THE SE­NIOR EXEC WHO REDEFINES WHA T BE­ING A BOSS REALL Y IS

ELLE (Canada) - - Self- Love - VANESSA CRAFT

Bo­zoma Saint John is used to heads turn­ing when she en­ters a room. The chief brand of­fi­cer for Uber is five foot 11 (not count­ing her trade­mark sky-high stilet­tos), and her of­ficewear is typ­i­cally made up of bright colours, se­quins or metallics in­stead of the but­ton-down shirts and chi­nos of­ten seen in Sil­i­con Val­ley, where she works.

The 40-year-old pow­er­house is a whirl­wind of con­fi­dent en­ergy (or, as she says, “I’m bad as hell!”), but she got to the top by be­ing as brainy, busi­ness-minded and tena­cious as she is stylish. “Don’t be fooled by the glit­ter,” she warns. “I’m not Bey­oncé! I lit­er­ally and fig­u­ra­tively did not wake up like this. It took a lot of work—not just the hair and makeup but the at­ti­tude.”

From “day one,” Saint John was of­ten the only black woman in the room—start­ing at the age of 12, when her fam­ily moved to Colorado from Ghana, to dur­ing her pro­fes­sional ex­pe­ri­ence as a se­nior-level ex­ec­u­tive. Her in­abil­ity to blend into the back­ground re­quired Saint John to de­velop strate­gic sur­vival tac­tics. “There are only two ways to go in th­ese types of sit­u­a­tions,” she says at Uber’s of­fices in Toronto. “Ei­ther you are re­silient and you shine or you shut­ter your­self in [and close down].” How did she man- age to get into the right mind­set? “It’s re­ally tough to be ‘one and only’ or one of just a few, but the beauty is in cel­e­brat­ing that dif­fer­ence. I’m now in a po­si­tion where I’m com­fort­able enough in my own skin to stand out and be okay and un­der­stand the du­al­ity of liv­ing as my­self: What peo­ple see when they look at me is not al­ways what I think they see. It’s their own bi­ases or bat­tles they are bring­ing along.” Prior to join­ing Uber in June 2017, Saint John was head of mar­ket­ing at Ap­ple Mu­sic and be­fore that ran the mu­sic and en­ter­tain­ment mar­ket­ing group at Pepsi. (She may not be Bey­oncé, but she is the woman re­spon­si­ble for get­ting the Texan su­per­star to per­form at the Su­per­bowl for the first time.) Saint John’s role at Uber, a com­pany strug­gling with divers­ity and a toxic bro-code en­vi­ron­ment, is fo­cused on not only chang­ing the per­cep­tion and rep­u­ta­tion of the brand ex­ter­nally but also be­ing a ma­jor change maker for the com­pany cul­ture in­ter­nally. It was a move that many close to her weren’t sure was the right one, but she says tak­ing risks isn’t some­thing she fears. “Risk is the essence of any re­ward—to try the thing that no one else is will­ing to try,” she says, adding that she strongly be­lieves that Uber is gen­uinely in­vested in evolv­ing as a com­pany. “If I didn’t feel there was a de­sire to change [the cul­ture], I wouldn’t be here.”

Saint John knows that the key to flour­ish­ing both per­son­ally and pro­fes­sion­ally is re­silience. (Her hus­band passed away in De­cem­ber 2013 from Burkitt’s lym­phoma, and she is rais­ing their daugh­ter on her own.) A strong sense of self-be­lief and a very sup­port­ive, pos­i­tive in­ter­nal di­a­logue are also im­por­tant. “Know­ing how to en­cour­age your­self when oth­ers don’t ap­pre­ci­ate what you’re bring­ing—that is what’s go­ing to sus­tain you when times aren’t easy,” she says. “In fact, that’s when it’s even more im­por­tant to say ‘I have great ideas; I’m an amaz­ing per­son.’ Be un­apolo­getic about it. The les­son I learned a long time ago is that no one else is go­ing to cel­e­brate me—I have to cel­e­brate my­self. Now, it’s a habit.”

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