The future of work in marketing with Jessie Kernan
Frida Polli, CEO and co-founder of Pymetrics, passes the mic in our final episode of the season to We Are Rosie’s own Jessie Kernan, Head of Strategy and Insights as well as Executive Consultant for Outside Wave, a marketing & business consultancy for progressive and purpose-driven brands and agencies. The two discuss the future of work in marketing and what has changed about the landscape in 2020.
Frida: Hi, I’m Frida Polli, CEO and co-founder of Pymetrics and you are tuned into the final episode of the Rosie Report podcast, season two. This season, each guest from the previous week – that would be me in this case – talks to another rebel for good, change-maker, who bravely opted out of traditional employment and turned their life’s work towards a mission but is also changing the paradigm of work.
Last week, I talked to Becky Morrison about the future of equality in production. This week I’m so excited to chat with Jessie Kernan, We Are Rosie’s very own Head of Strategy and Insights as well as Executive Consultant for Outside Wave. Welcome, Jessie. It’s going to be so fun to close out the season with you, so let’s get right into it. Are you ready?
Jessie: Yes, I’m ready. Thanks so much.
Frida: Absolutely. Okay. Cool. So, my first question for you, which I was glad to answer last week is how do you best describe what you do?
Jessie: Well, I created this podcast. No, actually it is kind of funny because to close out this season, you get to pass the mic back to me at, We Are Rosie on the podcast created by We Are Rosie.
Frida: That is amazing.
Jessie: Yes. So, here at We Are Rosie, I lead strategy and insights, which essentially encompasses our value proposition, our marketing, data analytics and insights and our strategic partnerships. But what we are all really doing at We Are Rosie is paradigm shifting the marketing and advertising industry by creating opportunity for people, particularly those who’ve been marginalized and underrepresented to work on terms that work for them.
Frida: That is awesome. What a very noble and ambitious goal that you have set your life work to. All right, onto question number two. You were doing this before 2020, what did you see that others couldn’t?
Jessie: It’s an interesting question. If you think about my relationship between We Are Rosie, excuse me, and what I was doing pre-2020, I actually joined We Are Rosie in 2020, but work wasn’t working for me personally for a really long time before that.
I was stuck in a toxic world trying to change it from the inside, which actually is a very common theme amongst the We Are Rosie team. I was leading diversity initiatives. I was creating new entities within the agency to try to overcome, or even insulate from some of the ugliness of the industry.
Then a little over two years ago, just kind of feeling ultimately the tension between the demands of work and being a new and sort of late in my career, mom, I left the industry and went independent. I stumbled across We Are Rosie in the middle of 2019, which had created this home for independent talent, like me, people with stories like mine.
I started working on the Rosie report in January 2020 and it was all about shedding light on this major shift of talent and this challenge that we had within the industry of marginalizing groups of people out because of the way that we worked and that I had actually personally been a part of that journey. I saw it, at that point leading into the Rosie report and the Rosie report was intended to illuminate it and then the pandemic.
Frida: And then that happened. That’s awesome. Well, it sounds like you were not that happy for a while… To satisfy it, let’s say for a while. What or was there a defining moment when you knew you had to take action?
Jessie: Yes, so in my career, I pretty much knew it wasn’t… I wasn’t long for the industry the day I was asked to take a very long business trip for a new business pitch as a new and exclusively breastfeeding mom in the same week that I returned from maternity leave. I was, “Yeah, I think this is probably not going to work the way that I thought it might. I may not get as much grace as I hoped I would.” And that was the day that my gears started turning on my career trajectory and in general.
But more in context of like why we’re here today. We were deep into this work on the Rosie Report when the pandemic broke out and that shut down and that massive now quote, work from home experiment was this immediate trigger to expand what we were doing and surfacing and exposing into immediate ecosystem.
We knew right away that everything we were looking at and thinking about and surfacing was exactly what the world was going to be needing and that we had to offer so much more than a report PDF that would just get dusty and buried and filed in the circular file eventually. So, this content hub was born and this podcast was born and the newsletter was born and it’s been really exhilarating and just interesting that that moment of panic in the world and uncertainty created such a moment of clarity for us as a business and with respect to the Rosie Report and what we needed to do.
Frida: That makes sense. I think we’ve all felt similarly precipitated by strange breastfeeding experiences and others not.
Jessie: Oh man, I won’t even get into the room that I had to breast pump in the first time that I was-
Frida: I mean, I’ve had to do it in between two men that I don’t know on an airplane. So…
Jessie: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. Dirty bathroom floors. It’s good stuff.
Frida: Okay. So, moving on to the next question. So much has changed in 2020, what do you see now that you didn’t before?
Jessie: So, a lot. There’s so much, it probably has a little to do with 2020 and a lot to do with just being on this personal journey of growth. In summary, I would say that what I’m seeing now that I didn’t before is the depth of bias that’s in the system. You know, the combination of the We Are Rosie business model and this commitment to the Rosie Report has me on a continuous personal journey. I like to say I’m a perpetual work in progress.
