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School Of Communications

“Whatever You Enjoy Doing, Do That” Comms Graduate Parker McDermott on Developing Skills Through Practice

Graduating Senior Parker McDermott Answers Questions about His Time at BYU

Photo by Emma Olson, CFAC External Relations

Q: How have you found belonging during your time at BYU?

McDermott:  Belonging and community are topics I think about a lot, and I think the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a good example of that. It’s kind of a built-in community where you show up and everyone gets a calling and a responsibility. I've also found that people are good everywhere you go. Everyone wants to make connections with people, somebody just has to take that first step and start inviting people to make those connections. I think belonging is easy to find, you just have to take that step and reach out to people. Life is so much better when you take that step because there's just so much joy to be had in being part of a community.

Q: How has your BYU education prepared you for the future?

McDermott: My BYU education has prepared me in so many ways. I'm grateful that the advertising program is so phenomenal. Our professors are so focused on preparing us for the industry and on helping us understand what we need to do. The professors treat our program as if it was an agency. When we have assignments, we've got the account managers, the art directors and the copywriters. Everyone has their role and I’m so grateful to get hands-on experience.

One thing I love about BYU is that it is a place of faith. No matter what class I'm in, whether it's art history or advertising, there's always some gospel connection. Everything that is true and good comes from God.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

McDermott: I have been applying to jobs. I know a lot of advertising agencies tend to hire people quickly when they are needed. So since I’m graduating at the end of April, they're gonna start interviewing us at the start of April. I'm open to work at any ad agency, we’ll just have to see where my interviews lead.

Q: Which professor inspired you the most? Why?

McDermott: Probably Jeff Sheets. He's been our advertising professor and mentor for the last year and a half or so. He guides us through and helps us to define this whole creative process. He's always giving us advice and encouraging us to push our ideas further. He's definitely been the professor most involved in helping students in the program get jobs as well. He's all about networking and has connections with all these people from different agencies. He's so focused on helping us, and that's been a huge blessing.

Q: What piece of advice would you give to current students?

McDermott: The first piece of advice I’d give is, whatever you enjoy doing, do that thing. Then you'll get better and you'll become qualified to do that thing for the rest of your life. It's easy to get caught up in other things, but if you want to write screenplays for movies, write screenplays for movies in your free time. If you want to paint, go paint. If you want to do graphic design, practice graphic design. That’s something I wish I was better at during my time at BYU.

Another piece of advice would be to make connections with people. The people that you meet, the people that you work with, the people that you get to know better, those relationships will grow and they can help you to produce better work. Whether it's a collaborative field like advertising or even if it is something more individual like fine arts, the critiques and the inspiration that everyone has to offer can make a difference.

Q: What was your most inspiring experience at BYU? Why?

McDermott: What I love about the advertising program is that we have the Ad Lab—a space where we all can hang out and collaborate. It's like a second home dedicated to advertising students. I have ADHD, so I can't focus at home and it’s just not an easy environment for me to work in. The Ad Lab became a place where I can go and work. I was also able to hang out with friends and share ideas because it's a collaborative space. For the most part, I spent the majority of my waking days in the Ad Lab. It's so hard to pinpoint one specific experience with the Ad Lab, because everyday was full of wonderful experiences.

Q:What was your favorite experience from the advertising program?

McDermott: We did a few ads for MasterClass, and the vision was to have people multitasking with different things that you can learn in MasterClass programs. So for one clip, we had someone frosting a pastry while skateboarding. For another, we had somebody playing the violin while rock climbing. There were a lot of crazy ideas, but when we were making the ad no matter what the idea was, we would make it happen. I never found myself thinking, “Can we do that?” Instead, we bought a violin on Amazon and found somebody who had a little experience with both rock climbing and violin, and recorded them doing both. I just love that the advertising program is a place where imagination becomes real. It's such a cool feeling to have ideas and to have a team working together to make it happen.

Q: What drew you to the advertising program?

McDermott: I was originally majoring in illustration because I wanted to teach seminary, and you only need a bachelor’s degree to teach. I like art, so I figured I would just get an art degree and then I'd teach seminary. I taught seminary part time for a semester and it was really great, but I knew that that wasn't going to be my long-term plan anymore. I also decided to switch out of illustration because, while I enjoy art, I found myself wanting to dive into the conceptual side of things quickly. I wanted to play with ideas and the concepts sooner and find something that was more social and more collaborative. I was eventually brought to a choice between advertising and design. When I looked at the application for advertising, it was just a bunch of silly questions like “How would you advertise shoes to bees?” I saw that and I knew this was where I needed to be.