This Ghanaian American Went From Dancing in LA to Agency Talent Acquisition in Boston

Julianna Akuamoah started in management to finance her passion, but it led to a fervor for leadership

a black woman smiling with a shirt
Julianna Akuamoah is the chief talent officer at Arnold + Havas Media Boston. Arnold + Havas Media Boston

As a creative and as a Black woman in marketing, Akuamoah’s journey back-and-forth across the country (twice) was anything but traditional. But being fearless helped her make bold personal and professional moves.

Growing up, educators told her she could do whatever she set her mind to, but as a child of Ghanaian immigrant parents, Akuamoah felt pressured by cultural and familial norms to pursue a “sure-bet, lucrative” career. After graduating with a degree in neuroscience from Wellesley College in Massachusetts, Akuamoah jetted off to Los Angeles to pursue her passion for dance.

But she struggled financially. “I was like, I need a real job,” Akuamoah joked. She then spent five years in a management role at Hertz. “It was not in line with where I wanted to be,” she said, “but this is one of those things I tell folks who are figuring out their way after college: The first job may not be perfect, but take it for what it is and get as much out of it as you can.”

At Hertz, Akuamoah discovered another passion: talent acquisition. After 10 years in L.A., she returned to Boston where she says her “true hustler” attitude helped pave her way in the agency world.

After a seven-month stint at Hill Holliday as svp of diversity and talent management, Akuamoah was recruited by Arnold + Havas Media Boston in February 2019. A year later, she was promoted to chief talent officer.

Akuamoah noted that her focus has been on building an environment where everyone has space to contribute and where creativity can thrive.

In the next five years, Akuamoah wants to use her voice to make a difference with regards to how we work, our culture and especially with diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.

“Too often women—especially Black women—are still seen as being aggressive when communicating directly or with conviction,” Akuamoah said. “It’s critically important to me that I help break down that perception. I am not afraid of my voice, and I hope to reinforce a more inclusive archetype of leadership while pushing for progress in our industry.”

Big Mistake

According to Akuamoah, a mentor would have helped her figure out her next move quicker, but she had to learn a lot of important lessons on her own. “I’m certain a dedicated mentor could have saved me a few steps,” she said.

Lesson Learned

Mentorship was a “foreign concept” to Akuamoah early in her career. Eventually, she built a support system to navigate challenging decisions. She now feels deeply committed to helping as many young women in the industry as possible.

How She Got the Gig

Akuamoah joined Arnold + Havas Media Boston after it reached out to her about a leadership role in human resources. “Anyone considering a new opportunity may not be sure if it will be the right fit,” she said, “but I was immediately drawn to the culture. It’s a very special group of incredibly authentic people.” Akuamoah was promoted to chief talent officer at the onset of the pandemic.

Pro Tip

“Always know that you absolutely are qualified for that next role, even if you haven’t done it,” she said. “You may make a mistake, but that’s OK. You can do that next job. You can go for it. You’re completely qualified. Even if you don’t see someone senior in the company who looks like you, it is still yours for the taking. Run with it, and go for it anyway.”

This story first appeared in the Aug. 31, 2020, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

@monicroqueta Mónica is a breaking news reporter at Adweek.