051: A Mosaic of Mentorship – Vicky’s Valuable Life Lessons
Venture on Vicky Charleston’s transformative journey from art student to corporate leader. Uncover the profound impact of mentors, familial wisdom, and the challenges of breaking biases in the corporate realm. Explore the multi-chromatic blend of creativity and analytics in her digital marketing odyssey, proving that artistry and strategy can coalesce seamlessly.
Key Points + Topics
- [01:54] Vicky Charleston attended the University of Houston (UH) and studied graphic design. It was very abstract to study art; you don’t always know what career you’ll end up in. Her father knew he simply wanted her to get a college degree. A couple of years into the program, she received some feedback from a few professors that confirmed she was on the right path. Then, she applied for the junior “block” of the graphic design program. Out of the whole junior class, that selected 20-30 students to continue on in the program from the applicants, you were only able to apply twice. Vicky got in on her first attempt. It was very exciting and a time she thinks back to today whenever she starts to doubt herself.
- [06:03] The longer you live, the more mentors you will have. Vicky believes a mentor is a person who sees something in you and wants to invest time and energy in you to help get you to the next step in your life and career. They can come into your life in big and small ways. It could be someone like your parents, as Vicky’s parents are certainly big mentors in her life. Or it could be someone you bumped into at a bookstore who pointed out a particular passage from an author that changed your life.
- [08:00] Vicky’s father was a military man, but he was an artist in his own right. His art could come in the form of writing, poetry, or philosophy. Even if he didn’t understand graphic and broadcast design, he knew he wanted Vicky to succeed in whatever career she chose. Her parents came from humble beginnings. Growing up in the first part of the 20th century as people of color, they had limited choices. Vicky’s generation was the first who had many more opportunities available to them. At one point, she thought about dropping out of college. She admits it was a short-sighted thought, but her father encouraged her to stay in school. And ultimately, her parents had all of their children with college degrees.
- [13:50] Her father was always teaching her life lessons. When she was younger, they lived in the same neighborhood as her cousin. Vicky’s parents were fairly strict and said, “We bought you this bed for you to sleep in; you don’t need to stay anywhere else.” So, when her cousin tried to invite her for a sleepover, Vicky knew what the response would be and let her cousin go and ask her father. He immediately sent the cousin back out to Vicky with the missive, “You have a mouth; if you have a question, you can ask me yourself.” So, she went in and asked. “No,” was the response. He then told her she should know to never be afraid to ask him anything. The worst he can say is “No.” That truly resonated with Vicky and continues to be a life mantra she uses to this day.
- [16:59] Every place she has ever worked, Vicky has had mentors. Anyone around her who has ever accomplished anything in life has mentored her, whether they realize it or not. The Vice President of Houston Public Media (HPM – Houston’s local NPR affiliate) took a vested interest in Vicky and developing her career. She trusted Vicky and helped her realize her opinion mattered. She helped give Vicky the confidence to apply for her current position and to make the changes from day one when she joined IDEA Public Schools. Her first Chief at IDEA was only there for a short time but made a big difference in Vicky’s career.
- [19:50] These days, Vicky mentors a couple of people from her team at IDEA as well as a couple of young women of color outside of the company that she met during her time at HPM. Vicky believes the key to a great mentor is honesty, listening, and empathy. Being a manager is cool, but it’s so much more than the surface level. She’s taken care to teach her mentees how to work through some of the more difficult moments of managing others.
- [24:40] Vicky is a woman of color herself and did not have many mentors who looked like her as she was developing her career. She believes it’s vital for younger people of color to see people like them in certain positions (like leadership roles) so they have something to look forward to and they can know it’s possible. Prairie View A&M (a historically black university) students recently toured IDEA. When they were introduced to Vicky, many of them had looks of surprise upon hearing her title. They clearly didn’t expect someone who looked like her to have that role. Many of the people Vicky has worked with were not women or people of color, and as such, they are often blind to the biases they bring to the table. When you join an organization as a new person with a wealth of experience and no one looks like you (gender, race, generation, etc), you’re going to have some friction. You have to get their trust. It can be tiring. Anyone who says those biases are not real hasn’t lived it. Vicky has, and has worked very hard to get to where she is today.
- [29:45] Optidge worked with Vicky during her tenure at Houston Public Media. Through working together, Viky’s eyes were opened to how much she didn’t know about digital marketing. It made her want to learn more as she knew it would be advantageous in her career. Eventually, she left HPM and was looking for a new position. She decided to take the ODEO course while she had the time to devote to it. It’s already helped in her career, despite digital marketing not being directly under her purview. She knows the vocabulary, strategy, and terminology which allows her to ask informed questions. This was shown in a recent meeting with the IDEA digital strategist. After offering a few alternative solutions in the meeting, her team member called and told her how cool that was to witness.
