If there’s one thing Ronnie Dickerson Stewart, VP/Group Director at DigitasLBi thinks everyone needs more of, it’s grace.
“Give yourself grace and extend it to others,” she says, “It comes back around.”
Ronnie has always had the spirit of a boss and a go-getter. And while that’s all great, she acknowledges in the past she wasn’t giving herself the grace to fail or fall.”
“I’ve learned more from failing and having the grace to bounce back than from being the stereotypical definition of a go-getter,” she says. “I felt like I had too much to lose when I was much younger and climbing and trying to achieve. It took a while to be comfortable with grace.”
“I’m still Type-A (ish), but my motivation behind it is different. It’s not driven by “keeping up”, competition or ego, but it’s about what I’m put on this Earth to do. It’s about what I’m doing to contribute to others. The grace to course correct or the grace to tell someone “no” or “I don’t know.
Her ability to prioritize what’s important in her life — like her job, her friends and her family — comes from this grace. And it’s a lesson we all should learn.
By day, Ronnie leads Talent Engagement & Inclusion for DigitasLBi across North America. In her role, she works to advance diversity and inclusion in her company and across the broader advertising industry. She considers herself a people’s champion, who cares deeply about others and their experiences.
In college, she thought she wanted to be the next Oprah (who doesn’t ?!) and went down the journalism degree path, with a journalism scholarship to boot. While getting deeper into her coursework, and even serving as an officer of her college NABJ chapter, she realized the traditional journalism path wasn’t for her. One day after learning her college (University of Kentucky) offered an advertising degree path, she promptly changed her major. She excelled in her program, earning herself a a seat in the 2004 MAIP (Multicultural Advertising Intern Program) class, and an internship at a top Chicago agency during her junior year. Her internship led to a full-time offer before her senior year began, and that offer led to now more than 12 years working in the advertising industry. But, after over a decade into her career, and after career success, escalating promotions and becoming a Vice President of Media, she realized she loved her clients and working on their business challenges, but loved the people more.
“Seeing people grow and win was the best part of my job,” she says, “I found myself being in weird and productive coaching moments with managers and clients that weren’t about the technical aspects of work, but about management and leadership.”
“Coaching, talent engagement, leadership development, diversity program management,” she says, “I was doing what I do now for “free” while also being a VP Media Director. I was literally doing two jobs, and eventually decided to make a career move.” With the full support of DigitasLBi, she essentially created her role out of what she was naturally adding to and getting from the company.
“I feel like my goal in this career life [a term she uses because she believes you have many career lives] is help change the industry in terms of access for diverse talent,” says Ronnie, “I feel that is my purpose, to knock down doors and provide influence to advance access for diverse talent.” She opened a career coaching practice this past year because there are more people she hopes to reach outside of her corporate office doors. Her coaching practice is not just targeted to diverse talent, but also those who can hire them and exposed them to critical career opportunities and experiences, no matter their gender, age or industry.
Beyond the office walls
Outside of work, Ronnie is unapologetic about her current favorite pastime – sleeping! For the last year she has had a demanding but quite cuddly and cute new boss – her now 1-year-old son. Outside of all that comes with “new mommy mode” as she puts it, she is a natural people person.
“People are my job, and my purpose, but, I also love quiet moments with family, reading good books, and even freestyle rapping.”
"When I started out in my career, I felt like it was social currency to be a busy person,” she says, “ Busy was cool, and I fell victim to that lie and trap for a long time. Now I know it's irresponsible not to incorporate your family and self-care, downtime and me-time into the things you prioritize before anything else. Work can wait. Now my world stops for my family. My day is based on my family's care, and when everything is good, things positively stem from that. Before I was married, I can see retrospectively I didn't have the responsibility to prioritize self-care. Now I'm appreciative to be in a situation to recognize how short life is and the value of time."
And for Ronnie, self-care is all about indulging in the things that make her a better person. From something as small as bringing out a book (she’s currently reading a few, including Drop the Ball by Tiffany Dufu and Grit by Angela Duckworth) to read on a plane ride rather than bringing out her laptop to work, taking the time to deep condition and twist her hair, paint her nails, watch trash TV and have deep moments with her girlfriends serves as self-care on a daily basis.
“I consider myself a MommyGoGetter,” Ronnie says. For her, this means she gets up with no alarm, because she wakes up to her son. She has a monitor and when he rustles and starts (quite literally jumping up and down laughing in his bed) she rises, whether that be at 5 a.m. or 7:15 a.m. Then she’ll kiss her husband, go to her son’s room, welcome him into his day. “From there it’s “breakfast, diaper, and Doc McStuffins.”— the three essentials to keep him happy while she gets ready. From there, she and her husband get ready like clockwork, drop their son off, and head to work.
For breakfast, she’ll typically eat at the office or at a corner bakery next door.
Her day job is fun, and it requires her to be willing to react, get up, speak, stand up for company, accept awards or even teach management skills.
“My job doesn’t have a typical day,” she says, “If something happens that affects our talent, even if it’s outside our doors, I have an Olivia Pope-esque strategy meeting, trying to figure out what we can do, whether that’s working with corporate communications for crisis management, talent leads to orchestrate what we call Brave Space conversations or working with our leadership team to address. Other parts of my day can include working on events and programs we sponsor and send our talent to, working with recruiting and talent teams on how to improve processes, interviewing candidates — Literally every day I come into office and look at my whiteboard and to-do list to figure out what’s most important. Then I go from there. There are larger things for the week. but outside of that, we work to decide what’s most important for talent at a given moment.”
After work, she has to pick her son up by 6 p.m., pick up her husband by 6:30 p.m., they get home, have dinner and put their son to bed by 7:15 p.m. every day. Sometimes she’ll take coaching clients after that time and on weekends. She blocks certain hours for open coaching sessions and doesn’t work outside of those hours.
Her pampering routine is simple — “When it’s warmer, I use Clinique’s Liquid Facial Soap, Clarifying Lotion and Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion. When it’s colder, I use lots of Aveeno, that works for me. For my hair, I usually have two shampoos in rotation, Carol’s Daughter and Creme of Nature deep conditioning shampoo and conditioner, I like to keep products that I can find in any city. I use actual shea butter to twist my hair, but otherwise, I go through different products, though Dark and Lovely setting gel is good.”
Her favorite perfume is Gucci Premiere but her husband buys her tons of Marc Jacobs perfumes because of the beautiful bottles. She also likes light Chanel scents, such as Chance, and other airy linen scents. Although she loves luxury scents, when it comes to body lotions, she’s super into what she can get at Target, like Jergens with shea butter or natural oils — she’s not willing to invest.
Overall, Ronnie knows who she is and what she wants. And that’s something to be admired.
“I’m happy with who and where I am.,” she says, “It’s not that everything is picture perfect (see the many days I change outfits before leaving the house — because baby milk throw-up), but I’m comfy with winning and living on my own terms.”
Forget others’ definitions of greatness – define it for yourself and own your narrative. Also, extend the same grace to them while they are figuring it out for themselves.