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Marcia Zellers: Going Digital – A Unique AIESEC Career Path

Saturday, October 26, 2019   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Maggie Gisel
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By Stephanie Stewart (Colorado 1988)  

Marcia Zellers (in red) with AIESEC Yale - Fall 2019

Marcia Zellers first heard of AIESEC from a friend at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Marcia went from being a general member on the IGX team, to local exchange controller, to AIESEC US Student Director and then to National Committee President (1986-1987). She said that she was very fortunate to see AIESEC through an increase in traineeships at a time when the US economy was booming. Marcia and her team helped in a bid to host AIESEC's International Congress ’88 in Boston, hiring the Congress Committee Chair, Mary (Meyer) Braunwarth, and raising funds to host such a large event.

Fundraising for the Congress became a key focus for AIESEC US and Marcia. That year Marcia was asked to chair the Asia Pacific AIESEC Congress in Osaka, Japan. While there she explored fundraising opportunities for the upcoming AIESEC Boston Congress among Japanese companies who had an interest in expanding into America. She reflects on the amazing opportunity, at the age of 21, going to meet the Chairman of Nomura Securities, one of the largest global Japanese companies.
At the time, women in Japan did not often have significant roles in corporations and it really opened her eyes to how women are treated differently around the world. “I remember feeling bad that I was allowed, as a western woman, to be in that office having that meeting with that incredibly powerful man while these young women were opening doors and serving tea.” Female AIESEC members, about to graduate, showed her the recruitment brochures they were receiving. There were separate job listings for men and women, with women having lower level jobs and responsibility.

Marcia says the experience of being NCP of AIESEC US is probably the best job she’s ever had, “It was such a transformative experience. It was a job with such incredible responsibility handed to such a young person.”

Marcia went on her first AIESEC traineeship in1984 to then communist controlled Budapest, Hungary working for the largest domestic advertising agency. Marcia remembers arriving in Hungary and nobody was there to meet her. She had only ever been abroad to go to AIESEC Congress in France. She didn’t speak the language (and no one in those countries spoke English at that time), she didn’t know where she was, but she managed to find her way. “That is an amazing experience for a 19 year old. This type of challenge builds amazing strength and character.”

At that time, a student needed a “credit” to take a traineeship. As AIESEC US NCP Marcia received an additional two credits. She explains, “I wanted to have an internship that was an amazing cultural experience, where I could speak French, and one that was a great job.” Her next internship was in Côte d’Ivoire in Abidjan, working for seven months at Citibank and the second was in Germany working for a management consulting company called ExperTeam. 

After her traineeships Marcia moved back to New York to find a way into the entertainment industry. She was hired by an AIESEC alumni who had a custom publishing company that partnered with Hearst Publishing. She then went on to be the marketing director for companies like Spin magazine, and also worked with Sassy magazine. In 1994 she got her first internet account with AOL and, “It just blew my mind. I had this lightbulb moment and thought, this is the future”. She approached MTV, which was a huge actor in the entertainment industry at the time, and suggested that the internet was an emerging influence for entertainment and that she should start their internet department. She and two others launched the first internet department of a media company. Within a few months, the first HTML internet browser, Mosaic, was created and their small department at MTV began to expand. “We had so much fun pioneering all the things that we do in media and entertainment now on the internet because of digital technologies. Now it’s just the norm.”

She continued working in digital marketing, primarily in southern California, with companies like Warner Brothers, the America Film Institute (AFI), A&E and Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM). In 2013, a friend asked her to join him in starting a creative marketing agency called Stradella Road. They specialized in social media marketing, video and paid media creative, app and web design for film, TV, and brands. Their agency was named by Fast Company as one of the most innovative companies in Hollywood. Marcia now runs her own marketing agency and consultancy, Chironomy, which helps her clients create marketing campaigns, expand their scope, staff and grow their social media and digital marketing capabilities.

A few years ago, Marcia joined the AIESEC US board of directors and is currently doing a strategic review of AIESEC’s US operations. She has found interviewing AIESECers and analysing AIESEC’s challenges and successes very interesting. She explains, “It has been fascinating. More than I ever expected.” The recommendations will be presented to the MC and LCs for their review at Winter National Conference.

Marcia feels that AIESEC has had a huge impact on her life. She notes that 35 years later some of her closest friends are people from AIESEC including the members of her book club of 27 years. She explains, “AIESEC made me who I am. It made me realize as a young person, coming from a family where no one had gone to college, that I had potential and that I was a leader. That has propelled me for the rest of my life.“ Marcia explains, “I think my quest for adventure in my career came from my experiences in AIESEC and it made me hungry for more adventure.” It also gave her a global perspective, “I carry it with me every day. The way I look at the world, the way I treat people, the issues I care about, all are directly a result of AIESEC.”


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