- [33:35] Many people worry about entering the world of digital marketing because they view themselves as “creatives”, so the analytical piece won’t come easily to them. However, despite being an artist herself, one of Vicky’s favorite modules in ODEO was learning about Schema, a very technical element of digital marketing. She knows how well married the creative and analytical worlds are within digital marketing. Going through the ODEO course helped open her mind to so many possibilities as it showed the many abilities she possessed she hadn’t before realized.
Guest + Episode Links
Danny Gavin Host 00:05
Hello everyone, I’m Danny Gavin Host , founder of Optige, marketing Professor and the Host of the Digital Marketing Mentor. Today we’ll be talking with Vicki Charleston, Director of creative services for Idea Public School. Idea Public Schools believes that each and every child can go to college. Idea Public Schools boasts national rankings on the Washington Post and US News and World Reports top high school lists. As director of creative services, vicki is responsible for all things Idea Brand, including ideation, brand standards, design, execution and production. Prior to working with Idea, vicki worked with Houston Public Media, which is our regional NPR affiliate, and KTU-11, Houston’s local CBS affiliate. Vicki was also a student of our first session of Odeo and she was an amazing student, to say the least. Today, we’re going to talk about creativity, ODEO and digital marketing. How are you doing today?
Vicky Charleston Guest 01:13
I’m doing great. Thank you for asking and thank you for inviting me.
Danny Gavin Host 01:18
My pleasure. It’s really good to see you, as always and I think I mentioned this too in the past but Vicki’s a little bit of a celebrity when it comes to the world of Odeo because, since she was part of our first group, a lot of the videos that we have that we’ve added to the class, a lot of the Q&A, Vicki features, so a lot of people are excited. I told her yeah, we’re getting Vicki on the podcast and they were super excited, so I’m excited. I know that the Odeo students are excited, so this is going to be a great one.
Vicky Charleston Guest 01:48
Thank you for that. I mean, I’m surprised, but thank you.
Danny Gavin Host 01:54
All right, Vicki, so let’s start off. Where did you go to school and what did you study?
Vicky Charleston Guest 01:58
So I attended the University of Houston and I studied graphic design. At the time, digital and technology wasn’t the state that is now. I’ve been around for a long time, but that was my focus in my study.
Danny Gavin Host 02:12
Super. So when you look back at that time, are there any experiences that you can recall, whether it’s inside or outside of the classroom, that were kind of impactful in directing your path and where you are today?
Vicky Charleston Guest 02:22
So abstract, to study art or graphic design, right? You really don’t know what you’re going to do with it, especially back then, and I know that my father was like I don’t care what you do, I just want you to get a degree. You know that was his whole goal, right, because he came from a generation where he didn’t have those types of opportunities, right, and he was a military man serving in the military, but he didn’t have the opportunity from his generation to go to college. So it was important to him, especially for his daughters, that we actually finished college. So I think just some of the professors that I had, especially as I got into my junior or senior years, really confirmed that I was doing the right thing. They felt that I was talented and I was doing the right thing, that they thought that the only thing I needed to be worried about was exactly where I was going to apply my skills. Right, so that gave me, you know, the confidence and the courage to keep going.
So when I was at the University of Houston, they kind of filtered out students who were in the graphic design program. There was a junior block and then there was a senior block. So to get to senior block. You have to get accepted into junior block and it was only a small, curated group of people. So my first application I made it in. So that was probably the biggest thing just having my professors confirmed to me and believe in what I was doing, believe that I had the talent to actually make it, you know, in this area, and actually getting into junior block. Because once you get into junior block your senior block is secure. You had two attempts at back then. You had two attempts to get into junior block. If you didn’t, then you had to seek other. They encourage you to find something else that worked better for you. So it would be a big, you know, loss if you didn’t get into junior block after the second time. You couldn’t apply anymore after that, from what I recall.
Danny Gavin Host 04:16
Yeah, that’s amazing. I just trying to picture you. I mean I don’t know if you like found out at the university or if you got like a letter in the mail, but just like opening up that thing and like going crazy.
