Bozoma Saint John doesn’t care what you think about her red lipstick or nail art. As her track record shows, she moves boldly to her own beat – from a string of mind-blowing marketing gigs at PepsiCo, Beats Music, Apple and Uber, to now CMO of entertainment mega-agency Endeavor. Here, Bozoma shares her inspiring take on career, growth and finding success.
Brandweek: Tell us about what you are doing now.
Bozoma Saint John: As the Chief Marketing Officer of Endeavor, I am connecting the world of sports, entertainment, art and fashion to audiences around the world. I also work closely with our Endeavor Global Marketing business, which serves as a cultural marketing agency for brands including Anheuser Busch InBev, Papa John’s, Marriott and Visa.
How did you get to where you are today?
“I have always followed my gut toward the jobs or experiences that would help me grow...”
I never had a plan. I have always followed my gut toward the jobs or experiences that would help me grow—the jobs that were interesting to me and the ones that I simply fell in love with. It has been critical in my career not to be moved by title or even financial compensation (although I’ve always fought for my proper worth). My career moves have always found me at a crossroads, which meant that choosing one direction over the other could lead me down a very different path; and I would like to believe that I’ve always made the right choice.
My moves haven’t always been linear; for example, leaving Pepsi after a decade (with big wins like the activation of Beyoncé’s Super Bowl Halftime Show in 2013) and going to an unknown music platform like Beats Music wasn’t a clear, great career-building move to most people. But for me, it meant more responsibility to lead a team and stretch into an industry that I’d only been on the periphery of; and then to grow into the larger role at iTunes which included oversight of movies, books and news was the bigger win.
What do you see as the major opportunities and challenges for women today?
Women’s voices and influence in corporate settings are becoming increasingly more powerful. We have the opportunity to advocate for each other, and therefore increase the caliber of our collective voice to make real change, which benefits everyone. The challenges remain the same as they’ve ever been in that we are still fighting for equal pay and equal opportunity.
What solutions or advice can you share?
“I want to live a life without regret and that requires the bravery to jump, even when you’re not sure the net is there.”
I actually just read a book by Reshma Saujani titled “Brave, Not Perfect,” which encourages women to charge forward even in the face of their imperfections. To make bold moves. I want to live a life without regret and that requires the bravery to jump, even when you’re not sure the net is there. I hope we can all do that. Ask for the raise. Go for the stretch job (even if you don’t have all the experience just yet). Push past the fear of not having “enough” experience/time/worth to achieve the next step in your career RIGHT NOW.
Who helped you in your journey and what advice did they give you?
I’ve had a lot of good advice along the way. My mom showed me how to walk boldly and unapologetically, so I carry a lot of that example with me today. When I was 12, and we moved from Accra to Colorado Springs, she refused to let me hide my culture or history. She showed me that other people should appreciate (and celebrate) my differences. I’ve never forgotten that.
I’ve also had really shitty advice. One of the worst pieces of advice I have received, which turned out to be a blessing, was that I should not wear red lipstick or red nail polish whenever I was trying to be taken seriously. That’s shit advice. I’m going to be bold in everything that I do, including my choice of lipstick and nail art.
What one thing would you have done differently early in your career if you had the right bit of advice?
I wouldn’t do anything differently. I feel that all my experiences have been right for me in my journey. Even the experiences that I may now consider mistakes were beneficial in my growth.
If you weren’t doing what you’re doing now, money or talent would be no object, what would you be doing?
I would still do what I do. Or I would be a unicorn. A real one. No fake horn for me.