Career Interview: Monique Nelson, CEO UniWorld Group, Inc. (UWG)

I'm so honored to present this interview with Monique Nelson, the chair and CEO of UniWorld Group, Inc. (UWG) today! UniWorld Group is the longest-standing full-service multicultural marketing and advertising agency in the United States and their client list includes major corporations like The Home Depot, Ford, Amtrak and Pfizer to name a few. Monique is highly successful and has had an amazing career so far; From working as an assistant to working as a marketing executive, she's taken each role very seriously and applied the lessons learnt to her current role as CEO. In this interview, Monique discusses her path to becoming a CEO and shares some serious advice on how to become a leader.

Please introduce yourself and tell us about your current job function and industry - What do you do for a living?

My name is Monique Nelson and I am the chair and CEO of UniWorld Group, Inc. (UWG), the longest-standing full-service multicultural marketing and advertising agency in the United States.

How did you begin on this career path?

 I actually started my career selling paper…yep, like, the last page on a pad of sticky notes. It wasn’t the sexiest job, but that’s how I first learned to appreciate the importance of communications and where I first began to hone my skills as a businesswoman. After all, I’m still selling when I pitch my agency to potential clients.

I went on to enjoy over 15 years of learning and gaining experience in entertainment, lifestyle and youth marketing, new brand strategies, consumer insights, and global brand management. I joined UWG in 2007 and I managed UWG's integrated marketing, digital and branded entertainment departments until 2012 when I took on the challenge of becoming CEO.

Is your line of work related to what you studied in college? Do you have any advanced degrees?

I can honestly tell you my education, especially from my collegiate days, prepared me to do what I am doing now. As an undergrad, I studied Human and Organizational Development at Vanderbilt University. I was also a POSSE scholar- a diversity scholarship program in leadership that trained me to work dynamically in groups- to work on conflict resolution and also to start something and finish.

As the CEO of an agency that incorporates the talents of several teams working together to serve the needs of our clients, I rely heavily on my “people” skills to ensure that we get things done.

I also obtained an MBA in International Marketing and Finance from the Kellstadt Graduate School of Business at DePaul University and that experience really helped me take my overall business acumen to the next level and it gave me the opportunity to network with other future leaders in my field.

As a woman, what is one of the biggest lessons you've learned working for and growing in a company?

As a woman in the male-dominated corporate world, I always have to remember what I bring to the table that is special, that is powerful. In my time at Motorola, I worked in many capacities, including Product Line Management, Consumer Insights, and Entertainment Marketing, but one experience I will never forget is the time I worked as Executive Assistant to the Corporate Vice President.

I approached that role with both humility and diligence: I always made sure I took care of my responsibilities as Assistant, but at the same time I paid acute attention to the way my boss handled his day-to-day interactions and activities. I was learning everything it took to be CEO.

Can you tell us about one of your biggest career successes?

It happened on May 1, 2012, when I became the Chair and CEO of UWG! Our previous CEO was retiring, and I took the initiative to gather some business leaders, including women from my own network of “clever girls,” and make a plan to pitch myself as his successor.

What is your favorite thing about your job?

Ultimately, I love that every day I have the opportunity to lead the charge at UWG in developing the next evolution of multicultural advertising, not only in the U.S. but around the world.

We’re redefining for our clients what it means to reach “multicultural” consumers by breaking down for them all the ways that an individual experiences and displays culture and all the ways that the cultural experiences of different groups of people overlap.

Do you have any advice you can share with women reading this who would like to pursue a career in your industry?

In the pursuit of leadership in any industry, you have to be focused and have a vision of how to get projects done, whether it’s been mapped out for you or not. Our marketplace was built on entrepreneurialism and the paving of new roads. This is not for the faint of heart. You have to be willing to create the bridge to get you where you need to be.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I want to be the leader of the best advertising agency…that just happens to be run by a black woman.

What is your money mantra?

Have a financial plan. Writing down what you want makes things a lot clearer. I know that once I write my goals down, they become very real, and I can hold myself accountable for them.

Please share a fun fact about yourself

My first love was the stage. I am a trained vocalist and dancer.

Thank you for taking the time to do this interview Monique!

You can learn more from Monique by reading some of her other most recent interviews:
On 8 habits of exceptionally successful CEOs
On Monique Nelson and the future of Advertising

You can also learn more about the UniWorld Group Inc. (UWG) by visiting their website -