Rise up. Reach back. That’s the motto of ADCOLOR, the national group founded in 2005 by Tiffany R. Warren to advocate for diversity in the creative and technology industries. It’s also the maxim by which the Omnicom exec lives by. Here, Tiffany shares her journey to her life’s work and insights on why it’s important to find the next mountain to climb.
Tell us about what you are doing now.
I am the Senior VP, Chief Diversity Officer for Omnicom Group and the Founder and President, ADCOLOR. As the CDO for Omnicom Group, I lead the strategy that enhances Omnicom’s vision to be a world class, benchmark company for sustainable diversity and inclusion and aligning this critical practice with the company’s business objectives and clients’ results. I currently oversee a team of 18 diversity officers, directors, and champions who are focused on Omnicom-wide change efforts for the advancement and retention of the best talent from diverse backgrounds inclusive of women, people of color and LGBT professionals in an inclusive work culture. With ADCOLOR, I am deeply involved in the direction the industry is taking around diversity and inclusion.
How did you get to where you are today?
"I knew from a very early age... that my calling was in diversity and inclusion."
Simply because my preparation met up with incredible opportunities. I knew from a very early age (about 3 ½) that my calling was in diversity and inclusion. I didn’t have a name for it, but I certainly made decisions and lived my life in service of understanding why some people were granted opportunities when others seem to be given handouts. It really became obvious at the private school I attended. My advocacy began in those halls and have taken me all the way to the Obama White House. I have steadily built a career as a hope dealer and a heart director but even more proud that I have been able to recognize incredible opportunities and run towards them with no fear.
What pivotal moments did you face along the way?
A truly pivotal personal moment for me was when my beloved Nana passed in my freshman year of college. She was a young 66 and it affected me greatly. Once I got past the valley of mourning her, all the things she taught me came flooding back. One moment, in particular, I carry with me to every meeting, every encounter and every career or personal highlight. I was in the 5th grade and I came running into her house, excited that I was just named co-valedictorian. I ran downstairs where she was, of course, watching her stories (soap operas) and I interrupted and said “Nana, I got it. I am valedictorian!” She without raising an eyebrow or really moving said: “That’s great T. What’s next?” For me it meant, don’t get too invested in your own press/ink. What is your next accomplishment? What mountain do you still have to climb? This has never left me, and it never will.
What do you see as the major opportunities and challenges for women today and what advice can you give them?
Being truly and profoundly supported. I have called many people sponsors, but I only have two mentors. I used the word “sponsor” so easily because I didn’t quite understand what it meant until really the last five years. A true sponsor just doesn’t say something nice about you when you are not in the room, but they are getting you that raise, that promotion. Words cannot build or raise a family. Financial recognition can.
Who helped you in your journey (any mentors?) and how did they help shape your thinking and/or career?
"For me, feedback is absolutely necessary. Period."
Just two. Marc Stephenson Strachan (Chairman, ADCOLOR) and Constance Cannon Frazier (American Advertising Federation). They have been by my side since day one of my career. Day one. I have shared my deepest fears regarding my work, my failures and my highest highs and no matter the circumstance or situation have been resolute in reminding me that I am enough, and this too shall pass. Every opportunity I have been given has passed their test or in some cases, failed and I avoided some of the early crash and burns some of my peers have succumbed to. For me, feedback is absolutely necessary. Period. It has fed me well.
How have you found the right balance between your personal life and career?
I am truly still working that out, but I made a promise and a goal for 2019 that I would spend more time with myself (hard to do when you see my schedule) and my family. They understand that I don’t just have a position, but a passion, but I will cancel a work trip that can be re-scheduled if it means that I get to be at my niece’s final basketball game wearing a sweatshirt with her face on it. She will remember that for the rest of her life, I may or may not remember the work trip. My niece, Ahmenra, calls me every day around 4 p.m. on her ride home from daycare (she is 3 ½) and she asks me “Aunteeeee, where are you?” I tell her exactly where I am, and what I am doing no matter where I am. I do this because I don’t want her to ask me one day, “Auntee, where were you?”
What one thing would you have done differently early in your career?
My favorite song in life is “If You Believe” by Lena Horne. The lyrics make me cry immediately. They are so powerful “If you believe, Within your heart you'll know, That no one can change, The path that you must go, Believe what you feel, And know you're right, because the time will come around, When you say it's yours, Believe in yourself, right from the start, You'll have brains, You'll have a heart, You'll have courage, To last your whole life through” I would have believed in myself more. I was exceptionally shy for the earlier part of my life and a bit of that is still with me to this day, but if I knew that it would give me this superpower called empathy I would have stood taller a little earlier than I did. Your adversity is your greatest superpower, and today I work to remind others of that every single day.
If you weren’t doing what you’re doing now, money or talent would be no object, what would you be doing?
I would mentor 10,000 young professionals full time!