Francesca Russo, associate media planner at CMI Media Group, took up fencing when she was 9 years old with her older sister. She would practice after school and began competing internationally in elementary school, later pursuing the sport in high school and college. She began training for the US national team after graduation.
“I was fully invested in fencing when I started working at CMI,” Russo told Campaign US during a call from Russia, where she is training ahead of the games.
Russo started her role at CMI Media Group in September 2020. While she continued to train since starting her role at the agency, it is her first time qualifying for the Olympics.
“It's incredible, I've been working towards this my whole life,” she said. “I'm just thrilled to be a part of the team. I'm really proud of myself for being able to manage a lot of things.”
As an athlete, Russo has always had a varied schedule. On a typical day, she wakes up and starts working “immediately.” Once or twice a week she’ll have physical training in between her days and after work, at around 5:45 p.m., she’ll head to practice until about 10 p.m.
“I meet with my manager weekly to discuss my schedule for the week to make a game plan for things I'm going to be missing or that need coverage,” Russo said. “CMI has an awesome flexibility with their work hours. So, for instance, we can answer emails all day, which I love because sometimes when something's not entirely pressing, I know I can go to training and then focus on it when I get back home.”
Now, the company has allowed her to take time off to focus on the games.
“The more I personally interact with our team, the more I realize how much talent we have in the organization that goes outside of what they do for us every single day,” said Susan Dorfman, president at CMI Media Group. “We think about work-life balance and the kinds of things [our employees] go through. This past year and a half has been a learning experience for every single organization in terms of balance and reimagining what things look like because we are not going back to the past.”
While the agency will not have an in-person event to celebrate, CMI Media Group has shared internal communications about the news and has encouraged employees and clients to watch and cheer Russo on at the games.
The agency has also shared gifts and messages of support.
“My team has been nothing but supportive from day one,” Russo said. “I haven't even met half of my colleagues face to face, but I can feel the support strongly.”
The Olympic fencing competition will take place July 24 through August 1.