Reaching back and pulling others forward is essential to ensuring equity in corporate spaces. And that is precisely what the Black Executive CMO Alliance (BECA) was created to do.
BECA was founded by veteran Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Jerri DeVard. With decades of experience across several organizations, DeVard understands what it means to be one of the “only ones” in a space as well as the importance of having diverse perspectives at the table.
According to its website, BECA’s mission is to “provide an intimate, trusted, safe space for Black marketing C-Suite executives to share, learn, elevate, and pay it forward in order to create opportunity, access, and equality for the current and next generation of Black marketing leaders.”
Beginning with 25 other individuals in 2021, at its core, BECA is about helping the next person. And this is made evident in the organization’s four pillars: share, learn, elevate, and pay it forward. One of the ways paying it forward is made tangible is through the BECA Playbook.
“The BECA Playbook is a two-year journey we created in partnership with Deloitte. The selected folks must go through a hundred-plus hours of work,” DeVard told AFROTECH exclusively. “We’re going to be launching our third cohort this November. Each future leader has a BECA member as their mentor. Suppose you’re thinking about coming up in your career and having someone already in the C-suite and Black who can help you and is there to support you. In that case, that’s a huge benefit that helps close the gap on why others succeed and why we don’t with the same credentials, experience, and expectations.”
Interested members in the BECA Playbook cohorts must be nominated and fiscally sponsored by their managers, identify as Black, and be considered high-potential. In addition to being matched with a mentor, the program includes a series of 90-minute learning sessions to grow, develop, and have authentic conversations around navigating the marketing industry as a Black professional.
BECA Future Leader, Class of ’24, Freddie Williams touted the current impact the program has on him and his career.
“Through The BECA Playbook Program, I have been provided access, insight, and one-on-one development from leaders across the world’s most influential companies,” Williams, senior manager of global strategic marketing at Johnson & Johnson, said. “BECA is ensuring the next generation of black marketers like me will achieve and thrive at the highest levels of Corporate America.”
Williams also noted the mentoring program’s power and how it makes his desire to move up the corporate ladder become a reality with a network of support.
“My development wouldn’t be where it is today without my mentor, BECA Founding Member Will Smith, SVP & CMO, PetSmart. Will has equipped me with specific tools that are helping to move me beyond high performer toward “go-to” executive that my leaders find indispensable for business-critical efforts,” Williams shared.
The impact that Williams just described is part of the collective vision DeVard was striving for, she says. In fact, she credits a large part of where she is today to people who reached back, paid it forward, and mentored her. Doing this work is more than just programmatic — it’s soul work.
“There’s this joke: ‘ Who can say no to Jerri?’ Well, I can tell them that a lot of people can say no to Jerri, but many people said, yes,” DeVard pointed out. “I get it. I’m an ally. I want to help you. What do you need? Not only when we’re starting but even today. Even today, our mission and purpose are so strong and so clear that we find people who want to help. And it’s been a blessing and a tailwind for BECA.”
As BECA moves into the future, its members hope to continue building support and empowerment for aspiring Black CMOs. The journey does not end with an introduction to BECA but continues as a beacon of hope for those in the pipeline to take up space and own their future.
“Don’t sit on your assets. Don’t sit on your thoughts,” DeVard said. “One of our BECA members, Rudy Wilson from SC Johnson, does this thing called ‘FISO: fit in, stand out.’ Understand the culture, but show up and make sure people know you’re in the room.”