Confessions of the Adweek Executive Mentees

Last year, we called upon 110 of the world’s top leaders. I had one question for them: “Would you want to be a mentor?”

All of them said yes. In fact, many said they’d love to. And so, it began.

We created the Adweek Executive Mentor Program, which opened the doors to these exceptional leaders to anyone who had 10-15 years of experience and made a thoughtful pitch to earn their mentorship.  Our goal was to not only connect but to empower the next generation of diverse leaders—and as we reflect on the first round, I’m thrilled to say we succeeded.

When people ask me what success looks like, I look at two things... my heart and the facts.  From my heart perspective, I’ve heard countless stories now from all the mentees on how their lives, and careers, have changed for the better. From taking risks to embracing family first to feeling more confident with their true selves to getting that promotion! In addition, what is truly remarkable is all the mentees from this first round have bonded as a team, being there for each other in their own new community of peers.

Now let’s look at the hard facts. We had 116 executive mentees go through the program. Of that, 73% of our mentees were female executives, 65% of our mentees were executives of color. That is far beyond the dismal make-up of most organizations’ leadership teams. In fact, when I look at the statistics that just came out in an industry report, the numbers are atrocious with less than 5% representation of certain groups, sometimes, as low as 1%. As so many have said, 'that is simply not good enough’, and yet, a reality until we change it. Hence this program is one step we can all take to change the game.

Adweek Executive Mentees were invited to the CMO Moves Summits East and West to celebrate the end of Round 1 of the program. (credit: Sean T. Smith)

So, with that, what next? Let’s do it again, together. But let’s go bigger. On April 14, we open the doors again, but this time with 240 mentors. If you’re interested in being a mentee please submit mentee contact form here.

In the meantime, enjoy some of the takeaways from a few of our Executive Mentees... 

Reaching Across the Globe 

When we launched the mentor program, we received almost 300 submissions from around the globe. Curiously, a number came from a creative agency in Nigeria called The Hook. After researching them and simultaneously receiving a request from one of our mentorsAndy Berndt, creator of the creator lab at Google to help a creative talent, we decided to make that connection. We paired Andy with The Hook’s creative director, Adebayo (Bayo) Owosina. Two weeks before our CMO Moves Summit East, we got an email from Bayo that he made the trip from Nigeria and was hanging out with Andy in the NYC Google Creative LabWhad to hear more so we invited him to Adweek to share his story. Here is what Bayo had to say: 

Providing Equity 

The program’s impact ran deep for mentee Lizette WilliamsSr. Director of Brand and Content Strategy (formerly head of Cultural Engagement) at McDonald's. She joined us at CMO Moves Summit East and this is what she shared: Antonio Lucio, the Global CMO of Facebook, was the mentor that was chosen for me and we shared passion around diversity. For me, it's personal. Not only do I represent being a woman of color, I am the first person in my family to go to college. I am the second person to graduate from high school. And what does that mean? It means that programs like this are leveling the playing field, not just providing an equal playing ground, but really allowing there to be equity in opportunity and preparation, and just giving people like me a chance. 

Lizette went on to share how in talking to Antonio, she was able to ask some tough questions. “Am I doing the right thing? What should I be doing? What's the right next move? I want to be a CMO and I'm trying to figure out the path because there was never a path laid out for me nor are there are a ton of people that look like me in these roles. The advice that he gave me really stood with me and I’ve been carrying that around because that's what I'm thinking through now.  

Lizette Williams sharing her mentee experience at the CMO Moves Summit East (credit: Sean T. Smith)

Growing Confidence 

This awesome story comes from mentee Noemi Garcia, a strategist at Leo Burnett in Chicago: My mentor was the illustrious Rick Gomez and he was just so generous with his time. He actually offered me an hour for an in-person lunch, and not only that, but it was actually the week before Thanksgiving, which everyone knows is a really busy time of year, but especially if you're the CMO of Target because you're about to go into Black Friday. 

And beyond all that Rick did as her mentor, Noemi was most impacted by something he didn’t do... Noemi told us “I have to say I learned so much about Rick and he has such a profound impact on me, but one of the big takeaways was something that he did or rather did not do, which is not once, not for a second, did he ever glance down at his phone. Which seems like a really small thing, but I think it's important to recognize because he was there, in the moment and very present. 

Noemi has carried that same courtesy into her personal and professional life and has also been inspired to demand that same attention from others. She said “The thing that I've been telling myself a lot now is if the CMO of Target can give me his undivided attention, then youboss, peer, whoeverI think I deserve your attention for fifteen minutes just to get this brief approved. 

Noemi Garcia sharing her mentee experience at the CMO Moves Summit East (credit: Sean T. Smith)

Finding Balance 

Mentee Conley Fitzpatrick’s mentor inspired her to make a move. A big move that grounded her in what mattered to her most. Conley shared this: “I was lucky enough to have Mary Renner Beech as my mentor. For the past few years, I've been very, very lucky to work for an incredible company. I've had amazing roles at that company and really saw it as a dream job. Honestly, I never saw myself leaving. But when I became a mom and I had an hour and a half each way commute to work, I found that I was missing things that were more important to me than what I was doing at that incredible company and in those incredible roles. 

