The Career Refresh with Jill Griffin

Mastering Cultural Fluency in Advertising with Esther 'E.T.' Franklin

February 20, 2024 Jill Griffin, Ester Season 6 Episode 157
The Career Refresh with Jill Griffin
Mastering Cultural Fluency in Advertising with Esther 'E.T.' Franklin
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Esther "E.T." Franklin, the trailblazing Global Chief Strategy & Cultural Fluency Officer at Spark Foundry, a Publicis Media subsidiary of Publicis Groupe, is hailed as an "Advertising Woman of the Year." 

With over two decades of experience in Chicago's vibrant advertising world, Franklin brings a wealth of insights and innovation. Her journey is a testament to her prowess, earning her accolades like the Campaign US "Inspiring Women" award for her impactful contributions to media planning and buying. Join us as Franklin shares her strategies to navigate a successful career. In this episode, we delve into Franklin's world, exploring and uncovering the lessons she's learned, including: 

  • Insights on mentoring and fostering diversity within organizations 
  • Navigating the intersectionality of a leader who's female and black.  
  • Learn how she carved her path within her organization and championed diversity in data-driven strategies
  • The power of diverse perspectives in mass marketing
  • Importance of connection in the creation of consistent, inspired results

    Show Guest
    Esther "E.T." Franklin is the Global Chief Strategy & Cultural Fluency Officer at Spark Foundry, driving the agency's vision and strategy. Instrumental in shaping Spark's strategic approach, she enhances successful pitches for iconic clients like Macy’s, Marriott, Dyers Ice Cream, and Signet. With over 20 years in Chicago's advertising scene, Franklin is recognized as the 2018 "Advertising Woman of the Year." Under her leadership, Spark Foundry earned accolades, including Ad Age’s 2022 "Media Agency of the Year." Her pioneering role extends to Spark Plus, grounding strategy in audience identity and cultural fluency, guiding brands to navigate the delicate balance between brand and demand goals. Franklin’s unique perspective draws from extensive industry experience, contributing to her recognition in the 2023 Campaign US “Inspiring Women” award for impactful media planning and buying contributions.

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Speaker 1:

Hey, this is the Career Refresh and I'm your host, jill Griffin. Today I have the pleasure of introducing you to a mentor and former colleague, esther ET Franklin. She is the Global Chief Strategy and Cultural Fluency Officer at Spark Foundry, a Publisys Group company, and she's responsible for driving the agency's vision and strategy. She's been instrumental in Publisys' strategic approach and helping land many pitches like iconic brands Macy's, marriott and Southwest Airlines. She has over 20 years experience on Chicago's advertising scene and she's been recognized as an advertising woman of the year. Also under her leadership, spark Foundry earned accolades, including at-ages media agency of the year. Her pioneering role extends to Spark Plus, grounding strategy and audience identity with cultural fluency. I mean this is new grounds people. She is guiding brands to help navigate the delicate balance between brand and demand goals. Et's unique perspective draws from extensive agency experience, contributing to her recognition recently by Campaign US as an inspiring woman award for her impact on media planning and buying contributions.

Speaker 1:

In this episode, et and I we talk about the strategies that she has deployed to make her super successful throughout her entire career. We delve into her world, we explore and uncover the various lessons she's learned, and she shares her insights on mentoring and fostering diverse communities within organizations, navigating the intersectionality of being a leader who's also female and black, learning from her how she carved a path within an organization and then champion diversity and data-driven strategies, the power of having diverse perspectives in mass marketing and the importance of building connections and creating connections to drive relationships forward, to create consistent, inspired results. Friends, I feel really fortunate that I get to share with you the people in my past, the people that have helped shape and make my career, my mentors, my colleagues, my peers, my friends and ET is up there amongst the masterclasses that you've received from listening to this podcast. This is one that you want to grab your notes app. If you're a pen and paper, you know what I say. Grab that, it's all good, but take notes, because she is dropping so much wisdom on us, from fostering diversity to data-driven strategies, making sure diversity is championed within and, of course, building relationships.

