Kenzie Derma, Dir of Talent & Diversity Energy BBDO

Reel Women

Editor’s Note: They are leaders. They are inspirational. They are mentors. They are visionaries. They are, quite frankly, badasses. They are our 2020 Reel Women During Women’s History Month, you will be able to meet these incredible personalities in Advertising, Entertainment, Media and Production. Get ready.

As Director of Talent and Diversity, Kenzie Derma leads Energy BBDO’s Human Resources department. Over 18 years, and multiple promotions at Energy, Kenzie has helped transform the agency, building a diverse and inclusive population of talent. Through her leadership, Kenzie has enabled a robust organizational culture that puts people first and is grounded in the agency’s fundamental vision to energize people and brands. Kenzie began her career at FCB and is an alumna of Miami University in Ohio.

What did you originally want to be when you grow up?
I wanted to be a sports psychologist. I was very active in sports growing up, eventually playing Division 1 Field Hockey in college. I was also always fascinated with human behavior. The idea of combining both to help athletes achieve optimal performance was very intriguing to me. 

How did you get into advertising?
I was introduced to advertising through a fellow Miami of Ohio alumna. She worked in Public Relations at FCB and they had an opening for a Human Resources Secretary. It was my first taste of human resources and advertising and I never looked back!

Who were your mentors?
I have had the pleasure of learning from many wonderful leaders in the industry. In particular, two women had a major impact on my career:

The first is my mentor from FCB, Amy Way Sobin. She taught me anything and everything about recruiting, engaging employees, and making everyone feel welcomed. She showed me what kind of HR leader I wanted to become.

The second is Energy BBDO’s former CEO and current Chairman, Tonise Paul. I have had the pleasure of studying under Tonise for almost two decades. She has taught me the importance of having both a strong opinion and deep empathy. Any success that I have seen in my time at Energy BBDO is because Tonise has shown me how a true leader behaves and inspires.

What is your greatest achievement?
I am very proud of our diverse culture at Energy BBDO. Through my almost 18 years at the agency, we have developed a diverse population that spans gender, ethnicities, countries, sexual orientation and skill sets. 

I am also very proud of our current HR team. They are the true warriors behind all that we do, and Energy is very lucky to have them.

What is your biggest disappointment?
I like to look on the bright side and find the good in things that might otherwise feel disappointing. I try to share this lesson too with others when I coach them!


What are your biggest pet peeves? 
When people interrupt and do not listen!

What are your predictions for the film industry over the next decade?
I believe advertising agencies will need to become more efficient and lean as time passes. I predict this will increase the demand for extremely versatile talent.  

Name a job you had that would surprise people.
I was a Chicago Mercantile Exchange runner for about six months. I checked trades for a trader in the pit.

Who plays you in your life story?
My dream actress would be Sandra Bullock because she’s part funny, part down-to-Earth.

What do you wish you had more time to do?
I wish I had time to develop a side hustle. I am always amazed at the creative side jobs and passions that people have. I would love to find one!

Do you talk to yourself?
Oh, I do this all the time! I find it is the best way to work through something or give myself a pep talk. I am 100% Italian so sometimes there are also hand movements!

What inspires you to be creative?
I am inspired every day by the creative folks that I work with. By taking a deep look at how other teams are tackling problems it drives me and my team to find our own ways to get creative.

My children are also a great source of creativity. I have nine year old twins. They are creatively different but always amaze me with how they expand their minds to think beyond the norm.