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C-Suite Dads: “The father version of me has way more respect for my team’s personal lives than the younger, not-father one. I am a better person and a better manager this way.” with PJ Pereira and Jessica Abo

Being a parent made me think about how my career will help support my son. I became secondary. But that made me better too. I am an entrepreneur, I started my second agency 11 years ago. The main difference between the versions of me that started this business and the previous one was that the […]


Being a parent made me think about how my career will help support my son. I became secondary. But that made me better too. I am an entrepreneur, I started my second agency 11 years ago. The main difference between the versions of me that started this business and the previous one was that the father version of me has way more respect for my team’s personal lives than the younger, not-father one. I am a better person and a better manager this way. The comparison between the performance of the two companies shows it well. They are both successful, but the second is successful and happier. And in my field, advertising a happier company produces better work, more often.

I had the pleasure of interviewing PJ Pereira. PJ Pereira is Creative Chairman and Co-Founder of Pereira O’Dell is an advertising and entertainment pioneer. An Emmy winner, bestselling writer and multiple Cannes Grand Prix winner he has become one of the world’s most influential and respected creatives. In 2019, PJ will serve for the third time as a Cannes Jury President (previously Cyber + Entertainment Jury Chair). He believes agencies must provide return not only on the money brands are investing, but also the time consumers are spending with the work. With a diverse portfolio, current and past clients include, Intel, MINI, Jet.com, Adobe, Fifth Third Bank, National Geographic and Coca-Cola but his work extends way beyond ads. His work was the first brand film to premiere at Sundance Film Festival, Werner Herzog’s “Lo and Behold” for NETSCOUT, and his agency was also the first to win an Emmy for a branded series competing against regular programming — Intel’s “The Beauty Inside.” In 2018, PJ published best-selling novels and edited “The Art of Branded Entertainment”, the first book ever published by a Cannes jury, now available worldwide in both digital and paperback.


Thank you so much for joining us PJ! Can you share with us how many children you have?

I have one child.

Where were you in your career when your child was born/became part of your family?

My son was about one year old when we opened the agency. It was a bit crazy. Especially because I decided to buy and remodel our house at the same time. I guess fatherhood triggered my total change button.

Did you always want to be a father? Can you explain?

I always imagined having kids. One or more. Never questioned if that was going to happen or not. It has always been a matter of when. I lost my father too early. He was 49 and I was 21, and that made a huge impact in my idea of fatherhood. After that, I started to think about not only having a kid but staying around longer to support him. That wasn’t part of my original idea of parenting. In a certain way, that was a gift my father gave to both his son and his grandson. My desire to live long.

Did fatherhood happen when you thought it would or did it take longer? If it took longer, what advice would you have for another woman in your shoes?

It happened when it wanted to happen. My wife and I tried for years while we lived in Brazil. Then when we moved to America we decided to take a break, to lower the stress, since the new life was already too heavy on us. One day she woke up saying she wanted to move to a neighborhood where we could raise a kid and I laughed. “Why don’t we get pregnant first, then we move?” She didn’t negotiate and that same day we found and rented the new home. One week later we moved. And that same week she got pregnant. So, my advice is: don’t stress about it. Although, in the history of stress, I have never seen anyone de-stressing by being told to de-stress. So, my advice is kind of pointless. The proof: we were told this many time, and never believed it ourselves, until that positive test happened.

Can you tell us a bit about what your day-to-day schedule looks like?

I wake up at 5am, write till 8, go to work, and sometimes have boxing or yoga after work. I am usually at home in time to catch up with the family and try to avoid tv and other distractions until they go to bed. Sometimes I go to bed with them. Usually between 10 and 11. During the weekends I have my training too, five hours of karate training. Sometimes I run. All part of the longevity plan. See above. To make sure all those activities don’t become counterproductive, that to have more time with my son I don’t spend any time with him, I got him into martial arts too. That was something I used to do with my dad, one of my fondest childhood memories, and I am passing on the tradition. My son is going to be a third-generation black belt. That is my plan. Unless he doesn’t want, which is fine. But I will try 😉

Has being a parent changed your career path? Can you explain?

It did. It made me think about how my career will help support my son. I became secondary. But that made me better too. I am an entrepreneur, started my second agency 11 years ago. The main difference between the versions of me that started this business and the previous one was that the father version of me has way more respect for my team’s personal lives than the younger, not-father one. I am a better person and a better manager this way. The comparison between the performance of the two companies shows it well. They are both successful, but the second is successful and happier. And in my field, advertising a happier company produces better work, more often.

What are the biggest challenges you face being a working dad?

I feel the need to separate time for the family instead of working all the time. But if the old me would see that as a challenge, the new me sees that as a protection. A shield against my workaholic nature.

We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed and we may feel that we can’t spare the time to be “fully present” with our children. Can you share with our readers 3–5 strategies about how we can create more space in our lives to give our children more quality attention?

I got lucky that my hobby is martial arts, and that is the best training for full presence there is. You get distracted in a fight, it hurts. Your body learns to focus. But, I must say, as my son grows, taking the time to find things we both enjoy so we can have fun together is important. Martial arts are one of those things. Star Wars used to be, but he so out geeks me on it now, I must find another subject for our father-son nerd sessions now.

How do you inspire your child to “dream big”? Can you give an example or story?

I don’t want to inspire him to dream big. My mother used to tell me I should look for things I really liked to do, then become good at them so I could be paid to do it, and that would make me successful and happy. That was the best advice I ever got.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better parent? Can you explain why you like them?

My wife is my source. She’s always giving me a straight perspective of how I am doing as a father, and what I can do better.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” that you share or plan to share with your kids?

You don’t need to eat if you’re not hungry. Being raised in a catholic culture like Brazil, you develop a natural guilt for not eating the food when there are so many people starving. That was the starting point of my food addiction that was quickly sending me to an early grave like my father. But that has been taken care and I am healthy now. And the addiction is under control. Hopefully I did that with enough time to have time enough.

If you could sit down with every new parent and offer life hacks, must-have products or simple advice, what would be on your list?

Live longer. That is already a huge deal.

Thank you so much for joining us!

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