Speaker 1:

As always, we want to hear from you. You can email me at hello at jillgriffincoachingcom. Ask any questions. We'll get them to ET. She'll respond. As always, I want you to dig and have a beautiful week and I'll see you next time. Et, I am so excited that we are finally having this conversation. Welcome, thank you.

Speaker 2:

I'm excited myself.

Speaker 1:

Okay, the question that I always ask everyone is take us way back and tell us what did you think you wanted to be when you grew up?

Speaker 2:

Oh my gosh. I thought I wanted to be so many things that I am not. So I love animals. I was going to be a veterinarian. That definitely did not work out. I wanted to be an interior designer. I wanted to go to an art school and my family was very traditional. My father gave me the option. He said you can do that after you go to a traditional school and we see how that turned out. So those are some of the things that I wanted to be and they are not what I am.

Speaker 1:

Yes, Although I love that the veterinarian, because I thought I wanted to be a veterinarian too when I grew up. Then I was like, oh, blood guts, I don't know that I can handle that size. I just wanted to take care of animals, so I made a pivot.

Speaker 2:

But look now. I mean, if I was a veterinarian, they've got to be killing it. There's so many people with dogs and cats and things.

Speaker 1:

Yes, so give us a high level journey. Recently you were awarded Advertising Woman of the Year which is phenomenal by Chicago's Advertising Federation and I know you and I have talked before about sort of the five steps that you take when you think about your overall career or the five sections, and I'd love for you to share that with your audience. There's a lot of wisdom there.

Speaker 2:

Yes. So my entree into the advertising world was completely accidental. I got there. I happened to be watching television back in the 80s. They did the special on Borrell Advertising. I had never even heard of a Black advertising agency and I was enamored. So again, we're talking old school. I picked up the telephone yes, a landline and I called and asked for the research director because I was in research and I said I want a job there. And he was like who are you? Who calls on the phone and says they want a job, come on in here so I can interview you and see who you are. And that was the beginning of my entree into the advertising world. I had that interview and I got the job. And here I am still today. So that was one of the things At Borrell. It was a lot of fun.

Speaker 2:

Borrell, for those of you who don't know, is a Black advertising agency and it was one of the esteemed agencies in the 80s. So we had a fashion show I'm sorry. We had a talent show and I was not paying any attention. I used to sew my own clothes at that point in time and I brought a bunch of them for this fashion show, for the talent show I keep saying fashion show Because I had someone else one of my peers wear my clothes in the talent show and I was back in the kitchen with other people having a drink, eating cookies, whatnot, and guess what I won.

Speaker 2:

I won the talent show with my fashions. And so I only bring that up because I think of that as my very first award in advertising. And when I think about that award and judging great content, great products, and where my career has taken me to being a judge at Cannes I could not have even imagined I didn't even know what Cannes was when I first started in advertising, and so I think of that as one of my pivot points to send the message don't be limited by what your mind can't see, because there's things out there that may be beyond your imagination but are totally within your reach. So that would be number one.

Speaker 1:

That is a beautiful one. I love that. If it's in you, there's an opportunity that it's for you in being able to go after that Absolutely.

Speaker 2:

Absolutely. The second time was I was in the industry and the industry was taking a pivot and I had a front row seat in it, and that was going from marketing research to account planning. And so account planning that discipline, is all about the strategic use of data to understand people and create an unusual, uncommon profile so you understand where the gaps and tension points are in their lives. That can be solved by advertising. And so I was a part of that shift in research to account planning and it was very transformational. It was interesting, it was eye-opening and again it exposed me to what was going on across the pond. Account planning came from the UK, yeah, so I became expert in the strategic application of information and I still use those principles today. So I think of that as my second pivot point in trajectory in my career.

Speaker 1:

All right, let's hear the third.

