Sonya and the high bar

Tomorrow night, our agency is hosting the Chicago edition of this year's Portfolio Night. Portfolio Night is a worldwide event that matches aspiring creatives with local creative directors, created by our friends at IHAVEANIDEA.

To promote the event, I was asked to answer a few questions and give advice. One of the pieces of advice I mentioned was, "Your portfolio isn't good enough until someone physically rips it out of your hands during an interview and refuses to let you go until they find a job for you RIGHT NOW." 

That might seem like an unrealistic reaction, but I've had the good fortune of seeing a half dozen such books, and have acted accordingly every time. Almost. 

The very first time I reacted that way, I had seen the portfolio of a young art director who had just arrived in Chicago from New Delhi. Her name was Sonya Grewal, and she was gifted. Her design sophisticated, her concepts strong, and her personality cheerful. A rare combination, really.

Much as we tried, the agency where I worked couldn't make a job happen for her. So she joined Ogilvy, then later headed to Y&R where she rose to CD before leaving last year to be a GCD at DDB New York. 

I turned in my Portfolio Night answers last Monday morning. Later that day, I heard the sad news that Sonya had passed away. I never did get the chance to work with her. She became known to me as "that damn girl who refused to accept the multiple job offers I gave her." So I had to settle for knowing her casually and admiring her work from afar. 

I'm looking forward to seeing portfolios tomorrow night. But a fair warning to all attendees: Sonya set the bar pretty high.

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