AMA Marketing / And with Bennie F. Johnson

Entrepreneurship and the value of an internship

Episode Summary

Taylor Falls, a Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Specialist at Adobe, joins AMA’s Bennie F. Johnson to talk about the value of learning, resilience and being an entrepreneur, and what’s next for DEI work and impact.

Episode Transcription

Episode: Entrepreneurship and the value of an internship

Taylor Falls, a Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Specialist at Adobe, joins AMA’s Bennie F. Johnson to talk about the value of learning, resilience and being an entrepreneur, and what’s next for DEI work and impact.


Bennie (00:25.78)

Hello, and thank you for joining us for this episode of AMA's Marketing And. I'm your host, AMA CEO, Benny F. Johnson. Marketing And is a podcast where we explore life through the lens of marketing, delving into conversations of individuals that flourish at this intersection of marketing and the unexpected. We'll introduce you to visionaries and emerging stars whose stories you might not have heard of, but exactly the ones you need to know.


Through our thought-provoking conversations, we'll unravel the challenges, triumphs, and pivotal moments that have been shaped by marketing in our guests' careers and lives. Today, we have a really special guest, Miss Taylor Falls. Taylor is an Alabama native and recent graduate of the University of Alabama, where she received her BS in commerce and business administration.


Throughout her recent college journey, she took internships at numerous Fortune 500 companies, including Pearson, Adobe, and DoorDash, both in marketing and DEI work. These experiences helped ignite her passion for professional growth and creating a more equitable outcomes, which motivated her to dedicate her time to inspiring and mentoring fellow students from underrepresented backgrounds.


Since her graduation this May, Taylor has relocated to my hometown of Washington, D.C. where she is now a full-time employee at Adobe as their diversity equity inclusion specialist. In this role, Taylor focuses on using data to create strategic initiatives that positively impact those from underrepresented groups. In her free time, she enjoys using her LinkedIn platform to provide students with professional development resources, as well as internship and entry-level job postings. Taylor, welcome to our podcast today.


Taylor (02:24.45)

Well, thank you. I'm excited to be here.


Bennie (02:27.644)

Well, yes, my new friend in Washington, D.C. So let's talk a bit about you, you grew up in Alabama and now you're starting your professional journey really full time in Washington, D.C. Talk to me a bit about that transition, Taylor growing up in Alabama to Taylor working in D.C. today.


Taylor (02:30.934)



Taylor (02:47.178)

Well, first, I will say that I love DC. I will always, always be an Alabama girl. You can hear the accent. I'll always be that Southern girl. But I will say that coming from Alabama to DC, it's been such a positive experience for me. I think that some students that have recently graduated have had what is called like post-graduate depression. I have not had that. I think that...


Bennie (03:10.988)



Taylor (03:14.102)

You know, graduating, I was able to mentally prepare myself and give myself that cushion before moving. But I think that I, in this space, have made younger Taylor proud. I don't think that younger Taylor from Alabama would have thought that she would be girl city living in DC all by herself figuring things out with a job, like at a tech company. I really never had that thought as a child, but I think I'm doing pretty well for myself. So I'm...I'm really excited to be here. Like I said, the transition was great. I think having a significant support system, I have a few friends here that made it easier for me to transition and I've had a great time. I wouldn't change a thing.


Bennie (03:50.493)



So you think about this as this is the first, we talked about some of the great internships you had, but kind of shaping and selecting your first role. What drew you to this role at Adobe?


Taylor (04:07.746)

So it's been a culmination of things. So I guess let me go back. So previously in college, I had never seen DEI on a corporate scale. So I had been doing advocacy work for most of my life through organizations and just in my day-to-day life advocating for people that look like me and people from other underrepresented backgrounds. However, it wasn't until 2021. So kind of right after George Floyd where I was introduced to DEI on a corporate scale, and that was first at Pearson. And so doing that, it was my first look into what that looked like. So we were doing a lot of ERG program management. We had started looking at job descriptions, making sure they were inclusive. Pearson was like that first level look into DEI. And during that internship, I actually discovered an Adobe internship. One of my friends at the time, she had worked at Adobe the previous summer. Yeah, the previous summer. And she had done DEI and products, so product equity. And I was more so interested in the people side of DEI. So there was an internship open and I was like, I think this may be a great fit. So actually, shout out to Dr. Florida Starks. She was Pearson's Chief Diversity Officer at the time. And she helped me prepare for the interview at Adobe. And honestly, I think I was just drawn to it simply because it seemed as if it was the culmination of all the things I had learned through my Pearson internship. And I was like, well, if I can do all this stuff at Pearson, and this is my first time doing DEI, then I think I can take these skills that I've learned and do something even better at Adobe. And sure enough, I was able to. And then that's how I ended up doing that internship. And then the internship is what got me my full-time role.


