Bozoma Saint John just might be the most quotable woman on earth
The Uber CBO and marketing guru shared her secrets — and hysterical one-liners — at the espnW conference
Bozoma Saint John is a badass. She says so herself.
“There’s nothing more badass than being who you are … I am a force of nature in fierce stilettos.”
That’s just her Instagram bio (@badassboz). While she shares a piece of her life with her social media family, there is so much more to Saint John.
In June she left her job as marketing executive at Apple Music to take on the task of boosting Uber’s image. Her job as chief brand officer keeps her front and center representing black women doing big things in the tech industry.
Her resume speaks for itself. She’s so skilled in the world of marketing, branding and technology that she was heavily sought after for her successful strategies by big names such as record producer and Beats co-founder Jimmy Iovine, who recruited her to lead marketing for the company.
The Wesleyan University graduate was also head of music and entertainment marketing for PepsiCo before heading over to Beats. Beats Music was later acquired by Apple, and Saint John became head of global and consumer marketing of iTunes and Apple Music.
After she stole the show at Apple’s keynote Worldwide Developers Conference when she introduced the new interface for Apple Music, Buzzfeed called her the “coolest person to ever go on stage at an Apple event.” Saint John recently spoke at the 2017 espnW: Women + Sports Summit, where she joined Cari Champion and shared her story. She talked about her career, representing women of color in the workplace and 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 the iconic Apple Music ad featuring Mary J. Blige, Taraji P. Henson and Kerry Washington:
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 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.
Excerpts from espnW.com contributed to this story. For more of Saint John’s interview, please visit espnW here.