This article originally appeared on The Life Currency.
Like many young adults, Ezinne Kwubiri wasn’t 100 percent sure what she wanted to major in as a college student, but she knew she needed something that would lead to a stable career path.
“I decided on accounting because it’s like the basis of business and a lot of [accounting] firms came to Howard to recruit,” admits Kwubiri.
After connecting with a recruiter from PricewaterhouseCoopers, she joined the firm as an audit associate following her graduation from Howard University in 2004. However, after being bored by the corporate culture of accounting firms, Kwubiri knew she needed a change of pace to be fully fulfilled in her work. She reached out to people within her inner circle and beyond to see if they knew of any opportunities in the business and stumbled upon an opening at MTV that would unknowingly change the trajectory of her career forever.
“Someone told me to apply to MTV because they knew someone who had got hired in the accounting office,” she says. “So I applied, got the role, and that’s how I got here.”
Joining the MTV family in 2007, the Howard alum has worked her way up from a Senior Productions Auditor to the Director of Global Business Services and Chain Management at MTV.
While her social media accounts prove that she has one of the coolest jobs at the network as a world traveler, Kwubiri makes it clear that there’s a story of hard work, perseverance and boardroom excellence that goes behind every Instagram moment you see on her page.
In her current role, she’s not only responsible for the training, communication and new experiences that are rolled into all of the organization's channels, brands and offices, but she’s also a project manager who oversees large project implementations in Asia Pacific offices and manages teams in New York, London, and Budapest. With about 40 percent of her job including international traveling, Kwubiri has mastered how to adapt to cultural differences as a business leader abroad.
“As a leader, [traveling] has shaped my thinking in a more innovative way,” she explains. “For example, there is a difference when I go to Germany versus Madrid. In Germany, they may come in the office around 10 or 11am and have extended lunch hours. But in Madrid, they may come in around 8am and leave around 4pm so the work schedule is different and you have to think about that in terms of when you communicate and when you send things.”
As a young executive in an intergenerational workforce, that now includes millennials, Generation X and baby boomers, Kwubiri leads a team of colleagues both younger and older, which she admits has been a bit of an adjustment since stepping into her current position last year.
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“What I try to do is just stay true to who I am and understand why I was put in this role,” she says. “I haven’t been disrespected directly and I just try to look at what the tasks are and hope that when I come into the room people aren’t only looking at my age, gender or race.”
Making no apologies for the level of confidence she exudes in the boardroom, the 34-year-old executives says she relies heavily on the advice her manager tells her about walking into every room with authority so that people have no choice but to listen.
But as a Black woman in a position of power, Kwubiri is aware of the fine line she has to walk to ensure that this same sense of authority and confidence isn’t confused with the stereotypes that are often placed on women of color in leadership positions.
“Even though I may deep down be like, ‘Oh crap, I’m the only female in here or person of color in here,’ I don’t let my colleagues see that because that will be their focus of attention,” she says. “So what I try to do is always know myself and come very prepared about what’s going on. I even ask my manager for feedback because I want to make sure the way I perceive the meeting is how other people perceive it as well.”
This same initiative she has taken throughout her career to open up to her manager and ask for feedback is what Kwubiri admits has helped her to climb the corporate ladder at MTV.
“A lot of people always ask how to get promoted and what I've learned is to be persistent and to take initiative,” she says. “I've always shown interest to my boss and asked if they need help with anything. I think showing that initiative, will keep you in mind when projects do come up.”
Kwubiri adds that speaking up and showing interest in new projects will also prevent you from being pigeon holed to one role and it will allow you to explore opportunities in different departments within the company.
While a degree in accounting may seem like the last option for anyone interested in the entertainment business, Kwubiri is proof that any career path is possible when you work hard and remain open to new opportunities.