Amidst the influential figures shaping global industries, Bozoma Saint John emerges as a distinct beacon of leadership and authenticity. Her illustrious career, marked by pivotal roles at Netflix, Uber, Apple Music, and PepsiCo, not only showcases her professional prowess but has also earned her the distinction of inspiring a Harvard Business School case study titled "Leading with Authenticity and Urgency." Beyond the realms of professional achievement, Bozoma stands as a catalyst for positive change, investing her time and expertise to contribute meaningfully to causes that resonate deeply with her.
In a conversation with 1000 Spotlights, Bozoma shares her steadfast commitment to reshaping perceptions of Africa. Read her story.
What drives you to give back?
Over the last 7 years I have done a lot of pro bono marketing work in Ghana to elevate the consciousness of what the continent has to offer to those who don't live in Africa. As a part of that work I wrote the marketing strategy for The Year of Return which was an extension of the President of Ghana's 2017 United Nations General Assembly address which declared 2019 as The Year of Return for all people of African descent in the diaspora. The strategy included events and activities to elevate music, fashion, sports, food, night life, and history. It ranged from celebrating festivals to highlighting restaurants and inviting influencers with big platforms to come to Ghana between Christmas and the new year, (which is one of the most festive times of the year) to join in the revelry.
I do this work for the 12 year old me who immigrated to the United States and had to battle the demeaning stereotypes of Africa and Africans. So giving back means that I use my professional acumen to change perception.
What is one industry book that a newcomer must read?
The Artist Way by Julia Cameron because everyone regardless of their industry is an artist. We are in constant creation of ideas, strategies, plans and results. So if you want to unlock your best creativity, that's the best book to read.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
I’ve always been right in my intuition. Therefore I am the one who knows what's best for my life, career and my future.
Do you have a favorite quote?
'I don't want to get to the end of my life and find that I have just lived the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well.'
-- Diane Ackerman
What is one thing that inspires you?
Not a what, but a who. That is my 80 year old self, because I want her to be proud of the person that I am today.
What is your proudest accomplishment?
My proudest accomplishment is my daughter Lael, because even though I take very little credit for the human that she is. If she wasnt my daughter I would still want to be her friend. She’s that cool!
How did you end up where you are today?
Read my book, The Urgent Life: My story of Love, Loss and Survival
Bozoma's memoir, The Urgent Life was published in 2023. Her work has been lauded and awarded with notable recognition including (but not limited to) induction into the American Advertising Federation Hall of Achievement (2014), induction into Billboard’s Women in Music Hall of Fame (2018), induction into the Marketing Hall of Fame (2022); and has been included in Fast Company’s Most Creative People (2013), The Hollywood Reporter’s Women in Entertainment Power 100 list (2018) and crowned as The World's Most Influential CMO by Forbes (2021). Boz's successful online tutorials “The Badass Workshop” teach others to be their greatest selves. But by far her greatest achievement is in raising her 14 year old daughter, Lael.
Find her at @badassboz on ALL Socials!
1000 Spotlights: Why We Give reflects our mission of giving back, to mentor and to inspire those around us. Through a series of interview questions, we explore intrinsic motivations behind why we give, and talk with those inclined to make a difference in the lives of others. If you are involved in charitable activities, volunteer and paid academic engagements or in community service, we want to talk to you.
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