Vicky Charleston Guest 04:25
So what it was. I did go crazy. So they announced on campus that the list was up. It was like where they put a list up and it was totally public. Anybody could fit, come by and see it. So all the kids that were you know, all the students who were in my courses and classes that I had relationships with they said it was up. You went to the office door and there was this list. I think it was only 20 or 30 students who got into the block. That’s crazy. So everybody was cramped up against the window. So I had to, like, push your way through. And I looked up. I went to like see, and I saw Vicki Charleston Guest. I was like, yes, I got it, but my friend who had gone through the whole program with me did not get into it, and so it was like a mixed bag.
I was really excited, but I didn’t want to be too excited because I wanted to make sure that she knew that I cared about her. She had the opportunity to try it again, but it was super exciting. I remember calling my mom, my dad, my boyfriend at the time and congratulations, that’s great. So that was huge for me and it really set the bar for me as far as how I move forward and how I can really do this and not to doubt myself, because you always doubt yourself. There’s always this thing about the imposter syndrome. Every now and again. I really shouldn’t be doing this, I question myself. I try to remember back to that moment, that catalyst, so it’s like I remind myself that I do know what I’m doing. I’ve made a career out of this and a lot of people weren’t able to do so. Yes, I would think that. Yes, just getting to that junior block was a big deal for me.
Danny Gavin Host 06:01
So, vicki, how would you define a mentor?
Vicky Charleston Guest 06:05
I think a mentor can be many things, right, you know, if you think about it. I don’t know if defining is in probably the ways that most people think about it, because you have so many mentors throughout your life. You know, especially the longer you live, people impact your life in so many different ways. But think a mentor or someone who sees something in you, wants to help you get to the next step, whether that be in your career, in your development, in your professional life or your career. I think that’s the role on mentor plays. They see something in you, whether that’s themselves or something that they think is great, and they want the best time and energy in you and helping you to get to the next step. Or, you know, advancing your career, and that could be. They can help you get into another industry. They can help you get into the industry of your choice. They may have influence in that area, but that’s what I think a mentor is just in general, and they can impact your life or come into your life in big or little ways.
Right, it could be someone who you met at a bookstore, right, and you’ve gotten to an engaging conversation with and they pointed you to a passage in a book, and that passage just happened to rock your world and make all the difference in the world. You’ll know them, you’ll never see them again, but they impact it. They influence your life in a profound way, and it could be someone that went on your journey for a long time, right? So that’s a big impact. When I think about mentors, I have to start from the beginning, right. I have to start with my mother and my father. They were the first mentors in my life, so a mentor can take on many shapes and many sizes, but really it’s just someone who is there to help you get to the next step.
Danny Gavin Host 07:57
In general, so how did you get to know your dad? I know he was a military man, so how do you kind of explain like a military man?
Vicky Charleston Guest 08:07
raising an artist’s daughter. So, as I mentioned earlier, he had no idea what he knew. I could draw. I was drawing since I was five years old, right, but that’s all he knew. He didn’t understand, you know, graphic design, or broadcast design, or for his whole life. He’d say we watch the news and he’d say now, what is it you’re doing? He was a bit of an artist himself, he was a bit of a thinker, and that could be art in the form of writing, art in the form of poetry, but I think he had. I mean, he was a philosopher, for goodness sakes, and that’s art and that’s an artist’s mind. And I think I get a lot of my artistic ability from somewhere on his side, because his brother was very artistic and played musical instruments and we were so much alike and we were born in the same month, and so I think that’s where I get everything from, because I didn’t really see that on my mother’s side, but I definitely saw how it came down the line to me.
He just wanted me to be successful, whatever I chose to do. And you go into school, you go to college and you major in art, right? What a waste of time, right? I’m not spending my money on that. My parents would say I want you to be a doctor or a lawyer or something tangible. Right, being a designer or an artist is not tangible. You’re never going to make it. You never. I’ve never got that from him. It’s amazing you never got that from him or my mother, while they didn’t understand, because they were very humble people from very humble beginnings, while they didn’t understand what I was doing, they understood that they were going to support me and help me get to where I needed to go. And that’s why I say help me get to where I needed to be, and that’s why I say they are my mentors, my original mentors. They didn’t know, they believed in me. They knew I had talent and I could do anything I wanted to.
My dad was like you could do anything you want to, because they grew up in the first part of the last century, which was tough for any African-American in the United States or in the world, right, and so you were very limited with your choices. Their generation they were very limited. So our generation, my generation, was the first generation of promise, right, it was the first generation where you could actually do something with your life other than the typical things that you know. They thought that they could do what they were limited in doing. They were very hopeful for all of their children, for me, for all of my brothers and sisters personally.
