Leo Q & A

GenLeo: Julia King

The senior project manager talks about her involvement with the LGBTQ+ BRG Égalité and how brands should show up during Pride Month.

GenLeo: The newest class of inspired thinkers reflect on the impact of their career to date and forecast what’s next.

Senior project manager Julia King defines herself as outgoing. More importantly, as someone who came out as queer in her 30s, showing up as her full self to work is something to celebrate and drives her creative process.

Julia forged connections with the LGBTQ+ BRG, Égalité, which led to work for Trans Lifeline. Read on for the first-hand impact of this project.

1. What is your day-to-day like as a project manager?

I’ve been a project manager on the Altria account, and with Leo Burnett, for about seven and a half years.

I was promoted to Senior Project Manager in December, so I’ve been learning the skill of management and figuring out where my best gifts and skills can help another person through their job and career. That’s really exciting and new for me; and with COVID, my job duties changed completely. It’s been a real period of growth and learning for me.

Currently, I am overseeing projects throughout Marlboro channels. So, I’m working on emails, website, promotions and other cross-brand initiatives, as well as any process improvement and training that’s needed across our project manager group.

Now, the question is: how am I going to step up and support further?

2. You have been called a “behind the scenes culture rock star.” As a project manager, what does this mean to you?

Project management is a supporting and enabling role. How can I figure out a process and move it forward, help everybody understand what’s going on and be a gatherer plus a communicator?

The thing I find challenging, personally, is when there’s no set process for something. If there’s no way that it’s supposed to go, and people are just flying by the seat of their pants, that’s usually a sign they need project management.

I then need to figure out how to navigate people through those moments. Facilitation is a big deal – helping people feel prepared for what their responsibilities are. One of the things I love most about project management is communicating complex ideas and distilling them into simpler tutorials for different levels of understanding.

I want to support the people who are making the big ideas. And in order to do that, we may need to meet some requirements or have a structure. But really, I want to help people do their best so that the work can be it’s very best.

You played a key role in Leo’s Trans Lifeline partnership. How did you get involve with this project and what did it mean to you to be a part of it?

Being brought into the Trans Lifeline work was a big honor for me. I wanted to support my trans and non-binary siblings at Leo and Arc, who were leading the charge.

Trans Lifeline is an organization that really does transformative work for the community, including via their hotlines, name change grants, financial support for trans folks who were imprisoned at the border and commissary funds to trans folks in prison.

It was very important to me to enable the team to create ideas that spoke directly to people who are served by the organization and and have the right people in the room to make the decisions.

It matters that trans people are making the decisions; it absolutely is necessary. And the fact that we had a queer and trans led team internally — I can’t tell you how big of a deal that was for me, but it was pretty magical.

It ended up being just a big collective effort. It was all of us in the room, brainstorming and ideating and feeling. We were all eager and hungry to help.

We worked on the Trans Day of Visibility on March 31, 2020 – right as we were cut off from one another. It was a very strange launch, because we were all at home. But I’m so glad we got the work done in time so that they could launch and start this campaign for “We See Us” – by trans people for trans people.

For me, it was about the heart and soul of the organization and being truly in touch to tell the right stories. And it changed how I want to do work. It changed the people I want to work with.

3. You are very involved in Leo Burnett’s BRG Égalité. What drew you to this group and what does it mean to you to be a part of it?

Well, the Trans Lifeline work really was my biggest project with Égalité directly. I joined Égalité following a BRG meet-and-greet in about 2015, after I realized I was queer. I was a late bloomer. I changed a lot of ideas about myself and realized I’m different than I thought all along.

Égalité provides opportunities to connect with people who have a commonality. I think what I love about Égalité the most is the fact that they really are trying to make an impact for all of Publicis Groupe. We will continue to make change as long as there are people fueling that fire and really willing to jump in and do the work.

4. During Pride Month, some brands hit the nail on the head while others miss and seem to capitalize on the LGBTQ+ community. How do you think brands can properly celebrate Pride this year?

We’ve certainly all seen app icons, logos, merch and branded swag change to visually cue Pride support. But what makes this genuine vs inauthentic “rainbow-washing?” To me, it’s vital that brands and companies state their values loud and proud—just like the queer folks they claim to support.

Tell us exactly where your company values lie. And don’t just tell LGBTQIA+ folks. Stand up in ways that are unapologetic. Speak to our oppressors and to a society that actively pursues anti-trans legislation, such as restricting adoption rights for queer families and policing trans folks in sports.

Don’t just tell us you’re allies—BE allies. Change your internal policies. Fight for us. Demonstrate and spell out how you support the queer community outside of the month of June, instead of constructing a façade of allyship in order to capture the dollars of LGBTQIA+ consumers.

We want to know our money is going to causes and organizations doing the on-the-ground local work of serving underserved, marginalized communities like trans youth experiencing homelessness and black trans women who are frequent victims of violence. Show the queer community that you get it. Put your money where your mouth is, and don’t double dip by also donating to politicians and organizations that actively pursue legislation against the queer community.

Also, if you spend more on putting up a campaign than you do paying out to queer and POC-lead organizations, I think you’re doing it wrong.

5. Three things people may not know about you:

  1. I started my career in film/TV production and would have continued, had I not been so afraid of going freelance. Much respect to all freelancers out there!What got me into a more secure job was my hobby of designing my own websites and journaling online. Turns out, processing one’s feelings in public and making it pretty can be beneficial in ways one doesn’t expect.
  2. I’m polyamorous (and proud!) and have been for almost a decade. Polyamory is the practice of having multiple loving relationships at once, and everyone involved knows and consents. There is no one “right way” of structuring polyam relationships, so each person/couple/group will have their own story and practices.I’m happy to talk one-on-one with folks who are curious about Consensual Non-Monogamy and Polyamory, as it is an option for structuring relationships that people often aren’t aware of until they meet someone who practices it.
  3. I’m a late blooming queer. I didn’t realize I was part of the queer community until I was in my 30s (and already working at Leo Burnett!) due to the way I was raised and the narrow breadth of experiences I had in my life.For anyone who perhaps hasn’t explored core questions like, “Who am I, and is this what I really want?” or has mostly lived life by a script of expectations and definitions that were given to you, there is always time to ask yourself what you want and truly listen to your body and intuition. Talk to friends, try a new social group, ask questions about gender, experiment, read books, follow queer activist and creators and talk to a therapist.

    We don’t always know exactly who we are if we haven’t allowed for change, deviance, discovery or “rebellion.” Do the scary thing and peek behind the curtain. Check out what pieces of you have been hiding there behind all of your societal and familial training. Queer or not, I bet there’s a part of you that deserves attention and curiosity.