Diversity & Inclusion
#WomenRaisingTheBar: An Interview with Ovative’s Female Vice Presidents
At Ovative Group, we tackle the complex marketing and strategy problems that truly transform businesses. Our leadership team is integral to our ongoing growth and success, bringing unique perspectives and innovative solutions that make an impact. They model how our Ovative values – Driven, Genuine, Engaged and Accountable – show up in action each day.
Ovative’s greatest differentiator is our people.
At Ovative, 60% of our VP+ leadership team are women. Compared to the corporate average of women in VP positions of 30%, the strength of our leadership team reflects the inclusive culture we strive for each day and continued dedication to elevating new perspectives.1 Through our ELEVATE and Champions of Change programs – and our “just do” mentality – we continue to take action to make diverse representation and inclusivity an even stronger reality.
We sat down with each of our female VPs – Ericka, Jasmin, Shannon, Beth, Bonnie, Dianne, Jo, Erin, and Jen – to reveal their leadership inspirations, the hurdles they have faced, and the action they are taking to build a more inclusive Ovative. We are taking you behind the scenes to show you the faces that make Ovative great!
Question 1: What qualities do you seek out in peers/mentors to inspire you?
“I look for the strengths that each leader is best at and seek to learn from that area of expertise they offer and seek their advice. Second, I tell my team it takes a village to raise an Analyst and encourage people to build a network of mentors and peers to learn from. I believe it’s important to learn from a variety of approaches and perspectives versus just one. Part of what drew me to Ovative was the leadership team’s variety and diversity of strengths. I knew I could learn from different dimensions of our leaders, and eight years later, the learning hasn’t stopped.” – Ericka Strickland, Vice President, Paid Media
“I look for authenticity and the drive to make an impact. All of us have a chance to make people’s lives better, businesses stronger, and our communities better based on the choices we make every day. I try to surround myself with people in my life who intentionally act to have a positive impact in all aspects of their lives.” – Bonnie Gross, Executive Vice President, Talent Services
“Mentorship is important because so many of us need support along the way. I don’t know anyone who has “made it” on their own. Mentorship doesn’t always need to be a top-down relationship – I’ve mentored and been mentored by peers. When leaders take the time to invest in someone seeking mentorship, helping them shape who they want to be is more valuable than shaping them into who we want or need them to be in the organization. This approach builds trust and shows that you’re investing in them as a person and not an employee. It develops strong future leaders and usually results in life-long connections.” – Jasmin Stevens, Vice President, Strategic Integrated Opportunities
Question 2: What is a hurdle or failure in your career path that makes you who you are today?
“I find that the challenges I’ve worked through in the past are what give me the perspective and drive to keep going. Often, it feels like the big challenge in front of you is the end of the world. By working through it, you learn something from each challenge, and often the “worst case scenario” isn’t as scary as you thought. Throughout my career I’ve tackled small and big challenges. Through it all, I have focused on learning from the moment and tackling the next challenge that comes with the wisdom and perspective I learned.” – Shannon Kast, Vice President, Client Services
“I have always wanted to help lead a company in a senior, strategic role. When past roles didn’t work out the way I thought I wanted, I had to take a good, hard look at myself: How was I showing up? Did I like that role and that company, or was I there because I thought I was “supposed to” be there? Was each company valuing me for my worth, or was I being impacted by biases and codes? Through those times, I learned the answers have to settle right in your soul. If they don’t, you need to figure out why – how much is about you and how much is about others – and what you want to do about it. And, you can always do something about it.” – Jo Hamburge, Senior Vice President, Consulting
Question 3: Which subject matter expertise are you most proud of?