So that was a good thing to have to have that kind of person lifting you and pushing you, and because there was a time where I thought I didn’t even want to finish college. So, you know, let me just go to work. I need a car, I need a place to live. I don’t want to live here at home, we don’t want to live at the dorm. So in order to do that, I have to work. But that was short-sighted. It’s like I didn’t see the big picture. My father explained the big picture. He says you can do whatever you want, but I think you’re making a mistake and I encourage you to think about it. He says I’ll do whatever I have to do to help you, but I want you to keep going. I want you to at least graduate and get your bachelor’s degree. So, and that was a big accomplishment for them, right, it was a big accomplishment because their children, their girls, all graduated from college.
Danny Gavin Host 11:34
Wow, and I assume, did your parents go to college or not?
Vicky Charleston Guest 11:38
Danny Gavin Host 11:39
So it was a big deal for their kids to. It was a big deal.
Vicky Charleston Guest 11:42
And my parents, no, no, college wasn’t for them. That you know. You’re talking about a black man and a black woman in a cell, just still, Jim Crow, for the most part, you know. So that was their resources were very limited, very limited. So they have their children go to college or even graduate from college. It’s just a big deal. So you know, because you always want more for your children, right, you always want more.
And my father would always drill into us about how the only people that stop you are yourself. You know, if you’re limited, just don’t blame anybody else. Look in the mirror. That’s who’s stopping you. And so I passed that on to my son. Don’t ever, you know, use excuses or blame anyone else If you don’t reach your potential. I mean, I’m here to help him Because my parents were there to help me, only in a different time, different circumstances, and I knew that my son was going to get a lot of social messages that I couldn’t control about who he was.
My whole position was don’t believe that, because I think, ultimately, children, if they know they have someone who loves them and believes in them, they can make miracles happen. That’s the core. So that’s my basic philosophy and I get a lot of that from you know my parents just from their influence and how they raised me and how they so wanted to see the next generation just do more and more and more. And so, yeah, my dad, he was a super, super, he was a complicated man, but he was a cool man, you know. And, like I said, everything, everything when I was growing up, everything was a lesson, but he taught me the value of never being afraid to go for what you want. He always said think about what’s the worst thing that can happen. And I could tell you I know this is anecdotal and probably going long, but there’s a story. My cousin lived in the same neighborhood as we did and my father was okay. He was very strict too. He was like you couldn’t do this, you have to be home before the sun hit the ground. You know all those kind of things. And even when I started working, you can’t work in a strip mall, you can’t work. It was just so limited, right. And so I didn’t have an appreciation for that when I was younger, what I do now, and I understand it now. But that lesson that he taught me, that served me well, not only in my personal life, but in my professional life was to think about what’s the worst thing that could happen. You know, if it’s nothing, you know if it’s not going to kill you anything short of killing you then go for it.
And that is my cousin was at my house and she wanted me to spend the night with her and I said no, my dad’s not going to let me do that. I mean, he was like I bought this house. This is the house for you to sleep in the bed. I bought that for you to sleep in. You don’t sleep in anybody else’s house. I said no, my dad will say no. And she says, well, go ask him, go ask him. I said no, she says well, I’ll go ask him. I said, okay, go ask him and she goes in and she comes right back out really quick and he said I said well, what did he say?
She said he said you have a mouth and if I want to ask him a question, I’ll come ask him. I said did he say yes or no? He said no. He said you have a mouth. If you want to ask him anything, come ask him, right, so I go in and I ask him because I think, okay, this is another one of his lessons, right? I go in and ask him.
I said, daddy, can I spend the night with my cousin Betty? And he said no. And I said, okay, what was this for? You know, it was some kind of exercise. And I didn’t say that of course I was thinking I would never say that to my dad.
And he said I’m your father and I love you. I don’t want you to ever be afraid to come to me and ask me anything. He said the worst I could ever say to you is no, and that resonated with me to this day. What’s the worst thing that could happen? And that’s what I asked myself. The worst thing that can happen when you try something new is you could learn something new. The worst thing that can happen. I mean, you could not learn something new, right, or you could learn something new. I kind of flipped it. That stuck with me like forever. So what’s gonna happen? You know I could not get the car. I could not graduate with it, you know. But I could graduate or I couldn’t get that job. You know I could go for that job and get that job. So that was an important lesson. But that was one of his everything. Everything was an opportunity for a lesson with him, so I love that about him.
Danny Gavin Host 16:29
I’m in total awe. Like what a smart man, like just taking every opportunity to teach his children and look how it stayed with you and I can see how much a part of he is, such a big part of you and who you are today.
