Carol Watson is the President of the Board of Directors for the Advertising Women of New York and Founder of Tangerine Watson Inc a cross cultural talent consultancy firm based in New York specializing in executive talent sourcing , diversity development and retention consulting for the advertising, media, and marketing industry. I spoke with her about her new role as the President of the Board of Directors of the Advertising Women of New York, creating her own company and careers in advertising in today’s digital age.
Roger – What was your inspiration for creating your own company focusing on cross cultural talent?
Carol- I call it more of God’s marching orders. I was consulting and enjoyed working on new magazine start ups and digital marketing strategies after leaving my Publisher role at Vibe and was not sure if I wanted to stay “out” or go back “under” as we say. Tangerine a very well regarded search firm had a founder who specialized in multicultural talent for a few years and wanted to see it grow. She wanted to leave the business and they approached me about taking over the multicultural practice and spinning it off into its own business. At the same time the Human Rights Commission was very publicly giving the ad industry a hard time and 16 agencies agreed to memorandums of agreement. After a few decades in the advertising business I wanted a role that would feel like I could make a difference in an area that I cared about. It was the right combination of forces at the right time.
Roger- As president of AWNY, what are some of the innovative ideas you would like to see in the future for AWNY?
CAROL– AWNY has just celebrated its 100th anniversary and despite my schedule I felt compelled to take the lead. It is a very pivotal time as the current Executive Director is retiring at the end of 2012 and the opportunity to set the course was irresistible. We launched a new logo, new website, a new multicultural alliance already. Our strategic goals are to provide more value to senior level executive women, build out benefits and resources beyond events and expand our footprint beyond NY. There is a ton that can and should be done to improve and serve our 2000 members. The hard part for me will be patience as I already envision the role that it can play for members. There is an awesome team of amazing women that I work with and learn from so it will be good and worthwhile investment of my time over the next two years.
Roger– Why is it important for women and women in color to be executives in the advertising industry?
Carol- Women make or influence 80% of the decisions. There is only 3% female representation at the mid to senior levels in creative and the percentage of women of color in executive ranks would not even register on the calculator. There is much financial and cultural power in being part of the messaging and imagery in advertising and hundreds of billions of dollars spent on media. A seat at the table is crucial.
Roger– Do you think there is need for more people of color and what things can be done to attract them to the advertising field?
Carol- There probably will never be a representative amount of people of color in the ad industry. It is a relationship industry and both sides have a long way to go to get comfortable outside of the office in building those relationships. There is quite a bit of talk and many initiatives created to attract young talent into the industry. The industry does well at the entry level yet people of color are not staying and thriving at the mid to senior levels and there are not as many conversation or solutions to fixing change this problem. This is the area that our firm is currently more focused on. We want to make sure people of color have access and are prepared for opportunities that are available.
Roger- On your panel at advertising week 2012 about supporting the four career – a lot of people move or leave an agency to early what advice do you give to them?
Carol- The main reason people leave, assuming they are high performing, is actually less about just the salary, it is usually because they do not feel valued, there is no plan for them or they are not getting developed. When people don’t see an opportunity the only solution they can come up with is to leave. That is not always the right approach. Every move should be strategic and getting the right council is crucial. That is the part multicultural professionals don’t have experience with and usually, neither does our people of color network. Having the right strategic conversations internally can turn up opportunities to rise and access opportunities and build relationships that we will need even if we decide to move.
Roger– What do you look for in a leader in the adverting industry today with the rise of social media? How do you develop a good leadership team?
Carol- What top leaders look like now is different. Every company is looking for a visionary change agent with impeccable emotional intelligence. Someone that can inspire others with a clear and consistent point of view and can exhibit a mix of analytical prowess with compassion and relationship building to get everyone to follow their lead to change and innovate. Many people of color forget that leading in the world of business is all a game. We tend to take clumsy and naive interactions as personal disrespect and let our ego get too involved in leading. Inspiring others is part science and mostly art and truly a life long practice that we can all benefit from.
Roger- As a Talent management expert. How does a person who wants to make a career change win in this competitive environment? How do you develop a strategy of personal growth regarding branding yourself and marketing yourself?
Carol- It requires an investment in your own development. It starts with building relationships, having a clear point of view, becoming a student as if you are writing a thesis and investing every found moment studying every aspect of the business; the best companies and the leaders in the field and yes, it will take an investment of time and there are still 24 hours in a day! First you need a clear idea of how to describe your unique value. Not from just your own point of view but from what others say about you and why they think you are amazing. Figure out what drives you, what brings you energy, what you are good at doing and what you need to do to get even better – training, projects, internships, education, specific roles are a few ways. Find ways to share your knowledge and point of view – training others, organizing lunch and learns, writing articles, speaking on panels, sitting on committees, drinks/coffee with the boss or influential colleague, strategic volunteering or recommendations to senior leadership.
Thank you Carol.
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