Name: Brandon Delesline
Hometown: New York City
Current Title: Director, Marketing Solutions @ iHeartMedia
Prior Professional Experience: NBC, Sony Music, Uniworld Group, Revolt TV
Education: DePauw University
What is the most important professional lesson you've learned to date?
The most important professional lesson I‘ve learned to date is that, especially as a person of color, you have to be your biggest advocate. I think historically we’ve been taught that the line between cocky and confident is too thin to walk and while there’s a slight bit of truth to that for people in general, we disproportionately (sometimes it feels like almost exclusively) second guess ourselves and our worth. So I’ve learned, over time, that you should never feel apprehensive about negotiating salaries, promotions, leadership opportunities, etc. As long as your work speaks for itself, and that’s key, there’s nothing wrong with making sure the right people are listening.
What has been your biggest professional failure to date and what have you learned from that experience?
I wanted to break into the music side of entertainment very badly. With this in mind, I decided to take a role as an Executive Assistant at Sony Music without considering all that goes into being someone’s assistant, especially someone as high as an EVP. I took the job mistakenly thinking it would be a breeze. I made a lot of mistakes in that role and in hindsight, I should have passed on the offer. The lesson here for me was know yourself. Making sure the warm Snapples were to the back of the fridge in his office and the cold ones were at the front was something that I could really care less about. But it was important to HIM and more to the point, important for the role. I learned more than anything that regardless of your overall hunger for a field, if you take a “transitional” or “stepping stone” role, you need to work with the same passion and vigor you would if you got the dream role, because building your reputation is what will eventually get you there.
What issues have you dealt with being a person of color in corporate America and how have you overcome these challenges?
Two issues come to mind when I think the role race places in my experience in corporate America. First Issue: Having to maintain a “double consciousness” on a daily basis despite seeing my White colleagues live carefree. Let me state for the record though that I understand this is my choice. I understand, especially in this era, that the popular thing to say is “be your whole self everywhere”. While I think that is generally true, especially right now, I do believe there are consequences to everything we do. I do believe in wearing your beard or hair how you want. I do believe in saying “I listen to Drink Champs” when your all-white team asks what Podcasts love, knowing full well that no one will know what it, potentially creating a momentary awkward moment. BUT, there are moments during open discourse about topics such politics, popular culture, news headlines, etc. where I have found it’s best to curb my 2 cents. I don’t do this necessarily for my own advancement, but out of concern about the next Black person or person of color looking to be a Director or whatever role in my current company. I question if my perceived differences will make that person’s odds of getting this job slimmer? Maybe, maybe not. But it is a burden that I carry working for a predominately White company.
Second Issue: In between my current role and some other predominantly White corporations when I first graduated, I was fortunate enough to have spent lengthy stints at two Black-owned companies. I would say some of my biggest career challenges actually came from working with Black folk. Not because they were Black, but because they were too comfortable with the situation. There was a lack of urgency, accountability, proactivity seemingly BECAUSE they didn’t need to have a double consciousness. I’ll admit, I am definitely generalizing a bit, because I also worked with some great people and learned a lot about professionalism from many of them, but by and large, there seemed to be this narrative of “let me kick my feet up” because the environment was so familiar to them...and that never resonated with me. In fact, I’d say some of my ascension was made possible simply because I had fire and fuel where others were relaxed.
What resources, professional or personal, have you leveraged to ensure your career is progressing?
My peers. I’d say my peers more than anyone else are my gauge on how well I’m doing. I have a close-knit circle of friends who are extremely comfortable sharing their salaries/wins/losses with me and vice versa. And while this is sort of taboo for some, we find it keeps us on our toes. We’ll ask each other “ever had a video interview where you have to record the answers? What are some tips to not seem stiff?” or “They offered me this much, if I go back for this much do you think that’s reaching?” all kinds of stuff. And more than ANYTHING, we give to the game. I’ve seen so many people ask for referrals for roles from me but don’t remember telling me that they turned someone else down because “they never hit me up for anything else”. And my response is always, don’t make it about you. If the person isn’t qualified that’s one thing, but if they are (especially a person of color) give to the game...because you know you’ll be taking from it eventually. I love giving referrals, writing letters of recommendation, giving resume tips, etc. and conversely I love to ask people to do so for me. Sometimes I’m met with resistance but this is rare. I just believe in giving out the energy you hope to receive...not because you hope to receive it, but because others need it as much as you do.
Do you have mentor? If so, how did you select this person or people?
Unfortunately I don’t really have one concrete mentor. I’ve tried on a few occasions and perhaps it’s my follow-up or theirs that is lacking but it never really remains consistent. BUT, I can confidently say at every company I’ve worked for, I’ve found a source of knowledge and clung to it. Sometimes that’s my direct supervisor and sometimes that’s a person from a random department who extends the olive branch and wants to see me succeed. Sometimes it’s a client who ends up becoming a friend. Again, I’m a big believer in maintaining contact with my peers. Since college, I’ve been blessed to have an incredible network. The Posse Foundation, DePauw University, my wife, and by extension Vanderbilt University because of her, and so many more connections.
What advice would you give a young adult who is about to start their first job post college?
Don’t glorify the glory. I’ve seen SO many recent graduates obsessed with people in their desired industry based on the “moves” they see them making via social media, meanwhile I know these people personally and see how much of it is smoke and mirrors. And to a degree that’s what we all have to do in this era, but it never should trump real effort. What I mean is, know that coming fresh out of school, unless you own your own company, you’re not a “BOSS”. Accept that, relish in it. It doesn’t mean you never will be, but if you keep that perspective, you won’t feel like someone is trying to play you when they ask you to grab them coffee or set up the projector for the board room meeting...that’s called paying dues. And while the people you watch on IG don’t post pictures of when they were setting up projectors in the boardroom...best believe at one point, they did. Your time will come, and I do believe that time can and should be faster for you than it was for those before you, but until it does, never think you’re too good to put the work in.