Live Lessons: Make Yourself Uncomfortable
Welcome to Pass the Mic and the Live Lessons series. Life happens in the moment—and so do opportunities to pass the mic. We’re having live conversations with powerful female leaders, giving them the opportunity to share their wisdom and mentor the masses.
Ready for some life lessons from rockstars in the media and advertising space? Let's go! We kicked off the year at CES, partnering with the Female Quotient (The FQ) to show up with a kick-ass Pass the Mic lounge. Our very own Jocelyn Hudak, Director of Content and Digital Marketing, interviewed some of the most impressive, powerful women in the industry. These full-length interviews will be available soon (hint: think podcast). In the meantime, we’ve gathered seven nuggets of wisdom from seven women, focusing on learning, growing, and pivoting.
Being comfortable is the worst thing.
“My first boss was this woman, Marian Carlisle, who was tough as nails. She was literally not even five feet tall. [I was] totally petrified of her every single day of my life. But the thing that she said to me is: the minute you're comfortable in what you're doing, you're doing it too well, and you need to move. And you should always be uncomfortable. And to be comfortable is like the worst thing. It's like being complacent in her mind. And I always hold onto that also as making myself as uncomfortable as possible.” – Catherine Sullivan, CEO from PHD
Catherine leads the media vision for her company, focusing on client needs and ensuring their objectives are met. She saw an opportunity to jump into her career, continuing to grow her linear/digital strategy, advertising sales, and marketing skills to become a proven executive leader.
If you’re not afraid, it’s not the right step.
"I had a boss at one point; it was the global CEO of my agency, and I had been running new business departments for the agency for over a decade at that point. And I remember he invited me to lunch—it was very serious. And he said that he wanted me to run a global client relationship, and I thought he was out of his mind. And immediately I was afraid, and nervous, and anxious, and also endlessly flattered and excited. And he said that, he said, ‘If you're not a little bit afraid, it's not the right next step.’ And that's always stuck with me in pushing myself. And the fact that he saw that in me, and took me, and pivoted me even within the agency space was a massive defining moment in my career and has really gotten me to where I am today. I would not be leading an agency had I stayed in that first trajectory. So that lunch at Alibaba in New York City with Jim was a key moment in my career.
If somebody believes in you enough to give you that opportunity, believe in yourself as well. So be afraid, because that helps push you and it helps challenge yourself. If you're not a little bit uncomfortable, you're never going to learn, you're never going to get out of your comfort zone. But I love that idea—recognize that someone's seen that in you and see it in yourself because you deserve it and you can do it.” – Leah Meranus, CEO, North America, dentsu X
Leah started in consulting before reconnecting with her passion for marketing, learning how to jump into opportunities and pivot along the way. She works to converge her marketing ideas across different disciplines. Recently, Leah was promoted to CEO.
Allow yourself to be dynamic.
“Life is so dynamic. Allow yourself to be dynamic—test and learn things, understand what it is that you like and you don't. And again, just because you have a dream at one point in your life doesn't mean that that's the dream that you're going to have throughout your life. And give yourself that grace and that flexibility to know and understand that. You know what, this worked for me then, this doesn't now. And it's the art of the pivot. Understanding how you can continue to take your skill set, transfer it to other industries, or businesses, or disciplines, and simply say, ‘I will make whatever it is in my life work in the way that I want it to in the time that I want it to.’” – Latraviette D. Smith-Wilson, Chief Marketing & Equity Officer from Horizon Media
Latraviette is changing the DE&I world by ensuring it's a business imperative, showing up in all aspects of the company. She was named as one of Forbes’ “Black Women Leaders to Follow” and awarded the Café Mocha “Celebrating Women: Powerhouse Award” and Black Enterprise’s “Next Generation: Women of Power.”
Don’t hide who you really are.
“Here I was interviewing for this Marketing Director role, and the last thing I wanted them to know is anything about the fact that I was a dancer because I couldn't put together in my mind the idea that someone could be a dancer and they also could have a brain and be smart about marketing and advertising communication.
So I was sort of like, I'm not saying this. So all throughout the interviews, everything was going great. It was very normal, asking questions, answering questions, and all of that. There was no real connection when I got to the general manager's office. And somehow he mentioned, you know, talking about MTV, and the history of MTV, and having launched Club MTV in the eighties. And at that point, I was sort of like, I can't not mention this. [That she was a dancer on Club MTV] So I mentioned it. And that sort of created this moment of connection and connectivity that really, I think, sort of pivoted things for me because I felt like it gave me an opportunity to really understand the value of being your true self and not hiding who you really are.” – Carryl Pierre-Drews, EVP & Chief Marketing Officer from IAB
Carryl is responsible for providing executive leadership and management of the IAB marketing and communications organization and activities to forward the IAB’s position as a digital, marketing, and media industry thought leader and agenda-setter. Her superpower is growing start-ups and new divisions within digital and traditional media. She’s a Pass the Mic alum, and you can hear more powerful advice from her here.
Raise your hand.
“Raise your hand. And as we think about defining moments, there's probably one that sticks out when I did raise my hand. I think as women, a lot of times when different jobs came up and projects at Delta, it was, and I think all women do this, we look at it and we say, ‘Well, we have this skill and this skill, but we don't have this and this, so we shouldn't apply.’ And men don't care.” – Allison Ausband, EVP and Chief Customer Experience Officer from Delta Air Lines
Allison oversees the end-to-end customer experience that includes the 60,000 team members in Delta’s Airport Customer Service, In-flight Service, and Reservations & Care divisions who deliver that experience. She began her career at Delta as a flight attendant and now successfully creates an exceptional customer service experience with the true knowledge of what it takes to connect to consumers and create value in their day-to-day interactions.
Think about the other side of no.
“Many times, someone gives you an opportunity, and you might want to think I'm brave enough to say no, but you've got to think on what's on the other side of no. The same way I encourage people on what's on the other side of yes, you've got to think of what's on the other side of no. And when I thought it through, I wondered—as successful and great and wonderful as I was, a woman of a certain age at this agency—what was my tomorrow like if I'd said no? So it almost was like, what do they say in the movies? An offer I couldn't refuse.” – Marissa Nance, Founder and CEO from Native Tongue Communications
Marissa’s company is a first-to-market minority and women certified media agency, working through the lens of diversity to strengthen their media, marketing, DEAI, and content solutions. In her past holding agency life, she successfully generated innovative and original revenue streams via her ground-breaking branded entertainment work.
Authority is not given. It’s taken.
“I had this great mentor; he was the VP of Sales. And I came in, and I said two times (this was a very pivotal year for me), I said, ‘I think I can do more, and I can take on more, and I can contribute more—but no one's asking me to or telling me to.’ And he said, ‘Authority is not given. It's taken. Go in, show up, do what it is that you think you want to do. Prove to them that you can do it, and then that will build your credibility.’ And I thought, it's just a little nugget, but so many times, especially I see in the new people coming into large organizations of like, ‘Is it okay for me to do this? And should I take this on? And whose responsibility is it? And am I stepping on toes?’ Authority is not given; it's taken. And take that step and add value. – Marci Serbonich El-Deiry, Vice President of North America Marketing from Philips
Marci guides all consumer experience from end-to-end by leading the business strategy team, the engagement strategy team, and the consumer experience team. She leads three big Phillips brands: Sonicare, Norelco and Avent.
Are you ready to stretch and grow after hearing these wise words? If you need more inspiration, check out our ever-growing catalog of Pass the Mic content.