Words of Wisdom: Denise Ocasio, Mindshare USA
Welcome to Pass the Mic’s series: Words of Wisdom, a unique opportunity to hear from the industry’s leading women on their personal inspirations and discover their advice on advancing as a woman in the audio and advertising field.
Denise is committed to creating empathetic work environments and stresses the importance of giving women the opportunity to share their voice and represent their own work. Denise also accredits rappers Jay-Z and Eminem for lyrical wisdom she has passed on to others in personal and professional relationships.
Read along or listen in for Denise Ocasio's Words of Wisdom:
What’s the best advice you were ever given: professional or otherwise?
The best advice I've ever heard was from a Jay-Z song and one of the lines in the song was “closed mouths don't get fed” and I 100% believe in that. It's something that actually, since my daughters were two-years-old, every time they leave the house, and they are 19-years-old and 15-years-old now, they say back to me as they're leaving. I say “what do we say about closed mouths” and they yell over their shoulders “closed mouths don't get fed” because I truly believe that you need to speak up. You want to have no regrets about anything, whether you're in a business meeting or you're in your personal or professional relationships. It's so important to speak up and speak your truth. If you don't do that I feel like you do leave a little bit of regret sort of trailing behind you in every conversation and every meeting because you would probably surprise yourself at how much value you bring because, particularly when I think of women leaders moving up, you've gotten there for a reason. So, speak your truth.
What does being a leader for other women mean to you?
It means truly that I can empathize with them and I can't tell you enough already how I've been able to empathize with a lot of the female leaders on my team that are growing up right now. Letting them know that I understand what it means to have to balance home life and what's going on at work. That I understand those feelings of guilt that you feel, that I'm only giving 80% at work and 80% as being a mom. Those are normal and I usually guide them to let them know that their 80% is usually 100% of somebody else because to be able to do what they're doing is truly remarkable. So I just love the fact that I'm able to empathize with them and really let them know that I understand what pressures they're under. And then, I show them how I make time in my position now to serve myself. So I made that time. I put myself first because that is so crucial for me to be able to be the pillar for people to lean on. I have to feed myself with that strength and I make sure that I empathize in it and I mentor them in that way.
How do you use your “seat at the table” to elevate the other women around you?
It's as simple as bringing them to meetings. Giving them the opportunity to show their voice. It sounds so simple and elementary but, I can't tell you how many times you'll see someone in management at the table and have to regurgitate what somebody else who's actually doing the work and they're the ones who speak it but, they don't necessarily know their truth. So I bring them to meetings to get that type of exposure and encourage them to be big. And when I say be big it means take up your whole space. I'm all about take up that space because, again, each of us are a collection of our experiences in work life, personal life. So be big in that. You are an expert of what you've been through. So, it's okay to speak your truth and you should speak it with confidence. I think that's the best way to elevate women by allowing them to be big and bringing them into spaces that maybe they haven't been in before.
Who was your mentor? If you didn’t have one, who inspired you the most in your career?
I did have a mentor, his name was , and we have worked together for almost 20 years. He's recently retired, maybe the last three to four years or so. Incredibly smart individual, I learned so many of my chops from him. But probably the most important thing that I learned from him was how to champion humanity in what we do. I will never forget, my oldest daughter was very ill and I got a very surprising phone call, I mean life threatening ill. I got a phone call when she was about eight months old and he dropped everything he was doing, he was an executive director, and walked me to the port authority because I was not okay. That was literally stepping away from every meeting and every person who was pulling at him to be somewhere and he was a human first. So, humanity is what I bring first and it's as simple as saying thank you to our partners for sending something, because it took work to do. Or it's in explaining to the people who are reporting to me, that I understand that they're stressed, “how can we help?” To be able to do that, I think, builds an incredible amount of loyalty and that to me is a lesson that we all need in this ever changing landscape. Is: how can we do that, how can we enable people to be heard? You know, to be acknowledged and just remain human in everything that we do. Because the work skill, that's there. It's those intangibles that are important to me, that I definitely learned from him.
What song, podcast, or audiobook would you recommend to your mentee?
It's a song, as I am hugely into music. I actually adore Eminem and it's because if I tell you the amount of times that I've literally put that song on and then listen to the words “you've got one shot and one opportunity,” you know that you've got to grab it. You've got to grab it because life is way too short. I approach every opportunity like the last one I’m going to get. Every new business pitch, every time I'm presenting to management it's about: this is my one opportunity right, to show what I know. So, I grab it and I encourage those who work with me to do the same.