Female Disruptors: Robyn Loube of Sensis On The Three Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry
“Don’t let perfect get in the way of progress”. This quote expresses the idea that if you don’t know exactly what to do, it is okay to “fake it until you make it”. An individual shouldn’t wait until he or she understands something perfectly, but use it as an opportunity to take a step out of your comfort zone and give it a try. I think I have been thrown into a lot of positions where I am not exactly sure what I am doing. However the key to figuring it out is to ask questions along the way.
As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, we had the pleasure of interviewing Robyn Loube.
As Executive Vice President at Sensis, Robyn oversees all government clientele, Southeast engagements, and business development for the agency. Her clients have included the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the American Breast Cancer Foundation, among others. As an experienced managing director, she is a skilled business development professional, demonstrating a history of working in the marketing and advertising industry. Robyn is skilled in analytical skills, advertising, editing, market research, and management. Robyn provides strategic direction on all projects, assembles and hires high-impact teams, and manages partnerships.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
Thank you for having me! I graduated from the University of Maryland in 2009 and, coming out of a recession, it was challenging to find a job. I grew up with parents who worked all the time, instilling a very strong work ethic at a very young age. I actually held my first job when I was just 13 years old! Once I graduated, I found a few temporary positions, working for a construction company, and then Kaiser Permanente, but I would hop from job to job just to make a living! I really wanted to start my career in a full time role that reflected my different skill sets that I took away from school and my temporary positions. Shortly after, I found myself working in advertising, but feeling incredibly grateful for my temporary positions, because they taught me how to develop client relationships and how to troubleshoot issues to resolve a variety of problems.
My background and passion was heavily rooted in account management, and I began to adapt to this mindset even as a child when I would see my parents work in the dry clean business outside of the D.C area. I would constantly be thinking about how to resolve problems for the client and enforce the mindset of the “customer is always right.” This relates again back to advertising, as one needs to constantly be an active partner, explain situations, and meet the clients expectations. This skill of problem resolution has allowed me to elevate my career to where it is now here at Sensis.
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
I have had the privilege of being one of the initial employees working in the Washington DC Sensis office, and was given the opportunity to help grow our team, our clients and our impact within the government sector, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration and many more areas.
Sensis is the largest and most diverse 100% minority-owned independently advertising agency within the US, and working with clients to help bring awareness to critical issues throughout the world is something that I am extremely proud of. We have been able to “disrupt the norm” with impactful campaigns to drive real results, that at times, can be life or death. Leading the Washington DC office and team is incredibly fulfilling to work with fellow positive “disruptors,” or influencers, within the industry.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I remember when I first started working at Sensis, I compiled a proposal very early on. At the time, alot of agencies required paper copies of proposals and I was running around trying to get a specific proposal in for submission, and it was late. Unfortunately, the government refused to accept it and I was convinced I was going to get fired. However, my boss was very calm and said that it was okay and mistakes happen. He used it as a huge learning opportunity for me, and after that, I never made the same mistake again. This situation demonstrated to me how to be an empathetic and kind manager, and I have always led with the same sentiment with my team.
We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
One of my biggest mentors has been the Executive Vice President and General Counsel, Danny Allen, who was my first boss at Sensis. He was actually the one who forgave me for submitting the late proposal! He opened the D.C office and I was the second employee he hired, so it was just the two of us working together. The way that he worked and operated was something I admired. He always invited me to meetings and made me feel like I was meant to be there and encouraged me to speak up at the table. When I made mistakes, he never made it out to be my fault. He helped give me confidence early on and made me feel like my opinion always mattered. Even after our experience working together, I still call him for advice. He never tells me exactly what to do, but he gives me guidance in getting there which is what the best mentors do.
In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?
We work incredibly hard with our clients to ensure that the work we are doing has a positive impact on our communities. We provide council and strategy to our clients and intentionally produce helpful tips on ways to engage in a positive, meaningful manner. Many times, we see great success with rolling out campaigns via social media to help reach a larger audience. For instance, we launched the California Department of Public Health COVID-19 influencer campaign back in the fall of 2020. This was when people did not know how to feel or think about COVID-19 since it is a very controversial topic and we engaged over 400 influencer partners through January 2023 to speak about an array of COVID-19 messaging to so many new audiences. We contributed to the shift in the influencer space known for selling products to relaying messages with the help of lifestyle, fashion, travel, parents, DIY, celebrities, and more who leveraged their voice and platform to share COVID messaging.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
“Don’t let perfect get in the way of progress”. This quote expresses the idea that if you don’t know exactly what to do, it is okay to “fake it until you make it”. An individual shouldn’t wait until he or she understands something perfectly, but use it as an opportunity to take a step out of your comfort zone and give it a try. I think I have been thrown into a lot of positions where I am not exactly sure what I am doing. However the key to figuring it out is to ask questions along the way. The second piece of advice I have cherished is “provide someone with direction, not directions.” When you manage people, it’s important to ask the team member if they need directions or direction. If they need directions, it’s essential to coach and guide them so they are able to get to a place where they just need direction. This terminology helps with team members because sometimes they don’t even know what type they are asking for or needing. The last piece of advice that I have received is that “although in every company we are selling something, we are all humans and want to work with people who we like.” Business is not just about getting a sale or upselling a client, it’s about passive energy and allowing the clients to come to us. We don’t just push clients to do things to make money for ourselves, but we do what’s in their best interest.
We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?
Sensis recently acquired Sharp & Company, a transportation and logistics agency located within the Washington DC area, providing key communications within this sector. With this new acquisition, we have new capabilities and staff members that are excited about what they do and will add incredible value to Sensis. This is important for us at Sensis because it allows us to work in a different vertical than we have in the past and essentially “shake things up” with the clients and services we have.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by ‘women disruptors’ that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
In my opinion, one of the challenges that women face within the workplace that men don’t necessarily do revolves about being passionate. I think women who are incredibly passionate don’t always come across as collected as a man, even when both individuals demonstrate type-A personality traits. However, I will say that the opportunity to put any challenges behind the male vs female stigma in the workplace is something that I’m seeing more and more. At Sensis, everyone has a voice and we celebrate diversity and collaboration. I encourage any female within the workplace to stay passionate, work hard and collaborate openly with any team members equally!
Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?
There is a book by Roxie Nafousi called “7 Steps to Living Your Best Life”. In this book, she talks about having a vision of what you want. She emphasizes that you need to be detailed about your plan and how important it is to think about where you want to be in the future. She also talks about how it’s critical to not only visualize where you want to be, but to put yourself in a position where you can take steps to get to that place. This has grounded me in the workplace as I constantly ask myself “how is this setting me up for what I want?”
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Growing up, in school, we focused a lot on English, math and history. However, no attention is given to learning about our behaviors, emotions and identifying what they mean. It’s important to learn how to handle situations and emotions because when people get older they often don’t know what to do, especially in workplace environments. We don’t spend enough time at an early age at real life problem solving.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I shared three pieces of advice in an earlier question, but I truly believe that living by the following quotes, “Don’t let perfect get in the way of progress,” “provide someone with direction, not directions” and “although in every company we are selling something, we are all humans and want to work with people who we like” are fantastic ways to live your life, both personally and professionally. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunities that I have had in my life and work hard each day to help lead by example to inspire others to achieve success in their own lives.
How can our readers follow you online?
I’d love to connect with your wonderful readers. Find me on LinkedIn!
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!