Bennie (05:54.592)

So tell me a little bit about your full-time role here at Adobe. So the work you're doing, one of the things that was intriguing was in going through your bio and spaces, looking at this nexus of data and empathy, like data in DEI and the human factors in there. Talk a bit about that in your role.


Taylor (06:08.631)



So, okay. So as we have seen in recent times, there has been an attack on DEI. It was because I just call it that. So based on what we've seen within the political sphere, within the government, within other organizations as well, DEI has become something that a lot of organizations are no longer committed to. And so we have decided to kind of pivot to make our DEI more data focused because that's one thing that people can not argue with are the numbers. You can argue about all the other things all day, but when you bring the data to things, the numbers truly don't lie. So in my role, my role is encompassing of a lot of various things, but number one right now is really focusing on that data. So for example, I am looking at our demographic data within the United States, and I'm taking that looking at that to build this strategic initiative around self-identification.


So for example, when you look at self-ID within a lot of entities specifically, when we're looking at two or more races when people go in to self-identify, currently here at Adobe and as well as at other places, you cannot specify what those two or more races are. So when it comes to our data accuracy, we don't really know what that looks like. Even similarly to different people that identify as different races or ethnicities, there is...basically a gap between what we currently have and how people actually identify. So I have been looking at our, again, employee demographic data and aggregates and trying to figure out what can I do to make that self-identification process more inclusive for people so that more people feel as if they can authentically self-identify, which again, will increase our data accuracy, which goes on to help things like our talent development programs, talent management, is going to help us when it comes to looking at our hiring rates, promotion rates, attrition rates. We just wanna make sure that data is more accurate. And also that, again, people feel as if they can authentically identify. So what I'm basically doing right now is, taking that data and expanding our self ID process. So instead of it being, just these five options here, I'm going to expand it to be where people can multi-select and do various things there while still making it be government compliant because that's also a big thing.


Taylor (08:39.894)

It's with the government and the EEO1 reports, which I'm working on that one right now as well, is just making sure that it's compliant with government standards as well.


Bennie (08:49.164)

So as you speak to this with such kind of clarity and confidence in this space, I'm still reminded that you just graduated from college. So, you know, what was the role in these internships in really shaping this knowledge plan for you? You talked once about a mentor, you talked about often paying it forward and mentoring other people. Talk a bit about the roles that internships played in your development.


Taylor (08:56.458)

Yeah, I did.


Oh, huge. And so I will say, and I posted about this on LinkedIn, how I think that as I went on with my internships, I just kept upscaling myself. So for example, when I started with Pearson, we were more so focused on ERG program management. But then when I got to Adobe, I had taken what I learned from Pearson to do focus groups with the ERGs to work on that self-identification process. And I kind of got into looking at data and looking at stakeholder feedback and things of that nature. Then I took that information and I went to Amtrak and I worked at Amtrak for almost an entire year and their internship. And there is where I really started diving deep into what the data looked like. They literally had me doing, looking at promotion rates within the company and trying to highlight where the drop-off was so that we could create different strategies. So literally I took information from each internship and applied it to the next one. So then as I learned more things in the next internship, I had more information and more skillsets to take to the next internship. So I think that my full-time role now is again, the culmination of all the things that I've learned throughout my internships, because now I do a little bit with the ERGs here. I'm working with the data here. I know how to manage all of my stakeholders over here.


The process is honestly, people say that their career is often not linear. I think that as of right now, mine has just been straightforward, straight in the line and that everything kind of aligns together to make this a beautiful roadmap that I am now walking along.


