Our favorite Bozoma Saint John quotes from the espnW: Women + Sports Summit
NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. -- Bozoma Saint John, Uber's chief brand officer, joined Cari Champion at the espnW: Women + Sports Summit to talk about her career, which has landed her at Pepsi, Beats Electronics and Apple (where she was head of global and consumer marketing for iTunes and Apple Music), about representing women and women of color in the workplace, and about being your most authentic self. Here are some of our favorite quotes from their conversation:
"Nobody knew what in the hell we were doing. Everybody's making it up. It's called 'innovation': That's the fancy word for 'making s--- up.'"
"Part of innovation is, fake it until you make it. Keep trying things, but it's not just the random trying. I got receipts. I know what in the hell I really am doing. ... It was partly taking things that I know, and then applying it to things that I didn't know, and creating something new, some new magic. And having faith that this new recipe was gonna work. And not being afraid that there were some dips. That you can continue iterating on the idea."
On taking a risk with an Apple Music ad:
"The message is always try to get to the widest audience. ... As we know, there are 'niche' audiences who also need attention -- I mean, it's music, right? It's like a universal truth."
"You don't need to be black in order to feel that moment [in the ad]. You're with your friends -- with Phil Collins! Air drums! We've all been there. You don't need to be a black woman in order to understand that moment. And that's the gamble, is that's the universal truth: We're human first."
On women not existing in a monolith:
"We have abilities to do more than one thing. We're complex human beings. I can wear a leather dress and still have an 8-year-old and wipe up the eggs that are on her face. Because we do it all, absolutely."
On the media coverage of her 2016 Apple Worldwide Developers Conference address:
"To me the response was a surprise because, well, this is just what I do. But also, it highlighted the fact that there's just not enough of us in front. And the fact that that was surprising, that that was newsworthy, just pointed to the fact that we just need more, so it's not news. So that it doesn't make a difference when you see this person that doesn't look like anybody else in the room walk on and do a good job. That should not be surprising."
On representing an underrepresented demographic:
"The weight of making sure that you don't do anything wrong so that others can follow you. Holding the door open, and it is heavy. It is heavy. It's heavy because it's burden. It's heavy because of the expectation. It's heavy because you can't slip. You can never let the door flip. And if you do, it will shut tight. And then you'll be outside, and everyone else will be inside."
On being one of the few women of color in tech:
"I find it really difficult to maneuver, because sometimes the things that are given freely, the assumptions that are made when you're not a black woman -- the assumption that, 'Oh yeah, you got it. You've done this before.' Then you have to prove again and again and again that you actually do know it, that you've done it, it's hard not to be mad about it."
On doing the work when no one in the room looks like you:
"I curse at home first. And then I go in calmly, [wearing] some kind of bright color to distract. 'If you want a show, I'll give you a show.' And then you bring all the receipts and you bring the work. At the end of the day, you have to bring all of the work -- the work that you've done that's more in-depth, tighter, more brilliant than anybody else can bring. Because that's the only way to ensure that you actually get the next shot, and the next chance."
On why she left Apple for Uber:
"First of all, let's count the black women in C-suite positions in Silicon Valley. Do you know any? So an opportunity comes -- I must take it. I must take it. Because first of all, I do have something to prove. I have to hold the door."
On joining a company in as much turmoil as Uber:
"If this is the problem child, and we're shining the spotlight on this problem child, once we fix that, then there's no excuse for anybody else. That's the greater mission."
On whether she's dealt with imposter syndrome:
"It's not even about the stretch, because I do believe we should take jobs that stretch us and grow us. But I know that, even though I may not have the experience yet, I am capable of leaning and stretching and getting there and then doing the work. I'm no longer arrogant about it -- I realize where the gaps are, and I work really hard to fill the gaps."
On being competitive:
"I am very competitive -- with myself and everybody else. I'm petty, too. Don't get it twisted. I do things just so I can beat yo' ass. I'm always trying to do things better than I've done them before, do them faster than I've done them before."
On being told to dress and act more professionally:
"These expectations about what we're supposed to look like and what we're supposed to be -- my cleavage about to be out every day this week. Because you're gonna get used to it. ... You know what, the heels are just gonna get higher. Because I want you to be comfortable with it. This shouldn't look like an anomaly."
"Bring your whole self to the experience. Because the more we do that, the more that people get to see that, the more comfortable everybody's gonna be with it."