Speaker 2:

The third was when I came into media. Media was morphing into its own industry, so that was a pivot point that I found thrilling. I came into the media industry because they wanted someone that could bring the account planning discipline to media, and that was my charge. So I was able to, with a committed leader and an incredible team, take all of the principles in account planning that were applied to the creation of advertising and pivot those so that they could apply to the creation of media experiences and what that meant for media planners and how to think about media in a more human context than it had been up until that time. So that was number three, again a very interesting one. Number four was when I said no, and for this one, this one, I had a very, very, very senior woman in the side of our organization. You know, call a meeting with me and I was like, oh my God, what is this about? You know, I was scared, I have no idea, and I sat down and she started to describe how we were at the perfect intersection of something that was good for the company, good for the industry and good for me, and she started to outline this role for me of leading multicultural in media. Well, no one had asked me what I was interested in and I felt that that was taking me backward.

Speaker 2:

I started my career at Burrell Advertising. By then I pivoted to Leo Burnett and I was doing general market advertising and I didn't quite get what I would benefit from going back to leading multicultural at the time. And so, as she was talking about this in a very excited, passionate way, I just looked at her and I said I'm not interested in that. And all of a sudden I felt the icicles pop up. The room got very chilly and I was thinking to myself oh my God, I have just ended my career. And she was not happy. And so I kind of got up and left and I called my husband and I said I'm not sure if I'm still going to have a job. It was a very uncomfortable, nervous moment for me. Wow, I didn't hear from her.

Speaker 1:

I want to come back to that because I want to hear your the fifth one. But I want to come back to that because navigating those obstacles is a really important thing to know in your career, and sometimes there are. Whether it's a personality clash, whether it's the not the right thing, whether it's difference of opinions. How to navigate it with excellence is something that I've always admired watching you do so. I do want to come back to that, but tell us the fifth step within your career.

Speaker 2:

OK.

Speaker 2:

The fifth one was so I've been in the holding company structure for a long time those of you that know me know that and I was in SMG World forever.

Speaker 2:

And SMG was disbanded and we had a restructure and we became publicists. At that point in time, people that I had worked with but didn't know well were being put into different positions of power and influence, and there were two people that were going into a CEO role of a various brands inside of the publicist structure. And I said to myself oh my goodness, am I just going to sit here and watch how this thing unfolds and have uncertainty about where I want to go and no voice in that, or am I going to try and be a bit proactive about that? And so what I decided to do? Because often I'm better with a written word I wrote a letter of reintroduction about myself to these two individuals and just outlined three areas that I thought were really crucial for them to understand about me as they were getting positioned into their new roles and, as a result of that letter, I have the role that I have now. So that was my fifth point.

Speaker 1:

So amazing, amazing. So when we recap that for our listeners, the idea of first, like the first time you won an award, which again was for your sewing talent, so now of course everyone's going to want to know what you sew, and if you still sew today, and the idea, then of course, moving from there, I don't be limited, right.

Speaker 2:

That's why.

Speaker 1:

I heard you sit first. And then the second one is being part of the pivot and transformation seeing how research could be used into planning, so that exposure and becoming an expert and translating that in another area. And that may feel daunting to some people, but if you really take it down, if you're an expert in an area, we can figure out how to apply it to another. The third thing I heard you say was that, as media was morphing, being in the place of bringing this fruition forward, the creation of media experiences and how it's meaningful in planning.

Speaker 1:

The fourth thing is saying no, even if it is bleep and scary to say no, if it doesn't feel aligned to sort of your internal GPS and where you want to take your own career. And then the fifth thing again is that finding the certainty and the uncertainty Right. So the uncertainty is oh gosh, we're reworking new people, the people are coming in, things are shifting. What you're certain of is your skills, your excellence, what you bring to the table, your strengths and what they need to know about you. So taking that initiative and saying, hey, here are three things that you should know about me and here's why I'm the solution to these various areas. So I think for anybody at any point in their career, those threads of those five steps are enormous guideposts or a swim lane for us to be thinking about as we're working through.

Speaker 1:

But I want to come back to number four, about saying no, yes. So how did you navigate and almost one manage your mind? I can only imagine your husband getting that phone call, honey, I don't really know what's going to happen. So how did you manage that?