Bennie (10:58.016)

So which is really incredible, kind of hearing that journey in space. What advice would you have to other Taylors that are out there, to other students in general, to other young women of color going into a space where we're talking about both marketing, data and human talent conversations?


Taylor (11:18.702)

I would say continue to upskill yourself. I think that, again, when we're looking at whether it's marketing or DEI or another field, is that there is never a point where you know everything. I think that is something that I've learned throughout my time is that, you think upper level executives know everything or that your manager knows everything. No one can possibly know everything. And so it is truly up to you to continue to facilitate and promote your own growth. I think that, you know, once you get to a certain point, you think, oh, that's it, but there is always more room to grow. So while I have reached my goal and I'm in this great full-time position, this is never going to be my stopping point. And so I would always encourage other women of color, other people in general to continue upskilling yourself because knowledge is power.


And once you have that knowledge, that is something that no one can take away from you. And I think that if we want to continue to elevate ourselves, it starts first with education.


Bennie (12:24.716)

So we're going to focus on that for a second and talk about one theme that's really powerful, visibility. Visibility is so key to the things we imagine, to the jobs and roles we become, to the impact we think we have. What I find impressive and I'm excited about is in your college journey and in your new role, you're still a point of visibility and your LinkedIn presence on sharing your story and insight and space.


Taylor (12:31.456)



Bennie (12:54.805)

Talk a bit about the importance of visibility to you.


Taylor (12:58.342)

I think it is super important. And I was thinking about this earlier is how it is so important for people to see people that look like themselves in higher places or in different specific spaces. Because I, growing up, I had people who I guess I aspired to be like, but I don't think I ever saw someone like myself in this space. Because again, I wasn't looking at the tech companies. I didn't even know that some of this stuff existed. And I think that's why visibility is so important. And I talk about that a lot when it specifically comes making our talent pipeline is a lot of kids in specific communities don't even know that all these opportunities are possible. And that's why I am so excited and I don't take it for granted when it comes to me posting on LinkedIn and making that content because I want people to be able to see this is a girl from Birmingham, Alabama, did not, had no clue basically, and had never met anyone else in tech until she was in college. I mean, I just, I told you, like, I never really even imagined that I would be in this space. And so visibility is just so important to me because it's, it's inspiring, I would say, for other people to see people like them in these spaces and encourages them to know and understand that they too can do the same thing.


Bennie (14:22.316)

You know, something else has been a part of your journey and I'm not gonna let you get away from our conversation about talking about it, has been your entrepreneurial spark as well. So I heard a rumor that you started your own skincare company when you were in school. So talk to us a bit about this. We wanna hear about Taylor's skincare company here.


Taylor (14:31.103)



Taylor (14:36.022)

Yeah, I did.


Taylor (14:43.494)

This was, I think, one of the most pivotal moments of my life. I think that without this moment, I don't know if I would have had the drive or have the drive that I currently do have now because this was when I say pivotal, I mean pivotal. So long story short, I have always loved skincare. It's always been a thing. I struggle with my own skin. So I was looking to create some sort of natural skincare products.


Bennien (14:55.824)



Taylor (15:13.13)

At first I was focused on facial care. Eventually I decided I wanted to be the black owned bath and body work. So I was doing, I was making everything by hand. And I will say that opening this business taught me resilience. I did not know any, I mean, my family has a business but it had been in business for like 60 years now. Nobody could really tell me the things to do to start a business. So I kind of had to learn on my own. And I think...


Bennie (15:19.349)



Taylor (15:40.05)

Again, it's truly one of the most difficult things to do. And it's beyond taxing because me as a young person, I was looking at people on social media and they were starting brands left and right. And I was like, well, I can do that. And, I think the thing with social media is that people always show the good and they don't show the difficulties. And so when it came to filing an LLC, designing labels and logos, creating a website, packaging items, shipping them off, doing social media advertisements.


