Whitney Blackburn Director of Marketing Powered by People Optus Leadership Q & A Yellow background Blue Circles

Powered by People | Whitney Blackburn Leadership Q & A

February 24, 2023

Whitney Blackburn

Director of Marketing

Whitney Blackburn is a creative thinker with a diverse background in building brands and growing businesses. With more than 15 years of experience in brand strategy, consumer insights, integrated marketing communications, events and promotions, market research, and performance measurement, Whitney is a force to be reckoned with in the world of advertising and marketing.

Whitney graduated from Arkansas State University with her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design and Masters of Arts in Leadership from Saint Louis University.

Whitney Blackburn is an inspirational leader throughout all branches of our organization. As our Director of Marketing, she has been credited with launching innovative campaigns, growing a passionate customer base, and expanding the company’s reach and brand recognition. With her keen eye for detail and a commitment to excellence, she has made a lasting impression on Optus’ foundational values and approach to accelerating business technology. Whitney is renowned for her ability to drive successful marketing strategies with a creative flair. Whitney is a passionate and driven professional who has dedicated her career to making a positive impact on her team’s lives and Optus’s success from the inside out.

Q & A

In your own words, describe what makes a great leader.

A great leader creates conditions that promote team effectiveness in any way they can. For me, leadership encompasses five key practices:

  • Challenging everyday processes: Looking for innovative ways to improve the organization through experimentation.


  • Inspiring a shared vision: Creating an ideal image of what the organization can become through collaboration.


  • Enabling others to act: Empowering team members to communicate, act, and take risks.


  • Modeling the way: Establishing cultural norms for how team members pursue goals.


  • Stoking the internal fire: Encouraging team members through recognition and celebrating accomplishments.

What motivates you to get out of bed in the morning?

Mostly, breakfast. But I also like my job and the people I work with, so that definitely helps.

Who is someone you admire as a mentor?

She’s going to hate the attention, but I admire Shanna, our VP of HR & Accounting. She’s the kind of person who makes you want to be better. She’s patient and empathetic, but she will give you the truth when you need it. And her work ethic is unmatched.

How can a leader fail?

A leader fails when they lack self-awareness and when they forget that they exist to serve others. 

Describe your perfect team.

The perfect team is an effective team—a group of committed individuals willing to speak up, collaborate, experiment, and self-reflect, but most importantly, contribute to organizational goals in a meaningful way. Sometimes, that means relinquishing personal interests and achieving the best outcome for the group—rather than what’s best for an individual. I really enjoy working with people who are focused on the greater good and want to shine the spotlight on others.

What is your greatest strength? What is your greatest weakness?

My greatest strength is my ability to apply diplomacy to most situations. Every human deserves tact and respect, and I believe candor can always be delivered in a kind way. In my earlier years, I didn’t always understand the importance of navigating difficult circumstances with grace and empathy. And it’s the consequences of those outcomes that taught me the importance of diplomacy.

I am hyper-fallible, but I think my greatest weakness is finding it impossible to say no. I tend to take on more than I can handle, and then I become overwhelmed. I can’t be an effective leader or contributor when I’m in an unhealthy mental state, so being aware of my “people-pleasing” tendencies is important.

What do you like to do when you aren’t leading the Optus team?

I enjoy any form of fine art (drawing and painting, mostly), reading, and spending time with my family and friends. I also serve as an adjunct professor in the college of business at Williams Baptist University. I teach one or two marketing classes each semester. It’s gratifying to be a small part of the learning process.

What’s a fun fact about yourself?

I lost my job in 2020 at the height of the pandemic. To cope with the stress of it all and to occupy my newfound free time, I began experimenting with digital illustration. On a whim in 2021, I submitted a few illustrations to the American Advertising Federation and ended up winning a national gold Addy. During the online awards ceremony, my name was parked between a Super Bowl ad and a global brand. It’s still wild to me.

What’s your favorite quote?

We must embrace struggle. Every living thing conforms to it. Everything in nature grows and struggles in its own way, establishing its own identity, insisting on it at all cost, against all resistance.

— Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters To a Young Poet

What makes Optus different?

A lot of companies claim to put people first, but Optus really takes that adage a step further. This is a company where your voice is heard. Psychological safety is a high priority for leadership here, and I can think of many instances where employee feedback has been used to make improvements and foster a people-centric culture.

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