Insights in health & wellness branding


AT Work With: Tristen George

3 August 2020   |   Tristen George

AT Work With is an occasional column offering an up-close look at some of the individuals who give AT its competitive edge and unique character. Today, Tristen George, SVP, Group Creative Director, discusses early leadership lessons, business changes driven by the pandemic, and the joy of cooking.

PharmaVOICE has just named you one of 2020’s most inspiring leaders in the life sciences. What leadership qualities do you personally find most inspiring?

Honesty, bravery, humility, and an open mind.

Who has most influenced your work philosophy and style?

My Mom. I watched her, a single parent, work very hard as a businesswoman, a homeowner, and a mother. I have memories of her sitting on the roof of our house repairing a leak, re-tarring our driveway, and taking the toilet out of the bathroom to figure out how to fix it (all before YouTube). She owned her own hair salon, where I worked every weekend. At 12, I was shampooing hair, applying color, and helping with perms. Watching my mother build and maintain her business, our home and our family life taught me hard work, dedication, and humility. Most importantly, it taught me that I can do anything if I want to try hard enough.

Another important influence is my 12-year-old daughter, Wren. She is a sensitive soul and not afraid to tell me when she thinks I should have been nicer or more patient. She teaches me how to look at the world through more sensitive eyes.

What obstacles have you encountered in your career and how have you overcome them?

Being a designer is very competitive. There were many days early in my career when my friends were out socializing while I was at home working on my design and software skills. Staying professionally relevant and noteworthy is a constant challenge and I still spend a lot of time keeping my skills sharp and my work competitive.

Another tough obstacle came later, when I was faced with how to be a good mother while growing my career at the same time. Many times I’ve felt I couldn’t be good at both. Now, I just take it one day at a time and try to be more forgiving of myself. Then I try to do better the next day.

What would you do if you didn’t work in healthcare marketing?

I would be an interior designer. It’s an expensive hobby designing and decorating my own house. It would be great if I could do it on someone else’s budget.

If you were given a full day of free time, with no obligations, how would you spend it?

Chatting with my two funny kids and husband. The three of them really keep me laughing. I would also do some cooking, take care of my 20-plus houseplants, and sit with my dog Mike while I read.

What changes and opportunities do you see proceeding from the pandemic?

The most obvious for our industry is the impact on sales reps and their ability to conduct in-person sales calls. Agencies will become even more vital in creating worthwhile opportunities for reps and physicians to interact.

Another big change is that telemedicine is finally here to stay. If we need to find silver linings from the pandemic, this is definitely one of them. COVID-19 was the much-needed catalyst for a full adoption of the telemedicine model by HCPs and payers.

A third major shift, which goes beyond our industry, is that the work-from-home model has been forever changed and will continue to maintain a prominent role in the modern workforce. It clearly works. It also creates the opportunity for expanded access to talent. Companies can branch out of their immediate regions and recruit the best talent from anywhere. That could become a real game-changer for companies that decide to leverage it.

What pandemic-related changes will you personally carry with you into the “new normal?”

Working from home has dramatically improved my overall lifestyle through more flexibility, focus, efficiency, and productivity. I also now have time to take better care of myself and my family. This new model of working has been a positive experience for my whole family and we hope to carry some of it through after the pandemic is over.

I will also maintain my renewed commitment to cooking. I joined a local CSA program (community-supported agriculture) for a weekly delivery of farm-fresh seasonal produce. I also bought six veggie-focused cookbooks (my whole family is vegetarian) and now each week I scour them for recipes that involve whatever the latest weird vegetable is that I received. It has been a fun experiment so far and brought back my love of cooking.

What are people most surprised to learn about you?

Twenty-five years ago, I went to culinary school for a short stint. I wanted to be a chef but, as a vegetarian, was encouraged to go into the pastry program instead. Baking is very different from cooking. I like the spontaneity and experimentation that can come with cooking but did not enjoy the precision that baking requires. So I stuck with graphic design instead. Seems like it worked out ok. 

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Head shot of post author Tristen George

About the Author

Tristen George, SVP, Group Creative Director, joined AT in 2008 as a senior art director. In 2015, she created the agency’s Experience Design Group (ExD), providing clients with unrivaled expertise in user experience design, interaction design and content strategy. She has won more than 30 creative awards and sat on the jury of several renown award competitions. She has also served as a featured speaker at SWSW and as a mentor and advisor for MIT Hacking Medicine initiatives. In 2019, she became an AT shareholder and joined the agency’s Executive Committee.