Speaker 2:

It really gave me a moment for pause because I knew I didn't want what was being offered. But had she turned around and said well, what do you want? I didn't know that either, and so I took that time where I was uncertain if I was going to have a job or not, to really be thoughtful about what it was I did want to do and how I would outline that and how we would articulate it and define the impact that it could have inside of the organization. So I had to figure out what I wanted. I had to figure out a way to talk about it so that it was a value to the organization, and I kind of just kept honing that and working on that and, lo and behold, that same person did come back three months later, I think they made an offer in between to someone else and that didn't work out.

Speaker 2:

So the quasi role was still open. But this time, when they came, I did have a vision. I knew what I wanted, and that was how the whole center of excellence and cultural identities was born, because I had given a lot of thought to it. Wasn't that I didn't like multicultural, it was how to evolve multicultural so that it could feel fresh and modern for the time, and that's what I had the time to think about and be able to really articulate in a very crisp way.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I mean again, genius on both ends, right, spending the time of going from I know what I don't want, but I don't actually know what I do want, so let me get clear and spending time in that story. I think it's so funny that we are storytellers and we tell stories for brands all the time, but sometimes we forget that we also have to be able to nail and tell our own story. So I think that's one of the takeaways that I hear there. But also carving your own path, and what I would love for you to share a bit is you're in this beautiful position of global chief chat of strategy officer, right, cultural fluency officer, kind of explaining to people what that is. And we know that we are all very conscious about making sure that we are talking to diversity from a representation standpoint all the way through to equity, inclusion and belonging. So I would love to know how you're weaving cultural fluency in that and then again, not only Spark Foundry, but UET continuing to be a leader in that area so that others can learn from you.

Speaker 2:

When I came into this new role my pivot point number five I knew that the whole idea of diversity and inclusion was paramount to how I wanted to be in the world and how I wanted to help shape the work. So I had the opportunity to create my title and part of it was going to be cultural fluency. I've done all of this work for all of these years in multicultural advertising and creating the center of excellence in cultural identity. So I did a student and a studier for a long, long time of how cultures are reshaping preferences and priorities in general culture, and I felt that my role was how do I translate that? How do I make it possible for people who are not multicultural specialists, people who have been generalists their whole life, to understand what that means when it comes to their day-to-day work and how to integrate diversity and inclusion into mass marketing and strategies?

Speaker 2:

So that is the heart of my role as a strategy officer. It is not only to set the strategic direction for our organization, spark Foundry, but also to have a team of strategists who are doing that kind of work on an individual client basis. So whether that be Brown Foreman or that be Macy's or Citibank, you know whatever client they are working on, and as we're thinking about how to create winning strategies and media experiences that will drive growth for our brands, we have to understand that the audiences have fundamentally changed In the United States. They are much more diverse, and the younger you go, the more diverse they are, and so, if you are doing mass marketing, mass marketing is about the collection of perspective and diverse identities. And how do we start there to understand the needs and priorities of those audiences, aggregate them up so they really become the foundation of how we understand what we need to solve for in a mass general way.

Speaker 1:

So I'll stop there and just Now I would love, like, if it's okay again, if you can talk about an example to really bring it home. I think what you said is a beautiful way. I love that like how brands have changed it's much more diverse but that mass marketing is a collective of the perspective of diverse identities. I feel, like everyone, that is something you need to write down. You need to open your notes apps and take note of that, but if you could like pull it through, if possible, to an example or you know, whatever you're able to share within the confidentialities of your client work.

