Words of Wisdom: Carmen Graf,

May 3, 2021

Welcome to Pass the Mic’s series: Words of Wisdom, a unique opportunity to hear from the industry’s leading women on their personal inspirations and hear their advice on advancing as a woman in the audio and advertising field.

We are joined by Carmen Graf, Head of Global Advertising & Media at Carmen oversees a multimillion dollar budget in paid media advertising across the United States, Canada, Asian Pacific, Europe, the Middle East and Africa global markets. With years of experience and knowledge, Carmen has incredible guidance to offer and works tremendously hard to encourage and sponsor women around her.

What’s the best advice you were ever given: professional or otherwise?

The best advice I ever got were three words and it was: Just say yes.

Imposter syndrome is a real thing, and I see it now working at Indeed. Women will ask themselves. “Am I 100% ready for that job?” And they'll say, “well, probably not because I only have 9 to 10 qualifications.” But if you ask a man he will say, “Yes, I'm totally qualified. I have 5 out of 10.” So, the best advice I ever get or have ever gotten was, just say yes. Don't be intimidated by what you don't know, because it just makes you a lifelong learner. Thank goodness I got that advice early on because it's really propelled me into roles that gives me a much bigger challenge.

What does being a leader for other women mean to you?

It means that I embrace the role, I take action, I lean in. It means that I have to lift, as I climb. It’s not enough to support, you have to actually sponsor people. You have to help them grow in their career and that's really what I believe true mentorship is. It's about action, and your daily actions define who you are as a leader.

I was lucky enough to have a mentor like that early on who gave me guidance and gave me confidence and pushed me into new areas all the time. But it really isn't enough to just support someone. You have to be a sponsor. You have to participate. You have to give them feedback on a continuous basis. You have to challenge them, give them opportunity, but at the same time, build their confidence.

How do you use your “seat at the table” to elevate the other women around you?

I think it was Sheryl Sandberg who said, “You can't be what you don't see.” I remember that, and I always try to look at people's career path, both the women within my group, but also people that are outside my group, and help them with their career paths. It’s important to really understand what people's strengths are then lean in and take action. I can’t reiterate enough: mentoring is more than just suppring, it’s being involved and taking action to help your mentees build confidence in themselves.

Who was your mentor? If you didn’t have one, who inspired you the most in your career?

I think of my mentors in three buckets.

  1. Definitely my mom, because she never let me think I couldn't do something. She is my biggest cheerleader.
  2. Judy Trabulsi, who's a founder of GSD&M, an ad agency. I worked for her for years, and she taught me the value of servant leadership. She always made me feel like she worked for me, when really I worked for her. To this day she gives me confidence, she gives me guidance and has been a lifelong mentor.
  3. And, Wendy Clark, she's a long time mentor and friend to me. I talked to her all the time — she's innovating and breaking stereotypes and the best way possible.

I've really surrounded myself with strong women who constantly celebrate each other and lift each other up, and I think that's really important.

What song, podcast, or audiobook would you recommend to your mentee?

Anything around the education pieces — I really like TED talks. I really believe the podcast side is a big motivator in so many different ways. I personally love The Daily and Brené Brown podcasts.

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