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Meet our Female Frontier honorees: Ali Plonchak

Crossmedia’s managing partner discusses growing with a company over 15 years and inspiration from Dolly Parton.

How did you feel when you saw your name on Campaign’s Female Frontier list?  

I was thrilled and so honored. Especially after leading through many fire drills — or five-alarm fires in some cases — this past year, the recognition means even more. I’m in inspiring company with the other 2021 honorees. As a (relatively) young female leader in the industry, there are still moments where I pause and think, “How did I get here?” (cue The Talking Heads), but I remind myself that I know the answer: I’ve spent my adult life helping grow a company from six to 250 people. I’ve enabled us to scale and maintain our soul. It takes work and dedication to ensure Crossmedia always does media “the right way” and delivers on its commitment to trust, reason and the happiness of our employees and clients!  

Sum up your journey to where you are now in fewer than five words?  

1. Hustle  

2. Passion  

3. Tenacity  

4. Family  

5. Jager    

Three qualities women need to be successful and achieve longevity in the creative industries?  

1. Authenticity  

2. Persistence  

3. Conviction  

Why were only 3 of the 87 Super Bowl 2021 ads directed by women?  

Because we were too busy doing other things like creating vaccines, preparing to lead the country and nurturing our future generation during a global pandemic.  

What needs to happen to make the industry truly gender diverse?  

I’ve learned a lot in 2020 about the implementation of equity versus equality. Equity recognizes people start at different points; equality is about treating everyone the same. Creating a workplace that is 100% equitable takes a lot more work than creating an equality standard. Equity means you listen, adapt, have uncomfortable conversations, and commit to growing and learning every day.    

We created a “forever initiative” called E365 this year at Crossmedia. E365 is based upon key pillars of Excellence, Voices, Education, Giving and Representation. Those components are critical to delivering true diversity in the industry.    

What advice would you give young women entering the industry? Any tips for success you’d like to share?  

The moments you are most uncomfortable are the moments you grow. While no one enjoys being uncomfortable, recognize the feeling for the gift it can be.    

How does the culture at your organization help you thrive?  

Crossmedia’s culture is the best in the industry. I am so thankful I stumbled upon my forever employer on Craigslist (!) as a naive 22-year-old. From the moment I walked through the doors of the start-up on 23rd Street to interview through these days of virtual work, I feel the culture of freedom to my core. Whether that freedom means doing what’s right in the media industry, thinking for yourself, working the best way (for you) or charting your career path, Crossmedia enables freedom at every step of the way. Each Crossmedian has the freedom to create along with the responsibility to do something amazing.  

Worst thing about the crazy last year? Any silver linings?  

Worst thing: While I recognize how fortunate I am to work from my home office in Westchester, I miss New York City’s energy. There is no virtual equivalent for the daily interaction with dozens of people who collectively create a feeling of limitless potential. My husband, daughter and I recently watched the Pixar movie Soul, and it brought me to tears. I found myself mourning nearly a year untouched by the unique drive of work in Manhattan.  

Silver lining: I’ve learned to focus my efforts where it matters most.  

Best use of creativity you’ve seen during the COVID-19 pandemic?  

The pandemic has amplified the importance and the interdependency of the businesses that serve us every day — and I’ve been amazed at the local, small business community’s creativity. Consider this: A small bakery called The Hudson Oven turned the staff of life into the foundation of a treasure hunt. Sign up for Hudson Oven’s mailing list, and almost every Sunday morning, you get an email telling you if — and where — bread will be available. Then you rush to the spot — usually a crossroads somewhere in Westchester County — hoping to get one of the treasured loaves.    

Purpose in business: A flash in the pan or the fundamental basis for the future?  

2020 taught us purpose is everything. If you don’t have a reason that fuels you, you need to find something else.  

If we took your team out for a drink, how would they describe you?  

My co-workers call me “The Solution Delivery Wizard,” which is a step up from my former drinking buddy title, “Captain of Fun.”  

Describe one piece of work you produced in the past 12 months that excites you?  

This past year, I’ve spent a lot of time developing and implementing systems to enable Crossmedia to scale while maintaining our soul. Whether that means redefining our infrastructure, developing a best-in-class client scoping and labor utilization system or launching new fully integrated services, I’ve accomplished a lot of meaningful work.    

This may sound crazy, but there’s no better time to ensure your company is future positioned than when you fall into the depths of chaos. My (only ever) boss Kamran, quoting Warren Buffet, likes to say, “Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked.” Well, I’m proud that at XM we showed up with some nice bathing suits and built sturdy boats during a year that reverberated like a tsunami.  

Who’s your biggest inspiration? And why? 

My mom and dad, who divorced when I was young, are my real inspirations. But I recently took a spin ride with Dolly Parton and found myself transfixed by the truth of the lyrics in “9 to 5.” “Tumble outta bed and stumble to the kitchen ... Pour myself a cup of ambition.” If you can just persevere through this pandemic purgatory and focus on the work, you can inspire yourself. Every. Single. Day. 




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