The Career Refresh with Jill Griffin

Unearthing the Power of Self-Identity in Career Development, with Ashok Sinha, SVP, Corporate Communications, Dow Jones

November 28, 2023
The Career Refresh with Jill Griffin
Unearthing the Power of Self-Identity in Career Development, with Ashok Sinha, SVP, Corporate Communications, Dow Jones
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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Ashok Sinha is the Senior VP of Corporate Communications at Dow Jones, overseeing global communication functions. In this episode, we discuss:

  • The Value of Storytelling for Excelling in Any Field
  • Importance of Passion in Work
  • Focus on Transferable Skills and Building Relationships
  • Why Focusing on Inclusivity and Equity for Diverse Employees is better for business
  • The Role of Allyship from Colleagues and Executive Leadership
  • Why Self-Identity and Self-Expression Leads to a Successful Career

Show Guest
Ashok Sinha is the Senior VP of Corporate Communications at Dow Jones, overseeing global communication functions. Before this, he was Senior VP of Corporate Communications and PR at Audacy, a leading audio content company. Ashok has also held senior communication roles at WarnerMedia, NBCUniversal, Viacom, and Publicis Media. He is a board member of the 4As Foundation, which focuses on increasing diversity in advertising, media, and marketing. He holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Maryland, College Park, and a Master of Fine Arts in Theater from the California Institute of the Arts. Follow him on LinkedIn

Support the show

Jill Griffin is committed to making workplaces more successful for everyone through leadership training and development, team dynamics workshops, and employee well-being programs. Her executive coaching, workshop facilitation, and innovative thinking have driven multi-million-dollar revenues for top agencies, startups, and renowned brands. Collaborating with individuals, teams, and organizations, Jill fosters high-performance and inclusive cultures while facilitating organizational growth.

Visit JillGriffinCoaching.com for more details on:

  • Book a 1:1 Career Strategy and Executive Coaching HERE
  • Gallup CliftonStrengths Corporate Workshops to build a strengths-based culture
  • Team Dynamics training to increase retention, communication, goal setting, and effective decision-making
  • Keynote Speaking
  • Grab a personal Resume Refresh with Jill Griffin HERE

Follow @JillGriffinOffical on Instagram for daily inspiration
Connect with and follow Jill on LinkedIn

Speaker 1:

Hi, you're listening to the Career Refresh and I'm your host, jill Griffin. This week, I'm introducing you to a friend and former colleague of mine, ashok Sinha. He is the Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications at Dow Jones, overseeing global communication functions. Before this, he was the Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications and PR at Odyssey, a leading audio content company, and he's also held tremendous roles in senior communications at Warner Media, nbc, universal, viacom and Pulisys. He's a board member at the 4A's Foundation and the role that he's doing there focuses on increasing diversity in advertising, media and marketing. Ashok holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Maryland College Park and he holds a Master of Fine Arts in Theater from the California Institute of the Arts.

Speaker 1:

In this episode, we talk about the value of storytelling and how it will help you excel in any field that you are in. We then go on to talk about the importance of finding work that you're passionate about, or, at the very least, find an aspect of the work that you're doing that you are passionate about, because it's going to make the days go a lot shorter and be less intense if you find a place to focus on your passion. We discuss the need for transferable skills and why, again, relationships are the crux of so much of your career. We then round out with what organizations can do to create more inclusive and equitable environments for their employees from diverse backgrounds. The role of allyship from colleagues and executive leadership. The importance of self-identity and self-expression throughout your career.

Speaker 1:

Friends, you are going to love listening to him, one he has always been a pleasure to work with. He is a powerful leader, super strategic, high emotional IQ, leads with kindness and passion, and anybody who's ever had the opportunity to report to him, work with him or be part of his team has been really, really lucky to know that they've had such an impassionate leader. Listen to this episode. This is definitely one that you're going to want to grab your notes up and write down all the things that he is dropping on us. As always, if you have questions, I can bring them back. Definitely, send me any questions to hello at jillgriffandcoachingcom. I love hearing from all of you anyway, so that's fun too. Come in and have a great week and, as always, I'll see you next time.

Speaker 2:

Hey, Ashok, it is so good to have you here. How are you doing today?

Speaker 3:

I am doing so well. Jill, Thank you so much for having me. I'm so excited for this conversation.

Speaker 2:

I am too, because you have a lot of really interesting news, especially with your new role.

