We all know that there are many roads to success: curved, bent, octagonal…you get it. Rarely straight.

With that in mind, last week, our very own Jennifer Swint, together with Ketchum’s Partner and President Barri Rafferty and Fleishman’s General Counsel, Senior VP and Senior Partner, Ruth Kim gathered to share their best tips on advancing your career with an ultimate focus on the C-suite. The panel, dubbed “Mastering Political Savvy to Get to the C-Suite” took place at ColorComm, the premiere conference for women of color in the communications industry. It was beautifully moderated by another one of our own Beverly Durham, a ColorComm honoree and SVP at Porter Novelli Los Angeles.

ColorComm welcomes 400 communications industry professionals, largely women of color, to engage with each other across levels, develop relationships and foster leadership in an industry where we are largely underrepresented. As part of the conference, we had the opportunity to engage in 3 days of discussion around money management, transitioning careers, developing our personal brands and much more – via a series of networking events such as luncheons, panels, keynote speeches, Q&A sessions and an award ceremony.

The breakfast panel with our Omnicom sisters concluded a week of conference activities and positively underscored key learnings throughout the week. This was evidenced as women around the room feverishly took notes amid many an audible “aha!”  as Swint, Rafferty and Kim shared their best insights and career reflections on what it takes to make it to the highest levels of management.

Below are some highlights:

“I was able to listen to those moments” says Swint of those key times when you have an opportunity to sink or swim. For her, these occurred when she was asked to dive into a new challenge.Her willingness to discover unchartered territories paid off via an accelerated career path that included major promotions and opportunities to grow her skill set.

A personal favorite takeaway from Swint was, “If it’s in your head it’s worth saying.” We all know those times we are too scared to speak up because we think our ideas are silly or unfounded. And often, we find these are the ideas that someone else raises their hand to share, then gets the credit. Regret kicks in as we wish we spoke up sooner. Swint urges us to voice the ideas that sound weird in our heads, since they can shift narratives and make a great impact. She reminds us to be confident that our ideas are valuable.

Rafferty similarly holds us all to our highest potential. She lives by “it’s better to be trusted than to be liked.” Honesty and transparency are critical in her world, and as someone who often doles out the “no’s” we all dread in business, she finds herself regularly revisiting this mantra, approaching every decision she makes with integrity. Her career differentiator has been evaluating every situation from an actual business value perspective, setting emotions aside to ensure she constantly prioritizes business-advancing objectives. She laments that this is often harder for women to do than men. And while “no” often hurts, it’s important glean learnings from rejection (they exist there, she promises!) and avoid defensiveness.

Finally, Kim reminds us to pick our battles. In her case, dealing with a culturally insensitive stakeholder encouraged her to practice discretion and patience. In Kim’s situation, she chose to carefully navigate a tricky situation with someone who disrespected her by tactfully addressing the issue in a professional setting, but not lashing out. Kim will tell you timing is everything.

Overall, we learned and were encouraged to be confident yet discerning, balanced yet nimble and flexible. These traits allow us to seize those moments and make leaps and bounds in our careers. Onward and upward, ladies!


Right to left: Beverly Durham (Porter Novelli), Barri Rafferty (Ketchum), Jennifer Swint (Porter Novelli), Ruth Kim (Fleishman Hillard)

To learn more about ColorComm and the rest of the program, visit: http://www.colorcommnetwork.com/