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Ashley Walters: “Put down a blanket and eat lunch on the floor”

My number one piece of advice is find your new normal. Honestly, I’m afraid to go back to “normal.” I hate that phrase because I’m not sure what we were doing before was normal. So this is your chance to redefine your normal. When we are all finally back in the office, sitting face-to-face (albeit […]

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My number one piece of advice is find your new normal. Honestly, I’m afraid to go back to “normal.” I hate that phrase because I’m not sure what we were doing before was normal. So this is your chance to redefine your normal. When we are all finally back in the office, sitting face-to-face (albeit six feet apart), find a way, once in a while, to remember the joy that came from this moment. Take that extra vacation day to stay home together. Take more walks, cook more meals together, and definitely find time to PJ dance. Show grace to a mom if she asks to work from home because she simply wants to be the one who puts her little one down for an afternoon nap. Take the good from this chaos, find your one thing, and make it your new normal.


The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Many of us now have new challenges that come with working from home, homeschooling, and sheltering in place.

As a part of our series about how busy women leaders are addressing these new needs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ashley Walters, Chief Development Officer, Curiosity.

As the Chief Development Officer for Curiosity, a creative solutions agency based in Cincinnati, Ohio, Ashley’s courage and competitive spirit are guiding the agency toward record growth and national recognition. In 2019, the company had its best year ever, with a 40% increase in revenue and a portfolio of equally courageous new clients. Ashley’s assembly of awards rivals her collection of heels, with accolades from Ad Age for “Top Marketing Campaign of the Year” and “Best New Product Launch of the Year,” as well as dozens of industry recognitions from MediaPost and PRWeek. As a working mother, Ashley is passionate about mentoring women and encouraging them to use their voices with confidence in the advertising industry.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

I was born to a single mother and grew up in poverty most of my early life. My mom taught me the value of work and the power of my voice from a very young age. I watched as she worked multiple jobs to ensure I could join any activity I wanted, from dance to beauty pageants, to sewing and even hula lessons. By the time I was in middle school, I was named 8th-grade class president running on issues like more diverse holiday representation (why did we only put up Christmas trees)? And of course, more pizza parties. And by high school, my voice could be heard on our school’s radio show, “The Beef,” as I co-hosted the afternoon radio segment and raised funds from local businesses who wanted on-air support.

So maybe it’s no surprise that I grew up to work in advertising, with a passion for storytelling and using my voice to tell brand stories. As a first-generation college student, I started my career after graduating from Miami University with a major in strategic communications and public relations. With two internships under my belt before getting a diploma, I officially started in the agency world as an assistant account executive. With the help of a number of people along the way who took chances on me,I was able to work my way to executive leadership before 35 years of age.

I don’t remember a day I wasn’t working, and advertising/public relations has been the perfect career path for me. I get the privilege of telling a great story, creatively encouraging others to join in, buy, and engage with one another. At the heart of it all, I’m still using my voice.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started at your company?

It’s been a wild, albeit rewarding, journey since joining the company a year and a half ago! Anyone who knows me recognizes that I come in with big ideas, not afraid to take new risks or test my competitive spirit. It’s been no exception at Curiosity. “Interesting” is a unique word because these days, average everyday moments can turn interesting quickly as we move between home and work life in the same space. Maybe the most hilarious thing to happen was changing my baby’s diaper while simultaneously participating in an executive leadership call. Or, the time my two-year-old bit into a (thankfully not poisonous) thawed ice pack during a meeting and we had to call poison control! But the big news? I got pregnant during the pandemic. Now that’s likely the most interesting thing to happen since I started at Curiosity.

