What ECD Leslie Ali Looks for in Portfolios January 12, 2017

The Digital Portfolios We Need Post-Election

Leslie Ali, an ECD at J. Walter Thompson, shares what she’s looking for in portfolios in the wake of the 2016 Election. Here’s a hint: If you want to be relevant and stand out, make work that addresses the divisions facing America, and the world, today.

Before the 2016 election, I was asked to write about what I consider to be a great digital portfolio. And I have a feeling I would have written something very different before November 8th and all that’s followed.

I probably would have written about all the usual things: keep it tight, keep it relevant, keep it current. Make me laugh or make me wish I’d thought of that. Solve for a real pain-point.

But now, with a new administration taking office this week, I’m focusing on that last one. What, in my view, will make the difference between you and the candidate who’s just built their portfolio to get a job.

The election showed us our greatest pain-point: That half of us are hurting and need someone to care. So I suggest we start caring—actively. More than we do right now. About each other, jobs, the environment, older people, children, guns, housing, food, health care… a need that clearly remains unmet for over 50% of the voting public. A need so great that an opportunist—who represents the very elitism he professes to be against—managed to identify, lie about, and ultimately use to get what he wanted in the end. What he does remains to be seen.

Let’s use our brains to help all the people and programs and belief systems he trampled on to get his way.”
— Leslie Ali ECD at J. Walter Thompson

But what we do now determines what happens next for all the people we can touch. Let’s use our brains to help all the people and programs and belief systems he trampled on to get his way. Let’s use our creative minds to help all the people who may have just been conned, and who ignored the obvious because they so badly need to be heard and helped.

So let’s solve some problems.

Impress me by showing me that you’ve identified one of the many pain-points of a people divided. A people that has called out for help. A people that needs your support by inventing the next platform that teaches them to trust. That shows them that someone’s got their back. That someone cares, that someone’s listening. A scalable solution that helps the disadvantaged, those living from paycheck to paycheck. The disenfranchised. The ones who feel abandoned.

And most importantly, a tech-led solution that restores our faith in each other’s fundamental character. Because if character, as my good friend Greg Wells reminds me, is something you do when no one’s looking, we can all afford to shut ourselves up for a couple of days and emerge with the next thing that reconnects us all to each other, so no one feels like they’re living without a safety net. Or by themselves.

Regardless of who you voted for, learn about the policies that divided us here, and add something to your portfolio that wasn’t there before November 8th. Make it about something you believe in. Make me understand how you care. How you are solving for problems that are greater than you, me, and advertising. For people. I promise you, getting a job after that will be one less thing you’ll ever need to worry about.


Leslie Ali is an ECD at J. Walter Thompson. Check her out on a recent episode of WNYC’s Note to Self  titled Taking the Lead.