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In Conversation With Krystal Nicholson and Sheba Wheeler

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Members of the Mosaic Group, an identity group within the Multicultural Business Resource, discuss their goals and achievements while honoring Black History Month

In Conversation With Krystal Nicholson and Sheba Wheeler

Black is an experience that extends beyond a month, a year or even one person’s lifetime. It’s an intricate thread of culture, achievement and influence woven into all aspects of American society forever. Dentsu Influencer Marketing Manager Krystal Nicholson and Associate Marketing Manager Sheba Wheeler explore their achievements under the lens of being Black women in corporate America today.  

Q> What is your biggest accomplishment to date?  

Krystal> Every single internship and job role that I have secured has been a huge accomplishment to me as someone who comes from a country with a high level of poverty. Breaking into the fashion industry as a Jamaican immigrant from a working-class family felt like an accomplishment because I was in a space that was not really created for me. Although I was often the only person that looked like me, it felt great to break the glass ceiling and enter spaces that I had dreamed of entering. 

Sheba> Winning a Pulitzer Prize for breaking news coverage of the Columbine High School tragedy and being nominated for a second Pulitzer Prize for feature writing were definite career highlights. I was a reporter at The Denver Post who contributed to the Columbine stories. And my own personal story about growing up on welfare was nominated for the feature award. While Pulitzers were regarded as the most prestigious awards in journalism, both were bitter-sweet, even painful, moments for me. The underlying tragedy took the pleasure out of receiving the first award. And my survivor’s guilt about overcoming a life of poverty colored the second award. I think growing up poor and within a culture where individual success wasn’t as championed as community success, I still harbored some of those emotions then. Today I am actively working to allow myself the grace to feel good about my achievement no matter what form it takes or under what situation it occurs.   

Q> Can you tell us about an early experience that influenced your career?  

Krystal> I had parents who would often work multiple jobs and struggle to give us this life full of opportunities that truly influenced all my career decisions. I wanted to do the “impossible” because they made it possible for me to do so. Their hard work and sacrifices have fueled my ambition. I am who I am because of my lineage and everyone who came before me. I also had the blessing of having elementary school teachers who encouraged my creativity. These teachers uplifting me and allowing me to express myself have stayed with me throughout my life. 

Sheba> I will never forget the time I heard my editor and eventual mentor John Davidson refer to us as a “we.” He had just finished reading one of my articles for The Denver Post, and it was so clean he didn’t have to do any editing, even for comma placement. Not having your copy be bled with the proverbial red correction ink was an achievement of its own. But when I said thank you for what he did, he said: “This is what WE did.” He was the only supervisor that referred to us as a team, and it made me want to be that much better because I knew we were in it together. Unfortunately, corporate America is often an isolating world where it’s all about “getting mine” and stepping on others to succeed. That moment with JD became the basis for how I wanted to live in my career, seeking out opportunities to work as part of a team where trust and support were valued keys for mutual success. 

Q> How has your career shaped your understanding of the world and vice versa? 

Krystal> Great relationships matter. Relationships are everything. Relationships are at the heart of working, creating communities, and driving change. Always aim to build bridges, no matter what differences you may have. This understanding goes for client and consumer relations, client and agency relations, and outside work relationships. 

Sheba> In September 2021, I started a new phase in my career where I pivoted into marketing and internal communications. I am now reveling in this new space and the impact that it has on shaping who we are as society just as much as I did when I was a journalist. Being stewards of cultural fluency, diverse representation of people and their experiences, and understanding how audiences engage with information is universal and something that we strive for in all industries and aspects of the workforce. 

Q> Have you experienced small or large moments of Black History that impacted your life? 

Krystal> I think being the first person in my family to graduate from college was a big moment that impacted my life. Although it’s a huge accomplishment, it also comes with the difficulties of trying to navigate the unknown world of corporate America. I had to really figure out how to build my career and how to advance in a world that the rest of my family have not had the privilege of entering. 

Sheba> I agree with Krystal because I too was the first person in my immediate family to graduate college and own a house. Those are hallmarks of the American dream, but for me, it was a map I was laying out for my younger brother and sister, my parents and even my extended family, that we could become whoever we dreamed of. 

Q> If you could give a shout out for a favorite black owned business, which one would that be and why? 

Krystal> Telfar. It’s a beautiful thing to be on a subway train and see most people holding a bag from a Black American designer, especially in a world where European brands are seen as the pinnacle of luxury. His bags stand for something way bigger than just fashion. 

Sheba> The Grace Eleyae satin-lined caps. Those satin caps kept my hair nourished, protected and stylish. But even more so, I love any product that allows me to be my authentic self. Maintaining my natural hair curl pattern without straightening my locks has been an important proclamation of my Black professional womanhood, a statement that I was professional if my hair was braided, a tiny afro, or kinky curls hitting my shoulders.   

Q> How has a mentor impacted your life, your career? How important is it to be a mentor, especially to a person of color? 

Krystal> More than anything I believe that an advocate is the most important to a person of color. Often, we are being overlooked or mistreated due to unconscious bias, so having someone advocate for you is the most impactful. 

Sheba> Over the years, my mentors have created safe spaces for professional and personal growth. It’s difficult to navigate careers in industries that are largely white- and male-dominated. It is essential to have access to leaders who have already paved a path in their careers with grace and ability, who can advocate on your behalf, and who can offer direction and support through your journey. Knowing you aren’t alone is uplifting no matter what obstacle you face. For me those people have been everything from teachers, church leaders and friends to current team members and C-Suite execs. I’m grateful for them all. 

Q> What does Black History Month mean to you, and how have you commemorated it? 

Krystal> Black history has proven itself to be vital in all areas of our society. Within the communications space, inventions like caller ID and fiber optic cables by innovator Shirley Johnson have changed the way that we communicate with each other. Reminders of Black history interwoven into our daily lives inspire me to continue that legacy as a marketing professional, and I look forward to contributing even more within that space. 

Sheba> When I was younger, Black History Month was a time to learn about the achievements of my ancestors and how knowing what they accomplished beyond the survival of slavery made me who I was. Now as an adult, it’s about accepting that I am Black history in the making. My goals now are understanding the importance of my contribution in all aspects of Black life, as a woman, a sister and aunt, a friend and hopefully soon a life partner and mother. 


Q> How would you explain your job to a small child? 

Krystal> I find cool people online who have a lot of followers to tell people about great products. 

Sheba> I let the world know about all the great achievements my company is making. 

Q> What was your dream job when you were younger? 

Krystal> I wanted to be a journalist at the New York Times and a best-selling author. 

Sheba> I wanted to be an archeologist or a marine biologist. 

Q> What is your theme song? 

Krystal> “Barbed Wire” by Kendrick Lamar. “What a feeling of overcoming the odds.” 

Sheba> “Feeling Good” by Nina Simone 

Q> What is your favorite project to date? 

Sheba> My involvement with the dentsu Diversity, Equity and Inclusion programming. Participating in our Mental Health and Wellness BRG, the Mosaic identity group in the Multicultural BRG and eventually being named a Co-Lead of the Enablement BRG has given me new energy and purpose. I enjoy helping our company take strides to be a more inclusive, safe environment so that coworkers can be their most authentic selves. 

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360i, Tue, 01 Mar 2022 08:17:00 GMT