Bennie (15:57.673)



Taylor (16:09.374)

It was all me. And so I was doing all by myself. And I had to learn how to do those things all by myself. And luckily, it was through COVID, so I could dedicate my times that fully. But I mean, it really showed me that if you want something, you have to be both dedicated and disciplined. Because I feel like having a brand is almost like having child, is something that you actively have to be cognizant of at all times. And I realized that while having a brand is great, like I said, it's something that you have to be able to dedicate a lot, if not most of your time to. And it just taught me, it taught me so much. It taught me how to make adjustments quickly. It taught me how to, you know, overcome any adversities. Cause at first I was making a lot of mistakes and I just learned so many things about having a brand and about myself. And I definitely think I would do it again. I would do it a little differently next time, but I would do it again.


Bennie (17:09.098)



What surprised you the most about yourself and the possibilities of the brand? What surprised you the most?


Taylor (17:18.286)

I think what surprised me the most, so I'll speak a little bit to the marketing aspect here. So when I started this brand, it was right after George Floyd. So my initial plan was to launch the brand in July. We know George Floyd happens like in May. So what I did was I did a soft launch. And basically any of the money that was made from that soft launch would be donated to George Floyd's GoFundMe account.


So what I learned through that instance is that people will support a cause. Like if it is a good cause, people will come out and support a brand that is supporting a good cause. So I learned that. What I learned about myself is that, again, I am resilient. I think that me doing that soft launch, I was not ready. I truly just wanted to make a difference, but I was not ready to launch that product at all, to launch any of the products. And again, I learned a lot from that soft launch and a lot about...the mistakes that I made, specifically with packaging and all these other things. But I learned that I am pretty adaptable and I'm pretty resilient and I can make things happen when they need to happen for the greater good.


Bennie (18:28.492)

So in speaking of the greater good, you've talked a little bit about this. What are your thoughts today on how marketing can have a larger impact than social good? How you can take these skills and kind of the benefits and superpowers that we have as marketers, how can we more proactively use that to make a contemporary difference in our world?


Taylor (18:38.286)



Taylor (18:49.234)

I think that with marketers, it is always important to be culturally competent. And I think that once marketers are able to gain that cultural competence, when it comes to making a social good, is that you have to be fully aware, like I said, of what is going on within society. Because I think that nowadays with...knowledge online spreading so quickly, whether that's through the news or TikTok or Instagram and all these advertisements constantly being around stuff that we're looking at and seeing every day, misinformation can spread like wildfire, especially like I said, through these new channels. And I think that, however, if done right, marketing can truly change the world. And I look at things specifically when I think of one of the best marketing campaigns for social good. I think of the Dove campaign and how Dove uses marketing to inspire women to wear their natural hair and embrace their true selves. I think that's absolutely fantastic. I look at how Barbie and the Little Mermaid embedded themselves into literally everything. And it had this huge media presence and how that inspired the new generation to embrace themselves and foster inclusivity. And I think we definitely need more of that. So I think if done properly, marketing can truly change the world and help people look and view themselves.


Bennie (20:16.832)

What advice would you give to the rising juniors and seniors who are thinking about taking the world through marketing?


Taylor (20:25.706)

I think, again, you need to be aware of what is going on within the world because we have seen over and over and over again how people will do these marketing campaigns. Like, for example, I'm thinking of Balenciaga right now. How people will do these marketing campaigns and think that, oh, we wanna market this product and it looks good and we're doing all that. Or I'm thinking of H&M when they had the little boy, the black boy in the monkey shirt, things like that.


Bennie (20:30.677)



Taylor (20:54.794)

I feel if you want to be a marketer, always remember to think about people that look differently than you. I think that we as people, whether we're marketers or other people, often make the mistake of thinking that other people think like us when that is not the case. So I would always tell students, just be knowledgeable and be knowledgeable of what is going on outside of your own community. Because I mean, again, when we are people, we tend to hang around people that look, think and act like us. And while that is okay, sometimes you just have to be more aware of what's going on outside your own circle and outside your own world. Because if you're doing marketing, you're marketing to your audience is again, normally people have  a niche target audience, but the world is becoming more diverse. When we look at the demographic makeup, people are saying that by 2050, people that are minorities will no longer be technically minorities, they'll be the majority. So we just have to make sure again that we're culturally competent at all times.


Bennie (22:01.164)

So we talked about, I asked the advice that you would give. I'm curious because you have such a kind of great platform in your LinkedIn space. What are some of the questions that your followers are asking you?


