5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A CEO

by | May 10, 2023 | In The News



THE 3RD EYE’s leader and visionary is a trailblazer in the advertising industry, founding a women-run agency in her 20’s with her business partner over 25 years ago.

Passionate about marketing health and wellness services, Diana sees the altruism in empowering people to make healthy decisions. She’s led successful marketing campaigns that resonate with healthcare patients and consumers.

In her career, Diana has been named one of South Florida’s 12 Hispanic Women of Distinction, one of 25 Women to Watch, and a Florida Entrepreneurial Leader.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! 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?

I was always creative. From a very early age, I wanted to be a film director. I went to the University of Miami film school and 3 semesters in, my college advisor told me “You’re the wrong sex.” I foolishly replied – “oh, ok” and switched to the graphic design and advertising space. I started working immediately out of college as a graphic designer for about two years before naturally transitioning to strategy and account management due to the fact that I asked so many questions! (Always wanting to understand the why). My first boss would encourage me by telling me that I had the “gift of seeing the big picture,” which I had no clue what that even meant at the time.

By foregoing film, I knew I had to find a space for me where I could use my creativity. A 9-to-5 desk job sounded horrific to me, and advertising gave me that opportunity.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

I can’t identify one particular story. It’s actually been a journey for me. Based on my experience, I was 25 years old when I founded my company and as a woman in a male-dominated industry, living and working in Miami had its challenges. I always had to demonstrate my value as a young woman. I still occasionally find myself encountering the same challenge in boardrooms today.

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?

The funniest mistake I ever made, in my opinion, was assuming I knew everything and having absolutely no sense of humility. On occasion, I found myself in many situations with clients where I over-promised, and ended up under-delivering. The most important lesson was that I don’t know everything. The key to successful business relationships is being open and honest with my clients.  Building that trust leads to very long-lasting connections.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Having a business partner who was 12 years older than me, as I did, was undoubtedly a pillar of support and motivation for me. At my first job, she was my direct report, and we made an immediate connection. Over the course of our 25 years together (we were yin and yang) there was a constant balance check and respect for one another’s skills and perspectives.

Leadership often entails making difficult decisions or hard choices between two apparently good paths. Can you share a story with us about a hard decision or choice you had to make as a leader? 

As a business owner, letting people go is always the hardest decision to make because you feel responsible for your team and their families. Although it’s a business decision you make for the financial and operational health of your organization, it is still difficult. I still cry.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Most of our readers—in fact, most people—think they have a pretty good idea of what a CEO or executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what an executive does that is different from the responsibilities of the other leaders?

As the CEO/Chief Vision Officer of THE 3RD EYE, my sense of responsibility is tremendous. As a leader, I am constantly thinking strategically about the company’s future and vision for its growth, and just as importantly, our client’s success.

Besides focusing on the agency’s broader strategies and long-term goals along with the executive team, I strive daily to inspire our team and ensure their well-being. I learned early on that the agency’s most important asset is our people.

I have a great sense of gratitude for the responsibilities I take on. Whether interacting with individuals in the advertising industry, other businesses, or fellow colleagues, I am proud to contribute to the growth of brands, individuals’ careers, and my community’s well-being.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a CEO or executive? Can you explain what you mean? 

“Owning my own business is so great – I get to be my own boss.” BIGGEST MYTH EVER.  Although you are your own boss, the buck stops with you. You always have the responsibility to your employees and clients to own every decision made – good and bad ones.

Additionally, you never, ever turn work off. So I smirk when I hear young entrepreneurs think they can “set their own schedule” and “do what they want.” It’s a 27/7/365, “making lists at 2 am” role!

What is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?

My actual job was never a predetermined role or path; it changes and develops yearly. The fact that my actual profession is constantly pivoting and evolving is one of the things I enjoy and love about what I do.

Do you think everyone is cut out to be an executive? In your opinion,  which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful executive and what type of person should avoid aspiring to be an executive? Can you explain what you mean? 

Very tough question without getting in trouble! No, I don’t think everyone is cut out to be an executive. It takes so much courage. You have to be open and vulnerable and be accountable. You have to be able to connect the dots and always see the bigger picture. Great executives see the tree in front of them, the forest and way above the canopy all at once. If you can do that, you’ll succeed.

What advice would you give to other business leaders to help create a fantastic work culture? Can you share a story or an example?

If your employees are happy at home, they will be more productive at work. Therefore, by ensuring that their personal life and family are prioritized and balanced, you will always benefit from a happy, healthy agency culture. We always had robust benefits for our employees to allow them the flexibility to prioritize their family, but coming out of the pandemic we took a hard look at what needed to be improved. So we added benefits that included a hybrid work structure, unlimited PTO days, 12 weeks of paid parental leave, and other benefits. We have not seen a decrease in productivity. On the contrary!

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

I’m still trying to figure that out. By focusing our efforts on health and wellness, it allows our platform (and our clients) to help inform people on how to make better health decisions.

Fantastic. Here is the primary question of our interview. What are your “Five Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A CEO” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

1 . Your career does not define you as an individual.: For so long, my only identity was CEO/business owner. I never thought about who Diana was without her work – and lost myself along the way. It took my daughter going away to college to have to think about, if I’m not the boss, and not mom every day, who am I? I wish I would have paid attention to myself a lot younger, and prioritized my needs.

2 . Success is not about salary.: I know it’s a cliche, but if you love what you do, and do it well, the money will come. Success is in finding fulfillment in the work you do and the people you work with.

3 . Keep it simple. Paralysis by Analysis will be the death of your mental health.: In my 20s and 30s, all I did was overthink everything! Always second-guessing and doubting.  It’s debilitating. But somewhere around 37 I told myself, “Stop thinking and just do!” So, follow your gut and whatever the outcome, you will learn something.

4 . Shut up and listen. PAY ATTENTION to what others have to say.: You don’t have to “fill the silence” and always talk! I used to do that in every meeting. By doing that, I was not empowering my team to lead. I shut up and let them speak, and they never fail to rise to the occasion.

5 . Never, ever, ever ignore your gut. Just trust me on this!

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Without wanting to get into politics, women’s health equity is a serious issue in this country. And yes, that includes a woman’s right to choose what she does with her body, but it’s so much bigger than just that. It’s research & development investment and funding of women’s health, diseases, inequities in insurance coverage, education, and access to care – I could go on forever. There are great strides being made by the increase of women in the STEM industries, but it shouldn’t have to be just on our shoulders.

Can you please give us your favorite  “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life? 

So don’t laugh…. But it’s Adapt or Die. Personal and professional growth can only happen when you open yourself to change. I live by these words.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them

(Simon Sinek!) He’s originally from my industry so we would have much to laugh about, and he always wants to understand the why – which I do too!

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this. 



Diana Brooks

Content Writer

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