What would you do if you didn’t work in healthcare?
I always think of myself as a digital marketer more than the industry I work in, but my driver for coming to pharma as a digital marketer was to change the diversity in pharma and healthcare. Representation is important for African Americans seeking treatment to feel seen, heard and listened to. With the medical disparities and institutionalized biases that impact our daily lives, I feel like it’s a life or death situation for my community. If you are in a position to help, then you have to help. I am in position, so here I am!
Can you give a shout-out to someone who helped you at a pivotal time in your career?
My mother! In 2005, when she realized that this was going to be my career (three years in, but digital was very iffy to an accountant), she set up my consultancy, incorporated the entire family and made a six-figure investment to give me direct access to tools that are used for digital. We still have a hard time funding some of those tools across industries, so this gave me a major boost. We could not be more different, but my mother is always going to support my dream. Everyone doesn’t have that and it was life-changing for me.
How has the pandemic reset the rules on your work-life balance?
What work-life balance? Ha! I think being stuck in the house, not being able to go to vendor meetings (I was already remote), the lines between work and life were blurred. There was nothing to do but work. Pre-pandemic, I used to hop down to the Caribbean every 6-8 weeks. Still working, but the balance is so much better when the beach is walking distance and fresh mangoes fall from the trees where you are staying. The pandemic also shifted pharma brands at my agency to an all-digital approach, so we were swamped. That shift, which occurred earlier in other industries, is still driving heavy demand for digital now. Trying to figure it out and meditating and doing yoga while I do!
Share a moment when you left your comfort zone; what did you learn?
As an African American, I leave my comfort zone every time I leave my home/neighborhood. Particularly in pharma, where there is a larger diversity gap, my life is always outside of my comfort zone. The lift that we go through to show up in the same places as white professionals is drastically different. I have learned that unless you have lived the situation, it’s impossible to understand the impact and that I have to lower my expectations of those who have not been impacted or I will always be disappointed.
What do you find frustrating about working in healthcare marketing?
The bureaucracy and how far behind the industry is; it’s significantly harder to gain approvals or drive change.
What are you doing to send the career ladder back down?
There are four people on my current team that have worked with me previously — as my career progresses, I usually bring them along with me. I am also a Howard University Alumni Mentor (my mentee is at Nielsen doing data visualization and digital analytics), and I mentor African-American co-workers who frequently reach out to me because I typically have the most visible organizational role amongst us. I also teach at NJIT teaching brand and digital marketing; the program helps provide skills to folks attempting to establish a career or grow a business during this pandemic.
A large part of my life has always been community outreach and support because my parents were in a position to provide support at an impactful level, so as a default, it was required behavior in my household. “To whom much is given, much will be required” (Luke 12:48). I see this as a critical part of my role as a manager — people sometimes see this as a nice to have. But, for me, I ask myself a different question — who would I be if I didn’t bring them with me? I wouldn’t have progressed without them, so where I go, they are always welcomed and desired. My expectation is that they will get to a point in their careers where they will surpass me. That is my hope — I wouldn’t even have this career without those people.
What’s something your colleagues don’t know about you?
That I am a published author and have my largest works coming out later this year along with my podcast launching.
What is one thing you would tell young women starting their careers in healthcare marketing?
I need to focus this on young African American women. I would tell them that it is going to take an emotional toll and that the communities with the worst outcomes are typically those of color. Have the feelings, stiffen your spine, meditate, say a prayer if that’s your thing, but stand firm in your commitment because we drive cultural and societal change. It may not feel like it sometimes, but they are ready for this challenge. Our lives depend on it. You will be misunderstood and sometimes misaligned, but stay ten toes down and stand in your power. God gives the toughest battles to his strongest soldiers — we were born to be the change. Change is uncomfortable for people, but discomfort is necessary for growth, so don’t take any of it personally. You know who you are, you know what you can do. Be you and go do it.
Recount an experience with the healthcare system, positive or negative, that inspires you.
I am focused on the medical disparities because of the impact that these issues have had on my family. Particularly, I think about my grandmother when working in this industry gets tough. My grandmother broke her arm, but died due to an adverse reaction to an anti-psychotic medication medical staff gave her. My mother asked why they would give her that and the doctors thought she was having a mental breakdown because she was repeating, “Lawd Jesus, help me Jesus. Help me Jesus.” She wasn’t crazy, she was in pain and I don’t know any elderly African-American women from the South who don’t say that. It was the exact opposite of a breakdown — she called her Waymaker for support. That bothers me to no end. Sometimes, I use a beautiful photo of her as my Zoom/Teams photo to remind me of my mission. Genevieve on my mind … stiffen my spine, meditate and make it different for my grandmama!
Favorite TV show/movie/song/book?
TV show: Martin; movie: Black Panther; Song: “International Players’ Anthem” by UGK; Book: Standing at the Scratch Line by Guy Johnson.