Josh Tavlin (BA 1983)
In 1983, I left McGill with a BA in English literature, and pretty much no plan for the future. Now that I look back, I’m astonished that I wasn’t a complete basket case. Generally speaking, a degree in English literature does not portend a life of wealth and fame. Which is good, because I wasn’t looking for that. All I wanted to do was find a job that could use my writing skills. Which I did: for three years I worked at two publishing houses that required me to write book jacket copy for college textbooks. That was not what I had in mind. Thinking advertising might be more fun, I got a job with Macy’s department store in NYC, where I wrote ads with clever headlines like, “Sale 99.99.” It was around this time, that I remembered a book that I had bought at “The Word” bookstore on Milton in 1982. It was David Ogilvy’s Confessions of an Advertising Man. I probably bought it because it was cheap and it had a somewhat titillating title. But I remember loving it, and thinking this sort of career might be fun. So a year after writing, “Sale 99.99,” I found a job at an ad agency, where my talents seemed to fit right in. As fate would have it, I’ve worked most of my career at Ogilvy & Mather advertising, the very agency that David Ogilvy built. There I worked on brands like IBM and American Express and rose to Senior VP Creative Director. Currently I’m the Executive Creative Director at an agency called Momentum. I’ve often wondered myself what McGill and my degree contributed to my career, and I think it’s less about the degree, and more about the degree to which McGill professors pushed and encouraged me to be insatiably curious, fiercely opinionated, and to love the written word. Which I still do today.