Speaker 2:

I can talk about it in how it affected the ways we work. Perfect, yeah. So I think first, everybody's thinking about being audience first, or people led, or being human at the core, and so when we talk about all of that, the first thing that we do is understand what matters to people, how they are functioning in a particular category. So when we're doing that ground laying work of understanding people, who is it that you're understanding? What does your audience look like, whether that is qualitative work or quantitative work, or using big data sets and these days it's the big data sets that I'm most concerned about understanding what is the composition of people that are in those data sets, so that you know whether you have diversity reflected or you have a diversity first perspective in your audience. So step number one is who are you researching? What is your audience composition? And if you are doing something where you have an audience composition that is majority white and is not diverse, then you are already behind the eight ball in creating a solution that is going to resonate in a mass way in today's world, because today's world is diverse. So that's step one, and really many companies are relying on big data sets and, as we move further and further into AI and all of these kinds of things, really getting underneath the hood to understand that composition is critical. Yes, okay, that is really. And once you have that, if you start there, then you're going to have a much better sense and much stronger confidence that your strategy is going to be rooted in a diverse perspective. So, if I have diverse audience going in and I'm using that to identify the priorities in terms of tension points and how they use a category or the ways they think about a brand, when I start to think about what is going to be my strategic guidepost, I know that it's rooted in information coming from a diverse audience. That strategy sets me up for success. Having a strategy that can guide the way the organization operates internally is key.

Speaker 2:

As we know, in media, we have so many areas of specialization that go into a solution development. So, whether that be content or it's commerce, or we're looking at precision, which would be search and social, when we get inside those verticals again, how are diverse audiences using social? What are they looking for in search? How are they using digital media? What platforms are bubbling to the top? Those are the things that we have to be very intentional about paying attention to and integrating inside of our solutions. So those are the kinds of things that I talk to teams about being very intentional in their day to day work. Thank you. What are the audiences bubbling up to thinking about looking like?

Speaker 2:

Then, importantly, how are we measuring? When you're measuring the impact of your experience, can you break out that measurement by audiences? Can you see the contributions of the diverse audiences black audiences, lgbt audiences, women audiences, religious audiences? You've got to be able to have measurement that's granular and capturing the impact of those groups to really understand what kind of momentum and impact they're driving. Those are some of the ways that, specifically, we're looking at the last one, I would say it also helps you think about what partners to bring into the solution. I was just going to say that when you're thinking about your partners, do they understand diverse audiences? What kinds of information do they have that can help you amplify your understanding? Do you have enough diverse partners that you're tapping into? Are there some emerging ones that may be challenged with measurement and things like that that you can help along the way? There are many ways to think about how you incorporate diversity into your strategy, into the partners that you bring in into the way you think about allocating your dollars and, importantly, how you measure the impact that your solution is driving in the marketplace.

Speaker 1:

Again I'm hearing again, if you're starting with a diverse set of data, that is assuming is also making sure the big data sets there's always an inherent bias, but that you're looking for those two in advance and making sure you're scrubbing those out All the way, then thinking about then your strategy has a diverse perspective.

Speaker 1:

You're using that as you're moving through. You're making sure that you have the proper measurement that you can actually test. It's not just a general market measurement. Then, lastly, what I hear you saying is something that we've talked about before is that making sure that your partner supply chain is also diverse, because if you're just using certain sources, you're not going to then reflect the diversity of the people you're trying to reach, because not everyone is consuming the mass generals. There may be more niche media or platforms that certain audiences are using, so really the full spectrum. I almost want to say it seems like an obvious approach, but I don't think people are doing this. I think that you are leading in an area that others are not, which again, it makes why your agency and your own set of skills is so enormously rewarded, because you're doing work that others aren't doing. Do you see that too? Do you see that others aren't doing this?

Speaker 2:

It's quite frustrating, actually, because I have been in this business for quite a long time and it does seem obvious. I mean, if you look at the data, the data tells you that we're getting more and more diverse as we age down. If you're talking about under five, oh my God, we're already over 50 percent. If you're talking about Gen Z, I mean, the data cannot be refuted. So it's not the information, it's the interpretation of the information, or I would also say it's the comfort or discomfort with bringing in different approaches that make you exercise muscles that you haven't had to exercise before.

Speaker 2:

We're all challenged with moving faster, doing fast, doing more with less, making sure that we're operating at the speed of culture, and we know that that speeds up every day. So if you're doing all of that and you have fewer resources, do you really have the time to learn something new? That's where I think the challenge is Do you have the time, do you have the comfort level? Because, oh my gosh, I know how to do this other thing, but if I start to incorporate or flip that on its head and do a diverse led solution, that's a space I'm less familiar with, right, right, so it's going to take me a little bit of time to get up to speed to figure it all out. In the meantime, I've still got demands that are due yesterday and all this other day. So it's that disconnecting the marketplace. I think that doesn't help the situation, but it is quite frustrating. Yeah, okay.

