Pivotal Woman – Tamara Franklin, Vice-President, Media Entertainment and Industry Solutions – North America – IBM

A native of New Jersey, Tamara Franklin served as Vice President and Chief Digital Officer for North American through 2018 and was recently named Vice President, Media & Entertainment, Industry Solutions.

Prior to that she was Executive Vice President of Digital at Scripps Networks Interactive (HGTV, Food Network, Travel Channel) where she oversaw the company’s digital business units to coordinate overall strategy and activity, focusing on an integrated company-wide approach to digital video production and distribution. ‘

Franklin has also contributed to the success of Turner Broadcasting Systems, Motorola, Bain & Company and Knight-Ridder Newspapers.

Tamara has been recognized as one of Multichannel News’ “Wonder Women,” one of Cynopsis Media’s “Most Intriguing People”, one of Savoy Magazine’s “Most Influential Women in Corporate America”, and one of Black Enterprise’s “Most Powerful Women in Corporate America”.

 Tamara earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Yale University and an MBA from Harvard University.

 

On the obstacles she has had to face as a woman of color in corporate America:

One obstacle that immediately comes to mind is the need to prove that you are competent!

It doesn’t matter what your accomplishments are, some people feel that you don’t belong there and oftentimes the people who feel that way have credentials that don’t come close to yours, but they still wonder why you have a seat in the room.  Some of my white counterparts are assumed competent until proven otherwise.  Sometimes when they are proven otherwise, they somehow still manage to land on their feet!

This type of thing wears on you.  It’s saps all your energy and it also degrades your confidence.  We as women of color have to be mindful of these things and not let them break us down.  It is important to stay surrounded by people who remind us of our worth.

One of the most destructive obstacles is lack of sponsorship.  Unless women of color have legitimate sponsorship from a person who is willing to advocate for us in rooms where we are not in, it will be hard for us to take chances in corporate America.  We

won’t be given those challenging break out assignments that put us on another level as far as optics with senior level executives.

Oftentimes, our white counterparts have sponsors who can talk them up in meetings and make excuses for their shortcomings.  Unfortunately, we don’t get that benefit.  They will bring up something we did wrong 20 years ago and attach it to our work history and conveniently bring it up when anyone mentions our name.  We have to be aware that this is happening daily.

It’s hard for women of color to have sponsors because there is a tendency to seek out people who look like themselves.  I would encourage them to seek out people who on the surface may not look like them, but where there may be some underlying commonalities that you can draw from.  Find ways to connect so you can get the sponsorship because they won’t naturally see themselves in you.

 

On how IBM has supported her through her professional development:

IBM has certainly supported my professional development in many ways, and I will get to that shortly, but I want to remind women of color that we shouldn’t rely on our respective companies for our professional development.  We need to own that ourselves.

Whatever they give you is great and you should take full advantage of it but take full ownership of it yourself!  Seek opportunities to own your professional development because no one else is going to own and promote your career like you can.  Look for external organizations that you can become a part of, like an trade industry organization.  There are ways you can promote and build your skill set outside of the workplace. If you aren’t getting developed in the workplace through challenging projects, there are other ways to exercise those muscles.

I call IBM an embarrassment of riches from a training and development standpoint.  We’ve got incredible subject matter experts walking these halls and they actually pick up their phones when someone asks for help!

IBM also provides numerous online training classes that help bolster your skill set.  Once you walk away from this company, the least you could have done was educate yourself because it’s here and it’s free.

 

Career advice she would give women who are trying to effectively pivot in their career

There is this book that I read every 3-5 years called Five Patterns of Extraordinary Careers written by 2 gentleman from the executive search firm, Spencer Stuart.  They outline what distinguishes an extraordinary career from an okay career and they found that people who had extraordinary careers did one thing really well – they found the intersection between where they were very knowledgeable, capable and skilled and where they were passionate.

Some people force themselves down a path because we feel that is expected of us, or we think we can make a lot of money in that space.  We need just stop and ask ourselves, what I am good at, and what do I love doing?  The intersection of those two things is your sweet spot and where you should be focus your career pivot.

I encourage people to do that and not just stumble down the road moving from job to job aimlessly.

Additionally, I would tell people not to jump into something that is totally foreign or brand new to them.  It can be overwhelming and you may not have a long runway before you have to show some sort of competency or success in the new area.  You need to be in an area where you can get some quick wins.

One of the best career advice I received was from a women of color who told me not to wait to think about my exit strategy.  Lay out the path to your retirement.  Think about your career in 5-10-year increments with the end point in mind.

That advice coupled with the book and I felt that I had some great nuggets to reference as I thought about my career trajectory. So, I would say think about your career with an exit strategy and career pivots in mind.

 

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