Vicky Charleston Guest 16:44
So, so special. Thank you for sharing those stories. You’re welcome. You’re welcome. Yeah, thank you for asking me about my dad. I know I went too long on that, but no, you didn’t.
Danny Gavin Host 16:55
I’m glad that we got those stories. So those are. That makes the episode. Let’s talk about some of your other mentors. I know you’ve had some mentors at IDEA as well as Houston. Public Media would love to talk about them.
Vicky Charleston Guest 17:06
So, yes, I think, and again, as I mentioned earlier, those that see something in you, that are who want to invest in you, to help you get to the next step or help develop your career, and so I can say that again, throughout my long career, I’ve had many mentors in every place that I’ve been. And, again, anybody who’s ever accomplished anything in life who has had a mentor, right, you can’t say that you haven’t, you may not have recognized them, but if you stop and think about it, it’s like, yeah, that person did that and I can think about and not I don’t want to mention any names today, but I can think about my VP at Houston Public Media. She absolutely believed in me and took a vested interest in developing my career and developing my positions there at Houston Public Media. She trusted me, she valued my opinion and that made all the difference in the world. She helped me believe that I had a strong opinion, that my opinion mattered, right, and so that made a difference to me. I was an art director, right, and I thought art director was as far as I was going to go.
But here I go to Houston Public Media, I come in and ask the Creative Services Manager, then I promote it within a year to Creative Services Director and then Director of Brand Strategy and Creative Services. So those are some leaps to take. And then that helped me feel confident about applying for my current role. Right, so I get to my current role and when I came in, there were a lot of things that needed to be addressed. And I was able to address those things and take action and make the necessary changes that I felt I needed for a healthy, productive team.
And it’s all because of what I learned at Houston Public Media, what I learned when I worked at General 11, but the more responsibility, the more I learned and the more confident I was that I knew I could do whatever I wanted to do. Right, yeah, my chief had the idea. Now, she was only there for a short time, but in that short time she made a huge impact on me. She actually saw the difference that I was making and she actually supported me in so many different ways and we still keep in contact now. So those are the kind of things that here in this part of my career that really make a difference.
Danny Gavin Host Host 19:49
So, vicki, who do you mentor in your current position, and let’s talk about your keys for mentoring success.
Vicky Charleston Guest 19:55
Not about this, because I have a whole team and I think the two that I mentor are the two that report directly to me, and I do that because one. I think they’re so capable and I think the key to a great mentor is honesty. You know when they’re doing well, the honest and praise them, and when they need to be redirected, also get them that kind of feedback, just honesty and real feedback right. Show support, always be there to support them and always be there to listen, right? I think being a good mentor is the ability to listen and respond, take what you hear and then whatever action is needed. I think those are important and I think when I think about the two people that I’m thinking about, I think it’s. I get a lot of positive feedback from them, so I’m hoping what I’m doing is working. It seems to be working. They’re growing leaps and bounds right, and I love that. I don’t take any credit for their growth, but it feels good to know that I was a little part of it right and, like my father, everything’s a lesson and everything you know. I can get on a soapbox and start pontificating and everything like that, but I’m not gonna do that. I just think honesty is just being there and having the ability to listen and understand and try to recognize what they need to help them work with what’s going on, how to handle certain difficult situations, because I think for a manager, that’s one of the things you don’t really do. Being a manager is cool right, I get to have people and I get to, you know, tell them what to do, but it’s so much more. I mean, there’s the administrative part of being a manager and then there’s the difficult things that you know and so on. When you’re having, maybe, behavioral issues with someone on your staff, there are those things that you need to handle and it’s helping them with those things ever happen, helping them navigate those areas, the difficult areas, and reminding them that there’s a lot of good things about the you know in management, but there’s also the difficult things and you have to do both and understand that when you have to, if you do it right like if someone is being, it’s hard to manage right and you do it the right way, you don’t let it go right, you address it and if it happens again, you address it again and there’s a certain escalation if it keeps happening and it can be a distraction, but those are the. When you celebrate the good things, you have to handle all the bad things too. They appreciate that, not that they’re allowed bad things to navigate, but I do have a lot of life lessons I talk to them about. So that’s it.
And then I have people that are also that don’t work at I-DEA, right, I have two lovely, lovely ladies that I’ve been mentoring since Houston Public Media. I met them at Houston Public Media. One has gone on to do she’s in a really good position at U of H now and the other is with another school. I can’t remember the name of that school, but she’s like a senior designer there at that school district now and they want to keep more in contact with them. The other, she just had a baby, so she’s really super busy. But I like that.
