Chicago C-Suite Meet with Telisa Yancy Event Recap
Written By: Hannah Karns
On February 22nd, Telisa Yancy, CMO of American Family Insurance, spoke to She Runs It members at the first Chicago C-Suite Meet of 2019. She shared her journey, from growing up in Harvey, Illinois to traveling to seven different cities with Ford to now running the entire marketing operation at a Fortune 500 company.
The disease of only-ness
Growing up in south suburb of Chicago, she was raised in a supportive, loving and diverse community. It wasn’t until she moved to the Quad Cities that she had her first encounter with “the disease of only-ness,” where she now discovered she was often the only person of color in the room. Though it made her uncomfortable, she continued to have these experiences throughout her career, which further affirmed how much representation matters.
When asked about imposter syndrome, she related it to the experience of “only-ness,” and emphasized that, “you have to know why you got into the room in the first place,” and carry that knowledge with confidence. She also encouraged the audience that, as women, we have to highlight each other, promote each story, and that “it takes a tribe to get work done in today’s market.” “Success is a team sport,” she said, and exemplified this approach, giving her team (present in the audience) shout-outs throughout the morning.
On making tough career decisions
Telisa had the opportunity to start her career with the Chicago Bulls, Ford Motor Company or Revlon. To help make this difficult choice, as she loves both make-up and sports, her mentor told her to think about what each role would do for her “two jobs in front of you.” With that mindset, she opted for Ford, moving to the Motor City, venturing to three continents with the company.
She challenged the audience to think about how you show up in the world, and said that you are “never too young or too old to take the position of your life.” To help you throughout your career, Telisa recommends a three-pronged approach: “Write down what you’re willing to be fired for, write down what makes you uniquely you, and write down what makes you think (and do that often).”
On work-life balance
Telisa laughed as she admitted that this is something she’s always struggled with, particularly because she genuinely enjoys her work. As someone who has “the capacity to hustle and grind it out,” it has been hard for her to practice self-care. She admitted that it wasn’t until her son arrived that she really started to look for ways to better balance work and life commitments, and has turned to her own team at American Family Insurance for inspiration and advice.
When she knew she was “running it”: When she was named to Ad Age’s Women