Speaker 1:

Why don't you tell everyone what role you are in now? It's super exciting.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, sure. So I'm about a month into my new role as senior vice president, head of corporate communications at Dow Jones and Dow Jones people may or may not know. Dow Jones actually spun off the stock index, which most people may know the brand from, many, many, many years ago. I think it's been at least a few decades, and the Dow Jones that I work for is actually the media entity. So we are probably most well known for our largest newspaper, which is the Wall Street Journal, as well as Barron's MarketWatch, and then there's a number of services data services that we sell to businesses and to corporations around the world that help sort of drive revenue and keep our business going. So I'm about a month in. It's been really great so far. It's been meeting a lot of new people and getting to understand the business a little bit better. But yeah, it's exciting. It's a fun time to be here.

Speaker 2:

It really is. So I want to always go back and like, ground our listeners and like, okay, you went to university and you're going to talk about what you said, because I think that's important. But also take us back even earlier, like as a child. What did you want to be when you grew up?

Speaker 3:

My gosh. That is a while ago now. I think I always knew that I wanted to do something sort of within what I thought was sort of the arts. I think now, as I look back on my life and career, I think I was really thinking more arts, media, entertainment this is sort of the industry that I always thought that I wanted to be in. I initially thought that it would be sort of more in front of the camera and I have both undergraduate and graduate degrees in theater and was thinking more that I would be some sort of artist, performer, actor, potentially a director.

Speaker 3:

But that's really what I, from a very young age I mean really as far back as I can remember I was very interested in sort of the arts in general, and when I was in high school, theater was really the thing that I was the most passionate about. I did a lot of acting on stage as part of the theater program at my high school and then, of course, moved on to doing that in college. So I always sort of knew that I wanted to sort of somewhere be in the arts. I didn't really know enough about the industry to have envisioned the career that I sort of fell into, but that's kind of what I knew I wanted to do from the beginning, if that makes sense.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, okay, and tell everyone where you grew up.

Speaker 3:

I was born in Chicago, Illinois, and grew up I would say most of my early childhood I spent in the Midwest and then we moved around quite a bit. So I've lived. We lived in the Midwest until I was about seven or eight years old. Then we lived in the South for a while, lived in Knoxville, Tennessee. I lived overseas for a couple of years because my family is South Asian ethnically and my father is still a practicing physician, research physician and he got a really great opportunity to open up a hospital in Mumbai it was Bombay at the time and so the whole family moved to India for a couple of years when I was in high school, which was a crazy experience.

Speaker 2:

What an incredible experience.

Speaker 3:

It was a crazy experience because I really was living in India as an American, even though I was in an Indian body, and when we lived there because my father wanted to move us back to the US, it was very important to him that we were matriculating in such a way that it wouldn't affect our college admissions. So I only bring that up to say that when we lived in India, most of my sister and I went to an American embassy school and it was like this little tiny, little microcosm that felt like you were in the United States the moment you stepped into it and then the moment you stepped out of it you were back in India again. So it was a really wild, crazy experience.

Speaker 2:

What an incredible like also understanding of the differences in cultures and probably, at times, the similarities in cultures 100% and it was really interesting to sort of experience the, especially back then.

Speaker 3:

this was now back in the 80s Culturally the United States and India were so different and so to sort of be in this school that felt like you were literally at a high school, in like you know somewhere in Maryland or whatever, and then to literally step outside and be like in the thick and the rush of India was just such an interesting experience. I didn't see like we were really resistant and reluctant at the time, as you can imagine, because you know our family, you know our parents sort of plucked us out of our suburban life in the middle of the United States where we were enjoying the culture and the life here, and sort of plunked us down in India and so we were very unhappy about it at the time. But as I think, as I look back on my life, like those two or three years that we were there were probably the most valuable experience I think I've ever had. It really helped shape who I think, who I've become experience, state or music.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, very much so, because I think it was I don't know like it.

Speaker 3:

I'm really only thinking about this now as I talk to you frankly, but I think there was something about I grew up really thinking of myself as an American and then living in India as an American, but being Indian it just really made me sort of understand who I was and my identity in a very unique way. And it's sort of as I think about it now, like I remember at the time, because we were just kids, it was really important for me that everyone knew that I was an American, even though I didn't look American, even though I looked Indian. It was very important for me to really drill down into my American-ness in India and since then it's really become very important to me now living in the United States, that the Indian sort of cultural part of me is equally sort of recognized and important to me, and so it's a weird thing, like it really is sort of like it's almost like a somersault in terms of the way that I think about my identity between then and now.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and I can see, like how, when you're talking about identity and I know that you and I have worked together for years we haven't worked together recently, but no one has worked together for years and knowing from you for championing you about diversity, pretty, inclusion, belonging and all of that, so I could imagine shaping that experience of blending your two cultures. I could imagine thinking to such a level of empathy that another leader may not. What are your?

