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How To Become a Marketing and Partnerships Executive with Tuwisha Rogers-Simpson

Episode Summary

In this episode of the career interview series, we’ll be hearing from Tuwisha Rogers-Simpson, a Marketing and Partnerships Executive that was born in Cincinnati, Ohio and raised in East Orange, New Jersey. Tuwisha is a lively and vivacious adult who started out as a very inquisitive and outgoing child. Her personable demeanor resulted in customers crossing state lines to be checked out by her at Popeye’s.

After college, an internship connected her with a group of women who took her under their wings and provided guidance and mentorship. That experience set her on a path of achievement that now includes several successful multicultural and integrated marketing campaigns.


YouTube Video

Podcast Episode

Key Takeaways

  • Success will come easier to you in work environments that accept, encourage, and support you. We all have to earn a living. But, whenever possible, evaluate the organizational culture of potential workplaces to see if you’re a fit. Having the freedom to focus your energy on doing good work rather than trying to be someone else will serve you better in the long run.
  • Whether at school or work, take the time to consider the things you’re learning. Don’t just go through the motions. Instead, try to assess if what you’re learning can be applied to your future plans and how it can help you achieve your future goals. Having a lot of knowledge but not taking the time to figure out how to use it is a waste.
  • Be conscious of your network and your “net worth”. Surround yourself with amazing people that are positive influences, willing to share their knowledge, and supportive of your success. Get involved with groups with which you share common interests, connect with these like-minded people, and stay in touch. Maintaining your network helps you grow as a person and will go a long way towards building your net worth.

Learn More About Tuwisha

Show Notes


Can you give me a brief overview of your background? Where are you from?

  • Tuwisha was born in Cincinnati, Ohio and the spent the majority of her life in New Jersey (NJ) after having grown up in East Orange, NJ.

Tell me a little bit about yourself as a kid. What kind of a student were you and what did you enjoy doing for fun?

  • An inquisitive kid, Tuwisha wanted to know how everything worked and has the burn marks to prove it. She went around unscrewing light bulbs and ironing her own clothes to learn how the lamp and iron worked. Her curiosity and constant questions led to her getting in trouble for asking too many questions in the first grade.
  • She loved talking and working with other people and stayed busy by being involved in different activities and organizations. Tuwisha yearned to travel and go to different places. A renaissance kid, she did well in math and science but also played several different instruments.

You said that you played a lot of instruments as a kid. What were the instruments?

  • As a kid, Tuwisha played the clarinet, trumpet, a bit of piano, and the cello. She’s currently taking cello lessons.

Are you playing any of your other instruments or is it just the cello for now?

  • Tuwisha started playing the cello in seventh grade but stopped in eighth grade after deciding to stick with woodwinds and brass instruments. As an adult, she realized that she really wanted to learn strings again and picked the cello back up. She no longer plays any other instruments but still loves music a lot.

What were your favorite subjects in school? What did you enjoy learning about most?

  • Math, science, and African-American studies.

Where’s your family from? What part of the country are they from?

  • Her mom is from New Jersey and her father is from Cincinnati, Ohio.

Did you work while you were in school? Was your first part-time job during high school?

  • Tuwisha’s got her first job at 14 when her mother went into Popeye’s and told them that she was 16 to guarantee that Tuwisha would get a job. She’s been working since then and actually had three jobs during her senior year.
  • In addition to working she also played basketball, cheered in a sorority, and was in honors society.

You say it with a smile that you enjoyed those jobs. What was it that you liked about them?

  • As a cashier, Tuwisha enjoyed the people and was good at dealing with customers. Some customers traveled from different states and cities just to come and interact with Tuwisha at Popeye’s.
  • A very fond memory is of one couple from New York. At the time, there were no Popeye’s in New York so they came to New Jersey because it was the only way they could get their food. But, they visited Tuwisha’s store in particular because they liked her. When she graduated they gave her a gift bag filled with organizers, other supplies, and some scriptures.

