A Cup of Joe With Tarik Atallah

It’s no joke that the VCU Brandcenter is one of the top three schools to earn your Master’s degree with about anything that involves advertising. I had the privilege to meet an aspiring student copywriter, Tarik Atallah. As we shared a wonderful conversation about the many aspects of going to school at the VCU Brandcenter, he also filled me in on what it’s like being a copywriter with all the demands and chaos of trying to fill a paper with over 50 headlines that aren’t quite good enough.

So, I asked him what’s his story for coming to the VCU Brandcenter and what led him to here today. “I looked at all the successful copywriters on LinkedIn in L.A. and saw that a couple went to VCU Brandcenter and I reached out and emailed a couple of them… uh… asking what they suggest I do and a few of them highly recommended the VCU program. At first, I was initially averse to it because I didn’t want to spend two years, anywhere I guess, but after getting a sense of what it can afford me, it made sense to go ahead and do it.” Tarik shares with me that he wanted a challenge. He wanted to go for something outside his realm. Prior to copywriting, Tarik was a geography major and knew he was coming from a disadvantage, which encouraged him to do a portfolio program: Book Shop. Book Shop is taught by people in L.A. who went through the same portfolio program and got jobs through it, which essentially is a crash course on how to be a copywriter and art director. Tarik states, “It was cool. It definitely got me to dip my feet in the water.” Because of his experience through his portfolio, it led Tarik to the VCU Brandcenter.

In all honesty, I have to say, if I wasn’t assigned this networking assignment that made me interview professionals, I wouldn’t be as inspired to branch out and learn different roles in the advertising industry. Currently, I’m studying strategy which is great and all, but I’ve become more open-minded to learning other positions such as copywriting. I’ve always found it amusing to come up with catchy headlines and taglines to get peoples’ attention when they don’t even know it. People find themselves reading an ad, and they kind of laugh to themselves because it rings a bell in their head or catches them in a different way. That’s the job of a copywriter: to make a headline simply catchy, informative, and engaging. Nonetheless, Tarik and I talked about how it can become exhausting and draining when you’re a copywriter. I was sharing with Tarik how I feel pressured to come up with brilliant ideas, work efficiently with a group of people, and just keeping up with the fast pace no matter where you are. For some people, that might give them the power to work better, but personally, it terrifies me that I only have 10 more hours until a pitch, yikes!

Bottom line, I’m happy to say that I reached out to a stranger and made a connection with Tarik because I’m now one step closer to adding another professional into my network. Perhaps, Tarik can guide me to another stranger who can provide insights on something else I’m curious about later in life. Something I’ll take away from Tarik’s and I conversation about life in general, “when you hit that success, with this kind of thing, it’s like a whole new degree of fulfillment. It’s beyond rewarding and it rarely comes, if ever.”

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