Speaker 3:

thoughts. I think so. I mean, I think I guess the way that I think about it is that I have always I just know intrinsically what it's like to be an other, just because I feel like and I don't mean this, I don't mean it necessarily in a I don't feel. I feel when I think about my life. I think about my life and my identity as being places of courage and strength for me. I don't think of it as being weakness, but I say that to say that really I know, being a third culture child, I know what it's like to sort of be to think of myself as an other in almost every room I walk into, and that was the case when I lived in India back in high school and that's certainly been the case throughout my career.

Speaker 3:

I feel like I understand when it's like to walk into a room where you don't look like anybody else. Your life experience is very different. Physically, you look different from everyone else and I understand what that feels like, and so I would hope that that has made me more empathetic to understanding what that experience is like for other people, for whatever reason, who don't look like everyone else in the room. It may be because they're the only woman in the room. It may be because they're the only person over 50 in the room, and maybe there's a number of reasons why, of what makes somebody different. But I do feel like my experience of being an other and I'm using, I'm putting that word in quotes has made me very empathetic to that experience that other people might have, you know, is that yeah, I can totally and again, I experienced that with you, working with you.

Speaker 2:

But I can see that in the life experiences you've had and the teams and the career that you've also created and led I wanna go a little deeper into. So you went to University of Maryland. You thought you were gonna be as something of the arts and then, as we know, that's not what you ended up ultimately doing.

Speaker 2:

So take people through that because I think that's a really important journey, that people understand that you can go from one thing to being the SKP of corporate communications at down zones like an amazing company, even though you thought you were gonna be an art.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, I mean I not only got my undergraduate degree from Maryland in theater but, as I mentioned, I also I've got a graduate degree in it. I really doubled down on theater. So I went to Maryland for my undergrad. I lived in California and went to the California Institute of the Arts where I got my graduate degree, and I moved to New York in the late 90s thinking that I was really going to make a go of the acting thing or directing. I mean, I knew I wanted to work in theater and I wasn't sure whether I wanted the beyond stage or off stage. But I knew that I wanted to do something sort of in the performing arts and I really drilled, I really sort of gave it my all.

Speaker 3:

I really feel like, as I think about, think back on those years, I don't feel like I didn't really try hard enough. I really made like every effort possible to make a go of it. But you know, it's the kind of profession and career where you have to have so many things working for you. You have to be really passionate about it, you have to be really super disciplined and, unlike other careers, you really there's a degree of luck. You just have to be in the right place at the right time. And you know, the thing that I discovered was that I loved living in New York. And you know, living in New York and being a New Yorker is perhaps the most important of all of my various identities. That was the one thing I discovered from coming here after grad school was that I really loved New York. I didn't necessarily love as much as I thought I would the experience of really hustling to become an actor, like I thought I would love it and be more passionate about it than I was.

Speaker 3:

And the entire time that I was sort of trying to make it a go of the acting thing, I had various day jobs and towards the end, the day job that I had was working at what was then MTV Networks as part of their sort of assistant program, and back then, especially executives could not go without having an assistant, and so, if you know, an assistant was out because of maternity leave or was on vacation, et cetera, you know you had to have somebody sort of on the desk answering phones et cetera. And that was really my first exposure to a scenario or a world where I thought, oh, I'm working for an entertainment company, I'm sort of still doing entertainment, which I care deeply about, but I'm not hustling to get on stage. I'm looking at it from a different perspective and I think the thing it taught me about and this may or may not be relevant to your listeners is that I do think you need to be able to find some passion in what you do for a living, and I know that's easier said than done. I mean, sometimes you just have to have a job to have a job, and I totally get that. But I think if you can't find some light or some love for some aspect of what it is that you're spending 40, 50, 60 hours of your week doing I mean I don't need to tell you this, jill, you made a pivot yourself. If you're not doing that, then you need to think about how to make a change, and for me it sort of ended up organically happening.

Speaker 3:

I mean, I was doing this rotation of being an assistant at various places within MCB Networks and I remember working for an executive who was like you know, you should really think about doing this full time. He was really good at it. You seem to have an understanding for public relations, you're a good writer, you have all the right skills. I remember him saying to me like if you don't think you can make a go of it at some point you should consider switching over.

Speaker 3:

And I sort of had a crisis of not a crisis, but I had an inflection point, probably around when I was in my early 30s, where I was like I can either keep doing this and slogging away and hope to make a success out of this but I'm also not that passionate about it or I can move into another role, that sort of does.