I’ve never heard of anyone having people come and seek them out at a fast food place because they’re great. It’s pretty terrible as a teen to work at these places so you must’ve been really amazing.

  • The personality that Tuwisha has right now is pretty consistent with her personality as a teen. She describes it as outgoing, different, and bold. But, it’s also engaging as she likes connecting with people which is really important to her. Looking back, it might have been her secret ingredient.

School / training

After high school you went on to college. What led to you attending the college that you chose? Was it a particular major?

  • Wanting to attend an HBCU, Clark Atlanta in particular, Tuwisha applied and was accepted. Unfortunately, she graduated in 1996, the year when the Summer Olympics took place in Atlanta. This threw everything into disarray and it took forever for the school to provide details on Tuwisha’s scholarship. By the time they replied with a scholarship offer, it was October of her freshman year. Attending Clark Atlanta wasn’t meant to be.
  • But, Tuwisha has no regrets because she instead attended William Paterson University on a full academic scholarship. The school also had a great communications program.

You had an experience at Popeye’s where your fan club traveled to see you. Do you think that your ability to connect with people played a role in your interest in communications or was it something else?

  • Tuwisha was encouraged to go into math and science. She contemplated a career in engineering, but the idea of not being able to engage with people was unappealing. She also considered meteorology.
  • Ultimately, she went back to the communications program, learning about marketing and advertising. She liked the combination of being able to be creative, engaging with people, and doing analysis.

How was your experience at William Paterson? How did you like the social environment, your classes, etc. compared to high school?

  • Despite remaining in New Jersey, Tuwisha took advantage of the opportunity to live on campus and rarely went home. She joined a sorority, won a pageant, met great people, made friends, was vice president of her class, and treasurer of student government.
  • The school was diverse and fun but it also had challenging moments that allowed Tuwisha to learn and grow. The school is predominantly White and Rev. Al Sharpton came to campus to speak. A group of students took issue with this and the campus had to deal with monkeys hanging from trees and swastikas in dorm rooms. This created a racial divide that drew the students of color together as they worked on strategies to make their voices heard. They tried to talk about race relations on campus in hopes of educating their classmates and stopping the racism. Tuwisha believes it prepared her for the larger world she would enter after college.

You mentioned being involved with different activities on campus much as you had been while you were in high school. But, you then had this new experience of people having different viewpoints and sharing those viewpoints in a negative way. Do you feel that this gave you a precursor of what to expect and how to interact with people of differing viewpoints later in life?

  • Tuwisha believes this experience definitely prepared her for the fact that everyone doesn’t have the same ideals. And you have to know how to communicate with people of different opinions.
  • Being involved with student government and a sorority meant Tuwisha wasn’t allowed to just be angry. She was pushed to work across both groups and be solution oriented.
  • As a marketing executive who works within the multicultural space she now sees parallels with her college experience. It’s surprising how many people still don’t understand what “multicultural” means. Tuwisha now tries to educate and have people think differently not necessarily trying to prove a point but rather to develop a solution and reach common ground.

Early Career

Let’s talk about your transition from college into the working world. What was your first job out of college?

  • Tuwisha’s first job out of college was actually an internship at what eventually became Verizon. She started out on the management track as a marketing specialist on the key long-distance group. Her first boss was a woman named Christina Bontempo who had started working at the company as an operator and worked her way up through the ranks. She saw the potential to learn about new technology from the new intern and used the opportunity to bring the department up to speed.
  • In addition to Christina, Tuwisha also met two other women, Brenda Francis, and Evelyn Jones, who would play pivotal roles in her career. They taught her how to navigate the corporate structure and gave her the freedom to create a lane for herself. These three women enrolled her in her 401k, were there when she bought her first house, and when she got married. She arrived at Verizon a college student that was still a bit rough around the edges but became a completely different young woman.

Verizon was a large organization but within that group of women you were offered support and they saw you as an opportunity to both teach and learn. Having had an experience like that so early in your career, how do you think it impacted your outlook and the way you approached later positions and opportunities? How do you think it shaped your philosophy?