I like having those relationships and those lasting relationships, because I’d like to think that they would think that I’m one of the mentors that really made a difference and really made an impact in their life. I like to think that I mean in a perfect world, I’d like to think that, but I mean I couldn’t say that way. I could only get that from them. But I love them all and I really want the best for them and I’d be willing to do whatever I need to do to help them get along If I knew somebody.
That means if I knew someone that could help them in a certain area, or if I needed to write something to help them get a job, or if I needed to introduce them to someone that I know that would be helpful. In whatever they’re trying to do, whatever area they’re trying to pursue. I do that and then I’m there. When they call me with problem-solving questions or challenges, I should say those are the primary things. I think being a good mentor requires the ability to listen, to be empathetic and supportive, and a teacher Need to be a little bit of a teacher.
Danny Gavin Host Host 24:39
So Vicky, given that most of your mentors and I’m not talking about your parents, but they weren’t women of color, can you talk a little bit about the importance of you being that you’re at this wonderful position? You are in your life, both from a professional perspective, but just a life perspective as well. What about the importance of you being that mentor for young women of color?
Vicky Charleston Guest 25:01
So the two women I spoke of, are women of color. They are women of color. I think it’s important for younger women of color to see people that are more advanced in their career, I should say, in certain positions because that gives them something to look forward to or to reach for. They know it’s possible and when you see somebody in my position, when someone of color sees someone in my position, sometimes in here, you can tell it’s a surprise. You can see it register in their eyes like, oh, I love that. I love that. There was a tour that came through Houston Public Media once and it was from Perview University and Perview is a historically black college or university. So the tour guide was walking around and they came around to where my office was. I stepped out, saying hello, because I could hear them coming around, and so the tour guide introduced me and he could see all the women were just like oh, they opened their eyes, they looked like you know I was their sister or their mother or something. It’s like, oh, so proud of you. It’s like, oh, my goodness, it was unexpected for them. So to see someone of color in positions that you wouldn’t expect, perhaps, even though it’s more common now to be that person feels really good, right, because I worked hard to get nothing was given to me and I dare say, because I was, a lot of the people that I worked with were men and they were men, not of color, right. So that was a challenge in and of itself, because people come with biases that they don’t even register or acknowledge, and so there are those times where those kind of things become an issue now and that’s because what? I was a female and quite possibly because I was black you come to the table with biases that you don’t really know and you act in a way that I recognized as a bias, right, because I live it. I walk in with this skin, I enter the room with this skin, I enter the room as a female, right? So these are things that I’ve recognized before. You know it when you see it and it has its challenges and it’s interesting to navigate that, but I always had to. I mean, it’s the younger generation that don’t really do it now. It’s the people my age perhaps.
When you come into an organization as a new person and you come with the wealth of experience I had and the confidence that I had, quite frankly, I knew what I was doing, right. So you come in and no one looks like you and that’s female or minority, and they’re older than you. You bet your bottom dollar. You’re going to have problems and it was their boss who hired you, not them, right? So you come in and you have to just get their trust, get try to.
You know, I don’t know, I had that situation once and it was tiring and, to be honest with you, Danny, I don’t know if you want to put this in there or not, but I mean my last few roles. That’s what I was met with when I entered the room. So you know, it’s real, it’s real and anyone who says it’s not real doesn’t live it. They don’t know it, they just miss it. But I’ve made it, I persevered, and the only person stopping me is myself. Right, if I don’t make it what it is, I look in the mirror and I’m responsible, no one else is responsible for me being a failure and can’t be afraid to bail. I can’t be afraid to fail. What’s the worst that can happen? If I fail, I could learn something and apply that to the next step.
Danny Gavin Host Host 29:21
And I think this is a good segue into our talk about Odeo, because this is the perfect example of diving right into something that you’re unsure about but not being afraid to fail. So, vicki, you worked with Optage and myself over your tenure with Houston Public Media. Is there anything in particular about you working together that piqued your interest in Odeo when that opportunity came up?
Vicky Charleston GuestGuest29:46
I think and I said this before to you, Danny, in conversation I just wasn’t aware of how much I didn’t know about digital marketing until I started working with you and Danny, and it was such a great learning experience. I mean, I started off on the wrong foot and I was building those graphics.
