. And over lunchtime, we decided to incorporate On Q and just do it. We did, and that’s where I am at!

SDTC: Did you have any mentors along the way?

TD: We had a lot of mentors. When we first started out in business, I was 25 years old and I was competing with people who have been in business for over 25 years. It’s such a competitive marketplace. So we had a mentor who was my co-founder’s past professor at Schulich School of Business and we voiced our concern. “We’re so young, how do we compete?” He said, “You know, there’s this great new industry coming up called social media.” And he spoke about how people would want to hire young people who are into it and who understand that space. That was a great place for us to develop our brand and with such great advice, it allowed you to not be afraid of the competition. Really, you’re a forerunner in the industry by being young and with it. But when we first started, social media was not even on our service menu. We were focused on public relations and some marketing. Social media existed but it wasn’t mainstream. But we knew that our clients were in need of social media strategies and execution. It became a must and we incorporated that into our services. And now we offer public relations and social media as part of our main services and obviously, they totally complement each other.

STDC: Go-to work attire?

TD: I’m pretty simple. I love the look of black pants and a white shirt. And it depends on where you go from there. If it’s a pitch, you throw on a blazer. If it’s a dress down day, you roll up your sleeves. And with shoes, if you’re in for a pitch, you put the heels on and if you’re in the office, flats.

SDTC: When you are hiring someone, what do you look for? What do you think it takes in a person to make it in this industry?

TD: I think the main skills are independence and the ability to perform. The ability to learn new things very quickly. I think this is very true for my industry because social media is changing so quickly. Facebook will put out something and you have to be all over it and you have to understand how that impacts your client in their marketing strategies, their social media strategies and their PR strategies. You have to be with it, in terms of being up to speed with all current news—obviously for public relations—and what’s happening in social media. I think these are really big things for me: the ability to learn quickly and to learn on your own.

STDC: What is your favourite part of your job?

TD: I love going in to a situation where a company is looking for help, both on the PR and social media side, and finding solutions for them. Putting a strategy together and the execution. It is the start to finish. Then seeing the kind of impact we can make on their business, basically bridging the gap between the company and their clients and prospects. I love the business development side of things.

SDTC: What advice would you give to someone who wanted to break into the marketing world?

TD: I think the best advice—the advice I’d give my daughters—is that if you’re able to, take the time to do internships and really understand the industry. Go the extra mile and learn quickly. I’m saying two things. First, do as much as you can do so you can really understand what you like and what you are good at, what your natural talents can bring forth. And the other point is, just get out there and meet people in the industry. Sometimes it’s just by fluke that you’ll end up meeting someone who knows someone, and that gives you your first break. Then you just go from there.

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