Melody Hobson, President, Ariel Investments
Each and every time I have an opportunity to hear Melody Hobson speak, I jump at the chance. She never disappoints shares great insight on her career journey and she always gives very candid and 'real-time' thoughts on the state of America at the time of her presentation.
Many have wondered how at a very young age she was tapped as the president of a multi-billion dollar investment firm when it was her first job after graduating from Princeton University in 1991. Well, let's just pause and take note that the aforementioned university is no small endeavor so I am sure that alone played a key role. Hobson joined Ariel Investments as an intern and rose to become the firm's senior vice president and director of marketing. In 2000, she ascended to become the president of Ariel, a Chicago investment firm that manages over $13 billion in assets. It is also one of the largest African American-owned money management and mutual fund companies in the United States.
During her interview by Tony Prophet, Salesforce's Equality Chief, Hobson shared that as a child she always had a curious nature and had a thirst for knowledge. When landing her position at Ariel Investment, for two years she came into the office every Saturday and sort out the mail. This was not Hobson's job, but she was very interested in the mail that came in for the president at that time. Hobson would have the mail ready for him to review because he also came in on Saturdays. That consistency and tenacious attitude caught the eye of the president and one day he introduced her to colleagues as the next president of the firm. This was very much to her surprise, but she embraced it with open arms.
On the question of Hobson's thoughts with regard to the racism barometer today, she encourages us not to be 'color blind' but 'color brave', and she explained those terms in her 2006 TED Talk. Being color blind is a way to ignore and avoid the hard and uncomfortable race conversation, a discussion we must have from our dinner tables to the lunchrooms in our workplaces. We have to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. Hobson also makes the statement that 'everyone is Black now', as she explains how millions of people now, not just Black people, are experiencing that racial tension and disruption that Blacks have experienced for many years. And no, the election of a Black president was not going to solve the hundreds of years of racism in America.
Here are just a few aaaahhhaaa moments that grabbed my attention during Hobson's interview at Dreamforce 2017. While just a few, they give tremendous insight on who Hobson is to the core:
1. While living at home, Hobson used the bathroom toilet seat as a desk and she would run the water in the tub to drown out the noise in her house so she could study.
2. Hobson lived in a 850 sq. ft. apartment for 14 years because she did not like moving. Even though she could afford a larger place, the thought of moving was the hindrance.
3. Hobson knew as a child that she had to get a good education if she wanted to be in control.
Hobson is brilliant, beautiful and bold. She makes #blackgirlmagic everyday!
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