Speaker 3:

You know, it's within the general kind of entertainment framework, so it's still kind of telling stories, which I care deeply about doing, but come at it from a different angle and be able to have a lifestyle and a life and live in New York and be able to afford living in New York. And I was able to sort of make that transition pretty quickly. And I think the one other thing I will say is that, you know, especially early on, people would say to me don't you miss it, don't you ever think about going back to acting. And I will say the moment I made that shift in my mind to I'm no longer an actor, I am now working in corporate America, I'm now working in public relations. I have never looked back like one single day. I mean, you know I do enjoy going to the theater. I still. You know I was on the board of theater organization for a very long time. I care deeply about the arts but I have never regretted the decision that I made now, you know, almost 20 years ago.

Speaker 2:

I mean, I think everything that you said there is so important for so many people Like you basically were in the arts, but you found or maybe it was a happy accident, right, but you found a way to be adjacent to what you loved and, as you said more than one time, you have to like. If you consider switching, it's like telling the same story from a different angle. Now, that's parallel. Is it going to work for everyone? But whether you're telling a story because you're on the stage or behind the camera, or whether you're telling a story because you're crafting a strategic narrative for a brand or a business, it's still the art of storytelling. So that concept of transferable skills, I think, is a big takeaway for our listeners.

Speaker 1:

And then also, I love the second part that you said about you have to find some light and love for what you're doing.

Speaker 2:

You know I recently did an episode on the good enough or the in-between job, and there are times in our careers and with that is the right choice for us. Right Is this job is working. It's good enough because I'm a new parent and I want to be present for my new child, or I'm going to school and nights and weekends are in school and I need to do a job that I you know, to manage my brain and the stress, but also be able to get my degree. There are various reasons why we would do that, but at the end of the day, when you go back into working through whatever that you know that transition period is, you have to make sure in your career trajectory that you are doing something that you're finding passion for or find the way you find the passion for it Because, as you said, you know it could be a 40-hour week, it could also be a 60-hour week, and maybe you're on a plane for half of it.

Speaker 1:

You have to find the way to find the way to love it, and even if the loving it is, I like what's in my bank account so I can afford experiences.

Speaker 2:

I'll take that too.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, and you know I could not agree with you more, and I think you know part of it could be I love the team I'm working with.

Speaker 3:

I'm working with myself, with people that I really love working with. So, even though there are things about this job that are driving me crazy, the people around me are giving me happiness and you know, again, like I know, that I'm somewhat fortunate in the sense that I've landed in corporate America, where there are people who sometimes you have to have a job. That's just about substance, being able to sustain your life Like you're working. You know you're doing things that are like, literally like you're just doing it to make a paycheck. I think if you, if you are lucky enough to work in an industry or in a position where you have the luxury of being someplace where you can make choices for yourself, I think it's really important to be able to make a choice, to choose some, to choose to be someplace where you can find something that gives you some sort of sustenance, that makes you happy in some way, because otherwise, I think we all work too hard, too many hours to do something where you're not happy. I just, I just think it's it's life is too short.

Speaker 2:

It's, it's. I mean. I completely agree with you there. So take us through them. You know MTV. I know you spend time in other large media entities like how did you navigate the next few years of your career that brought me to where you are today at?

Speaker 3:

Dallas. Yeah, so part of it was. I mean I think that I think there are two things have been. I mean, I'm for better or for worse. You know there are people who have, who will say to you I've spent 25 years of my life at this company, that's definitely not have, that, that's not been the pattern of my career I have. You know, I have moved around, I've had different experiences and opportunities, and so I have moved around a bit. The benefit for me is that, I think, from my perspective, is that it's allowed me to really diversify my experience set. And so I worked with you and you know we were at a media company and advertising, and I've been at media companies like MTV networks and NBC universal. I've worked for a nonprofit before, I worked at an audio company before I came to Dow Jones and now here I am at you know what, which was a company that is at its base, a newspaper company but is now really a data information company, and so I think the experience of being able to having had all these varied experiences has really taught me that communications and public relations is really a skill to quote something you said earlier that is quite transferable and that, if you can understand what a brand, what the story of, what the story of a brand is. You can take those skills and really go anywhere. I mean I feel like I could work at a packaged goods company, I could work at a travel company, because I understand sort of how to understand what the priorities are of a company, of a leader of a team, and really package it up and tell that story both externally and internally.

Speaker 3:

I was very lucky Early on in my career to have sort of met a couple of mentors that really counseled and guided me. And so you know, I would say the first few sort of career decisions I made where I made because I really I really followed a mentor to another opportunity and so you know it was really more about I had a connection with this person this person moved on to another role and they bought me with them. So you know, when I came to publicists, where you and I work together, it was really because there was a leader there that I had worked with earlier in my career who had come there and basically called me up and said I'm building a team, you and I work very well together. I'd love for you to think about coming here.