Taylor (22:15.346)

They asked me a lot of things. One of the biggest questions that I get all the time is, I mean, I'm just gonna be honest, is can you help me with this internship? Or can you help me, what advice would you give me when it comes to applying for this internship? And I love this question, but at the same time, I also don't always have the answer to this question, because sometimes people will ask me about internships that are within like software engineering.


Bennie (22:27.04)



Taylor (22:43.27)

I have no idea what's going on in that organization. I do not know how to code. And so I kind of have come up with a way to give people the best advice I can possible, even if what they're asking is not necessarily relevant to what I do. But again, I would try to help everybody in a way. And so I always encourage people and I always tell people that I am not, again, the epitome of knowledge. And that's why I say I'm always learning. I'm always trying to upscale myself and do all these things.


Because while I do know a lot through my own experience, I do not know everything. And I think people ask me that question, they expect me to have all of the answers, but I just hate to say that I don't. So that's the biggest question.


Bennie (23:26.784)

So who do you go to for your question?


Taylor (23:29.55)

Who do I go to? Well, two people. I will say, well, three people. I'll say most of the time. My dad, number one, I call him five times a day. Shout out to you, dad. I hope he listens to this. I'll actually make him listen to it. He answers my phone call. Basically every time I literally call him, when I say five times a day, that is not an exaggeration. I call him five times a day. I would say, secondly, my best friend, who's also my mentor, shout out to Noelle.


Bennie (23:32.512)



Taylor (23:54.554)

I always ask her just for feedback when it comes to things professionally and just in life. I always ask her about things. And lastly, my new mentor, who's also my colleague, Gary. Gary is one of the most intelligent people I've ever met in my life. And any question that I have about work, DEI, education, upskilling, whatever it is, he has the best answer. I literally have never heard someone be so articulate about just...everything that I ask and that man is just, he's a book of knowledge. Like I love talking to Gary. So yes, those are the three.


Bennie (24:32.768)

That's an awesome group, a team of Avengers to have around you, right? When you think about it, you know, as a dad, I'm smiling because that's, that's the dream to have your child reach out to you five times a day. It'd be an active part that, that as a dad, that is part of the dream. And, you know, to note about, about our support comes in a variety of dynamic ways. So you've talked about multiple generations in terms of support and looking at kind of challenges and opportunities through those lenses.


Taylor (24:36.382)



Taylor (24:44.091)

I would say I heard my dad slip in the cream then.


Bennie (25:02.732)

I'm going to ask you a DEI question, and it's not one in which we all have answers to, but I think we all have a part of the conversation to. What do you think is next for our DEI work at a corporate level, at an organizational level? You know, we talked a bit at the beginning, we've been at a bit of a crossroads. What are you seeing is next for how our DEI work has its own impact in organizations and society?


Taylor (25:30.542)

I think that going forward for all organizations, DEI is going to have to be focused around data. I think that everything that we've been doing in the past is great. But one thing that I've been seeing consistently, whether that's on LinkedIn or whether that's what I've been hearing from other thought partners within the field, is that we need more tangible outcomes. And this work is work that is slow, I will say.


Because when you're trying to fix issues that are embedded within society, that have been around for hundreds of years, it's going to take time to progress. And we have seen good progress over the last few years, but I am fearful that the progress that we have made will not stick and that we will go back to ways that we were previously.


So I think in the future, when it comes to what we need to do, we really, really need to focus around, again, data and embedding DEI into all parts of the business. I think that people think that DEI is solely hiring focused, or DEI is solely about ERGs or programs, which, yes, it is. But we need to look at our promotion rates. We need to look at our attrition rates. We need to make sure that our products are equitable.


We need to make sure that when we're posting job descriptions that they are equitable and inclusive for people that may have different abilities. We need to make sure that our workplaces are suitable for people of various abilities. We need to make sure that everything that we are doing has a DEI lens around it. And I think people often talk to me and they're like, oh, I love DEI, I wanna do what you're doing, but I'm also doing this, this and that. And I'm like, you can be a DEI practitioner without having DEI in your title. And I think that is what I think is a future of DEI to me to where we don't have to have, well, I still want my job, let me say that, but while we don't have to have a team that is solely dedicated to doing DEI because everyone will be doing it because it's not a question anymore. It's not a question of what we need to do because we know that it needs to be done because again, we have the numbers, we have the data. Obviously this is a problem and we have everyone working toward that same goal. I think that...


