Just like New York City, the newest members of Spitfire’s New York office are diverse and know how to move fast. They’re also deliberate strategists, who came to Spitfire wanting to apply their expertise in new and different ways.
Sheetal Dhir, a vice president, most recently served as the senior crisis campaigner at Amnesty International USA, where she led all tactical and crisis response campaigns during the first two years of the Trump administration. She also worked for several years at ACLU National, focusing on racial justice issues, including immigration reform and mass incarceration.
Jay Mimes, a senior account executive, spent much of their career in agency settings — namely Digitas and the Bloc — and most recently ran social media for biotech/health start-up Elysium Health.
For Sheetal and Jay, the chance to apply their skills to different aspects of issues was key to their interest in joining Spitfire. For Sheetal, it’s an opportunity to advocate for issues that are important to her in a more deliberate and significant way.
“I really like advising my clients to be a validator and authoritative voice so that when they do say something, people take note,” explains Sheetal, whose current client portfolio includes Columbia University’s SIPA Global Center on Energy Policy and the NYU School of Law Policing Project, which Jay works on, too. “I like being on the offensive rather than simply reacting defensively all the time. Let the squawkers squawk, and then when there’s an opportunity to change course or respond in an impactful way, you can show your value and worth in the conversation. That’s where you want to double down.”
For Jay, working at Spitfire is a chance to tell the kind of personal stories that aren’t being shared by the media, such as the work they did on the Spitfire team partnering with Envisioning Justice.
“There was a multimedia exhibit in Chicago for about two months, which involved working with community activists and helping them frame their stories,” says Jay. “It’s exciting to me to frame someone’s story about why they got involved and why other people should be considering alternatives to the way we treat people — whether or not they’ve committed a crime.”
Both of our new Spitfires bring valuable expertise to the firm — for example, Jay has deep experience in digital communication and social media — but they’re both also learning a lot during their first year on the team. For instance, Jay’s current portfolio doesn’t include a lot of digital strategy, but they are called in to consult with Spitfire clients that may not be savvy in this area, so Jay is using their skills in a different way.
Jay’s client portfolio also includes Demos, New Leaders and the MacArthur Foundation, and they’re excited about offering strategic guidance to clients that are serious about making change happen. In addition, they are part of Spitfire’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) team, which helps everyone at the organization apply EDI principles to both external and internal interactions.
“As the only gender non-conforming person on the staff here, I’m excited to find a community that’s really enthusiastic about EDI and looking closely at what aspects to implement aggressively,” Jay says. “I expect to spend a significant amount of time on Spitfire’s EDI initiative.”
Sheetal is equally proud of Spitfire’s commitment to EDI. “I’m a queer woman of color communicator, and a lot of legacy white institutions control the narrative,” she says. “I’m excited about being able to imbue Spitfire’s authentic sense of EDI into my clients’ work.”
She adds that, like Jay, she’s eager to expand her wide-ranging experience — from TV producing to advocacy counsel and a great deal in between — into new areas. Sheetal recently participated in trainings for JPMorgan Chase Philanthropy’s grantees and says she’s really enjoying learning “the Spitfire way” to approach this work.
“I’m truly humbled by the varied experience that exists at Spitfire and the way the firm brings so much energy to activities like the training program,” she says. “It feels like they’re creating community in the moment, which is really beautiful to watch. I’m looking forward to investing more time in trainings in the future.”
Something else both Sheetal and Jay have in common? They had very specific motivations for joining Spitfire. For Sheetal, it’s the chance to use “all the tools in my toolbox,” she says, and so many more. For Jay, it goes one step further.
“In an ideal world, this would be the job I would have come to right out of college,” they say. “It’s taken me several experiences to understand what makes me happy and assess my skills, and now I know I’m where I belong.”