September 19, 2013
Cool Jobs: Former Hollywood Exec Makes Dream of a Global Women’s Network a Reality
We have good news for you. You can have a cool career and make a good living. No need to choose between loving your job and paying your mortgage. The following profile, part of the BlackEnterprise.com Cool Jobs series, offers a peek into the nuts and bolts, perks and salaries behind enjoyable careers.
Wife and mother Dee Poku has been able to leverage her more than 10 years of building Hollywood relationships from her days as a studio exec to make her dream of a women’s network reality. The co-founder and CEO of the WIE Network leads an empowerment conference and community, seeking to inspire and motivate women leaders of today and tomorrow, and mixing her networking, branding and marketing mojo to create a global movement.
The WIE Symposium has drawn a lineup of amazing power women including Nancy Pelosi, Donna Karan, Melinda Gates, Iman, and Rosario Dawson, and this year’s roster is slated to be just as phenomenal, with Tyra Banks, Katie Couric and Brooke Shields among key speakers.
Poku, a native of Accra, Ghana and London, is also the founder of Right Angle, a branding and marketing consultancy that boasts a client list of top brands including Coca Cola, Absolut Vodka, Stella Artois and London Fashion Week.
On the heels of this year’s New York City event, BlackEnterprise.com caught up with Poku to talk about her global career journey, how math set the foundation for success in fashion and entertainment and her advice for women seeking professional empowerment of their own.
BlackEnterprise.com: The WIE Network has seen phenomenal growth, having expanded into London, Cape Town and Hong Kong. What prompted you to start this network?
Dee Poku: I was looking to create a conference that was accessible and affordable for me, my contemporaries and my peers. I wanted to provide a forum for how successful women have overcome obstacles, and share those lessons with the generations coming up.
You have a background in the entertainment and fashion industries, but studied mathematics at University College London (UCL). How have those experiences transferred into your current endeavors with the network?
In college, I studied math and really expected to work in the science realm, but I ended up working first in the fashion industry and then in the movie industry. All of those experiences have helped me in what I’m doing today, whether it’s budgeting and financial planning, the relationships I’ve been able to build, or the strategic approach to putting our conference together. It’s also helped me build my network as well.
You’re of Ghanaian descent. Talk a bit about how your culture and upbringing has impacted your career and the moves you’ve made abroad.
Yes, I’m a proudly from Ghana. I grew up in London, but I spent years living in Accra. Those years really shaped who I am today. I lived in an environment where everyone around me was of color and high achievers—from the president to doctors, entrepreneurs and lawyers—so that really shaped how I approached my career. I had a confidence about reaching success because I had that grounding. So, even when I’d be at jobs where I was the only person of color, it didn’t shake me because I’d already built a strong confidence in myself and my abilities.
When I started with the conference, I knew I wanted it to be a cross-cultural collaboration. We all live in a global economy, and certainly for black people there are huge opportunities in Africa that we all must not miss out on. Our future plan is to try and change perceptions of Africa, many of which are still old-fashioned and tired. Yes, there is war, famine and health issues, but there are also bustling economies, women leading countries, innovators and entrepreneurs doing great things. Men and women are achieving in technology. So there’s a new story to tell, and I want to be part of telling that story.
How would someone get started if they wanted to create a network or spark a movement that advocates career and industry support systems?
Relationships are key. You must really think about your network. It’s golden. Hold on to every relationship you may have and keep in touch with people through time. It’s phenomenal what family, friends and colleagues can bring to the table.
This is a question we commonly ask all of our Cool Jobs feature subjects: What career advice would you tell your 21-year-old self today knowing what you know now?
Trust in the universe and the journey. Don’t be disappointed when you don’t get things that you planned or wanted. I don’t regret things from the past that I wanted but didn’t get because those are times that positioned me for greater enrichment and much more interesting things.
So, trust that there’s a great path ahead of you and don’t worry so much when things don’t go exactly as you want them to.