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Meet The Changemakers: a spotlight on Black marketing talent working against the odds

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By Jenni Baker | Assistant Editor

January 24, 2023 | 11 min read

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The Drum sits down with senior and emerging leaders from Microsoft, MediaCom, Archtype, Wunderman Thompson UK, OMD and more, recognized as part of ‘The Changemakers’ awards program, for insights on how they broke through industry barriers.

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Hiring managers often say that there is no Black talent pipeline – but this is a myth that perpetuates discriminatory behavior

It is no secret that there is under-representation of Black and Brown talent in media. Hiring managers often say that there is no Black talent pipeline – but this is a myth that perpetuates discriminatory behavior and stops companies looking for and nurturing Black talent.

That’s according to Perky Noah Effik, co-founder of The Black and Brilliant Advocacy Network (B&BAN), and it’s the mission of ‘The Changemakers’ – an awards program from B&BAN and Black Representation in Marketing (BRiM) – to challenge the perceived lack of Black and Brown talent ready to lead in the UK media industry. It set out to recognize and celebrate Black members of the industry not just working against the odds but doing extraordinary work in their respective fields.

The result is an inspirational list of close to 30 leaders in two categories – emerging and senior – who have been named ‘The Changemakers’ winners. Here, we speak to a select few of the winners for a top piece of career advice they would give their younger self to inspire others in a similar position.

Emerging Leaders

Merci Abel

‘Embrace your intersections’ - Mercy Abel, communities manager at John Doe Group, podcast creator & host

“Learn to embrace your intersections from the jump as you will quickly learn that what makes you, you, is fairly unique. I am often the only East African, Scottish, gen Z, Black woman voice in the spaces I find myself in, which is proving to be of great value. When sharing my opinion through the lens of lived experience I’m able to broaden perspectives and creative thinking. I’d advise young talent, especially, to be less hesitant in tapping into your potential and sharing your perspective as we are the future that the world needs to hear from.”

Lucy Daramola

‘Don’t let your ego take over’ - Lucy Daramola, client partner lead at Microsoft

“It’s quite complex when you put it into practice, but always be humble. Your ego should never take over. Always be open to explore new opportunities, and continually learn. If there’s an opportunity to learn something new, go through it and continue to be a perpetual learner – even if you’re already at the top of your game.”

Bonita Samuels

‘Do everything with intention’ - Bonita Samuels, senior associate director, creative systems lead at MediaCom

“Do everything with intention. When you know what you want to do, it is important to be intentional to ensure you are constantly working towards achieving your goals. For others like me, we often find ourselves feeling grateful for just being in the room and it means we don’t go for what we want. For anyone in a similar position and working towards a goal, it’s important to be intentional with everything you do day-to-day which will help you achieve that goal and that includes NOT going with the flow and not expecting things to just fall into place. Use your connections, build new ones and don’t be afraid to ask questions – even if it means rocking the boat.”

Josh Akapo

‘Create your own opportunities’ - Josh Akapo, co-founder & head of strategy at Archtype

“We all have an opportunity to support young people who are trying to push creativity forward in whichever way they can, and with us. Don’t think about things too much and enjoy life a little bit more. Waking up now doing my own business and being busy and go go go creatively is the stuff that people dream of but we don’t get that time back. A lot of us in the creative industry just fall into what we do – so make sure to enjoy those times fondly.”

Rianna Woods

‘Excel on your own journey’ - Rianna Woods, art director, Wunderman Thompson UK

“Don’t put so much pressure on yourself obsessing over your future and planning it out – because it doesn’t work like that. And don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Everyone is on their own journey and the people that you think are going to excel, let them move past you – and that’s fine because you’re going to do your own thing and that’s going to be great for you.”

Emerging Leaders

Emerging Leaders Changemaker Winners - Left to right: A Emejulu, B Hamilton, C Harrigan, C Grant, D Maruma, K Dada, L Freckleton, L Sumbwanyambe, N Smith, R Chin-You

Senior Leaders

Deborah Womack

‘Carve out a space for yourself’ - Deborah Womack, partner, marketing transformation lead financial services, EY

“It’s very difficult to map your ambition into an industry when you don't see people that look like you at all levels. To build a career in marketing, you need to build good working relationships with people. And that's the key. I've looked to people to give me nuggets of information as I've gone along. Enjoy the journey and the struggles. I was so concerned about getting ahead and making sure I made the right decisions that I forgot to enjoy the process of getting to where I am now. Take a moment to stand back and recognize all the little achievements. It’s not just about the job titles and the salary, don’t be in a hurry to get somewhere. Don’t forget to smell the roses along the way.”

Yaw Owusu

‘Back yourself and your vision’ - Yaw Owusu, creative consultant

“Listen to what really fuels you; you’ve got a vision, you’ve got a feeling of what your interests are, what and how you can contribute. Lean into that and the rest will work itself out. Be able to listen and learn, but also feel steadfast in what you’re doing.”

Louis Persent

‘Don’t be afraid to give it a go’ - Louis Persent, creative director & co-founder at Weirdo

“Stop and think about things that you feel apprehensive about or the reasons why you don’t fit in and turn that into an advantage. As a teenager, I was really hung up on being different from other people and trying my best to fit in. The older I get, the more confident I am in who I am. Respect yourself and your roots and don’t try and smooth out the bumpy or weird bits about your character or the things that make you unique. Embrace who you are and get moving quickly – don't waste years worrying about that stuff. It’s just not worth it.”

Annika Allen

‘Don’t just climb the ladder, be the ladder’ - Annika Allen, head of DE&I at All3Media & co-founder of the Black Magic Awards

“Be bold, strategic and forward thinking with your vision for the future. Brush up on your ability to implement and persuade people because you'll need it. Build relationships to hear about the opportunities that aren’t advertised. Your network is your net worth and will help people along the way if they know the importance of that and cultivating these relationships. Don't be afraid to ask for help. If you have tried your best and you’re either culturally or professionally in a place where it’s not a good fit for you, then move on and go somewhere else where you’re valued. Always remember that you have a responsibility to give as well as get. Think about what you can do to support others. Don't just climb the ladder, be the ladder.”

Tobi Asare

‘Be relentless in your acquisition of knowledge’ - Tobi Asare, business development director at OMD UK

“Careers are not linear. There’s no such thing as a career ladder. If anything, there are so many beautiful, wonderful twists and turns in your career and in every single twist and turn that might take you forward. It might take you backwards, it might take you sideways but there is something to learn. There are wonderful relationships that you can make that will always come to bear as you grow your career. As your career takes different turns, don’t be afraid to vocalize and share your ambitions and use those relationships to benefit yourself, but also give back to others.”

Senior Leaders

Senior Leaders Changemaker Winners - Left to right; A Gordon, D Williams, G Anyanwu, N Smith, S Owusu, S Walker, S Anibaba, Y Battell

To learn more about The Changemakers Awards and for a full list of winners in both the emerging and senior leaders’ category, click here for part one of this series.

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BRiM

BRiM is a cross-industry effort to create long-lasting change when it comes to Black representation in marketing. It is steered by senior leaders from a number of top brands and agencies, along with Black leaders, DEI experts and the UK Advertising Association. It focuses on moving all marketers from good intentions to meaningful actions, giving them the tools and scalable initiatives to do so.

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