The incredible impact mentors have had on my life and the wisdom I want to share with my daughter.

Amy Powell, Violet

Mentorship is unlike any other professional relationship I have had in my career and I am particularly grateful to my first mentor and boss, Dwight Caines, who helped shape my career beyond measure. Dwight is an inspiration to me in his incredible dedication to supporting women, diversity & inclusion and the for helping lift up those around him. I wanted to sit down with Dwight, almost twenty years after we first met on the Sony Pictures lot, to share some of his wisdom with my daughter as she looks to mentors in her own life to help support her dreams.

Amy Powell: Is there one piece of advice that you wish your 9 year old self would give you today that would make an impact on your career?

Dwight Caines: “Don’t be so serious! Have some fun!” For a long time, I could be described as intense. I think it was tied to a fear of failure. It was almost as though I felt like ‘there’s no time to have fun, we’ve got work to do’. Many people spend so much more time, sadly, at work than they do with family and friends- I am amazed at how often I hear people complaining about their jobs. I didn’t adopt this point of view early enough but perhaps my 9-year-old self could have steered me in the right direction.

AP: Was there a time you messed up and felt like you’d failed? how did you bounce back?

DC: I remember attending a big Monday morning staff meeting when I first started working at Sony pictures almost 25 years ago. I was probably in the job as the Director of Market Research for only about a month. My boss who ran the research department was absent from the meeting and the head of Marketing asked me a research question that my boss typically would answer. I was caught off guard and could not answer the question satisfactorily. It was an embarrassing moment (that I have clearly never forgot) and I felt like I lost credibility with the entire department. It was particularly devastating because as a minority, I often struggled with the sense of being “othered”, the sense that I didn’t fit in. I bounced back by putting in the work to be better prepared for every meeting than anyone else in the room. To this day, I prepare for each meeting rigorously regardless of how big or small of a role I will have in the room.

AP: How did you learn to embrace risk-taking?

DC: I learned to bet on myself and have trust in myself. The risks I have taken like going away to school, traveling abroad, moving across country, quitting a job as head of marketing, speaking to audiences of hundreds of people have all required that I have faith in myself that I will be successful. Risks don’t have to be huge BUT they do have to allow you to face failure. In failure there is growth. When I realized that, I embraced risk.

AP: What’s the most important leadership lesson you’ve learned and how has it proven invaluable?

DC: I remember having a boss who would never make eye-contact with, nor acknowledge junior executives. It created a work culture where people didn’t feel seen or valued. When that’s the culture a leader creates, it’s hard to earn loyalty. Most jobs are a team sport and even though there’s a “Captain” on the team, everyone should feel invested in winning. My leadership style is called “MBWA” which stands for Management by Walking Around. When I can interact with the staff and let them know that they are important to the team and our success, I get better results. It also allows me to learn from my colleagues as we solve problems together.

AP: What is the most fun part of your job?

DC: That’s easy. I work in the movie business, and I am inherently a storyteller. Marketing is all about telling a version of the story that will make an audience take action and choose the movie we are offering. As a result, we are sharing a bit of culture with people. That effort — influencing culture — can be profound but it’s always fun. Even when it’s not easy.

About Dwight Caines:

Dwight Caines is president of domestic marketing for Universal Pictures. In this role, he is responsible for all areas of the domestic marketing department and directly oversees media, digital marketing, multicultural marketing, data analytics and publicity.

About Amy Powell:

Amy Powell is a recognized entertainment industry leader and pioneer in the next generation of digital marketing & content creation. As an entrepreneur and founder of multiple digital, film and television companies, her expertise spans across digital marketing, story-telling, brand-building, content creation and business intelligence.



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