Our first Alumni Spotlight for this year is Ousman Sahko Sow, who was a member of our 21Club at Langston Hughes High School back in 2010 and participated in 21CL programs throughout high school, including “Leadership Unplugged: a CNN Experience” which is now known as the WarnerMedia Institute for Future Leaders. Ousman is the co-founder of Blacktag that is dedicated to helping Black creators have a platform to explore their creativity and be connected with world-class brands.
“The best tool I took from 21CL was the ability to break the ice and engage with anyone. Without all the activities we regularly participated in, which all focused on people and engagement, I would not be the conversationalist I am today which is one of the best foundational skills you can have as an entrepreneur.” – Ousman Sahko Sow
Paint a brief picture of what you’re doing now.
I am the co-founder of a media and technology platform called Blacktag. It is a creator driven platform, specifically for alternative Black creators. You can think of it as a hybrid of Netflix and YouTube, combining original studio content with user generated content in a dedicated home for underserved Black audiences.
How did participating in 21CL transform you and lead you to where you are now?
In high school, I had never really seen or heard of anything that empowered young individuals who were interested in entrepreneurship. I had always been interested in starting my own business and was an overachiever from a young age, so being around like-minded individuals made me feel inspired. One of the most transformative aspects for me was realizing a different career path, one that was different from the traditional ones of medicine or law, and that was a viable and realistic option for me. Recognizing this gave me the ability and a lot of confidence to go into the entertainment space where I could build something extraordinary.
How did 21CL prepare you for your next steps? Going into college and taking on leadership roles, heading into a new era of professionalism, etc. What skills/tools/perspectives have helped you along the way?
21CL prepared me specifically by helping me have an experience at CNN and land an internship there while still in high school! During the summer leadership institute they brought in leaders from CNN to talk to us, and they provided insights into what life is actually like in their career field. I had always been interested in TV so meeting folks in that industry and offering their thoughts really prepared me to seriously consider that industry for my career. One of the things I noticed was the excitement these folks had for their career, showing me that it’s possible to do what you love as an adult. The best tool I took from 21CL was the ability to break the ice and engage with anyone. Without all the activities we regularly participated in, which all focused on people and engagement, I would not be the conversationalist I am today which is one of the best foundational skills you can have as an entrepreneur.
Which programs did you participate in, and when? What skills did you gain or improve through those programs?
In 2010, I had the opportunity to participate in Leadership Unplugged: a CNN experience, and also had an internship with CNN coordinated through 21CL. While I learned a great deal of skills along the way, the experience itself offered me a lot of insight for my career. I was able to witness and immerse myself into the entertainment industry with folks just like me. It may not sound significant, but this was the first time I really saw myself in an entertainment based career and had the confidence to do so because of my time as an intern.
What was a memorable or ‘aha’ moment in 21CL? (Particular program, meeting a professional and diverse peers, speaking in public for the first time, etc.?
I remember we had a 21CL dance off; all the groups got together and no one cared if you messed up or looked funny, it was just meant to be a fun time. I was pretty shy at the time so to participate in something out of my comfort zone pushed me to open up and in turn I gained a lot of confidence.
Did 21CL assist you in developing a leadership style that makes you an effective leader? if so how? And have you recently learned something else about leadership? Please share!
I remember Bob, who was the Executive Director at the time; very charming, charismatic, always himself, and incredibly passionate about learning. He always made it a priority to get to know everyone in the program and recognize each participant for their abilities and achievements. Bob’s leadership style had a huge impact on me because I got to experience firsthand the impact of a leader who was constantly engaged and that’s ultimately the style I bring to my team.
Originally published by 21st Century Leaders: Source