In May 2015, Jocelyn K. Allen embarked on what she calls “Jocelyn3.0,” partnering with friend and colleague Chandra S. Lewis to launch The Allen Lewis Agency (TALA), a full-service marketing and communications firm. As CEO, Allen puts her creative thinking skills and passion for connecting individuals, brands and businesses to use daily for clients big and small.
With more than 15 years of experience working in a wide variety of communications roles at General Motors, Allen developed a vast network of media contacts including many writers and editors at multicultural news and lifestyle outlets. Her efforts to share GM and its brands’ stories with Hispanic, Asian, African American, LGBT and military veteran audiences helped her longtime employer gain entrée into these often hard-to-reach markets.
In her last role with the automaker, Allen served simultaneously as director of Regional, Grassroots and Diversity Communications for GM and the automaker’s director of the Diversity Marketing and Communications Center of Excellence.
Here, the marketing and communications maestro shares factors of success.
What inspires you to show up at work every day?
Whether you know it or not, people are watching you. Your actions can intimidate or inspire others. I choose to inspire. So I know that I have to work hard and show up with my personal best every day because I have the ability, the authority, the obligation to motivate others through my words and deeds.
How did you determine your career path?
I wish I could say I had a master plan, but I really just took every opportunity that came my way, raised my hand for every assignment, and worked hard at every task that was given to me. People notice talent, effort, and hard work, and I believe I’ve been blessed with a winning combination of all three. So each time my boss asked me would I, I said ‘yes,’ even before he or she finished the question because I have always believed every experience — good or bad – teaches you something.
Describe the skills that will be essential to future business leader and innovators.
I cannot stress enough the importance of relationship building. You can be the smartest person in the room with three advanced degrees, but if you don’t know how to foster and nurture mutually beneficial relationships you’re just a lonely genius.
Describe innovative methods you apply to your business and life.
Every day I try to learn something new — whether it’s a word, a process for doing things quicker, easier, better, or something new about someone in my life — a co-worker, loved one, or friend. By being open to learning new things, you’re constantly moving forward — never stuck in mediocrity, and always receptive to whatever opportunities may come your way.
Describe how you set goals and evaluate your success.
I make lists for everything, and I’m very deadline driven. So I plot out every step to achieving a goal, and I time out milestones along the way. I’ll let you in on a little secret: I have dreams of other business ventures, and I’m in the process of plotting out the 10 steps I’ll need to take to launch the next business and the accompanying timeframe for each of those steps.
As for success, it depends on the goal. If it’s a personal goal, defining success can be very subjective. The older I get, success has become a moving target. It’s no longer black or white — now, success sometimes takes a backseat to satisfaction, because they’re not the same. But if it’s a collective goal, then success is defined by the group, and because I’m very competitive, succeeding for the group’s sake sometimes becomes an obsession for me.
Names three books that changed how you saw life and you recommend to others?
The Bible, For Colored Girls by Ntozake Shange, and Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston.
Explain why lifelong learning is important to you.
When you stop learning you stop opening yourself up to new possibilities. My 91-year old mother wants to celebrate her 92nd birthday in Punta Cana because she was watching HGTV and became fascinated with its culture. Five years ago, she probably didn’t know Punta Cana existed; but just the little knowledge she gained from a 30-minute TV segment has sparked her curiosity and made her hopeful for the future. That’s what learning does — it gives you something to believe in.
What are the three most important factors of being a successful woman?
Faith – for me that’s a faith in God; that no matter what, ultimately, things will work as they should.
Family – you simply can’t exist in this world alone.
Fortitude – if you’re going to be successful, you have to develop a thick skin, be able to take rejection, and know how to rebound quickly and often.
What role does technology play in your daily life?
From the time I wake up until the time my head hits the pillow, I’m connected to my cell, my iPad, my laptop, and now even my Apple watch. In my profession, you have to be plugged into everything.
What social media or digital tool has made the biggest difference in your life and why?
Facebook. Personally, it’s reconnected me to so many people that I wouldn’t normally get to interface with; and professionally, it’s given me a platform on which to build very important relationships. (It also allows my Dad in Arkansas to keep up with my every move. )
If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?
The hatred and fear that causes folks to do some really horrible things.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I’d stop trying to please everyone….
Who or what motivates you and why?
My parents motivate me — I’m blessed to have both my mom and dad and making them proud of me has always been one of my number one goals in life. My son motivates me to be a better person and give him an example that he can emulate.
What are the do’s and don’ts for young women in business?
Do trust your instincts.
Do surround yourself with positivity.
Do seek out people and experiences that will allow you to grow.
Don’t allow the haters and negativity to stunt your professional and emotional growth.
Don’t ever give up on yourself.
Don’t forget what makes you unique and don’t underestimate what you bring to the table.
How do you successfully grow from business failure?
You ask yourself: “What could I have done differently?”; “What lesson am I suppose to learn from this?” And as much as you may want to forget all about the failure — don’t. Use it as fuel to propel you to success.
Name three of your most successful female role models and share why you admire them.
My mom — she’s been an ordained minister for over 60 years. Even to this day, there are churches where she wouldn’t be welcome in the pulpit, but that has never stopped her from preaching, teaching, and being true to her calling.
Vivian Pickard – retired GM executive; Vivian took me under her wing the day we met and has remained consistently and publicly supportive of me — personally and professionally. She is a class act all the way.
My #ForeverFLOTUS Michelle Obama — she has had every rock on earth thrown at her and her family, but she continues to use those rocks to climb to higher heights.