Help a New Generation Navigate Its Way

It's Rarely a Straight Line to Success

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Tiffany Warren
Tiffany R. Warren
In March, I had the honor of being a guest lecturer in a freshman communications class at Howard University in Washington. Joining me as guests of Professor Constance Cannon Frazier were Mike A. Scott, managing partner of MPIRE Management, and Arnold Worldwide talent recruiter Tara J. Garcia. We were given the task of summing up our collective work experiences in one hour.

Each of our paths to our current employment was strikingly different in some ways and meaningfully similar in others. Mike, a college football standout from Maryland, owned many successful businesses before creating MPIRE Management with his business partner, Corey Ball. Tara left the world of lasik surgeries and dilated pupils and entered the advertising industry through a temp position at DDB. I, of course, dabbled in account management before becoming focused on increasing diversity in advertising.

The common denominator in our stories is that where we began our careers is very different than where we have ended up.

During the course of the hour, Tara told of how her temp-to-perm placement at DDB happened because her predecessor did not return from maternity leave. Mike shared the story of how he and Corey began MPIRE Management, a branded-entertainment and sports-marketing firm, when a chance meeting with a record executive at a conference spring boarded their dreams and their company. My big break came from an after-work discussion with an early mentor about a position she previously held at a major advertising trade association.

What the students may have wanted was a clear cut path, a how-to guide in succeeding in the respective industries we represented. What they got instead was a reflection of reality -- an unconventional overview of what can come from a combination of luck, dedication and once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. The path to success is often more a zig-zag than a straight line. And that's OK.

Speaking of dedication, one of the students asked us if it was difficult to get up that morning to come and speak to the class. Mike answered for all us when he provided the students with a life lesson on why he not only showed up a half hour early for the 8:10 a.m. class but why he always keeps his promises. He admitted it wasn't easy getting up that morning after a late night of basketball with his boys, watching re-runs of Barack Obama's speeches on TiVo and preparing for a presentation he had to hand in right after the class. But he'd made a promise to Professor Frazier and to the class to be there. He told the students that "dedication is doing the thing you committed to doing long after the 'mood' in which you made the commitment has passed."

This is a lesson I remind myself of daily during this unique time in our industry's history as we make the changes needed to increase diversity in advertising.

We all have a responsibility, whether we benefit directly from the outcome or not, to inspire those who are just beginning to answer that all important question "What do I want to be when I grow up?"

I know these days we are all 10 times busier than we used to be. And although it may be tough climbing that corporate ladder, we cannot pull it up from behind you once we have reached our own great heights.

As the summer approaches and a new crop of interns begin their tours of duty in your agency, take a moment or two to reach out to them as Tara, Mike and I did on that early, cold morning back in March.
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