It was like no, you can’t do this. I know I can’t do that and we have to do an A-B testing. I’m like, let me pivot to the left or to the right, because I don’t know what I’m doing. It was enough to make me want to learn more and I thought it could be an advantage in my career moving forward if I knew more about digital marketing, because that’s the future. So you email me. I don’t know if it’s a far back math email, I don’t know. I talked to you. It was after I left Houston Public Media and I think we were having a conversation. We talked and you said that you were starting this academy and I said, oh, that sounds interesting. I’m not doing anything right now, but looking for another job. And so I thought, while I could, and since I peaked my curiosity, I knew there was so much for me to learn and I knew you and I trusted you. So that’s why I took the leap. I just said why not? What’s the worst that can happen? I could learn something and I can use it in my career moving forward, and it has helped me so much, even though right now, in my current position, I’m not responsible for digital marketing.
We have well-defined tiers. There’s communications, there’s creative and then there’s marketing, and while we support each other and partner and work on projects together. I’m not responsible for digital strategy. What it does for me is I come to the table from a position of knowing right. None of the words are ambiguous or vague or unclear to me. I know exactly what the digital marketer is talking about. We talked about the funnel or we talked about any of a strategy. I understand and I am able to.
If the opportunity presents itself, I am able to ask have you tried this or have you tried that? You know I was sort of fighting Google ads, and so it’s like oh okay, vicky knows this stuff. Even though it’s not my responsibility, I do. I come to the table just because of my experience. You know ODO Academy, just because of the program that I went through. I am so much more aware and so much more prepared to have those kind of conversations about digital strategy or to even be able to be someone who can voice a different perspective or a different. You know, take on things, and I was able to. I think. I think I’m able to.
I think we were in a meeting once and the digital strategist was talking about well, I tried this and this and that, and that’s not going to work. And so I was able to say, well, did you try this? Or well, did you think about this? And it was just great. And I think we got out of that meeting and my second charge, he called me and he says, oh, that was really cool. Yeah, but I gave him something to think about. People appreciate that. You know, they’re always looking for another voice to help them think through things. I mean, we don’t live in silos, right, and digital marketing or digital strategy is something that can use several perspectives, right. And so I am not afraid, unafraid to I could be completely wrong, but at least I’m giving him something to think about, right.
Danny Gavin Host 33:34
One of the things that I think about, you know, going back to when you took the course, so you know, a lot of people are afraid like, oh, I’m a creative and I don’t know if I can do digital marketing. Is it all analytical? But you know what, when we took the course, there was one topic and I’m sure you’ll share with us, but schema markup, which is like really, really technical but honestly, like when Vicki learned about it, she fell in love. It’s like, wow, this is amazing and can I learn more? We even contacted a company and they provided another free course to like for Vicki. It was amazing, but like it’s just who knew? But it just shows you like you know, some people think that if you’re creative, you can’t get into the technical, but I actually think those two things are married so well. Right, like you know the creative and the analytical work so well.
Vicky Charleston Guest 34:18
It’s two sides of the brain, and if I had not taken your course or been involved in it at all, I never would have known anything about that. I never would have known that I had the ability to think on that level. It was so natural to me that in writing Google ads, that was pretty. I mean, it was a time of discovery, danny. It really was. I thought, wow, okay, maybe I can make a real career change. I have to start at the bottom, right, but that’s okay if I really want to make the change. But I knew that it just opened so many doors for me in my head, right, like I didn’t even know the term schema. If you asked me about scheme anything I would think of rhyme, scheme of a poem, right, right, totally different, but not, yeah, I just never knew that I had the ability. And then here’s the thing, though here’s the thing when I think about it now, when you say that when I first started college, I was actually a math major. I was actually a math major.
Danny Gavin Host 35:29
Vicky Charleston Guest 35:30
I didn’t know what I was going to do with it, but I reached a level that I just didn’t understand and so I said well, I know art, I can be a college designer, right, but it makes sense now, and I just thought about that right now. But those were the things that most intrigued me and most surprised me and made me want to explore more. I mean, I really, really did, and I still might right, you still have other courses that I can take but unfortunately I ended up getting a job, so my time was pretty much taken. But I was rubin’ on that, wasn’t I, danny? I really was.
Danny Gavin Host Host 36:10
You totally. That’s why I compare myself to people like when they come to take the course. It’s like the matrix for those who haven’t seen the movie. But you take the blue pill and your life stays the same. You take the red pill and everything changes. And, honestly, that’s what it is right. It opens your eyes, opens these doors in your mind that you never thought about. The possibilities are there.
And I also think, like you said, that confidence is right. Literally, you can walk in and, even though that might not be your job, but now you can actually be at the table and I love to say I really am proud of you. It’s amazing. I know that when you were taking the course it was a little bit of a difficult time of your life, but instead of sitting down and moping around, you’re like, no, I’m gonna do something good, and you channeled the energy in a very positive way and you found out all these amazing things about yourself and it turned it to something successful. And, like you said, we’re still in the middle of the story. We don’t know where it’s gonna end up.
