Overcoming hardship, self doubt, and life threatening illness – Unstuck in October

October was motivation month on the Unstuck podcast. We were introduced to three marketing leaders that overcame unique challenges to secure their positions. Our guests faced many career hurdles but their individual hardships were tougher. These adversities arrived in the form of relationship stresses, poverty, and life-threatening illness. Work management also featured as we heard about workplace solutions and collaboration. Although it wasn’t always straightforward, our inspiring guests managed to build incredible careers in marketing and leadership. Here is a summary of the topics that shaped the Unstuck podcast in October!

The Productivity Triangle

Craig Robinson – Chief Growth Officer at Industrious

It could be argued that our first guest in October accomplished a great feat by earning a degree and securing a professional job. Growing up in a very disadvantaged Atlanta neighbourhood, it was unlikely that Craig Robinson would be able to break out of societal chains. He is now a Chief Growth Officer and Executive Board member that holds an MIT degree and an MBA from Harvard. So how did this Atlanta kid make it to the top of the real estate career ladder? Craig insists he would never have made it without generous support and guidance throughout his life. Teachers, neighbours, and coaches all went the extra yard to give him every chance of succeeding. He never forgot those who helped him and where he came from. As a result, he’s always happy to help others fulfil their goals so that they can have the same opportunity he did.

Nowadays, Craig is the Chief Growth Officer at Industrious. In this role, he is aiming to make the workplace evolve in line with human needs and corporate objectives. He describes workplace management as ‘not about space, it’s about place’. In this episode, the Harvard graduate provides valuable career guidance and work management tips for all listeners. This includes insights and useful commentary on building successful work environments, supportive work technology, and the three elements of human fulfilment!

Unstuck EP30 - Social - Quote 3 - Craig Robinson

Defining a Win

Denise Karkos – Chief Marketing Officer at SiriusXM

Our second guest in October would not usually be happy with that position . A born winner, Denise Karkos established her career objective in her early 20s. She wanted to become a Chief Marketing Officer and all roads ought to lead to that destination. Before rapidly climbing the career ladder, Denise made her mark on the soccer pitch. She captained The University of Notre Dame’s D1 soccer team and was a fierce leader that led by example. The skipper was ‘always looking for another win’ and this mantra has remained with her throughout her career.

After graduating from Notre Dame, Denise brought her champion skills into the agency world. Unsurprisingly, she climbed the ranks quickly. She progressed from Assistant Media Buyer to Media Buyer and then onto Media Supervisor. Driven by ambition she reveals ‘those promotions felt amazing’. Denise always wanted the top job though and set her sights on a Media Director position. Once she achieved this goal, she had a reflective moment. She wondered where she was going and whether this direction was what she truly wanted. At this point, Denise knew she loved managing people and wanted the best marketing job in that area. It was time to hunt that CMO job again!

Denise is now the CMO of SiriusXM and it’s been a wild ride to get there. Denise often had to change her personal approach to reach this point in her career. Personality conflicts with bosses set her back earlier in her career but she earned valuable experience in these moments too. Striving to win is a big part of her management ethos now. She incorporates her Notre Dame experience by continuously defining wins for her team. “What I do for my team is define what a win looks like – whether it’s an event, a campaign, a meeting – what does success look like?” Listen to Denise describe her impressive journey below and find out what makes a great CMO!

Strength in Vulnerability

Gina Jacobson – Chief Growth Officer at Starcom Worldwide

Our final guest of October set the tone early in this intimate conversation “I spent the last four years engaged in the brutal reality of stripping away the person I once tried to be, revealing at last who I really am”. Gina Jacobson spent her life displaying a strong exterior while trying to continually impress others. She wasn’t ready to show vulnerability when she found out she had stage 4 cancer during a bleak doctor’s appointment. Although this news was shocking, Gina returned to a highly demanding role and continued to lead her team. In her own words she ‘feared losing her work identity more than losing her life’.

She quickly found out that she couldn’t pretend everything was normal. The Starcom Worldwide Chief Growth Officer was not able to manage the workload she carried before her diagnosis. She was compelled to finally show vulnerability to her co-workers. This was an incredibly difficult experience for her, but it forged strong intimate connections with her team. It has been a daunting journey for Gina, but she has kept the show on the road and continues to lead the renowned broadcast company today.

In this episode, Gina bravely shares insight into her cancer journey to date. She explains how she was forced to find new ways to live and work. In addition to revealing deeply personal experiences, Gina provides invaluable advice to listeners on how to support a co-worker that is unwell. She beat the odds and the doctor’s diagnosis to be here today and we’re very grateful she has put aside time for us.

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Wolff Olins to supercharge agency operations with Screendragon!

Wolff Olins is a renowned British advertising agency that has been in operation since 1965. Through offices in London, New York City and San Francisco it employs more than 150 people. Screendragon is delighted to welcome an agency of Wolff Olin’s calibre to our illustrious list of agency clients.