Speaker 1:

Switching gears a little bit. The advertising industry has historically lacked diversity, right? We at times would joke that diversity was a brunette Right, we were not seeing absolute diversity at all and we certainly weren't reflecting the we're talking US only. We certainly weren't reflecting the United States and its makeup. What advice would you give to people who are seeking mentorship to be able to support and promote not only themselves, but able to support others to promote diversity in the industry?

Speaker 2:

So I think that diversity is everybody's problem and everybody's opportunity. Yes, the industry continues to recruit in and we do need to recruit in, but I think the biggest, bigger challenge for our industry is recruiting is not recruiting but Making sure they stay. Making sure they stay and elevating people up through the system. So we're still seeing people that are coming in at those entry levels, but imagine if the people that came in at entry levels since we've been doing that in the 80s, where are they in? When we look at the C-suite level or executive vice presidents, we're not seeing that presence in the same proportion that we've been recruiting them in. So I think that this is the much bigger challenge for our industry is what's happening? Why are they dropping off? Why are we not seeing our CEOs, our chief strategy officers, our chief operating officers? Why are we seeing still a lack of color in those very senior, influential levels inside the organization?

Speaker 2:

I saw a stat somewhere that talks about how much energy, resources and attention has been put on diversity coming out of George Floyd in 2020. But then we're in 23 and what happened to that? Where is the momentum? We still haven't.

Speaker 2:

We still, even at the time when we put the most investment in, we still aren't seeing a like return on all of the efforts and initiatives that have been put into inside the industry.

Speaker 2:

So when we think about mentors and what I think about is, who are you mentoring that may be mid-career, and how are you really enabling them to have the types of experiences that give them a real opportunity and chance to get to the most senior levels of an organization, that is, are they participating in new business and are you pulling people into those scenarios, or are you bringing them into special projects? Are you making sure that they have the opportunity to get trained on new capabilities that are emerging within our industry that are now being prioritized? Commerce is an example of that, and so when we're talking about mentoring, it's not just about what does your work look like, the quality of work look like in helping you solve some challenges, but it really is making sure that we are giving the right kind of exposure and the exposure that is going to lead to elevation inside of our industry and inside of our organizations.

Speaker 1:

Where are you seeing or if you are seeing, there's probably a better way for me to ask it in the recruitment are we, are you seeing recruiting at the mid-level for diverse talent, meaning again, we know at the top of the funnel where we're bringing in more diverse talent to your point they're not necessarily staying or they're rotating and leaving. Are we having success from what you're seeing at the mid-level career of recruiting into the agency world?

Speaker 2:

That's harder. I do not think that we spend a lot of time bringing in people at mid-levels into advertising agencies, especially the holding companies. Holding companies are tough, they are fast, they are rigorous. You've got to come in with your hitting the ground running. We tend to really promote from within. We do most of our recruiting at entry level, those people that are coming in at mid-level. If they haven't been in an agency environment, they have the toughest time. If they come from a different holding company, then their chances of success are better. They do have a better opportunity to rise up. But again, whether we're recruiting from the bottom, whether we're bringing in at mid-levels, we still look at the top of these holding companies and there's nobody there.

Speaker 1:

ET, what programs are you seeing that you either want to implement or that you have seen intimate either at your company or in the industry in general, that are ensuring that those mid-level diverse talent is actually having a chance to get into the pipeline and actually be employed and working within an agency?