Taylor (27:55.85)

is what I want the future of DEI to be. I hope that becomes the future of DEI, but it needs to be embedded within everything that we're doing.


Bennie (28:04.048)

Well, the data shows it to your point. More diverse teams win. More diverse organizations win. More diverse companies and products win. And for future, those organizations that win in the future have diversity embedded in the space, which brings the best of what everybody brings to the table. And companies like yours and spaces we have really have an opportunity to lead the way for that work.


Taylor (28:06.114)

Yes. Always.


Taylor (28:29.538)

And that's it. And I wish we could scream that from the rooftops, Benny, because people just don't seem to get it. I'm like, it's literally in, like the proof is in the pudding. The more diverse your company is, the more inclusive the culture is, the better your bottom line will be. I don't know if we need to show people the difference in the dollars or something, but I think the people just don't get it.


Bennie (28:52.052)

Well, that's a space where the material impact is in the data. The material impact is in the performance. All the key measures that most people are trained and grown in the organizations have a direct impact if you have these principles and this approach embedded into the work that you do. And it's important that you're seeing this. What's inspiring for us is that you're starting your career with that lens. So what does the future hold for us? And that's part of our conversation here.


Taylor (29:16.266)



Bennie (29:22.984)

You know, we talk about visibility and I wanted to make sure that you were my guest as we think about, the work we do at the AMA and our AMA foundation on Giving Tuesday. And a lot of our work looks at how do we expand opportunity? How do we expand opportunity to bring in talent into the pipeline of marketing leadership and creativity and analysis that hasn't been there before to say this is an opportunity? So, you know, I want to ask a closing question. If you're constantly working towards giving back, but tell me what it means to you to give back.


Taylor (30:00.842)

Giving back is what I think about all the time. Honestly, you asked me earlier what was on the forefront of my mind, and I'm gonna change my answer because giving back is honestly one of the things that despite work, despite stress, despite whatever is going on, that is something that stays in the front of my mind. And so when it comes to giving back for me, it is so important, I believe, to lift as you climb. And I talk about this all the time, that there is no good in me having all this knowledge and not sharing it with others. It is no good for me to make it to the top or make it to a certain point in my life and not extend the ladder back down. And I think that when it comes to giving back, I think sharing is caring. And I want to continue sharing my knowledge, sharing my resources, sharing my network with other people. Because again, I talk about it how if it weren't for someone sharing their resources with me.


I promise you I wouldn't be sitting in this seat today. I don't know where I would be, but it would not be here. And I think that giving back is just so important to me. No matter what way I can do it, I always, always wanna help people climb and lift them as I climb. Because again, it's no fun being at the top if you don't have people at the top with you. It's just not fun.


Bennie (31:19.8)

Well, I can't think of a better way to end this most delightful conversation that lifting up as you climb is really powerful. Taylor, thank you and continued success and impact. It's been an honor to have you join me and I'm glad you're my new neighbor here in Washington, DC. I look forward to getting into more good trouble with you, but thank you for encouraging our AMA community.


Taylor (31:38.93)





Bennie (31:47.456)

both students and practitioners about what winning the future can be, what visibility means, and what it means to put the next generation of our thoughts about how do we serve our communities to test. So thank you for joining us today. Taylor Falls has been our guest, DEI specialist at Adobe, just general great kind of role model and influencer in this space.


Follow her on LinkedIn. Yes. For advice, thank you for being a part of our podcast here at AMAs Marketing. And we encourage you to support the work of the AMA Foundation this Giving Tuesday and throughout the year as we find opportunities to encourage both scholarship, growth, and innovation among students, students of color, and more diverse communities. Thank you for supporting the AMA.


Taylor (32:16.866)

Thank you. Yes, please do. Thank you for the shout out, Bennie.


Bennie (32:46.608)

And thank you for joining me for this episode of Marketing And