“Interesting” is a word I also use to describe the recent accomplishments I’m proud of — from winning an international award for America’s favorite golden retriever to our work helping save small businesses in our community during the pandemic. In addition, our company was named a “Best Place to Work” in Cincinnati, while all 50+ of us continue to work from home without the luxuries agency life typically offers. I’m grateful to be a part of a team and a culture that has remained intact during the most significant upheaval in our century.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Like so many female leaders in 2020, we are not without opportunities to make change — for our employees, industries and our communities. Currently, I’m most excited about the work I’m helping lead in support of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Curiosity launched a DEI committee earlier this year. I’m serving as the executive director, helping to influence four pillars of change: recruitment, education, awakened work, and a better community. We’re also investigating how our company and clients can work with SeeHer, an organization dedicated to fair and equal representation of women and girls in the media. Ultimately, this work is hard, but necessary. And it’s something I’m deeply passionate about. We know it’s not going to be an overnight change, but I believe investing in culture and implementing process and policy changes at Curiosity and in our industry will help ALL people find their voices.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

There have been so many people who believed in me and gave me opportunities along the way, at a very young age. I credit a great deal of my current success to my dead friend and mentor, Jessica George. Jessica hired me right out of college and became my first boss and professional mentor. She set the bar for success very high, and taught me the ropes, giving me lots of responsibility to lead programs in my first year out of college. Heck, I was pitching new business opportunities with executives as 23 years old, all because she believed in me. I followed her to my next role and ended up staying there for 10 years, working my way up to become their youngest executive leader. Today Jessica is still one of my best friends and confidants. We celebrate family birthdays together, share advice about parenting, and navigate the craziness of COVID together. I’m grateful and genuinely recognize I wouldn’t be where I am today without her by my side along the way.

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Can you articulate to our readers what are the biggest family-related challenges you are facing as a woman business leader during this pandemic?

I’ve struggled with some of the predictable challenges, like so many moms. My girls are four and two and depend on us for everything. Three — scratch that — twenty meals a day, potty breaks and diaper changes, entertainment (which is mostly Disney+), education (when there’s time), popsicles when I need silence, kisses for boo-boos, rocking when tired, and everything in-between. My husband works in the medical industry, and he spends his days getting PPE into the hands of front-line workers. So we’re both juggling constant zoom calls and extra snuggles.

I believe this experience has been both challenging AND rewarding. It’s been challenging to find significant quiet time to work, but I have the extra time to snuggle with my girls. One minute I’m in a meeting talking about the future of our organization and our industry and the next I’m reading “Llama Llama Red Pajama,” all before lunch. We have to balance the blurred lines of work and home right now. At the same time, we must remain compassionate; I’ve learned to give myself grace and offer compassion to other moms, and even our children, during all of this. Forgiveness and compassion are essential for us to survive right now.

At the end of the day, this will be a moment in our lives, but not our entire lives. We will never get this time back. Is it challenging? Yes, but no matter the age of our children, it’s rare that we have the chance to eat a picnic lunch with them on the floor on a Wednesday.

Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?

I’m not sure any of us have the perfect answer to addressing the challenges associated with working from home during COVID, but we’re all doing our best. I check in on other women in our office and in the industry, moms who I know are pulling double, or even triple, duty these days. I’ve stopped saying “I’m fine” and have started saying how I really feel that day. Whether it’s feeling excited about a project, or tired from a late night, or feeling down because I haven’t seen the sun in two days. Authenticity is so important. We don’t have to be perfect and we shouldn’t expect everyone to be fine all the time. We need to embrace these emotions. I also try to communicate better with my spouse, so we know who is “on kid duty” and who is on an important call. As a company, this has brought to life the need to revisit our HR policies and offer an even more flexible work/life balance for working parents when and if life ever goes back to “normal.” I also think it’s important to take a mental health day. I’ve stopped stockpiling my PTO for when I can go on vacation (who knows when that will happen). I’ve started using them a day at a time to take a break or read a book. This is the first year I’ve ever done a staycation and it was rewarding for the mind and the soul.

Can you share the biggest work related challenges you are facing as a woman in business during this pandemic?

I would say the biggest work-related challenge I’m facing, and probably many others are facing as well, is time and burnout. It’s not uncommon to log 12+ hours of work, eight of which can be back-to-back Zoom meetings. Every minute feels like a precious jewel that I have to use wisely and force myself to take time for respite. We are all better leaders, friends, spouses, and mothers when we find time to nurture our bodies and minds.

Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?

