Bozoma Saint John is just as powerful as her name suggests, in person. Quick with the wit and an articulate speaker- not surprising features for this marketing and communications specialist whose work precedes her, globally.
Her track record boasts a slew of top multi-nationals such as Apple where she was a Marketing Executive, Uber, where she became the first ever Chief Brand Officer and currently, Chief Marketing Officer at Endeavor. Not too shabby for a Ghanaian born Queen in the diaspora.
Bozoma can be found walking into board meetings with the world’s top executives in Sequined pants, Big hair and colourful nail-polish. She redefines what it means to be a white collar corporate and even more-so, for the black woman looking to climb the corporate ladder.
In similar fashion, on her first trip to Lagos, she would address a room filled with 40 equally intellectual women who hold highly sought roles in global companies. As her 6ft tall frame shrouded in her custom-made Ankara dress and large afro began to make an entrance into the room, you could hear the oohs and aahs as the room seemed to almost take in her presence. Electric, is what I would define it, if I were to utilize a single word.
Soon enough, host, Francesca Uriri, Head of Communications at Uber Nigeria, would begin the session by posing questions in line with the title: ‘being your most authentic self’, because who better to ask than the self, aware Ms Saint John. Here, Bozoma would become vulnerable as she shared that fearlessness isn’t so much a rare talent as it is a daily practice, which even for her, isn’t always the easiest task.
“I once walked into a meeting and a man said to me: ‘Did you have to wear that today?’ but I have also realized that with walking in my most authentic self comes a little bit of sass, so my retort was sharp and quick.”
She went further to really delve into how she combats fear and in its place embraces authenticity.
- Don’t limit yourself to what you think you’re capable of.
“What would a white man do?” I ask myself this question when I feel overwhelmed and uncertain because you can say anything about a white man but what he is, is very confident. I try to channel that level of confidence when I encounter a seeming obstacle”.
2. Remind yourself that you are capable
“Sometimes it’s not even about the obstacles we’re facing in the outside world, it’s about the conversations we have in our head. Sometimes for me, it’s daily affirmations that do the trick.”
3. Spirituality helps
I pray away my anxiety and fears. It helps to keep me calm and focused on what is lying ahead of me.”
4. Have your own tribe
“Sometimes I’ll call in my girlfriends and be like hey, I need you to tell me how amazing I am today.
5. Don’t switch lanes
You’re more likely to be authentic when you’re living your own truth and walking in your own purpose.
“My lane is my lane. If you’re a sprinter and you’re looking at someone else’s lane you’ll get distracted and possibly trip over your own feet. Similarly, if you run into their lane, you’ll get disqualified. I like to think that it works the same way with life.”
6. It’s much bigger than you
Saint John expresses that she is incredibly aware of the fact that she has to hold the door for her fellow black sisters. She describes her need to see more faces like hers in board rooms and ends off the session admonishing the ladies present to ensure that they do the same in their respective fields. Understanding that the purpose is much bigger than you is sometimes, all the fuel you need to keep forging on, she said.
The former Chief Brand Officer also shed some light on her use of social media to further entrench her brand. We live in a digital world that none of us can no longer ignore, she further stated that everyone had a brand, what we do with it however is what determines if we are in control of it. Saint John has chosen to become the CEO of Brand Boz, as we all should.
In the global village in which we find ourselves, it has become increasingly important to take ownership of our own narratives but first, we have to fully understand what that narrative is. It is my belief that a big theme for the coming year, 2019, will be self awareness for the entrepreneur and corporate leader that seeks to be successful.
As you set those goals and draw up those resolutions, here’s hoping we equally choose to be the drivers of our own narratives instead of sitting in the passenger seat. For me, I find that this relates to our continent too, what are the conversations being had and are we writing our own stories or just merely characters in the script?