I was fortunate enough to be featured in Forbes in April 2017, “From Dyslexic To Davos: How Ali Bullock Became A Social Media Expert At Infiniti & Other Big Brands.”
You can read the full article here or see a summary from Forbes below.
“Ever been told you weren’t smart enough or good enough to do something?“
It can bring you down. But it’s those who rise back up that are the most successful in life.
In this story, Ali Bullock, Global Senior Manager, Sponsorship and Social Media at INFINITI Motorsports and Davos speaker, shares how he became a social media expert at global brands despite being dyslexic.
Joe Escobedo: When were you diagnosed with dyslexia?
Ali Bullock: Around 10 years old when I was first applying to the next stage at school. Looking back, I guess it was obvious but in those days it wasn’t something as widely supported as it is today.
Finding out was a scary feeling. In one way it helped me understand why I couldn’t read and why things took me longer to understand and process. At the same time, it made me feel more alone than ever before.
Escobedo: How has dyslexia affected your professional life?
Bullock: Being dyslexic has changed my life. Yes, reading everything from emails to reading pitch documents is tough, but I can’t let it hold me back. It forces you to think outside of the lines and bend the rules that everyone else follows. To me that is what great entrepreneurs do, they find a way around or a new way to do things. I always joke that Twitter was made for me. After all it’s hard to screw up a post in 148 characters! Though I have managed to a few times. Being dyslexic has always given me a sense of pride in every achievement, but at the same time a strong ethical stance as well.
Last year I wrote a LinkedIn post about the ethics of an agency winning at Cannes. The article went viral. It resulted in the agency returning the award that I felt they had won through misrepresentation. The power and reach of social media combined with my stance and support from both agencies and brands ensured they took notice.
Escobedo: Were you ever told you wouldn’t be able to do something because you are dyslexic?
Bullock: Yes. Many times and more than I can remember if I’m honest.
Some of my teachers told me I would never be successful. Others told me I would never go to university. It gets hard to pull yourself up when you are constantly told you have no chance. So, you start to believe people in authority. That group thinking becomes your direction. I was lucky in that I was offered an opportunity to break that direction and follow my own path. I was offered a scholarship by the De Beers foundation. But despite that, being different, no matter why, is lonely at times. I feel for kids today struggling with sexuality, race, bullying and not being able to fit in. It’s a hard road and many people underestimate how it feels.
Escobedo: How did you overcome dyslexia in your career?
Bullock: You don’t ever really overcome dyslexia. You find ways around the walls and look for solutions where others don’t. But it’s tough. It’s frustrating when you can’t read or pick up on something fast enough though. But again that is a positive. It is something that pushes me every day. There is no easy day, no rest, no complacency in my world. Many professionals tend to say “no” to projects and ideas. It’s safe. No one gets fired for doing the safe thing.
My way is the opposite. I say “yes” to every project – risk and failure aren’t an issue for me. I’ve been fortunate in the support and faith I have been offered has resulted in some great projects. The outcome is what matters, not your ego. In that sense, I feel in some ways I have overcome dyslexia in that there isn’t a fear of failure to me. Sometimes you give it 110% and it works and sometimes it doesn’t. But people see that. Putting yourself out there is what matters.
Escobedo: How has dyslexia helped your social media career?
Bullock: Saying “yes” to every opportunity and not ever being afraid to fail has helped me in my career. The social media world is new to most of us. In this world, the risk takers thrive; not someone who went to the right school or who has the best degree. At Cathay Pacific, no one wanted to get into social media. It was wrong for the audience, wrong for the brand, too risky. I went to every department and got the same response. Yet, my GM at the time told me to go ahead and I promised him we would make it work. When we passed 100,000 fans, no one ever questioned again whether social media was important to the business.
Then came the step up to INFINITI. They asked if I felt up to the challenge of working on one of their most important campaigns, the Formula One program. I knew social media would be at the heart of this and it would be one of the biggest challenges I have ever taken on. Again I said “yes”. It was nothing short of an incredible opportunity.
Escobedo: What was your proudest moment in your career?
Bullock: I’m really proud of leading the social media presence for so many of the world’s leading brands. I have topped over 100 million video views on social media across YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. I’m working on Wechat with our China team, again something new to learn. That is the great thing about social, you can’t sit still and there is no room for complacency.
Escobedo: What advice would you give to others struggling with dyslexia or other impairments?
Bullock: The only impairment is the one in your own mind. Whether it be dyslexia, race, gender or just confidence. Doing right by yourself and others will get you there. You may not get there as fast as others, but you will get there in the end.
Stay true to yourself is the best advice I can give.
(Bullock’s views are personal and are not intended to reflect those of INFINITI or any other brand mentioned.)