I’ve tried hard to schedule workout sessions over lunch, and DoorDash is a lifesaving app in our house! I’m recognizing that I have to say no to the things that don’t matter as much and yes to the things that do. Now that I don’t have a two-hour commute every day, I can use the time to snuggle with kiddos, take a shower, and prioritize that all-important self-care routine. I’ve also tried to schedule meetings for 45 minutes versus an entire hour. I can use those extra 15 minutes to enjoy fresh air and grab some more water!

Can you share your advice about how to best work from home, while balancing the needs of homeschooling or the needs of a family?

Don’t be afraid to be human. Kids will be kids, pets will be pets and you can’t separate home from work. The lines are blurry and we have to embrace it. Maybe your child will show up in the background in a diaper and we just laugh. Use this as time to get to know your clients and coworkers on a deeper level. We have a chance to connect with our co-workers and our customers on a very intimate basis, and we may never have that chance again. Embrace the mess. This is our change to make business personal.

Can you share your strategies about how to stay sane and serene while sheltering in place, or simply staying inside, for long periods with your family?

If you give yourself grace, you can turn anything into a positive. Try these five tips:

  1. Put down a blanket and eat lunch on the floor. It’s called a picnic. The kids love it and it gets you out of your “office.”
  2. If you wear your pajamas all day, don’t sweat it, call it a pajama party.
  3. Make new traditions. We can’t go to Disney World this year, which is a yearly family event, but we can bring Disney into our homes! Puzzles, movie marathons, dress-up parties. We’ve done it all!
  4. Turn off the news, because it only aids in the negativity, and read a book you’ve been putting off. You’ll find it becomes a moment in your day you look forward to.
  5. Block your calendar for 15 minutes each day and use it to check in on someone you love.

Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

On Mother’s Day this year, I asked several moms I deeply admire what they will miss most about this time and the list was long and emotional. In a way, quarantining is a lot like those early days of motherhood where you are the center of your children’s universe. In the first few months after they are born, you are their lifeline, source of food and comfort, guide, and teacher. This is a lot like that. Cue my postpartum tears. Our kids grow up fast. They develop unique personalities, interests, and activities. And our bond remains strong but somehow different. Our role is different. We are back to being their everything. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to experience that feeling again.

My number one piece of advice is find your new normal. Honestly, I’m afraid to go back to “normal.” I hate that phrase because I’m not sure what we were doing before was normal. So this is your chance to redefine your normal. When we are all finally back in the office, sitting face-to-face (albeit six feet apart), find a way, once in a while, to remember the joy that came from this moment. Take that extra vacation day to stay home together. Take more walks, cook more meals together, and definitely find time to PJ dance. Show grace to a mom if she asks to work from home because she simply wants to be the one who puts her little one down for an afternoon nap. Take the good from this chaos, find your one thing, and make it your new normal.

From your experience, what are a few ideas that one can use to effectively offer support to their family and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?

The simplest thing we can do is call or text a friend or loved one to ask how they are doing. We are all so busy and the lines between work and home are blurred because it’s all happening in the same space. At Curiosity, we put a block of 15 minutes each day on every employee’s calendar, encouraging them to call or text a friend or family member and check-in. This daily outreach is so important, because we can all become very isolated if we don’t pause and make time for connection. I also think we need to encourage each other to be honest with our feelings. It’s easy to say “I’m fine,” but it’s harder to be real and honest. Encourage each other to be vulnerable and honest, and to ask for help. Because we all need it now more than ever.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“If you focus on what you left behind, you will never be able to see what lies ahead.” This is a quote from a Disney movie, which I am a huge fan of all things Disney. I was raised by a single mother who worked two jobs. We lived in poverty the vast majority of my life and it taught me many things, but one of them was that you cannot focus on the past or what’s been done. Instead, you have to focus on the promise of the future and ways you can make the world, your life, or just this one project or person, even better.

How can our readers follow you online?

Follow our company website @www.curiosity.fun, or you can follow me on LinkedIn @ https://www.linkedin.com/in/ashleywalters/

Instagram: @ashleywalters9

Twitter: @Ashley_Walters

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!


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