“I’ve often asked myself, what am I? What is it that I do exactly? I’ve done digital marketing, content marketing, brand marketing, site experience, e-commerce, strategy, and project management. So, where exactly does my subject matter expertise lie? I was having a casual touch base with a CFO I worked with a few years ago. We were discussing my career path, and he said, “Jas, you bring a bit of everything to the table. You’ve touched it all to some degree and that’s why you’re great in this role.” While he saw it as a positive, it made me wonder – am I a jack of all trades but a master of none? I saw this as a negative at first, but the thing is, no one ever says the rest of that phrase, “A jack of all trades is a master of none… but often times better than a master of one.” So, what subject matter expertise am I most proud of? It would be the ability to take advantage of every opportunity in my career journey to learn.” – Jasmin Stevens, Vice President, Strategic Integrated Opportunities
“I’m proud of my critical thinking skills and ability to connect the dots. I really pride myself on my ability to take in a lot of varied inputs & perspectives, distill it down to get to the root of the situation, and then chart a path forward. I’m working on ways I can coach team members on this. I ask questions of my team to help them see whole picture and build their own skills in connecting the dots.” – Beth McKigney, Senior Vice President, Measurement
“I have deep experience managing Paid Search (SEM) programs in a variety of settings (client, agency, in-house). Being in the driver’s seat has given me a better understanding of what makes a great partner, what the risks are in each situations, and how to bring empathy in each scenario. While SEM has always been my role at Ovative, I’ve had opportunities to stretch into assignments across the business including strategy, measurement, and leadership. These have added to the richness of my Ovative experience and provided clearer perspective that we truly work better together. The more we understand what each other is doing and the value of our roles together, the more we are able to win as a team.” – Ericka Strickland, Vice President, Paid Media
Question 4: Who or what has had the greatest impact on your perspective as a leader?
“I have been fortunate to work for some truly great leaders. There is no person I have learned more from than Dale Nitschke. His vision, authenticity, “just do” approach, and always leading with the intent of doing the right thing for the team, business, and community have shown me how I want to lead. Lead by always doing what is right and having the courage to do it. This is a high bar that has inspired me to be better every day, both inside and outside the walls of Ovative.” – Bonnie Gross, Executive Vice President, Talent Services
“My perspective has been impacted by many individuals and experiences. First, by mentors, partners and leaders who have shared expertise, thoughtful feedback and support. Second, by being in multiple growth organizations during times of entrepreneurial energy, data-driven orientations, and by experiencing phases of growth or maturity in different ways (both good and bad). Third, by partnering with savvy clients who ask tough questions and share different perspectives that are rooted in their business. Last, by having both client and agency experiences.” – Dianne Anderson, Senior Vice President, Media
Question 6: How are you promoting inclusivity within your team life? What drives you to do more?
“Consulting is such a fun business and team opportunity. How do you solve hard problems? You need all the points of view you can get. You never know what unique combination of individuals will spark an illuminating framework, an insightful analysis, or a compelling story. Diversity and inclusivity is not just an idea; it’s critical to how we do our best work.” – Jo Hamburge, Senior Vice President, Consulting
“I think the single best tool for promoting inclusivity within teams is listening. I try to surround myself with a diverse group of people with diverse talents and backgrounds and listen to their perspectives. Encouraging an open heart and mind goes a long way. The same goes within my daily life and community, as well. I try to be cognizant that my perspective is always framed by my past life experiences and those around me come with different experiences, and therefore perspectives. In order for us all to move forward together, we need to do more listening.” – Shannon Kast, Vice President, Client Services
Question 7: What advice would you give to the next generation of female leaders?
“You are stronger and smarter than you give yourself credit for, so surround yourself with folks who will remind you who you are and what you’re capable of. Stop and ask yourself what you would tell a friend in your situation – you are often kinder to others than you are to yourself.” – Erin Aberg, Vice President, Talent Services
“Find mentors who really see and appreciate your super powers – even more than you do. Some of my biggest growth moments have come from times where my mentors pushed me to try something new that I didn’t think I was capable of. They saw it, believed in me, and provided me with the support I needed to grow and succeed.” – Beth McKigney, Senior Vice President, Measurement
We are grateful that each of these leaders choose to make Ovative their home each day! Their commitment to making an impact, driving innovation, and building and inspired team fuels our success, both today and into the future.
Want to surround yourself with inspiring leaders? Ovative is growing! Visit our Careers page to learn more about working at Ovative.