Vicky Charleston Guest 37:12
So we don’t know. The story’s not over right.
Danny Gavin Host 37:15
No, it’s not, it’s still not over.
Vicky Charleston Guest 37:17
And I tell you, and I say this over and over and over again, I think and you know I’m not, this is not a testimony or anything like that but I would advise anyone in any industry to take your course right. I think it can benefit anyone, no matter what they’re doing, to have some knowledge of how things are done. You know in the world today, you know to grab your attention, you know what’s actually happening to make you want to click. You know what’s going on in the background. I think those things are very, very enlightening. Oh, that’s why blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. That’s why I like that picture instead of that picture.
I think, yeah, it would be a benefit to anyone in any industry to actually take your course.
It just really was so beneficial for me and one might say, well, because you’re creative and because you’re in marketing, that’s why it makes sense for you. But if it takes someone in the oil industry and that they go a bit bit down, you know they could come into their organization and say you know what, I’m taking this course and because of this course I am able to do A, b and C right and learn and develop and grow in that area and I tell you, it could, just it could take your life on a whole different trajectory right, and that’s the possibility that your course opened for me Just something new. It was exciting, it really was, and I still get excited when I think about it, you know, because that was just a really cool time for me. As you said, it was difficult, but I needed something to keep me busy and it just was the timing right at the right time. Here it was, I had all this free time and you had this course so why not?
And then I just learned so much about myself. Danny, I really did, and I’ll never regret it or forget it. And it could, like you said, like we said here, the story’s not over. The story’s not over.
Danny Gavin Host 39:19
So Vicky, before we wrap up, I’d love to talk about your favorite artists, Because you’re an artist, I know you write, you draw. Still, who would you say are your top three influences or top three artists that you like to look at?
Vicky Charleston Guest 39:34
Beesha Butler. I’m not sure if you’ve heard of her.
Danny Gavin Host 39:37
I have not.
Vicky Charleston Guest 39:39
See what is the exact term. She creates art from fiber and she’s created, she’s taken quilting from a craft to a high art form. She does these wonderful, vivid, colorful portraits of African-American life. And the first time I she was on the cover of Rolling Stone, just her piece. She’s been on the cover of several magazines, but it’s for the subject, right. The illustration is by Beesha Butler, right? Or it’s a quilt and it’s so intricate, it takes so much time and it’s just, you can’t stop looking at it.
I’ve heard, I’ve not seen her in real life, but I just know that the images of her work that I see are so impressive and I think all the hand work that has to go into that. So she’s one of the artists that I really admire and really cannot stop looking at her work. And then I think the other she’s a woman of color. And then the other is Deborah Roberts. She is an artist out of Austin and she does a lot of contemporary. Let’s see what? How can I describe her? Her figurative works, but they’re colleges that mix media and it’s all about let’s see, I’ve got something here. So it’s all about the complexity of lack-subjectshood. She explores things like race and identity, and which has a lot of racial, how the other is Like we are the other. It’s a lot of imagery that has to do with that, about how others see us as the other, right. So it’s really interesting, it’s very. It really challenges your brain when you see her collages, when you see her mix media she’s just exploded though, 10 years ago. Where was she? Now she’s part of everybody’s collection and my best friend is her friend. It’s just kinda cool.
And then there’s John Biggers. Now he was an artist from, let’s see, after the Harlem Renaissance and before World War II or after World War II, but he did a lot of figurative paintings, right. So the first artist was Quilt Fiber. Second artist, when I think, it’s mix of media and collage. And so John Biggers is painting oil paintings and he was over the art program at TSU for a long time and he’s now passed. But he has some wonderful murals. You can still see them. They’re on the campus of TSU.
When we had what was that? Harvey, when we had a flood, it was destroyed. I think it was destroyed. I might be speaking off-turn, but I think it destroyed part of the mural that was there in the building that it’s located at and they had to restore it, but just some wonderful, wonderful, very fluid, very rich celebration of Black Lives right, and that’s a good thing, as challenging as it has been, as it has been for just the African-American in America in general. It’s good to see good things right, happy things. We do have happy things. That happened to us and so I like looking at his work because it’s just beautiful, it’s just all that. Every artist that I mentioned, just beautiful stuff. So if I had to think of those I mean there’s several more that are my top three, I think right now, in a moment, ask me, in a year, it might be somebody else.
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