The Hidden First Step of Negotiation? Don't Lose Your Sense of Humor. Advertising Week President Mari Kim Novak explains how to fight for what is important to you.

By Nina Zipkin

Courtesy of Mari Kim Novak

In this series, Open Every Door, Entrepreneur staff writer Nina Zipkin shares her conversations with leaders about understanding what you have to offer, navigating the obstacles that will block your path, identifying opportunity and creating it for yourself and for others.

When you are promoting your product, you want to reach the broadest audience possible. But in order to do that successfully, you need to take into account a diversity of opinions. As president of Advertising Week, Mari Kim Novak's goal is to make sure that more voices in the industry get heard to help move it forward.

"We want 50 percent women and 50 percent men speaking on every single stage. We can't guarantee that's going to happen but we sure as heck can try as hard as we possibly can," Novak says. "It is so important to have diversity of thinking. Whether we're talking race, gender, different scopes of business and philosophy, all that comes together. Then we can truly represent the consumer base."

Novak joined Advertising Week in 2017 with the aim of scaling the organization, not only in terms of the number of employees, but also boosting company's presence all over the world. Prior to this position, Novak was CMO of online advertising technology firm Rubicon Project, and had also been Microsoft's global head of marketing.

On top of Advertising Week New York, Novak now oversees Advertising Week Europe in London, Advertising Week LATAM in Mexico City, Advertising Week Asia in Tokyo and the 2018 launch of Advertising Week APAC in Sydney.

In addition to those five weeks, Novak wants to keep the conversation going about innovation in the advertising world 365 days a year. "It's a wonderful role for me because it allows me to have this beautiful platform to be able to talk to everybody in the industry," she says.

Novak shared her insights on getting past mistakes and advocating for yourself.

Related: The Surest Way to Build Your Confidence Is by Not Fearing Change

When was a time in your career that you had to advocate for yourself? How did you approach it?

I have advocated for myself in every single role I ever had. I have [done this every time I] changed roles and I had to defend or support the reason for the title and role within the company and my salary.

What I've learned is that it's so important to not be scared to ask for what you honestly want. That's not always money, but you need to be really clear in those moments when you are asking for something [that matters]. You can't look back afterwards and regret not asking for it and then wanting it later.

Can you talk about a moment when you made a mistake. How did you move forward from it?

I hope I've made a lot of mistakes in my career. If you're not really trying and if you're not really pushing boundaries you're not learning and you're not taking risk. What I've learned from making mistakes is the fact that it's only a mistake if I don't learn something from it. And I don't mean that as a cliche way. I really do think that you have to take risks in order to be able to make major impact. And with that comes a certain level of learning curve to get it right. Learn from it and own up to it and fix it right away. Don't sit and stew on it for a really long time. Really own it from day one and figure out a course to correct it.

Related: You Need to Meet Your Challenges With Pathological Optimism at Every Turn

How have you grown and changed as a leader over the course of your career?

Hopefully I have become much more responsible of others, not just myself. So I think in the beginning, you worry about yourself and then you worry about your team and then you worry that your company. Now I worry about industry. And that's one reason why I've kind of come to the role that I'm in now where I have a platform where I can actually use that to make change and help more than just the people who I touch every day. As I've gotten older I just understand more and more that it's a real responsibility and that you need to take responsibility wholeheartedly and embrace it.

Over time how has your view of success and failure changed?

I think the difference is that success when I was younger probably was closely attached to very tangible data points. Did I get a salary increase? I think as I've gotten older those touch points are more intangible. Did I make a difference? Did I handle that correctly to the best of my ability? And not necessarily having it be: Did I get recognition for it? I think I went from more tangible to a more intangible of the impact that I can make, vs. just the hard data.

Related: Why Entrepreneurs Should Question Everything and Everyone, Even the Experts

Is there a piece of advice that a mentor gave you that you still take to heart today?

Never lose your sense of humor. I really do take it to heart. I always say you have to have fun. If you're not having fun there is no reason to do it. But the advice that was given to me was: never lose your sense of humor because the minute you lose your sense of humor you also lose the ability to negotiate.

You could also say it the other way, once you lose your temper, you lose your ability to negotiate. If you can [maintain a sense of levity], then you have that ability to move in whatever direction you need. You don't want to go to a place where you are placing blame. And that's much harder for many people to find success. It's a great piece of advice that I try to live by as much as possible.

And the other piece of advice is, as important as is managing your job responsibilities are, that you must manage your own career. Nobody's going to manage your career for you. That's probably been the best piece of advice that I've received.

Nina Zipkin

Entrepreneur Staff

Staff Writer. Covers leadership, media, technology and culture.

Nina Zipkin is a staff writer at She frequently covers leadership, media, tech, startups, culture and workplace trends.

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