Name: Gaye Jackson
Hometown: Mt. Vernon, New York
Current Title: Essence - Senior Partner, Associate Media Director
Prior Professional Experience: Mindshare World: 7 years, Maxus Global: 6 years
Education: Boston University BS 2004 Advertising, Baruch College MBA 2011 Marketing
What is the number one skill or trait that you have found in successful leaders throughout your career, and why?
Compassion; No matter the profession or level. You need to care about the people behind the work. It creates a duplicated and often unexplained domino effect of accountability for everyone. You never want to disappoint someone who genuinely cares about you and your career growth.
What has been your biggest professional failure to date and what have you learned from that experience?
I was in a client presentation and I interjected to add color to an answer for a question that was not posed to me. After the meeting, my managing director took me aside and began to say, “what you said…” I cut her off and immediately apologized. She looked at me confused and said I did nothing wrong. I completely derailed a conversation that could have highlighted my strength, but instead I showed weakness and an insecurity. I learned to believe in everything I say and when I say it. Speak and walk in confidence. But make sure you have evidence to support your opinions.
What advice would you give a young adult who is about to start their first job post college?
Make it a point to speak to everyone at all levels. A simple hello and introduction leads to a coffee break which leads to building a network that can help you way beyond the office walls. You never know who will be essential to your next career break.
How were you able to breakthrough and enter the C-suite/partnership? What obstacles did you face as a minority/woman of color?
My network includes people who are both able to speak to my ability and potential and actually able to push my career growth. Everyday is an obstacle. I am often the only black woman in a meeting, on a lunch, or at an after work activity. Simple conversations can prove to be difficult, but here is where confidence is key. Speak and walk confidently. Black women are often portrayed as loud and angry, so you have a looming feeling that your peers are waiting for you to prove that stereotype.
How important do you think it is to have a professional mentor?
My mentor has steered me away from potentially detrimental opportunities, corrected any missteps, helped me balance personal and professional and always reminded me of what is important. A mentor, simply put, is someone who has come before you. Instead of figuring out the road alone, why not find someone with a genuine interest in you and your professional development, who can introduce you to other professionals who you would not have access to otherwise.
How have you maintained and strengthened relationships with your mentor(s) throughout your career?
I initiate the majority of the contact. All contact cannot be a request; it’s simple manners in my opinion. Check in with quick phone calls or short emails. I let them know how everything going and any upcoming milestones. Ever so often, I would invite them out to have a face to face conversation. My mentor and I have in person conversations that always go deeper than any email could.