  • These experiences have impacted Tuwisha’s leadership style. The examples of leading by giving that these women provided has led to Tuwisha considering herself a servant leader. Their nurturing impacted her to the point that she can’t operate as a cold corporate person. She strongly believes in leading by example and doesn’t ask any of her team members to do something that she’s not willing to do.
  • If it wasn’t for those women who took a chance on investing in Tuwisha, she would not be as successful as she is today. Tuwisha now looks at organizational culture to see if there’s a place for her. All of the places she has worked at successfully have given her the freedom to be herself and to be a servant leader.

You had this great opportunity as your first job after you graduated from college. Taking into consideration the mentorship and nurturing that you got in that position. As well as the experience and education that you got while you were attending college. How prepared did you feel for that first position before your mentors started helping to mold and guide you?

  • Tuwisha felt very emotionally and mentally prepared for her first job. But, she didn’t feel as prepared with regards to academic tools. She had taken her college classes seriously. But, the idea of taking what she had learned and applying those theories in the workplace didn’t really happen until maybe her second or third job.
  • If Tuwisha could offer advice to anyone it would be, “don’t go to college just to be going to college and going through the motions. You have to really challenge yourself and your teachers like is this applicable to what I’m about to go do?”
  • The skills and theories you learn in college is like having a deluxe toolbox with hammers, screwdrivers, drills, nuts, bolts, etc. Not thinking about how to fully implement what you’ve learned is a poor use of those tools. You essentially just have a pretty toolbox.

Current Career

Let’s take a few steps forward to the present and discuss where you are currently in your career. How did you get to where you currently are? Once you got past that internship, what guided you and what factors led to you taking the career path that you did?

  • While at Verizon, Tuwisha became curious about the Community Relations department. She had the opportunity to attend grad school and picked public administration to better understand the public sector. She wanted to better understand people as it relates to government affairs, education, and communities. This led to her stepping out of the corporate world and becoming a teacher for a little while.
  • After completing her graduate degree, Tuwisha began looking for a community relations position but didn’t want to work for a non-profit. She also didn’t want to abandon marketing and had always wanted to work in multicultural marketing so she shifted her focus there and started integrated marketing. Tuwisha went on to work in public relations, advertising agencies, market research, etc.
  • She now runs an in-house agency at Urban One, a media company. Tuwisha’s objective in this position as well as at her personal company, Wish Factor, is to be the person in the middle who decides what campaigns should feel like and the impression they should make. This has been Tuwisha’s goal and to be doing it now is living out her dreams.

You are currently the VP at a media company where essentially you run their in-house agency as well as having your own company. Can you give a little insight into what both of those roles entail and then what an average day looks like for you?

  • Wish Factor came first and is an integrated marketing consulting firm. Through that business, Tuwisha met her current boss who thought she had a great concept and wanted her to bring it to Urban One. Wish Factor still exists but because Tuwisha also working at a company, some of the services are no longer offered. Wish Factor now focuses on educational speaking engagements, resources, etc. And all of Tuwisha’s marketing and advertising is done through Urban One under iOne.
  • The average day looks like coming into the office, downloading on what’s going on, and trying to think of a client focus for the day. This could be strategy sessions with the team and maybe starting to develop what that strategic focus should be and what that strategic approach looks like. They figure out the strategy and then what the tactics should be.
  • Another part of Tuwisha’s responsibilities requires being on the road to maintain client relations. This is necessary to know what’s happening currently, what’s next, and what Urban One digital services would be relevant. At times the average day or weeks can be hopping on and off planes to visit different clients and understand their needs.

What actually led to you starting Wish Factor? How did that come about?

  • Tuwisha had worked at several companies in different positions but never felt like she found the position that perfectly fit what she wanted to do. So instead of continuing to search for such a position, she created Wish Factor. She thought it was needed in the marketplace and offered a unique proposition. She called it an integrated marketing agency and the company was extremely successful.

