Jennifer DaSilva of Berlin Cameron: “It’s so important to foster a culture of connections that will filter down because the bigger the team, the tougher it is to create personal connections”

The bigger the team, the tougher it is to create personal connections with each and every staff member, so it’s important to foster a culture of connections. If you’re showcasing sympathy and understanding to those you work most closely with, that will filter down throughout the organization. As a part of my series about strong […]

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The bigger the team, the tougher it is to create personal connections with each and every staff member, so it’s important to foster a culture of connections. If you’re showcasing sympathy and understanding to those you work most closely with, that will filter down throughout the organization.

As a part of my series about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jennifer DaSilva. Jennifer is a seasoned integrated marketer with nearly 20 years of experience working on Fortune 500 brands. As president of creative agency Berlin Cameron, Jennifer has spent the last 13 years managing key accounts like Coca-Cola, Heineken Premium Light, Lexus and Capital One. Jennifer is a champion of entrepreneurship, having launched Girl Brands Do It Better, a Berlin Cameron division that empowers female entrepreneurs through connections and creativity. In 2018, she was named a DMN Woman to Watch and a Financial Times HERoes Champion of Women. She sits on the advisory boards of Girl Up, a United Nations foundation, the National Kidney Foundation, and the WPP Business Development and Digital Advisory boards. She graduated with honors from Boston College and lives in New York with her husband and 2 active sons.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I was raised by two accountants and I was pretty focused of doing the exact opposite of what they did. I wanted to surround myself by creative thinkers, so I took a job at The Intuition Group, a marketing group focused on women owned by JWT. That really was the stepping stone to what we are building at Berlin Cameron.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

When I became a mother, I became a better leader. I began to tackle work with the same approach that I use in motherhood — test and learn. I stopped striving for perfection and started jumping in. We’re definitely taking a lot more risks and some things are working and some aren’t, but it’s given us a momentum we haven’t had in years.

Motherhood also allowed me to find my purpose. As a mother of two boys, I have become increasingly conscious of the gender issues that are driven by our schools. It has ignited a fire in me to support other women and lift them up.

Turns out I’m not alone — in a recent survey we did with Kantar and the Female Quotient, we found that 75% of mothers felt that motherhood has made them a better leader. Companies should start harnessing the power of parenthood to build leadership skills.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I have always loved the theater around a meeting. One time for a new business presentation for a travel client, I curated the entire room around a trip to Mexico — served tacos, decorated, etc. I also had a margarita machine figuring we’d finish the meeting in celebration and all toast to each other. Instead, the machine was SOO loud that during the entire meeting it made a washing machine spinning cycle sound. My boss at the time couldn’t take it anymore and said, “can you turn that f***ing thing off?” Needless to say, we didn’t win.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Berlin Cameron stands out because of our commitment to creating cultural change. Through our “Girl Brands Do It Better” initiative, we work with female-owned companies to empower female entrepreneurs. This year we also partnered with Refinery29 to create LLShe, a platform to champion women-led businesses and address key hurdles to fundraising. It’s projects like these that allow us to not only create campaigns, but build a better, more inclusive industry.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I started thinking about how I could not only continue to build my own network of women across different industries, but also how I could help other women grow theirs. So, I started the initiative Connect4Women, with the goal of connecting four women every weekday for all of Women’s History Month. I connected more than 80 women in 30 days and it’s inspired me to keep my intros going. I’m hoping that next year I can get even more people, so that our networks get stronger and stronger.

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?

According to a Berlin Cameron and Refinery29 study, 50% of women are more comfortable at work when they have a mentor to look up to. If you’re in a leadership position, it’s important to continue to act as a mentor to your team. Take them to coffee, be an example to them and be open and honest. It might seem simple, but a little goes a long way.

What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

The bigger the team, the tougher it is to create personal connections with each and every staff member, so it’s important to foster a culture of connections. If you’re showcasing sympathy and understanding to those you work most closely with, that will filter down throughout the organization.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My 5th grade teacher. Everyone was TERRIFIED of my 5th grade teacher. She was strict and sometimes harsh, but she saw a fire in me. She wasn’t always nice, but she pushed me to become more confident. I may not have been the smartest girl in the room, but I became a striver and that is what has driven my success. I’m still in touch with her today and so thankful for our relationship.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I try to pay it forward as much as possible. Through Girl Brands Do It Better, LLShe and by simply connecting others, I want to lift everyone up. By creating opportunities for women and underrepresented people, I have tried to hand a megaphone to those without a strong voice.

What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

1. Stop trying to be perfect.

Some people may wonder why I want to share the imperfections of my life or ask why I wouldn’t want to be portrayed as the perfect boss, wife, mother and friend. The truth is, the mask of perfection is not only exhausting but detrimental to our own mental wellness.

2. Sometimes you can’t do it all, and that is okay.

I feel constant anxiety over wanting to be the best mother, wife, friend, boss and partner to my clients, but none of the people in my life ever have my full attention. This is especially stressful because I’m a people pleaser and want to make everyone happy. Most times I feel like I can’t. I still struggle with this balance, but the more I realize people can’t be everything to everybody, the more we can take charge of our lives.

3. We are better when we work together

In recent years, I’ve come to realize the impact of the combined voice and the importance of lifting your community. By banning together with your colleagues, friends and strangers, we can make a greater impact and see the change we want in the world.

4. Surround yourself with a supportive network.

My parents like to tease me about how I was held back in kindergarten because I failed the sharing portion of the “curriculum”. I’ve come along way since then and have seen first hand that sharing resources, contacts, tips and advice only makes the entire network stronger.

5. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

If there’s one thing I could change, I’d love to see the gender pay gap close in my lifetime. I’ve tried to do my part by being open about my experiences and pay, so that others will have the knowledge that I didn’t have. If we all are more cognizant of the issue and how to deal with it, the change will happen.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Be shamelessly you. As a leader, I’ve allowed myself to be more vulnerable and comfortable in my own skin, this has helped me to strip away my barriers and connect.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

I’ve wanted to be a broadcast journalist since I was a little girl. (In fact, I used to carry around a brush and interview the dog — she didn’t have much to say.) and I’ve been impressed by the courage and conviction of Katie Couric. I’d love to have a glass of wine with her to hear her journey.

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