Struggle can mold a person, but how that mold is shaped is up to the person being affected by the struggle. If you really put struggle to good use, you can end up soaring through the ranks at any company, just like Uber Chief Brand Officer Bozoma Saint John.
Born in Connecticut and raised in Kenya, Saint John graduated from Wesleyan University, and on a whim, moved to New York. After spending a bit of time without a job, Saint John was directed to a temp agency that eventually landed her with a job answering phones for Spike Lee. From there, opportunity struck when she was able to review one of Spike Lee’s scripts. A few marks of a red pen sent her from answering phone calls to managing accounts. That progressed even further onto marketing for Apple, Beats and Pepsi, and now it has turned into Bozoma Saint John being named the Chief Brand Officer at Uber
Saint John is a picture of what it takes to be successful in today’s world. The bold and outspoken Chief Brand Officer at Uber is someone you can really learn a lot from. Here are five lessons we can learn from her amazing climb.
1. Saying “please” is important.
When asked her favorite word in an interview with The Guardian, Saint John simply replied, “Please. It gets me everything I need.”
I try to take this into account every day because of the sheer power of that statement. “Please” gets you everything you need.
It’s so easy, too. Try it out, and you will see a world of difference in the attitudes of the people around you. If you ask someone to do something, tack on the word please. When they do it, say thank you. One simple expression can declare so many emotions.
2. One person can make a difference.
If you have ever stopped to think about the difference one person makes, you aren’t alone. Workplace apathy is a real thing, especially when you aren’t entirely sure how you making a difference in the operations.
Is this your work attitude? If so, it’s probably time to try your best at finding a new outlook, or a new job. You make an impact on your workplace, and one person can affect the entire operation for better or worse.
“The culture changes simply by being, right? It’s like any other thing where you change one molecule and the matter changes,” Saint John said to The New York Times Magazine.
This was Saint John’s response to a question revolving the ability to change Uber’s company culture, and it’s a perfect example of how one person can make a difference. An infectious attitude is all it takes to get the ball rolling in another direction, but it’s up to you to make sure it’s a positive one.
3. Stay true to yourself.
To shine, you have to be you. Since there is only one of you, it’s probably not the best idea to try to be someone else.
Saint John was working for a company when an older female executive told her to stay away from red lipstick. The executive wanted to help Saint John not make a splash that might ruin her opportunity for employment. It was a strategy for slowly and steadily earning the respect of the male-dominated corporate world, but there was a problem. But that strategy didn’t fit Saint John’s personality.
“The damage it did was made me question whether or not I could be bold in an office because I am a bold person . . . I’m bold in personality, I’m hella tall and I’m hella black . . . It’s not natural to me. It would make me unproductive in what I do because I would be so focused on being quiet that I can’t really show up,” she stated in an interview with CNBC.
The lesson is, you have to be you to be productive at work. You can’t jump from shadow to shadow and hope for success — you have to turn on the lights to find the path.
4. Tragedy isn’t an end, it’s a beginning.
Life throws a mean curveball every now and again, and Saint John knows a thing or two about that. As she started down the strenuous pursuit of a career, her husband passed away, leaving just her and her daughter, but that didn’t stop her.
“My daughter, Lael. She’s fearless and fun. In her eight years, she’s had traumatic events, but still gives hugs,” Saint John told The Guardian.
We can all take a thing or two from a perspective like that. Admiration of the youthful spirit that can help you find motivation and drive. Children don’t hate and they always want to try new things. They find fun in just about anything and amazement in new discoveries.
This is just like Saint John, who, at 40, is still blazing her own path with youthful optimism and a love for new challenges.
5. Listen to your gut.
During an interview with Lewis Howes, Saint John talked about listening to your gut. She reminded us that even the most talked-about person can still be wrong for you to work with.
If you meet someone new, trust your gut feeling about that person — even if they come with the best reviews. If your gut tells you something is off when you meet them, it’s probably a sign that something will go wrong in the future.
Saint John is a great example for people looking to make a splash in their field. Her magnetic attitude is something everyone can learn from, and her words are lessons about the reality of struggle working in your favor.
If you work hard and take the time to find the right people, you can be an effective business leader, no matter where you sit in the company. It’s about making yourself shine and keeping a clear head. Opportunity will strike, and you can be prepared to take it, just like Saint John.
Do you have any major players in the corporate environment you love? What do you think about the lessons taken from Saint John? Let us know in the comments below.