Work Philosophy & The Future

You’ve spoken about your passion for giving back and having a positive impact. Doing more than just doing work but rather having your work have some meaning. Keeping that in mind, how do you personally define success?

  • Success is when you get to a place in life where you’re not working you’re ministering. When your life calling is what you do. Tuwisha believes there are a lot of people in this world who are successful because they love what they do. They get excited about getting up in the morning and what they’re trying to accomplish is bigger than the challenges. Tuwisha feels like success is when you know that this is what God put them on the Earth for. She is doing this every day and is blessed. Regardless of what it yields, Tuwisha is happy to be doing her part.

Looking at the current reality of your career and the experiences that you’ve had. Would you say that your career has surpassed, matched, or fallen short of the aspirations and expectations that you had for yourself as a college student looking to your future?

  • Tuwisha believes she’s definitely met but hasn’t surpassed her definition of success. She still aspires to be successful as she defined it. In college, she was in a pageant and her whole dialogue was about running a communications department within a media company. At the time it was her working for Russell Simmons running communications and PR for him and Rush Communications. Now here she is at Urban One running communications, marketing, and strategy. So she’s spot on with her college girl dreams.
  • She’s glad that she’s gotten here because now she knows she’s ready to be successful and that’s moving more to space of asking, “Lord, what do you want me to do with everything that I’ve done so far?”

Thinking about next steps, what goals or plans are you currently pursuing?

  • Taking out some time to further define taking everything that has been shared in this interview to a global level. Getting back to the communications piece of things and identifying the types of projects that would allow for pulling more people together. Tuwisha would have loved to have been on the team that established Oprah’s school in South Africa or Lebron’s project. They’re not your regular schools and require thought around having everyone work together for the greater, bigger, and out of the box.
  • The second thing is a book and workbook. Tuwisha has a spiritual side that is really important to her and she believes the best business book that you can probably read is the Bible. There are business principles within the word of God and so she would like to create a book around those principles. Using real-world business examples and aligning them with spiritual principles to create opportunities for people to individually define their real voice and be successful.
  • And last but not least, would be creating a curriculum around integrated marketing and multicultural marketing. With “minorities” now being the majority, it’s very interesting that there’s not really any coursework appearing that teaches business folks and future marketers how to work in the space in a genuine way. Tuwisha has a passion for creating a curriculum and going around and either teaching or helping to implement this curriculum at universities and schools.

Take a step back and look over your career back to who you were, what your goals were, your expectations as a college student, and the experience in that moment of being a college student. What career or life advice would you offer to your younger self or to any other young person that’s still in school or just getting ready to enter the workforce?

  • First, take full advantage of your academic studies. Challenge your professors to connect the dots between what you’re learning and how it can be used in the real world.
  • The second piece of advice would be don’t rush out. Suck up every little opportunity in the world that you can take from your university whether that’s a joint/dual degree, study abroad, etc. Find out what those things are at your university and take full advantage of them. The real world is not going anywhere. Your first job isn’t going anywhere.
  • And the third piece of advice is to be very mindful of your experience and your network. This is something that Tuwisha did and it helped her. She has an amazing tribe of people around her and a lot of those relationships happened in college. Get involved and learn the power of “and”. You can be in a sorority and a cheerleader and in the business club and a Star Wars geek and travel abroad. Time is your biggest commodity and it’s yours.

Imagine it’s years from now and you’re nearing or already retired. When you look back over your career, what accomplishments or achievements would you be most proud of? What accomplishments or achievements would make you consider your career a roaring success versus being just mediocre or even disappointing?

  • One is definitely going to be the Oraquick. That’s gonna be number one.
  • The second thing will be when there are several universities that have implemented Tuwisha’s multicultural marketing and integrated marketing curriculum into majors and classes. Because that could touch millions of students and also affect millions of consumers.
  • And then getting to heaven and God says, “Well done.”

Bonus Round

Think about books, people, or events that have motivated, inspired or otherwise shaped your career. Does anything, in particular, come to mind? Are there any specific books that have inspired you?