While Conley began questioning whether the balance she envisioned even existed, Mary Beech, CEO of Sarah Flint and former CMO of Kate Spade New York, helped brings things into perspective. Conley reflected on their first chat: “I was really thrilled when I chatted with Mary and I chose her because I listened to her podcast with Nadine.  She's so honest and truthful and candid about some of the difficulties she's had trying to find balance in her role.  In our very first conversation, this is what she said to me: There was no job on earth worth an hour and a half-hour commute.’ It was the most freeing moment I've had in the longest time, and it just made me realize that this is a great company and a great role, but I can find something that works better for me and my life. And a few weeks later I resigned from that company and I took a job at a startup. It's risky and scary and all the things that Mary suggested should be exciting, but terrifying at the same time. 

Conley Fitzpatrick sharing her mentee experience at the CMO Moves Summit East (credit: Sean T. Smith)

Embracing Your Whole Self 

Speaking of confidence, Ro KalonarosManager at Omnicom shared a wonderful story of how her mentor GLAAD CEO and President Sarah Kate Ellis inspired her to be her authentic self. Ro shared “Sarah Kate was so human and real and honest and to hear that she was going through a lot of the same things that I was going through and thinking about these things was really impactful to me. She was thinking about the type of boss she wanted to be thinking about who and why, rather than what and where, and letting that dictate. And especially because being LGBTQ in the workplace is complicated. Coming from a family where it's not totally accepted, this really made me step outside of myself and bring my whole self to work and let who I am make the work that I do better and allow me to do my job better. 

And the impact spread. Ro went on to say “I think all the people around me, the people I work with, had permission because of this, to bring their whole self to work and be really communicative and transparent about the work we were doing. 

Ro Kalonaros sharing her mentee experience at the CMO Moves Summit East (credit: Sean T. Smith)

A Lasting Impact on Mentees 

In addition to those amazing stories, many other mentees shared key takeaways from their mentors at the CMO Moves Summits East and West. Here’s just a snapshot of what they learned: 

Aim High 

“Challenge the status quo to drive action-ability at a pace that makes us win.” Shivanku Misra (mentored by Janey Whiteside, Chief Customer Officer, Walmart) 

“Creativity has the power to bend logic. Fernando really challenged me to bridge the gap, to lean into creative, design criteria and managing agencies.” Jeanne Fu (mentored by Fernando Machado, Global CMO, Burger King)  

"I realized every time I truly swung for the fences, I either got fired or promoted. To make it in this industry, you have to take those swings. The key difference is you have to bet on yourself.” Jeremy Schumann (mentored by Kristin Patrick, CBO, Sugar23, formerly CMO, PepsiCo Brand) 

"Always ask yourself, how are you audaciously achieving? In that answer, you'll find that there is always more room for you to grow."  Neville Hall, Jr. (mentored by Kendra Bracken-Ferguson, Chief Business Officer, Beautycon Media) 

Be True to Yourself 

“If you are going to rebel, rebel from inside the organization.” Matt Story (mentored by Victoria Russell, Chief of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Papa John’s) 

“Part of finding your voice is to go through the process of finding your voice. Be authentic to who you are, don’t polish the stone so much if it doesn’t feel natural.” Waleed Elgindy (mentored by Linda Boff, CMO of GE) 

"Find a work culture that values what you value. Being a parent should not limit your career, but fuel it.” Rebecca Hawkins (mentored by Nick Drake, VP Global Marketing, Google) 

Take Titles and Traditions out of the Equation 

"Most people get asked the question, where do you see yourself in 3 years, 5 years? I like to instead think about, where do I want my career to end?” Jasmine Atherton (mentored by Kenny Mitchell, CMO, Snap Inc.) 

Who cares what the title is! It could be anything, but if it involves doing things that are interesting and meaningful, creating higher value, then I would take whatever the job is called." Tara Hagan (mentored by David Rubin, CMO, The New York Times) 

“Meet with and get to know as many people as possible. When you understand their struggles, the challenges that they deal with on a day to day basis, you're then able to figure out how you can add value to them and serve as an important resource no matter where you are in your career.” Erica Miles (mentored by Carla Hassan, Global Chief Brand Officer, Citi) 

Final Thoughts

If ever you didn’t believe in the power of social media, or more importantly, the power of human connection, then you must meet Samatha Klein. Sam came to me with the brilliance of the sun and the power of a freight train. It’s a long story, but I’ve never met anyone in my life with more determination than Sam.  The work that she and Jeremy Schumann did in preparing for both CMO Moves Summit West and East, blew me away. They crafted a very funny presentation on how they prepared for meeting their mentors.

This is, by far, my favorite quote from Sam who was paired with Lauren Weinberg, Head of Marketing at Square Inc.: "I used Google to research 'Lauren Weinberg' and after 30 minutes became an expert in all 120 Lauren Weinbergs around the world."

And speaking of Google, we couldn’t be more appreciative of Google, and in particular, Alison Wagonfeld for being a foundational partner of the program and providing 12 amazing mentors! As well as Deloitte, Verizon and BET.

We hope you'll join us in changing the future of marketing for the better. And join us in person at the D&I Summit 2020 to celebrate differences and power inclusive leadership globally.