Speaker 3:

I, you know, I, candidly knew very little about the media business.

Speaker 3:

I didn't understand media buying and selling, but again, I understood how to tell a story, I understood how to build a brand's reputation, I understood how to interact with the press, and so I felt like I could take a leap of faith into this sort of you know, adjacent industry to the industry that I knew really well and be able to sort of figure it out.

Speaker 3:

And luckily I was able to do it and so that sort of really shaped my early experiences. And then and then, sort of as my career has advanced, it really has become more about, like you know, where can I go where I can understand the vision for the company and get behind it and tell the story behind it? And again, having had so many very different experiences, it's given me the flexibility to be able to do that which I truly value. And you know, sometimes I'll meet somebody who's been like I've spent 30 years that wherever and I do some, you know, the grass is always greener and I do sometimes things like, oh, what would that experience have been like? But that's just not the way that my own career has developed.

Speaker 2:

And I just because I've also known you for so long, I just want to also point out that you have navigated and you have, you know, learn to be strategic as you're in it, but you've also navigated the relationship so beautifully Right, and one of the things that I think is happening unfortunately in the last couple of years is that relationships have become so transactional, whereas you have always been one of those people first of a colleague and now as an industry peer where your understanding of building relationships, your kindness, your very high emotional intelligence on behalf of just being full of your own education has, I think, really set you apart. And I feel very lucky for your team that gets to work with you, because it's such a beautiful thing to see in a leader and I thank you on behalf of everyone that you are showing up that way, because it does make a difference in employee well being and morale and their mental health and you create that atmosphere and that's tremendous.

Speaker 3:

I really appreciate you're saying that, jill, and and I will say that somebody I think maybe maybe honestly, when I was interviewing for perhaps this job, you know, when I think about sort of, you get the question like what are your top, what's your top skill? Like, what are you, what is your superpower? And I really do think that my superpower is understanding how to develop relationships and and also you know not to sound cavalier about it, but also how to leverage them. And I mean that in the best possible way, because I've been able to, of course of my career I develop, I've been able to develop relationships with reporters very quickly and then understand how to sort of like what they're looking for from that relationship and what I, what my needs are, and sort of be able to sort of navigate those tricky waters, because being able to develop a relationship with somebody quick, pretty quickly, is something that I consider probably my top skill. But when I think about what we do in terms of communications and PR, you know it always confounds me a little bit when I meet a PR person who says I don't like dealing with reporters, I don't like talking to people, I don't.

Speaker 3:

I'm really an introvert and I think I think it's totally fine to be introverted, but I do think that you know, understanding how to develop relationships is a critical part of what we do for a living, and while it doesn't necessarily need to be the thing that you do the best, I think that either you need to know how to do it or you need to have people on your team that do it well, and you need to understand the value of it is, I guess, what is what the point that I would make about that? And so, yeah, I think, whether it's been with my team, whether it's been with mentors which I really think mentors are really important to have in your, in your career, in your life, whether it's you know, my I have a pretty vibrant social life. My friends are really important to me and my friends, in many ways, are my family. I think developing and sort of maintaining and leveraging relationships is certainly something that I think of as being one, you know, if not my top skill, one of my top skills.

Speaker 2:

Beautiful. So you mentioned mentorship and I know that a lot of people are like how do I get a mentor? Would you support on finding your mentors? I mean, you mentioned one that you've worked with consistently, but not all mentors have to be someone in relation to the hierarchy of the organization that you work in.

Speaker 3:

No, that's actually a very good point, jill. Actually, sometimes you get the best career advice and the best visibility from somebody who might be mentoring you, who really has no idea what you do or doesn't understand your industry. I mean, sometimes you get the best insights that way. I mean I did there.

Speaker 3:

There is the one person that has mentored and guided my career, who I have worked for a few times throughout my career, but then I have never been shy about asking people for things If I feel like there's something that might be mutually beneficial. And so I've literally said to somebody I really admire you, I really like the way your career has developed, I really like the way you live your life. I'd love to sort of just be able to like pick your brain, take you out for dinner, go out for a drink and really just get your advice, and I will tell you I've done that. I would say there's probably a group of like five to 10 people that I consider my mentors. No one has ever said no.

Speaker 3:

People are always like I'm happy to do that, and I also think that there's something about and I know you do a lot of thinking about this as well there's something about reverse mentorship. That's really valuable and important and I think, especially as I've now become a mentor, as I've gotten sort of moved on in my life and my career to people who are at different positions, different spots in their life than I am, I'm learning just as much from them as I believe they are learning from me, especially when we work in an industry like ours that's changing so quickly, that's being disrupted constantly. There are things that I learn about in terms of the way people work who might be in their 20s or 30s that are so different than the way I work, and it's Don't send an email.

