I know in the past we’ve talked about how showing up and showing out can catapult you into living out your wildest dreams-TED Talks, high-paying and consulting gigs. But there’s nothing quite like seeing it in action.
Enter: Bozoma Saint John.
This veritable powerhouse is a vibrant, brilliant Queen of authenticity.
You may know her as the Chief Marketing Officer at Netflix, but before the C-Suite titles and the awards rolled in, she was just a smart, ambitious woman who made a choice – a choice to show up as she is, fully.
And let’s be honest, that’s not always the easiest choice. Whether it’s rocking a green pantsuit at work or going full ‘fro in the boardroom, someone always has something to say. It doesn’t matter how much you’ve achieved, there’s always someone who’s not quite ready for your level of unapologetic Blackness.
And that’s fine. We weren’t meant to blend into the background.
Bozoma, or Boz as many call her, is a shining example of not just what’s possible but what will happen when you choose to show up as yourself. When you have the courage to be vulnerable and authentic, people take notice, and that can lead to a world of opportunities you could never have dreamed of.
A Little About Bozoma
So, if you’re not familiar with Boz you’re probably wondering what all the buzz is about.
I’m not just fangirling over here—she taught a program for MBA candidates at Harvard Business School called “Anatomy of a Badass,” launched a limited podcast series alongside Katie Couric called Back to Biz with Katie and Boz, was the first Black woman C-Suite level executive, and played a significant hand in shifting the toxic culture at Uber.
I could keep going on and on, but I think you get the point-the woman is a boss, and she’s changing the game.
She learned from her mother at an early age that the differences she had from other kids and everyone else in the world were worthy of being seen and celebrated. In interviews, I’ve heard her say that her mother was steadfast in preserving their culture when they relocated to Colorado; she made no attempts to fit in. Even when teenage Boz’s friends would come over to the house, her mother would make traditional dishes – no pizza or mac and cheese to be found. Today, Boz brings that same level of unapologetic boldness to everything she does.
Clearly, there’s a lot to be gleaned from her journey, but I want to focus on three key lessons in particular.
Live out loud & show up as the whole you
Courage and vulnerability go hand-in-hand, and showing up as the phenomenal, unedited version of yourself requires just that. No one needs the watered-down version of you! And, yes, that includes your Blackness.
You are not for everyone, and that’s okay.
A significant part of investing in cultivating your personal brand is aligning yourself with the right people, organizations, and opportunities. But in order to do that, you have to bring your whole self to the party—even in a professional context.
In this Glamour interview, Boz says it all, “Bring your whole self to work. I think it’s really important even now as I sit in this seat because bringing your whole self is a very human thing. This is not the resume, this is the stuff that makes you, you. It’s what makes your story interesting and unique(…) Be your whole self. If there’s an opportunity to share an idea or, hell, even to dress up for the office, be your whole self. That’s the example I’m living for my daughter and other women. Being everything I am—that’s magical, and I want everyone to see it.”
We are taught that in order to make it in the corporate world, we’re resigned to code-switching and “socially acceptable” hairstyles (thank you, Crown Act, for taking care of this). But, as Bozoma shows us, that doesn’t have to be the case. You can create your own lane and find success on your own terms. You don’t have to check any part of yourself at the door when you walk into the office (or any other room).
So ask yourself, what would it look like for you to show up as your whole self in your career?
Would you wear your natural hair?
Would you boldly pursue that big passion project you’ve been dreaming of?
Would you be more vocal about the things that matter to you?
Would you redefine what the C-Suite looks like?
I challenge you to take the leap and find out because if you’re not crafting your brand, someone else is going to.