Take A Chance On Someone Different. This Legendary CMO Did

cc309b76922470eb8a1645a91f3b79be-originaSee Possibilities, Not Walls
Corner of the Court is a monthly feature on MARC published in partnership with The Corner of the Court Project, recognizing stories of male allies' impact on workplace inclusion, told by women.
For more stories (or to submit your own), visit www.cornerofthecourt.com.

Dr. Oksana Malysheva. I was the most unusual fit for the marketing strategy position at Motorola.

I was later told that Geoffrey Frost—Motorola’s CMO and a man who would become my most impactful ally—was pushed to interview me, and that he very reluctantly agreed.

Everything on my analytical and science-based resume was the antithesis of what Geoffrey believed in and embodied. I was, after all, a physicist-turned-consultant, interviewing for a position in marketing.

What I remember from that interview is the most thrilling vision of how technology would become an extension of personal potential, and how Motorola would become a leader in that charge. I knew when I walked out that I must be part of this transformation. I later learned that Geoffrey had canceled his afternoon meetings, staying an extra two hours to continue interviewing me.

He wanted to have me on the team despite the striking differences in our backgrounds, so I joined an international team of rebels, comprising mostly women. We were on a mission to challenge how personal and cell phone technology was integrated into people’s lives.

Our big win was the legendary RAZR phone.

On this journey I learned a great deal from Geoffrey. Here’s a personal example of Geoffrey’s forward-thinking leadership.

Three weeks after my daughter was born, I received a phone call from Geoffrey. He immediately launched into the project he wanted me to lead and the promotion that came with it. I was excited, but honest with him about my need to be with my daughter.

His answer?

“No problem. Go home every day at 5:00. Be with your daughter. Then come back online and finish what needs to be done, and spend more time with your team in China when they wake up. It will work out great.”

He instinctively knew that with a little flexibility and autonomy, the right women could manage a baby and a promotion. No big deal.

Geoffrey is legendary in the world of advertising, and we could write a small book on everything there was to learn from him. But here are three defining lessons Geoffrey taught me in his support of working women.
  1. Take a chance on a person who shares your vision, but comes from a background dramatically different from your own.
  2. Pursue talent regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation. “Casting is not the most important thing—it is the only thing,” he used to say. Like Geoffrey, be willing to set the bar high, empower your team, and let them fly.
  3. See opportunity where other people see walls, and uncover it. Where someone else could have seen my need to leave at 5 pm as a barrier, he saw the opportunity for me to spend more time with our China team.
Geoffrey passed away on November 17, 2005, but as the managing partner of two VC funds, I still use his lessons and inspiration daily. I will always think of Geoffrey as the perfect example of a true male ally.

“The future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed,” he would often say, and he embodied it in many ways. He pushed for excellence, but in the process promoted equity and balance as he gave talented women the chance to succeed.  

Geoffrey was pivotal in shaping me as a professional. What does his example inspire in you?
Posted by MARC Catalyst on Nov 27, 2018 10:27 AM America/New_York

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