Executive Decisions

Defining your personal brand is just as important as defining the brand of the company you work for. In fact, in many ways, your personal brand is even more important. It makes up the way the world sees you and it's made up of the messages, morals, and values that you choose to convey. This week's feature, Tatiana Holifield-Arthur, is dedicated to ensuring that her personal brand speaks for itself, whether that's in the workplace or on LinkedIn, one of her preferred engagement platforms.

In addition to actively managing her personal brand on and offline, Tatiana has a depth and breadth of experience in the marketing space. She's held a number of positions in the media industry, including her recently-announced position as the VP/Head of Digital Strategy at Pacers Sports & Entertainment. This career move catapulted Tatiana from black entertainment/mass media aficionado to NBA executive.

Read on for details on Tatiana's experiences in media, passion for pumps, and leadership style overview.

Into the Details

Personal Title

To be honest, titles don't mean a whole lot to me, they never have. I'm kidding, but half serious, when I say "you can call me the janitor - as long as I'm getting paid, I don't care what you call me!"

On my Instagram, I do have a mix of who I aspired to be at one point in time. It says: "the drive of Oprah + the poise of Michelle Obama + the fierceness of Beyoncé."

So, I don't know what title that defines, but that's who I want to be. If someone has to write that on my tombstone, I won't be mad.

If you had to list one responsibility that comes with being an executive that junior resources might not anticipate or understand the true weight of, what would it be?

Relationship building. As you climb the corporate ladder, your responsibilities really center around managing people and not processes. At the Director level and below, you're there to manage the process and get the work done. Once you get to year 2 as a Director and above, it's really about managing people. It's about the relationships that you build both upward and downward within your team and within your organization.

When you reach that point, it's not as much about proving that you can do the job; if you reach that level, people know you can do the job. It's about showing more and more that you can manage people, that you motivate and inspire others who work with and for you, and everything else that comes with building and maintaining great, meaningful relationships.

You also need to be able to communicate with senior leaders and to have a strong executive presence that makes your colleagues trust, want to work with, and want to promote you.

If you had to choose three defining components of your personal and professional paths that led you to where you are today, what would they be and why?

The first would be mentorship. There are two mentors that have played a big role in the direction and development of my career path. While I was in college, I met the president of the local ABC station in Chicago, and she happened to be best friends with Oprah. I later received a school assignment from a professor who asked us to reach out to someone whose job you'd want, or who you aspire to be like.

I sent her an email and she responded right back. From then on, she took me in and showed me the ropes of the industry. This was not ongoing mentorship - we didn't speak every week, or even every month. But I always knew she was there if I needed advice. 15 years later, she's the president of Graham Media and she still roots for me.

Another mentor, who is now like a best friend to me, to my husband, and to a host of others who have come up in similar paths, is another person I met while I was in college. He took more of an active role in shaping my career. Despite the fact that he was a busy executive, he was the person that explained the little things about the business to me. He would show me a PowerPoint presentation he was working on or preparing to present and he would tell me what certain acronyms meant so that I could get real life training in our field.

This mentor consistently introduced me to people along the way and I consider him to be not only a valuable mentor, but also someone I consider a professional sponsor.

The last component was my realization that I am a brand, first and foremost. We often get caught up in the fact that we're working to make a living, and in doing so, we're working for other brands, but we have to remember we ARE a brand. Because I realize this, I know that I can't forget to market myself. I'm active on LinkedIn in large part because of this desire to connect and to communicate my brand. I realize the power of my brand and I want to make sure that I protect it so people get to know: what is the brand that is Tatiana Holifield?

I truly believe that people should invest as much time and effort into their personal brand as they do into other brands, including those of the companies they work for.

How would you define your leadership and/or working style?

It's structured, but it's also very fun and casual. I'm not a "sit behind the desk and dictate" kind of person, or kind of leader.

When I work with my team, it's usually in a group setting or set up so that I'm sitting right next to them working through something together. I make it a point to invite and welcome a collaborative environment. However, as I mentioned, there is still a certain level of structure I require in my working environment. Maybe it's just me being a Virgo, but I like to have things buttoned up, I like to have an agenda and a task list than can be checked off and executed on.

Most importantly, though, I believe it's extremely important to foster a respectful environment. Respect is a two-way street, right? When you're working for someone, you want to be respected, but I want my team to respect me just the same. That stems from past bosses I've had (and I hate that word, bosses) but I learned to work past those experience thanks to the words of a former Boss, who lived by the philosophy "each one teach one." That's something I instill in my work and in my leadership style today.

This mantra is important for teams. As a team member, just because you have a responsibility over a specific area, that doesn't mean you should be the only one on the team that's well-versed in that area. You're responsible for teaching rest of the team about that area, for bringing the group up to speed. God forbid anything should happen to you, but in the event that it does, from a business perspective, you want to make sure someone else can take care of that work. Even more importantly, as you get promoted and continue to develop your own skills, you need to be thinking about how you prepare those coming after you to get promoted are to ready and able to move into your previous position. It's all about helping each other..

"I truly believe that people should invest as much time and effort into their personal brand as they do into other brands, including those of the companies they work for."

What are some of the little-known facts about working in media and entertainment that have either posed a challenge for you or inspired you?

I wouldn't necessarily call this a challenge, but I would say that something people aren't aware of, or that they sleep on, is the fact that working in media and sports is very political. A lot of what we do is driven by the root off of legislative policies - I think young people in particular should be aware of that.

I used to work at BET, and if you research how BET was started, you'll find that Bob Johnson, the founder, was actually a lobbyist working in D.C. with a telecommunications group at the time. His work involved politically lobbying for cable providers and in doing so, he saw an opportunity related to television within the black community: they wanted high school games televised. He had two goals in working to put that into action: to make money and to give people of color opportunities that they wouldn't have otherwise to consume that type of media and to have that kind of representation.

Without his knowledge of policy, that channel would've never started. As you continue to work through and think about all the companies out there - Viacom, CBS, etc. - the work is still very much tied to politics. While people at every age in the industry should understand the impact politics has on media, it's even more important for young people breaking into the space to realize and pay attention to what's happening locally and nationally that would affect work in media.

"I wouldn't necessarily call this a challenge, but I would say that something people aren't aware of, or that they sleep on, is the fact that working in media and sports is very political."

To the previous point, If you or anyone else is interested in learning more about the history of BET, Professor Greg Fairchild at UVA business school wrote a case on the start of BET.

If you had to list one go-to garb item in your work wardrobe, what would it be?

Definitely shoes, I'm a shoe fanatic. That's not one specific pair of shoes, that's multiple. I like to think I'm a shoe collector, a shoe connoisseur. If my whole house could be full of them, it would be.

Favorites? That's hard; while I do love a good, expensive pair, I really just like a good pair of heels whether they're high-end or not. I just love heels; I probably own only 2-3 pairs of tennis shoes.

Want to learn more about Tatiana's work experiences? Check out her LinkedIn page!


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