  • The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni prepared Tuwisha to be a better leader, manager, and boss.
  • The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, the approach that Mark Manson takes is refreshing. It’s new and out of the box. It brings things back to self, which is really important.
  • Purple Cow by Seth Godin. As a marketer it reminds you of the core principles and why people buy what they buy. Tuwisha calls this the “Jedi mind trick”.

Are there any specific people whether famous or only known to you?

  • First and foremost, definitely inspired by God and by Jesus because of the leadership qualities there.
  • Dr. Randal Pinkett has influenced Tuwisha as a leader, person, and professional. He was an awesome man to work for and work with and is an inspiration to this day. Dr. Pinkett has several degrees, never worked for anybody in his life, and is a great speaker. He’s extremely successful and has a multimillion dollar company. But, he’s the coolest person on earth, gentle, sincere, and warm.
  • The musician in Tuwisha connects to Quincy Jones. They’ve never met but she is amazed by his history. He’s a composer, director, musician, writer, and the list keeps going. He’s passionate about his art and his gift.
  • The last person is Steve Harvey because he’s a great example of when it’s your time, it’s your time, and when it’s your time you step into it 100% completely. Mr. Harvey is known as a comedian and has done his thing on TV. But, his radio show and where he is today as an author happened later in life. Tuwisha thinks this happened later on when he was more comfortable in who he was and stepped away from who he thought he had to be. Now everything he touches turns to gold because he’s being his authentic self. His story is inspirational and shows there’s no expiration date on when you show up.

The previous question is usually the last question. But, I noticed that throughout the interview you mentioned experiences and people that you interacted with that have had a huge impact on you. You mentioned several people who have not only been successful in their careers but in your experiences with them, they also focused on the human being behind the employee. Quite often, in corporate environments that humanity can be if not stripped away, then ignored. There’s more of a focus on the work to be done and the professional side of things. What significance, if any, do you think there is to people as well as companies dealing with developing both the human and professional sides.

  • The most memorable thing about Tuwisha’s career is the people who have not only been professional but also personal. She believes business is personal. When someone has shown up somewhere for 8, 10, or sometimes 12 hours of their day they are giving you time which they don’t get back. They’re giving of themselves and Tuwisha doesn’t see how we can’t think about what people need and figure out what that balance looks like.
  • She’s old school in the sense of you can’t come in and play around and talk all day. Work has to get done. But, to get the best out of people you have to give of yourself and get to know these people. You have to understand their strengths or weaknesses. You have to know when to push and when not to push.
  • As a manager and as a boss Tuwisha doesn’t want to hold anybody back. If you’re trying to accomplish something, get somewhere, or get productivity out of someone you need to appeal to them. Appeal to the side of them where they feel most welcomed, supported, and appreciated.
  • It’s a different vibe when an employee feels like you don’t care about them being there or what they’re contributing. Being all and only about the bottom line creates a very toxic environment. Having worked in such environments, Tuwisha knows that it’s very difficult, confuses things, and is not productive. The bottom line is extremely important but if you want the best out of people, then you have to become a people person.
  • All of the people who have impacted Tuwisha have pulled her to the side. They were compassionate but also extremely honest when things weren’t working out or Tuwisha wasn’t meeting their expectations. As much as they doted on her, they honest and unselfish in preparing her the next level. And the also letting her go to the next level.
  • For example, during Tuwisha’s time at Translation, Steve Stoute pulled her aside and told her that as a young black woman she couldn’t do what everybody else was doing or offer the expected “Black” ideas. He wanted her to step up professionally and dig deep within to create ideas that were unexpected.

    Steve didn’t have to pull her to the side to say that but he saw something in her chose her to work at the company not because he needed a black girl. But rather because he needed a smart woman. He explained, the odds were against Tuwisha and she needed to be the smartest person in the room. It was one of the most challenging jobs she’s ever had. But, working with Steve led to her working on some great things which led her to receiving a 40 under 40 award.

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