Speaker 2:

From an industry perspective. We participate in a program that's run by the 4As. It's the Vanguard program. That program is especially for mid-level talent. It's all about networking. It's also about ensuring that the most senior executives in the organization are involved and linked in to the program. There's a mentoring part, there's a sponsorship part and there's a fellow that is involved in the Vanguard program. Its goal is really about elevation of talent into more senior roles. It is a pretty rigorous program. It runs for about nine months. Again, like I said, it's not just the fellow that's participating. You've got a sponsor and a mentor at senior levels inside of the organization that are committed to being engaged. We've seen some success with that program. I think we're into our third or fourth year in participating in that. Those kinds of programs are small in scale because you've got to go deep and you've got to spend the time. I think if we have more of those, that can be a help to all of us making a dent inside of our own organizations.

Speaker 2:

What I will talk about inside of Spark are some things that we put in place to try and address the issue as well. One of them we talk about recruiting and needing talent. You know how it goes. Roles open up, we need somebody right away. We don't have a whole lot of time to be looking. We've made a commitment to slow the recruiting process down. What we've done is we take a two-week period in front of really opening up a job opportunity more broadly to do some recruiting in an unconventional way. We're tapping into diverse networks. We're going to a diverse school base like HPCUs. We're going to diverse organizations. We're taking that two weeks to really tap into a diverse network, to do everything that we can to identify candidates that can potentially fill a role before that role is opened up. In a much broader way, we have found some success in that. That's also very challenging. When the roles open up, we tend to need them immediately, immediately.

Speaker 1:

I think the distinction that I hear you saying is you're slowing down the detective work. You're not necessarily slowing down the interviewing process Once we find candidates. It's not like you're drawing out that process, which we know is obviously deterrent. You're just taking a pause and being thoughtful, much like what you were saying, even about your research in the beginning, about making sure you're reaching diverse parties. You're just being thoughtful in that area.

Speaker 2:

That's right. That's right, making sure that we're not falling into old patterns and behaviors because they're easier and they're more readily available for us. I think that's what we have to fight. We have to fight the inertia of how our organizations got to how they are in the first place.

Speaker 1:

How do you navigate the intersectionality of both being a woman and a personal color in leadership roles?

Speaker 2:

You know that's a tricky question and it's a complicated place to be, and I think you know what I would say, in all fairness and candor, is that it took me a very, very, very long time to be able to be comfortable in that space with intent. And so when I first came in the industry, it was really about am I doing my job well? Am I doing my craft well? Am I, you know, demonstrating excellence on a consistent basis, so that my work doesn't become an issue? So we get through all that, and now I'm wanting to elevate and become more influential inside the organization. And so what can I draw on in order to start making those kinds of relationships that will enable me to take on different roles? And I think that is where the woman comes in, because women are better at relationships, relationship building, and so, for me, my path was really about getting to know people on a more intimate level, and when I say intimate, I don't mean that I needed to know all of their personal business, nor did they need to understand my personal business, but I did want to understand them as a human being, what mattered to them, what was important to them. You know, what they saw as being critical inside of their career and what they were aspiring to. Because if I knew what they were aspiring to, then I could sort of look at my own skill set and what I was able to contribute and see how I could help them achieve their goals. And so I would say, as a woman, in being able to really build strong relationships, understanding those relationships and using them to understand how that person wanted to achieve, that was a route that enabled me to continue to be successful.

Speaker 2:

When I think about the intersectionality of that and me being black, sometimes that was a benefit and sometimes it was deterrent, and what I mean by that is sometimes, as a black woman, I was the invisible person in the room or in the conversation, and sometimes, when you're the invisible person in the conversation, people feel very comfortable saying things that they might not feel comfortable saying around other people. So I was very comfortable for people to be around and to have their unfiltered conversations. But those unfiltered conversations helped me better understand where the gaps were, what was important and what mattered, and so I could use that information to again shape what I could contribute in various roles, and so that became something that helped me succeed. Now, as I think about my stance as a woman, and as a black woman, I'm very vocal about the injustices I see for women. Women still are paid less. Black women are paid even less.

