Denise Roberson - Pepperdine 40 over 40 | Pepperdine University

Denise Roberson

Denise Roberson

Laguna Beach, California

Title: CEO

Company: Jadi Communications

  

AT A GLANCE:

Graziadio School of Business and Management Class of 2014

MBA, Business Management

PKE 131

 

How has your Pepperdine experience impacted your personal and professional success?

Attending Pepperdine's Presidents and Key Executives (PKE) MBA program is one of the best decisions I have ever made. As a C-level executive, I am responsible for motivating people, inspiring them, and providing the tools to help them become the best versions of themselves. Sadly, I was no longer giving those critical elements to myself until I found PKE! The values based leadership style at Pepperdine was a perfect fit to reignite my passion for civic leadership and community involvement, while the small cohort style classrooms gave me an intimate setting to practice new skills, innovate, and explore what I wanted to come next on my life's adventure. Pepperdine not only provided valuable business expertise, it exposed me to a group of brilliant students, professors and administrators that have become lifelong confidants, advisors, and friends. This community has proven to be a powerful force that constantly enriches me personally and professionally, while inspiring me to go further and try harder. Finally, Pepperdine reignited my passion for learning, and inspired me to continue on to a progressive doctoral program that has the capacity to empower me in creating true impact and change in this world.

Describe a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career:

As a child, I was a true "Nat Geo kid". I was inspired by all the wonderful worlds and cultures they transported me to, the exciting animals I got to learn about, and the profound respect I was taught for this planet and the people who comprise it. When National Geographic decided to try and reinvigorate its 126 year old legacy brand a few years ago, my agency was invited to participate in an agency review that was comprised of some of the best creative shops in the world and we won! I was fortunate enough to be tasked, along with my brilliant team at Jadi Communications, to help create a new virtual world for kids that allowed National Geographic to enter the digital realm with a new approach never before done there, while maintaining all of the profound values that National Geographic was built upon. It was the first time a virtual world would be built that had all the fun and creativity of a major online game, with all the education and substance National Geographic stood for. We successfully helped to launch National Geographic's Animal Jam worldwide from concept to implementation, which today has become one of the most successful children's properties in the world, with over 70 million registered players in over 50 countries. It brings me great joy to see a new generation of Nat Geo kids who come from completely diverse backgrounds, don't speak the same language, and don't even live on the same continent, all co-existing beautifully in an online world, where they can explore animals and nature, learn about their natural habitat together and with world-class experts, travel through foreign lands, and celebrate their amazing differences and creativity in total harmony. The game has won countless awards from teaching, parenting, and industry organizations alike, and has gained the reputation as a safe place children can play online to learn, explore, and celebrate their creativity. It has also become an integral part of National Geographic's future growth.

Who or what inspires you? Tell us why.

I am continually inspired by people who overcome adversity and live their life authentically and with a pure heart. Whether it be women in the Middle East fighting for equality, safety, and education, or children below the poverty line going on to create success, despite the odds; there are so many challenges we face in the world today. It takes courage and strength to stand up and make change, but without it, we cater to the lowest common denominator and go backwards. I'm also inspired by our great leaders and innovators, who are trying to create change through sustainability initiatives that impact diversity, poverty, planetary resources, and equality, and who believe corporate profits are not the only marker of business success. Finally, I'm inspired by the power of community and the profound strength a group of like-minded people can have collectively and individually.

Are you where you thought you would be in life when you were in college?

I've always had a passion for marketing and advertising, and enjoyed bringing a voice and awareness to organizations and initiatives I believe in. But, I've been challenged, excited and delighted by the incredible adventures I've had in life since graduating that have been better than I ever dreamed of. The people I've met, the places I've seen, and the brilliant endeavors I've had the good fortune to be a part of have been truly spectacular. As in every life, there have been challenges and disappointments, but I've found those moments to teach me the deepest lessons and bring me one step closer to my goals and ambitions, with even greater resolution.

In five words or fewer, what career or life advice would you give a new college graduate?

Always follow your passion! Dare to fail.

What profession other than your own would you have liked to attempt?

I've always thought teaching would be an amazing profession. After having the incredible experience of being a module advisor in the Pepperdine PKE program, I now respect my professors more than ever, as it takes a tremendous amount of selfless giving and energy to do what they do. But, it's also an incredible gift to share your life's work and experience with others.

What three things could you not live without?

Family, adventure, and purpose.

How do you unplug?

I unplug in nature and thankfully live at the beach where I can walk on the sand, watch a sunset, have a bbq with friends, or go to my favorite underwater place and disappear in my own bubbles diving. The more exotic or remote the beach is, the more excited I get to disconnect and explore. I love live music and can often times be found at the Hollywood Bowl, listening to tunes under the stars, and sharing a meal. But, I am the most at peace sharing time with my family and the people I love, just talking and sharing our dreams, difficulties and life experiences. I also unplug serving my community, whether helping sea lions be rehabilitated, finding jobs for the homeless, or trying to be a good role model for young girls. It puts life and what's most important into immediate perspective.

Is there a particular quote, mantra, or philosophy that motivates you?

I have many quotes that motivate me for different reasons. One that personally guides me is from Maya Angelou that says, "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." This is my constant reminder that I can positively impact people each and every day to do their own personal best.

"Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow," Ralph Waldo Emerson. This inspires my to never get complacent and to always dare to try to do more and do better.

"At every crossroad on the path that leads to the future, each progressive spirit is opposed by a thousand mediocre minds appointed to guard the past," Maurice Maeterlinck. Change and innovation is difficult, but necessary if I am going to leave this world better than I found it.

"There is no better than adversity. Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve your performance the next time," Malcolm X. Adversity and failure are difficult, but can also change you in profound ways that allow you to be a better person for it. In my life's aspiration I will undoubtedly come across many failures, but I also hope that fuels me to find even greater success.

What would your autobiography or memoir be called?

Hitting Curveballs - The Wonderfully Unexpected Life of Denise Roberson. 

What's one idea you think could change the world?

Learning to celebrate our differences. 

What's next for you professionally?

I am currently pursuing my doctoral degree in business sustainability and I'm excited to ultimately create a consumer-facing mechanism that enables technology to easily inform consumers of a corporation's sustainability efforts, allowing them to factor that information into the purchase decision cycle as easily as cost or quality. And, to combine my 20 years of professional experience in marketing and branding with my doctoral research to create a new division of Jadi that focuses on helping organizations build long-term business strategy and programs that link their sustainability efforts to brand value. In doing such, we can help better the planet and the people who comprise it. Finally, I hope to teach after graduating and share my life's experience with future leaders.