The Wolf Olins team will utlilise Screendragon’s agency management software to service key clients, optimize resources, manage costings, and collaborate internally and with clients. You can see some of Wolff Olin’s great work here!

One Dark Night, Second Chances, and Three-Part Narratives – Unstuck in September

September is a month which produces lively colours through its magnificent foliage. In the spirit of the season we had our most vibrant mix of guests on the Unstuck podcast. Two of our guests spent several years in the advertising world and used their experience to shape new careers. We had our first repeat guests that came back to tell us the true story behind their food enterprise. Their motto “everybody has a seat at their table” is deep and genuine. It pulls people up off the ground and offers hope and renewal. Fittingly, it was the capacity to offer redemption which gave one of our September guests a second chance at life. This is a story that will truly stop you in your tracks.

The Three-Part Narrative

Jon Suarez Davis – SVP, Marketing Strategy & Innovation at Salesforce

More commonly known by his three initials, Jon Suarez Davis tells his story as a “three-part narrative”. Having viewed the business world from “three distinct positions”, JSD has experienced life as a creator, a client, and a corporation. He began his career in advertising at the famous Ogilvy & Mather network. JSD describes his time in the advertising world as the “best training ground” for a young marketer. He got to experience life from a creator’s perspective and learned how the greatest advertisements are born and made.

JSD spent 15 years in the advertising industry, putting down roots in five different agencies. After leaving Leo Burnett in 2009, JSD jumped the fence into the corporate world. He took a senior role at the Kellogg Company where he led digital strategy. This was a “hybrid role” according to JSD. He was still working closely with agencies – existing somewhere between the agency realm and the corporate world. He finally loosened his grip on the agency space when he earned a Senior Vice President position at Salesforce through acquisition.

The Salesforce SVP believes little actions can lead to major improvements as “you only need to move the dial slightly to make huge improvements”. In this episode, he also discusses how AI and machine learning will have “life changing effects” as companies break down cultural, geographical, and other barriers. Tune in below to hear more from the impressive Jon Suarez Davis!

Vietnam Five

Tuan Huynh – Founder at VietFive Coffee & Activist

In truth, we could have dedicated a series to telling the story of Tuan Huynh. A feature from Chicago Magazine described it as “a story about the sustained sustainability of an individual who in truth none of you are supposed to be reading about. Recidivism interrupted.” This sets the tone for an extraordinary conversation between Tuan and our host Clive.

He recalls his childhood in war-ravaged Vietnam where Tuan’s family were on the run from a despot government. Following the fall of Saigon, the family were displaced to the central highlands of Vietnam where they began producing coffee. He wasn’t aware of it then, but the coffee farms and the pervasive hostility would both play significant roles in what was to come. Tuan’s family eventually escaped Vietnam and made it to the United States. Their arrival and assimilation were far from an American dream. The only people that welcomed him to the US were the refugee gangs looking for new recruits. On his 18th birthday Tuan made a decision that would change many lives. Words prove inadequate in describing these events, so we recommend you listen to Tuan and hear his account first-hand.

Once you’ve heard this chapter of Tuan’s life you will assume it effectively ended there. It’s remarkable that we can now reintroduce Tuan as a hugely successful Creative Director. His Chicago creative career included successful stints at Leo Burnett, Naomi Burnett, and a creative consultancy. He now runs his own coffee shop, VietFive, which stocks Robusta beans from his family farm in Vietnam. It a space to enjoy an espresso while meeting creative folk and building connections. When not making coffee, Tuan is often found driving initiatives for Chicago Peace. He is now guiding the youth of Chicago down a different path. He knows better than anyone what can happen when the darkness takes hold.

A Seat for Everybody!

Trish Thomas and Nichole Wilson – Co-Founders, Every Body Eat®

Unstuck regulars will remember that we met Trish Thomas and Nichole Wilson before. On episode 9, we heard about their growing healthy snack company Every Body Eat®. They have made great strides since then as they secured nationwide distribution with Sprout and are now stocked in Whole Foods across the entire mid-west! Trish and Nichole are back to tell us about their recent success and the value they’ve found in event marketing. If you truly believe in your product, then a sample or trial can quickly create customers!

Our host Clive reveals that the main reason Trish and Nichole were asked back was not to discuss business. In between the meat and bones of the previous podcast with the pair, the true story behind Every Body Eat somehow went unheard. The company’s goal is to “bring people together over a shared love of delicious food”. Their mission sounds similar but has a far deeper meaning. “Everybody has a seat the table means everybody” says Nichole. “At Every Body Eat, your past does not dictate your future with us”.

In a fitting follow up to episode 28, we hear about how Trish and Nichole are providing career opportunities for people who usually don’t get them. Every Body Eat finds new team members in disinvested neighbourhoods, the criminal justice system, and traumatic living environments. In tackling ‘privilege by proxy’, the pair provide extensive support to their co-workers. This includes budgeting advice, credit references, or general advice on loans and finance. It’s no wonder that Trish and Nichole are idolised by their team. Retention rates at Every Body Eat are proof of this. Listen below to hear how one company can transform a community.