With her marketing expertise, Dr. Gena Yuvette Davis helps companies align their cultures and brands.
Dr. Gena Yuvette Davis has always had a fascination with psychology and human behavior, but it took time to transition from her role as Executive Director of Global Brands for Fox Studios into her second career in organizational psychology. “I loved marketing and I still do but organizational psychology was a calling. There was something about it that just made me say, ‘This is for me,’ and I felt it from the very first organization development class. I was hooked. The incorporation of systems, psychology, and people is fascinating. Studying that triangle and how it all works together is so interesting, and I feel like I'm bringing my whole self to the field.”
Luckily, Gena found a way to incorporate her marketing experience into her new career path, in part thanks to Dr. Jonathan Troper at Alliant International University in Los Angeles. “Dr. Troper helped me see that I had something that other people in the organization development field didn’t have and that my marketing degree was not going to be wasted; that it could be an asset to my new career. When he said that it was like a light bulb turned on and I had found my company’s trademark: We Make the Culture Match the Brand®.” Gena’s consulting company, True Synergy, helps other organizations create frameworks that integrate their culture into their brand to ensure that who they say they are externally matches who they are internally.
Gena’s path to earning a PsyD in organization development at Alliant started at a seminar called Get Paid to Speak Through Toastmasters. She applied what she learned there to build soft skills and critical skills training programs at various companies throughout the country. During one of these sessions, an executive director was so impressed with her that she suggested Gena earn a doctorate. Gena began researching her degree options and found organizational psychology which felt like it could combine her love of corporate work and psychology in an interesting way, but she still wasn't sure where to go or what to do.
Through her professional connections, Gena met Dr. Sherry Camden Anders who was head of the Fresno PsyD in organization development program at that time. “I was based in Los Angeles, but Dr. Anders told me about the Fresno program’s executive format which only met on weekends, and I realized that would fit my lifestyle very well. I went kicking and screaming because I wanted to stay in Los Angeles, but it turned out to be the best decision and the best experience of my life. I was able to apply everything that I learned to my day-to-day work at True Synergy. It was brilliant, fascinating, and infuriating at times, but I loved it. I realized that Dr. Anders knew me better than I knew myself. I never met her in person, we just talked on the phone, but she must have seen something in me that made her feel that Fresno was the best place for me. I recently responded to one of her LinkedIn posts with a ‘thank you’ to her because she is the reason behind where I am today.”
Gena notes that earning her doctorate has given her more credibility and influence which has elevated her career. “Now, I have a seat at the table. They may not always hire True Synergy but at least there's going to be a conversation and an interest in hearing what I have to say. It also has boosted my confidence knowing that what I have to say matters and my point of view is important. That’s why I insist on people calling me Dr. Gena because I've earned it.”
True Synergy is a people and culture management consulting company that specializes in corporate culture change and behavioral transformation for high-growth companies. They offer executive coaching, corporate training assessments, culture audience assessment, and employee engagement services. While DEIA (diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility) is not the primary focus of True Synergy, it is a topic that comes up often in their consulting work. “When George Floyd was murdered in 2020, we started doing a lot of DEIA work, but I always felt that it wasn't enough, so I adjusted the framework to include justice: DEIAJ. I was always of the mindset that you need to integrate justice into the fabric of your corporate strategy because it's not a one-and-done process or just checking off a box. It's who you are as a company and must be present through everything that you do. DEIAJ is not an activity, it's a way of being. It's part of your mission, vision, values, and your brand identity. This is where I can take my marketing and brand expertise and integrate it into what I do for my clients.”
Gena recognizes that collective awareness around inequality has occurred before during the 1990s and even back to the 1960s. But she believes that this time, it’s different. “The murder of George Floyd created a shift which I figured was an anomaly because it was always this rubber band that eventually bounced back. But this time, I don’t think it’s going away and the more progressive companies that are truly interested in integrating DEIAJ into their culture will be successful. When a company is only motivated by the times, it's not going to be sustainable. It's a mindset shift that has to start at the top.”
While Gena is starting to see some companies cut back or even eliminate their diversity departments because of the political landscape, she’s also seen amazing success stories. One of Gena’s clients, an E-sports company, was struggling to promote women within their organization. “They had recently hired their first female CEO and my goal was to try to shift the culture overall and help bring more women and people of color into leadership roles. By the time our contract with them ended in 2022, they had hired their first Black woman as VP of People and Culture, and their first Asian woman as SVP of Marketing. Now other women of color can look up to them and believe that they can achieve these career goals, too.”
Gena is also seeing more companies transform their HR departments into People and Culture departments as a way to recognize and emphasize the importance of their employees’ experience and engagement. “If you want to grow your company and your profitability, it is critical to take care of your people, make sure they're happy, and put them first, especially when it comes to their professional development. So many companies either forget or don't care that we are in this together. If you want to have more collaborative, inclusive cultures, if you want your employees to feel like they belong then you have to care about social justice issues and eliminate unconscious bias and microaggressions. It's not a political statement; it's reality. It’s about building corporate cultures where we see people that look like our country.”