Speaker 3:

Exactly. Don't send an email. Don't send an email text me Black me, don't send me an email. Exactly, but you know, I mean 10 years ago we were entirely dependent on email. That's what we're communicating with each other.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it's so funny too. So I do a lot of volunteer work and I'm working with an organization that helps unhoused people, and I'm an external volunteer, but I'm bringing my excellence of strategy and operations to the organization. And I was just talking with my co-chair on something about how Like it feels like it's 1989, where I go to the restroom and I come back well, maybe that's, I'm not that old it feels like it's the mid-90s. Cancel, that's what.

Speaker 2:

I'm saying yeah, it feels like it's the mid to late-90s and I go to the restroom and I come back and I have 600 emails Because it's all like the reply all and who didn't reply all and copy that person and then where's the document?

Speaker 2:

And I'm like, oh you know, you and I working in media and, of course, having so many colleagues that are of the younger generation training us how to work differently and more efficiently, that I'm not used to getting 600 emails reply all with all having different effectiveness. So to your point about reverse mentorship it's awesome working better and smarter.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, no, I remember when I first started my career. You know if there was an issue with you, know the way that an article ended up turning up or we were putting on a press release. I remember, like you know, the people my boss at the time would always say pick up the phone and call the reporter. Pick up the phone and call the reporter. One thing I've realized now is that nobody does that anymore. You cannot pick up the phone and call anybody, let alone a reporter. I think what you can do is text them and say can I call you to discuss blah, and you start that way. But the days of just calling somebody out of the blue are over. You just don't. No one does that anymore.

Speaker 2:

Unless you're my mom and dad. No one does that anymore.

Speaker 3:

Exactly exactly unless exactly no one. Literally no one does it anymore. And I remember like I called somebody I used to work with just to sort of check in a few weeks ago and I left a voicemail and she texted me back and she was like that's so cute that you still leave voicemails. No one leaves voicemails anymore. I'm like I'm sorry, some habits just die hard. What can I say?

Speaker 2:

All right, I want to take a little bit of a pivot because you've been very open with your organization and with your colleagues, like myself, about being openly a queer person of color in the media industry and I first went aground in some of the unique challenges around diversity, equity, inclusion that you face as a queer person of color in the media industry. And then the part two of that is like so what can we help people do? What can we help organizations and people do as a result of some of the challenges that you either experience personally or you?

Speaker 3:

see, that's it. Yeah, I mean, it's something I think a lot about, just given the nature of my identity as a gay person of color, as a queer person of color. I think it has obviously. Not obviously, but I mean from the beginning of my, from the moment that I, you know, it is who I present myself to the world as literally every day, whether or not I want to. It's who I am.

Speaker 3:

I was very lucky and I will name check her here to have worked for a woman named Lisa Sherman earlier in my career. She was a general manager of a cable TV network called logo. She's part of the MPV networks portfolio. She's now the CEO and chief executive, the chief executive and chairman of the ad council, and she is one of my mentors, an amazing human being. But one of the things that she's talked very openly about is the importance of being able to bring your whole self to work and how, how critical that is to ensuring success, your success.

Speaker 3:

And you know, again, I don't want to, I want she should, I want her words on this topic are so much more beautiful than mine will be quoting her, but she talked about, you know, when she was very early on in her career when she was working in corporate America, you know, she felt uncomfortable. She, she, she'd come back from the weekend and everyone else would be like, oh I was. You know, I went golfing with my family or I was doing this, I took the kids to Disney, and she always felt uncomfortable talking about what she was doing over the weekend as a you know, as a lesbian with her, with her wife or partner at the time or her friends. She never felt comfortable really sharing any of that. And at some point she made a pivot where she decided she was just going to bring herself her whole self to work. And she realized two things one, that her, the environment around her was much more receptive to it than she thought it was going to be. And, b, it just made her a better human being at work because she was really able to bring her whole identity and her whole self, her whole self there.

Speaker 3:

And that you know, because I worked for her so earlier on in my career, that has really been the defining hallmark to my career, in the sense that I have never gone someplace to work where I have not literally been very open and honest about who I am from day one, and I think that that has really affected, impacted, shaped the kind of person that I've become within sort of corporate America. Because, you know, on the one hand I will say I've been very open about it. On the other hand, I will say I have never I don't think ever worked in a place where I have been part of the majority, aside from being male, cisgendered male. Every other place that I've worked, I've been in the minority for one of those reasons, one of either my sexuality or the color of my skin, and so it has just shaped the way that I think about everything in terms of when it comes to work. And you know the conversation.