I’m realizing that very literally, bias is just so ingrained in the institution of work. That it’s almost indiscernible that we see these things as what work is, as opposed to recognizing that work is biased, and it needs to be consciously decoupled that like… I think back on so many things that I’ve been comfortable with that I shouldn’t have been. The way we recruit and hire. The way we reward for performance. The types of expectations that we have of our employees. The resume, for example, I know that’s really important to your work.
Work was not created objectively. It’s a really subjective concept and the bias needs to be rooted out of almost everything about it. Like all the small, minor, mundane, uninteresting, boring, basic stuff is all laced with bias.
Frida: Yeah. True. Unfortunately, we just can’t escape it. I think that’s kind of the problem is that… You know, again, my background as a cognitive neuroscientist, is that I think it’s just really hard for us to accept as humans that we are like to be human is to be biased, unfortunately and that creates all sorts of problems and by the way you and I are just as biased in ways in which we’re not happy about. So-
Frida: It’s not an other problem. It’s an every person problem.
Jessie: Yeah. I like to say there is no woke. It’s only a continuous state of awakening. We have to live there.
Frida: Well, bias just means that you form representations about people based on what you’ve seen patterns around you. So, everyone unfortunately, is exposed to those patterns. Anyway-
Jessie: So true.
Frida: So, it is unfortunate, I agree, and I think we have to be data-driven and creative in our solutions, which is not easy. Okay. One more question and then we’re going to end on a wrapping note. So, how has your mission changed or has your mission changed since the upheaval of 2020?
So, I wouldn’t say the mission has changed so much, but it has strengthened and grown like the combination of the We Are Rosie business model and the Rosie Report is allowing us to anchor in this space of creating opportunities. Opportunities that wouldn’t otherwise exist or for people who might not otherwise have them. And we’re thinking about opportunity creation now in broader terms.
How do we break all those paradigms: part with traditional definitions and modes of work? Parting with the ways in which we qualify people for work. And that’s one of the main reasons why you are my gracious host even today is because we are looking for the opportunity to rethink and rewire all of those biases that we can see.
Obviously, as you said, we form patterns, and we can’t necessarily… We can’t escape the fact that our brains are designed to form patterns, but at least we can start to recognize when our brains are forming patterns and try to raise our consciousness.
We’re thinking about opportunity creation through that lens. How do we start to understand how to better match talent and opportunities through new means? We’ve recently rolled out new profiles, which are completely absent of work and education history for our Rosies to manage their presence within our community. We’re looking to get all of our Rosies through the pie metrics assessment, so that we can see people through the lens of potential and not just the privilege that’s recorded in their work histories.
And we’re looking at other ways of other types of humanizing technology and data, as well as having a very human layer on our process of matching talent as well. And we’re also thinking about work in different terms. We’re thinking about… We Are Rosie at its core connects flexible, independent marketing talent to marketing work, but work can manifest in lots of ways.
In traditional client scopes of marketing work, but also in, for example, writing for the Rosie Report or in editing for the Rosie Report. We have two editors and residents right now who came out of our community in facilitating events and trainings to our community and participating in compensated research. There’s just so much more that we can offer.
Our mission is still true. It’s still about that opportunity creation and allowing people to work on terms that work for them. But we’re seeing the potential for more breadth in that, and also more, more informed, and human plus technology means.
Frida: That all sounds awesome. Okay. Final question for you, which is, what does the ideal future of work in marketing look like?
Jessie: This is one of those questions where it’s so broad and it has… Having grown up through the marketing industry, we’re constantly asked, “What is the future of social media or what is the future of this particular technology or the future of this aperture, like loyalty, for example?” And constantly have to have a point of view on that.
And it’s interesting now, my work at We Are Rosie, my lens is much more on the people side. And the fact that this industry at its essence is all about creative magic and innovation and compelling behavior and connecting with people. And so, it really has to be about the humans. It has to be about respect. It has to be about dignity. And those are things that have been stripped out of our industry over the last several decades and why it’s in the predicament that it’s in, where we’re seeing headlines every day lately.
The future of work in marketing to me is unleashing all of that creative magic and innovation that this industry is so capable of because talent isn’t burdened any longer by the system. And because everyone feels liberated to show up as their whole human selves.
Frida: I think that should expand beyond marketing for sure.
Jessie: I hope it does. Let’s hope.
Frida: Absolutely. Well, great. Well, thank you for ending the Rosie Report that you founded on such a great note, Jessie. Thank you for having me as your guest last week, that was awesome. And I think that concludes the season. So, congratulations because this was an awesome experience for me to be a part of. So, thank you so much for having me and thanks for letting me end it with you.
Jessie: Yeah. Thank you. So, that is a wrap on Pass the Mic, season two of the Rosie Report podcast. Huge thanks, huge gratitude to everyone who turned into this magical season. It was our true, great and humble pleasure to have so many remarkable guest hosts like you, Frida, and to be able to share their stories with all of our listeners. We cannot wait to share what we have up our sleeves for season three. It is going to be hot. If you want to stay in the know, be sure to subscribe on Spotify and Anchor and check out more stories on building a future of work for everyone, by everyone at therosiereport.com.