UNOde50, a jewelry line started in Madrid, is growing its brand worldwide and has selected Jason McNary to oversee efforts in its North American market. McNary has an extensive background in leadership in the retail industry, which includes formerly holding the position of president of the fashion line, agnès b.
Black Enterprise caught up with McNary to find out what it’s like to be the first African American male CEO to work for the brand and what tips he has for anyone looking to climb the corporate ladder.
How did your background prepare you for this current position?
My previous jobs have prepared me in many ways to take on new and greater challenges and responsibility. As I became increasingly proficient in my roles, I was entrusted with developing business in multiple departments and countries, something I much enjoyed and found very rewarding. My experience in real estate is a key factor in taking on this challenge. In my past, I was also asked to participate in increasing numbers of global management-level meetings so as to represent matters from that point of view.
Being an African American CEO of an international brand is a huge deal! How did you acquire the role?
I was recruited by the global HR director. Once I visited the global office and production and design office, I knew that the role was the right challenge for me. The art of handmade jewelry and the creative process within Unode50 is unlike any organization. Clients truly fall in love with the creativity of the company.
Did working in retail set you up for the position?
Working in retail and having a strong support system throughout my career that supported my development helped set me up for this role. While at BCBG Max Azria, I had Mason Schultz, a mentor of mine that focused on my development at an early age. Schultz was the Global SVP with BCBG Max Azria and was African American. Having a mentor like Mason, gave me the motivation that I could one day excel my career to CEO of a company.
What is it like being the first African American male CEO working for the company?
I feel as if I have been given the opportunity of a lifetime with this role and responsibility. Of course, my success is predicated on the growth and development of the organization and the teams that support me. With this responsibility comes accountability and I am excited to set a high standard within the industry with my team.
Have you ever felt pushback from the industry because of your ethnicity?
Of course. I have experienced pushback many times based on my ethnicity. In one organization that I worked for in my very early stages of corporate America, I had been set up to fail compared to my peers, but in the end, the results always speak for themselves. This pushback made me work harder ultimately knowing that superior results would not go unnoticed. Another time, I was working in an organization overseeing marketing and the company pulled marketing away from my umbrella because I was not the target demographic. I challenged this but ultimately used it as a learning experience within my career to always hold companies accountable.
What are some tips that you can leave for others looking to navigate the space?
- Believe in yourself and stay focused on the strategy and results at hand.
- Never leave people on your team behind, carry them along with you through your journey thus helping them reach their goals.
- Always give back to your community from a time perspective to help young adults along the way. In my spare time, I am an active member and former board member of BRAG, a nonprofit organization that prepares and educates professionals, entrepreneurs, and students of color for executive leadership in retail, fashion, and related industries.