Speaker 3:

I feel like I've been lucky enough to be part of the conversation around diversity, equity and inclusion Now for over 20 plus years.

Speaker 3:

It is both heartening and disappointing. It's heartening in the sense that, like, the conversation feels very relevant, especially since, you know, 2020 and the events around George Floyd's murder and the conversation around race in America really pivoted, I think, in a really interesting way then, and so it's definitely part of the dialogue. I will tell you honestly, it is still frustrating that, you know. I still think that at the very top, you know, at most companies, leadership still looks a certain way and change has been very slow, it's very incremental, and I've sort of I've sort of come to a place where I'm at peace with that, with knowing that that's just the way it's going to be. But you know, when I look around boardrooms and leadership teams today, they don't look that much different than they did 20 years ago. I just think that the conversations around the topic is much more overt than it used to be, which I think is a sign of it's a good sign.

Speaker 3:

It's definitely a positive your opinion in addition to obviously diversifying.

Speaker 2:

but what I find is and this is, in fact, folks, it's just an opinion what I find is that diversity ends up being treated much like HR. Either one, it becomes a part of HR, which I don't always know is the best place to have an organizational structure to sit. Or two, like the way HR is an appendage, meaning it's not the business, it's the people, management of the business. I feel that B and I ends up being the same thing.

Speaker 2:

We don't put it in the business, we put it in the diversity goals of running the business and it needs to be integrated. That's just an opinion. So when I say to you, like what kind of organizations in, you know we're talking about the media and communications part of things in just due to be more inclusive and to create more equitable environments for their employees from diverse backgrounds.

Speaker 3:

I mean, you make a very good point and I know it is. I know you were very clear to say that it's your opinion, but I will say I 100% agree with your opinion. I think you know there is, but there, especially a few years ago, there was a conversation around the fact that diversity is just good for business and I think that message that you know I remember again, when you and I worked together on the agency side, when we were pitching business, a lot of clients would ask us about our diversity metrics. That was really important to them to for them to know that our workforce represented the diversity of the audience we were targeting or that we were, you know, we were looking at in terms of our work. And I think that is something that I think we really just can't lose sight of the fact that diversity is not just good for, you know, culture and not really good, not just good for, you know, engagement of employees and all those things. Those things are very important.

Speaker 3:

It's also good for business and I think the thing that we should, we could, we can do, especially as we become leaders within the business, is I think it's always good to ask questions and I think, if you're making a hire, you know, I don't think I think you always have to put make it, make it part of your responsibility To make sure that you have done as extensive a search as possible, that you are looking at places that you may not automatically be looking, you may not normally be looking for your next candidate. If you're hiring an agency, either either because you're at a brand like I am, or you're you know, or you're at an agency, you're thinking about the fact that you want to make sure that your, your employee set your perspective is as diverse as possible in order to better reflect itself in the work, and I think that message we can never lose sight of the fact that diversity is just good for business, I think, is something that's really important for business leaders, for people, to really keep in mind.

Speaker 2:

Thank you for that. I think that was really clear, so I'm going to go to my next question for you. So do you think allyship and support and colleagues and you know ELT and leadership teams play in promoting career advancement within an organization, especially when we're thinking about D&I?

Speaker 3:

I think, um, ally, you know, I, I don't think I would be who I am today without being able to rely on the power and the strength of allies. I think allyship and I've been, I'm an ally myself I think you know allyship, I'm glad that you bring this up. I think allyship is a really important skill, identity, persona that I don't know we talk about enough in terms of, you know, as part of our conversation around the workplace. I think the biggest you know the tip for me, as I think back on sort of the allies who have really made a difference in my career, in my personal life, frankly, it's being able to really understand, like not pretend to understand you know what I.

Speaker 3:

What I try to do as an ally myself is not pretend to necessarily understand the experience of someone I may be an ally of, but instead understand how I can support, and that's what I really mean.

Speaker 3:

You know, are there, are there? Are there doors that I can open for you? Are there brands that support you that I should be supporting? Are there causes that are really deeply important to you that I can help support because they are important to you? Again, not because I necessarily understand what your experience is like moving through the world in the way that you move in it, but because I want to support you and I think that that's really important. To answer the other part of your question, when you know, when I have been part of teams that I consider where I feel like a great degree of allyship, it's because it's exactly that. It's because there's an understanding of the fact that you bring a different, diverse perspective to the workplace and that you know, it's not that people are necessarily trying to understand and put themselves in your shoes, but instead they understand what's important to you and they're respecting what's important to you and they're supporting those things that are important to you because they're important to you, if that makes sense.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, no, it totally. It totally makes sense. So it makes me think of my next question, then, where I say so how do you balance the need for career advancement with the importance of self identity and self expression?

