African-American jobs | Jobs for black professionals, from companies that value diversity

Interview: Vice President of Marketing and Sales

Have you ever considered a career in sales and marketing? In this interview, a Vice President of Marketing and Sales for a healthcare insurer shares how she has used her determination and political savvy to work her way to the top of her company. She explains how being a double minority has not held her back because of her proven track record and professional focus.

Q: What is your job title and what industry do you work in? How many years of experience do you have in this field? How would you describe yourself using only three adjectives?

A: I am the Vice President of Marketing and Sales in the healthcare insurance industry. I have over ten years experience in this industry, and consider myself politically savvy, creative, and intuitive.

Q: What’s your ethnicity and gender? How has it hurt or helped you? If you ever experienced discrimination, how have you responded and what worked best?

A: I am an African American female in an industry that is very supportive of females, though we are not equally represented in senior level positions. Being a double minority has not been a hindrance in my career, because my success is easily documented by growth numbers. However, African Americans in senior level positions are more scarce than females. Discrimination will always exist in the work world, just like in real life. African American females must always keep their focus on their career and watch their backs. This is done by creating allies and carefully monitoring the social and political climate of the workplace. When discrimination rears its head, keeping calm but remaining definitive and firm about how these situations should be handled is very important. Win through intelligence and not emotion.

Q: How would you describe what you do? What does your work entail? Are there any common misunderstandings you want to correct about what you do?

A: My job is to ensure company growth through membership and client retention. This is where my strong intuitive and creative abilities play an important role, as it is critical to have a finger on the pulse of the industry, economy and competition at all times. Creating marketing plans and campaigns requires knowing what aspects of the product appeals to various generational groups, and then capitalizing on that. An important aspect of the job is to be out meeting with various groups and constituents to develop a strong understanding of how to satisfy their needs. Inspiring trust will gain the community’s endorsement, which means sometimes being a chameleon. It often means meeting with groups whose ideology does not match yours, but you carry on anyway. Most people have a good understanding of the position responsibilities, but the misunderstanding I would like to correct is that yes, senior management does know what they are doing!

Q: On a scale of 1 to 10 how would you rate your job satisfaction? What might need to change about your job to unleash your full enthusiasm?

A: I love my job, so I would rate job satisfaction at an eight. I am lucky as I have a lot of freedom to do my job, and am not tied to a desk all day long. As a hands-on manager, I support my staff by being visible in the community in my role as an advocate for healthcare. Being a true marketer, my only complaint is paperwork and rules, which all companies must have, but which I hate to do. Luckily I have the kind of boss that understands that. A person can only be that kind of rule-breaker if they show their value to an organization. I completely followed the rules on my way to the top.

Q: If this job moves your heart – how so? Ever feel like you found your calling or sweet spot in life? If not, what might do it for you?

A: My job is rewarding, but not the sweet spot. My heart’s desire would be to run my own business development company, as I am an entrepreneur at heart.

Q: Is there anything unique about your situation that readers should know when considering your experiences or accomplishments?

A: Success requires work. More importantly, it requires giving your boss what they want, even when you think it should be something different. As an African American female, playing the game is important. Not selling out; but understanding that nine-to-five means just that. It does not define who you are. Once you get to a high level position sometimes it is easier to show your real personality, as long as it is not offensive.

Q: How did you get started in this line of work? If you could go back and do it differently, what would you change?

A: Though I hated sales, I found I was very good at it since I am extremely persuasive. I am not sure I would change things, as it has been financially rewarding to me.

Q: What did you learn the hard way in this job and what happened specifically that led up to this lesson?

A: I learned the hard way that the work world really does not care about your personal life. As a divorced, single parent, I had to juggle long work hours and family life and not let that enter into my work life. It was important to keep those things separate at all times.

Q: What is the single most important thing you have learned outside of school about the working world?

A: It’s not what you know, but who you know. The most intelligent people do not always get to the top, but the most politically savvy ones do.

Q: What’s the strangest thing that ever happened to you in this job?

A: In this industry, people come and go quite often. It is always interesting to come in the office each day and see who has survived to live another day.

Q: Why do you get up and go to work each day? Can you give an example of something that really made you feel good or proud?

A: I go to work each day ready for new challenges. But it feels good when someone at a company tells me that they were treated very well by my insurance company and they feel good about the decision to join.

Q: What kind of challenges do you handle and what makes you want to just quit?

A: Managing people is not easy at all. It surprised me how many people just want to be average in the work world, instead of pushing their full potential for success.

Q: How stressful is your job? Are you able to maintain a comfortable or healthy work-life balance? How?

A: While many might find my job stressful, I do not. I probably do not have the best work-life balance because I work many weekends and have been called a workaholic, but it is O.K. for me for now. My plans are to retire young and start my own business, and this job will allow me to do that.

Q: What’s a rough salary range for the position you hold? Are you paid enough and/or happy living within your means?

A: Salary range is low six figures, and that is enough for me to live comfortably plus save the majority of my income.

Q: How much vacation do you take? Is it enough?

A: I may take two weeks total a year. But I am focused on a bigger picture.

Q: What education and skills do you need to get hired and succeed in this field?

A: A Master’s degree in business administration, marketing or finance is beneficial.

Q: What would you tell a friend considering your line of work?

A: Work hard and be visible within the company. Take on extra responsibilities as you are climbing the ladder. Ask your boss if you can assist him or her on projects. Use your gender and ethnicity wisely; it can work well for you.

Q: If you could write your own ticket, what would you like to be doing in five years?

A: Lying on the beach in Belize because I have invested well.