Speaker 2:

And so being able to talk about those things out loud without fear of retribution or consequence, being able to understand what that means in building a career, and to be able to have honest and direct conversations with other young women in the industry who may be wondering how do I navigate? How do I think about XYZ? How do I show up and be myself without giving up myself? How do I advocate for more money and more benefits and things that I see that other people have that I don't? How do I do all that? And so now I use that intersectionality to be able to guide and mentor other people, but also to speak up at an industry level and at an executive level inside the organization, so that people don't have to take the long security journey that I had to take to get to some of the things that they can have today.

Speaker 1:

Right, and I think just listening to you say that and obviously we've worked together for our listeners, we've worked together and I always considered ET one of our executive leadership mentors to me and just the way you move with excellence and grace on basically everything that I saw you touch, I was just like, I mean, really, really inspiring. And I love that US campaign a campaign US named you inspiring woman award and you received that award because I really feel like that intersectionality that you're talking about and both being woman and black and inspiring other young women so they don't have to take, hopefully, the same journey that you've taken and, as long as it is, I love that you got that honor and it's very, very well deserved in that. So the question that I have, just as we start to wrap up, is, if you were to look back in this time, what? What did you like more than you thought you would? Media Where's the calculator? I like it's not just about math.

Speaker 1:

It is about math, folks, but it's not just about math.

Speaker 2:

Well, remember, my background came from advertising agencies and creative, and so when I the opportunity was presented to me to come into the media space, I was not thrilled. I was thinking to myself, why would I do that so? But what was even more intriguing to me is that it was new, it was unknown and the path was not set, and so I like that kind of gray, fuzzy space. So I said, let me, let me go see what this is about, and I have to be a child.

Speaker 1:

You knew unknown and not sad.

Speaker 2:

And I have never looked back, but I needed to have that level of comfort to dive into those unknown spaces in order to know what was on the other side of that, and you know that that that was really the thing.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, so I'm going to follow that up with. In this work is there an unknown skill that, going in, you didn't realize you had it and then all of a sudden you're like, wow, I'm actually really. Who knew? I'm really good at that.

Speaker 2:

I would say connecting. And so one of the jobs that I was tasked with coming into this role occurred at a pivotal point in time in Sparks trajectory. Spark was this little engine that could. It was scrappy, it was very entrepreneurial, with about a hundred people, and it grew. I mean, we're 1800 now and so there was no consistent way of working, and so I was charged with coming in and creating a consistent way of working across our organization. That was a tough, tough job, because I really had to get inside and get underneath everything to understand how things worked and where you could start to meld and bring things together. And so that's where I really understood the power of connecting, being able to build trust and relationships and understand really sort of the operational aspects of how the organization worked in order to be able to craft something that drove consistency, that was inspirational, that people were willing to embrace and adopt. So I'd say that connecting skill.

Speaker 1:

All right. So with that, my final question for you is what books or podcasts or media that you're consuming that you would recommend to people who are looking to keep their careers fresh and navigate through?

Speaker 2:

So one of the things that I'm always interested in is the human psyche and human beings. I am a lover of biographies, so that is the genre that I pay attention to the most. I just watched on Netflix and I'm not going to remember the name of it, but it was the biography of the richest woman in the world, and that was the L'Oreal Aris. I can't think of her name.

Speaker 1:

I'll find out and put it in the show notes for people. Okay, yeah, that was amazing.

Speaker 2:

And then on the diversity side, this one might be a little bit more controversial, but I've been fascinated by really delving into the 1619 project, and so that is a project that really tells history in a very different but data documented way, and it reveals many of the untold stories and influencers that helped build America into the mighty society that it is today, and I think that that perspective is important for people to understand as well.

Speaker 1:

Great. Thank you for that, echik. Thank you again for sharing your insight. Your journey I think also again speaking as both a woman and a black woman in our industry is so important that we continue to hear your voice, and I know many people will benefit from listening to this conversation. So I thank you for generously taking the time and having this conversation with me today.

Speaker 2:

Thank you, Jill, for inviting me. It was a pleasure.

Career Success Strategies With Esther Franklin
Marketing and Cultural Diversity
Diversity in Media and Advertising
Recruiting and Maintaining Diverse Talent
Navigating Intersectionality
Recommended Books for Career Growth