Christofer Peterson may have recently joined Dagger’s leadership team as SVP, People & Culture, but she has been saying out loud what others don’t and fighting for what others won’t—especially when it comes to work culture, and representation and equity in particular—for her entire career. A strong believer that companies should be fiercely protective of their people and invested in their culture, Christofer takes her responsibility as an HR leader seriously and is committed to reframing the science of talent management, or lack thereof, in the ad industry. Christofer’s passion for helping people and teams navigate change, work together better, grow as people and professionals, and love where they work are what set her apart as an inclusive HR leader in the ad industry.
Finish this sentence: I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for ________________.
I grew up in NYC in the 80s. I was a biracial Black kid navigating living in Harlem, going to school on the affluent, mostly white UES, and haircare in the age of Pink Lotion (and various other lousy product choices). I had a complicated childhood and adolescence. I’ve only recently reached the point where I’ve spent more of my life living it than finding my way through it.
I wouldn’t be where I am today if not for Prep for Prep, a handful of extraordinary high school teachers, and my first boss. The things these game-changers have in common? At some point, they called me on my shit—what I’d describe as a clinically severe case of high-aptitude-low-motivation syndrome, while at the same time making me feel exceptional. And they gave me the gift of predictability and routines.
Resumes highlight professional and educational achievements. Which one of your life or personal experiences deserves to be on your resume?
I started working when I was 12 years old—walking dogs and sweeping floors in the neighborhood pet store. I was managing it by the time I was 15 and working at the neighborhood deli (and holding down a couple more odd jobs). This was, without question, the start of my career journey—I can draw a solid line from “Chrisse, the pet shop girl” to “Christofer – SVP, People & Culture.”
What qualities do you look for when hiring someone on your team? What qualities do you avoid?
Humility, confidence, client service orientation, and exceptional communication skills (like, crazy excellent). I hire people who I think I’d enjoy working for—those are the same people from whom I’m sure to learn.
If your leadership team doesn’t reflect the diversity of your community, your clients’ audience, or the world we live in, it’s unlikely that your organization will.”
What’s one piece of career advice you wish you could give to your younger self?
Which three books, podcasts, or new sources do you think everyone should read? Why?
Anything (and everything) by Toni Morrison or James Baldwin and NPR’s Code Switch. As a Black woman in America, these are my stories. You should know them.
Diversity, equity and inclusion is front and center right now. How do you express your commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion in your personal and professional life?
I swim in the deep end of the “one Black friend” pool in my personal life. This has multiple benefits: I’m sometimes debunking limiting ideas about Blackness, I’m motivated to keep learning about Blackness so I can do mine justice, and I’m getting stronger and more fearless when it comes to speaking up.
Professionally, I’m a loud and proud voice and champion. It’s a hard-coded part of my current and last roles—I’m committed to helping organizations ‘do better’ for the rest of my career.
What’s one tangible step every employer should take to help build a more representative organization?
Demonstrate your commitment to representation starting with your executive team for two fundamental reasons:
- Someone at the very top needs to feel the personal passion and accountability for building and nurturing diverse talent.
- The first—and I mean FIRST—thing I look for when considering a new role is an organization’s leadership team. Then I look at how they show up on social media and in the trades. “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”
If your leadership team doesn’t reflect the diversity of your community, your clients’ audience, or the world we live in, it’s unlikely that your organization will.