Speaker 3:

I mean it's a complicated you know.

Speaker 3:

I think again, I can only speak to it from my experience but I think I think I don't know that my career would have advanced in the way that it's advanced If my identity had just not had not always been as important to me as it has it has been, if that makes sense.

Speaker 3:

So I have definitely made choices in my career where it may not, I may not have been necessarily advancing my career in the sort of linear way that I would have expected, but I made choices based on the fact that I knew that I was going someplace where I knew I would feel comfortable and I knew that I could be myself and that I think, recognizing that being able to be yourself is a really important part of what you offer to any business, I think is something that's really important and I think, as a result of it, career advancement should happen organically. And if it's not happening organically, if your career is not advancing because you're feeling like you have to hide part of your identity, then I think it's a wrong career or the wrong career path for you.

Speaker 2:

I'm just going to let that one be there, because that, I think, is completely like spot on and, regardless of our identity, I think we can all take a message away from that that when we're being ourselves, and as you mentioned one, of your mentors is Sherman telling you to bring your full self to work.

Speaker 2:

How you can be yourself and be natural means that you're going to think better, you're going to be more strategic, you're going to be more collaborative, you're going to be working with peers and clients and leadership in different ways. When you can be yourself, it's really hard to not be yourself. You're always in a tight. It ends up being a tight, weird way of interacting with people as you're over guarded, and I understand why you would do it To your point if you can find an organization or allyship or an industry in which is welcoming so you can be your full self and be aware you're going to be able to see the progress that you want for career.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, I mean just to really highlight something you just said. I think it takes a lot of work to hide your identity. I think it just sometimes you do it. Sometimes you have to code switch because you're a place where you don't feel comfortable. You might be especially now when we look around the world. There's so much happening and there's so much hatred and bigotry and discrimination. Sometimes this is where you literally cannot be yourself. But doing that takes a lot of work and a lot of effort. I think again, speaking for myself personally, no longer having to think about that or worry about that has just been tremendously freeing for me.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, If you are someone who's in a position where you do have to code switch, my hope is that we can find a mentor or peer group, allyship, friends, a coach to support you through that because, to your point, it's exhausting and it's very challenging.

Speaker 3:

Yes, I take it and I have enormous empathy for those situations.

Speaker 2:

Are there any professional networks of organizations that you find have been really valuable? Like I know, you personally are one of the four A's. We had Marla Kapowicz on here recently, which is an amazing leader Anything that you find is particularly helpful to persons of color, or even in a clear folk in the industry.

Speaker 3:

That's a good question. I think the four A's is definitely an organization that's very dear to my heart. I'm on the board of the Four A's Foundation. It is really all about all the stuff we've been talking about, which is, how do we create a more inclusive and diverse workplace, especially within the advertising, marketing and media industries. I will say, from the queer professional perspective, there are some organizations out there. I have not necessarily been a part of them. It's been one of my dreams. I've just never had the time necessarily to go about doing it. To create a networking organization for queer professionals within the PR world industry. It's something I really, really want to do. I've just never gotten around to actually doing it.

Speaker 2:

I think this is the rallying.

Speaker 3:

I've had so many conversations about it. I was in Cannes with a bunch of fellow PR professionals from within the community. We were like we should be doing something. We should be doing some sort of especially when we think about younger people entering the industry. I just haven't gotten around to actually making it happen, but it is something that I will do at some point, for sure.

Speaker 2:

I love it. This has been such a treat to have you and to have a really thoughtful conversation. Everything that you've shared today, I know will be tremendously helpful to our listeners. What I always say is can we bring you back? We're going to get questions, we're going to have people ask questions. As always, I say send those questions to helloacilgripandcoachingcom.

Speaker 1:

We'd love to have you back and maybe have a follow-up conversation about everything you talked about today.

Speaker 3:

First of all, thank you so much for having me, jill. I'm so proud of what you're doing and you're so great at it. I'm so glad that you're doing this, because these conversations are really important. I can imagine that they're tremendously useful to your audience and the people who engage with you. Kudos to you and thank you for having me. I'm 100% happy to come back anytime.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, all right, thank you so much. Thank you so much.

Storytelling and Passion for Career Success
Career Transitions
Navigating Career Growth and Building Relationships
Challenges for a Queer Person of Color in the Media
Importance of Diversity and Inclusion at Work
Diversity and Allyship in Career Advancement