Daring Women Q&A: Betti Fujikado, Cofounder and CEO of Copacino+Fujikado

"Seize opportunities that are presented to you, even if it seems a little scary."

Betti Fujikado, CEO and cofounder of Seattle ad agency Copacino+Fujikado, recently celebrated 20 years with her company. As a leader in a male-dominated industry, Fujikado strives to provide an inclusive and equitable work environment for her employees.

Read about her proudest moments, mentors and challenges she’s faced in this week’s installment of our Daring Women Q&A series.

1. Tell us about the high point of your career. What do you love about your work? Describe your proudest moment.

My career high point was absolutely this year when Copacino+Fujikado celebrated 20 years in business. It wasn’t about Jim (Copacino) and me as cofounders; it was looking in the eyes of staff, alumni, clients, significant others and friends who we’ve worked with, learned from and built the agency with over the years. It was a privilege to celebrate with everyone.

Our speakers at the event were significant to our history. They included Jeff Roe, CEO of Premera which is a 20-year client; Margaret Meister, CEO of Symetra, which is a 14-year client; and Kevin Martinez, senior VP of the Seattle Mariners, which was client #1. We’re incredibly grateful.

2. What challenges have you faced as a woman in your industry? How have you addressed them?

I’m a woman, a POC, a mother, and experiencing ageism now as well. I started my professional life 40 years ago — a young woman in a male-dominated industry, who looked even younger, yet heavily influenced by the second wave of feminism. In other words, I wanted to persist (and be taken seriously).

I don’t believe my experiences and how I responded then directly apply today. I worked hard. Negotiated. Adjusted. And, too often, conformed. Now, we’re dealing with different circumstances, different challenges, and different methods of addressing them. It’s braver. Stronger. More direct. Nonconformist. I find it inspiring.

3. Tell us about a person who has inspired or mentored you. What key lesson did you learn from them?

There have been many mentors and people who have inspired me through the years. It’s important to embrace them, appreciate their contribution and reflect deeply how it applies to you. It’s not always positive and that’s got to be OK. Some of my biggest lessons were the most critical.

An executive once told others that I would never be successful because I didn’t know how to put people at ease before getting immediately down to business. What? I was efficient. I was effective. I got things done. Although the comment may have been gender-biased, I decided instead to more fully develop the human side of my work approach — try harder to establish a relationship, be patient and actively listen.

4. What advice would you give to a woman getting started in her career?

Be intentional about taking space and giving space. Seize opportunities that are presented to you, even if it seems a little scary. Move into spaces that look like they need help or interest you. Don’t wait to be told what to do. Do it. If you’re in over your head, ask for help. At the end of the opportunity, ask for input on how to improve and carefully consider the advice.

“Giving space” could be viewed as the yin to the “taking space” yang. I have the luxury at this stage of my career to easily make space for others. Rejoice when others move into the space I’m vacating. Appreciate when people take the risk to move into space I may be comfortably taking up. Mentor them to do their best work. Sponsor them to continue getting more and more space.

5. What can women do to improve gender equity in the workplace? What can men do?

Talk is important, but action is even more crucial. Women should be mentors. Men should be allies. Everyone should be sponsors. We need to build our skills in having conversations, doing something about it and holding ourselves accountable.

I admire what the C+F women took on this year. They formed a group called WE (Women Empowerment), an agency initiative working to encourage discussions and drive actions to foster diversity, equity and inclusion. It’s not only for women. It’s for the intersectionality that exists in the agency. We want to encourage the greater conversation, needed culture shift, and create opportunities in our work space. These efforts will have ripple effects on our clients, the advertising we produce and the industry overall.

6. Tell us about a favorite book/show/podcast and why/how it inspires you.

We have a mini book club at the office who are reading the Harvard Business Review Emotional Intelligence Series. It’s about “how to be human at work.” With technology, data, speed to market, innovation and the rapidly changing landscape, these are powerful and important reminders about our humanity. I like that they’re short reads — individual books on Authentic Leadership, Empathy, Happiness, Influence & Persuasion, Mindfulness and Resilience.

7. Where do you find support and inspiration? How important is networking and how do you expand contacts?

My inspirations are my 22-year-old twin daughters, their friends and millennials at the office. I’m privileged to join their conversations and constantly learn. I hope to have gathered wisdom with my 40-plus years of professional experience, but through them I always end up with new ideas and ways of viewing the world.

Networking is important, but it isn’t about how many LinkedIn contacts you have. It’s about building relationships with people who believe in you, you believe in, help you and whom you help. Take space. Give space.

8. What are the most important characteristics of a good leader? What leadership traits are overrated?

Servant leadership was a concept that resonated with me because I felt it gave me concrete attributes to work on. It pushed me to take a breath and think less about the outcome, and more about where I am in supporting people and process. Lately, I’m intrigued with adaptive leadership because it keeps us moving forward in times of rapid change and challenges. It brings the team into sharper focus.

Charisma and subject matter expertise are overrated leadership traits. They have their time and place in business, but they aren’t what I consider leadership talents. Beware promoting leaders based on these areas. We do it all too often.

9. What would you do differently in your career if you had a do-over.

I’m an introvert and gravitate toward working through issues alone. The upside is I owned it when the decisions were made. The downsides were it sometimes took longer than it should have. I didn’t go to mentors when I would have benefited from their advice and might have reached a better conclusion if I’d asked for help.

10. What would be the title of your autobiography?

Give Space. Take Space. I’ve done both throughout my career. It’s a dance that I’m constantly learning about and honing. Sometimes I take too much space and my impatient nature sometimes prevents me from giving too much space. I’m working on it.

We’d love to hear from more women across all industries who are challenging the status quo. Does it sound like you? If it does, click here and fill out our questionnaire.

Daring Women Q&A responses have been edited and condensed.

Related Content

Webb also says great executives listen to and learn from the people they are charged with leading

Webb also says great executives listen to and learn from the people they are charged with leading

Swary also stresses that women’s leadership strengths are often misperceived as weaknesses ― a barrier that must be overcome

Donio says women seeking to advance their careers must be confident that they deserve the job and ‘are destined to do well’

Lockwood heads a working group that is applying genetic tools to advance the detection and diagnosis of cancers and other diseases