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Disrupting rooms of sameness: Sofia Hernandez, TikTok’s Global Head of Business Marketing, delivers keynote address at Brandcenter commencement

Keynote speaker stands at podium

The Brandcenter was honored to have Sofia Hernandez, Global Head of Business Marketing at TikTok, serve as the keynote speaker for the 2023 Commencement ceremony, held Friday, May 12, 2023, in Richmond, Virgina.

In her address, Hernandez shared some of the most important things she’s learned throughout her career to better equip and empower our graduates to be the change our industry desperately needs.

Here’s an excerpt from her speech:

“VCU Brandcenter Class of 2023, I am honored to stand here in your presence. This room is full of the people who are going to redefine the marketing industry as we know it.

You’ve just spent the last two years sharpening your skills and honing in on your values and purpose. Now, it’s time to actually go out and live it, right? Guess what? Living up to your values and purpose every day is really hard in practice, and it’s going to make people uncomfortable. Let me tell you why.

Three words: Rooms of sameness.

You’re walking out of this amazing school—a place where you’ve been encouraged to explore, experiment, and push your creative minds to new levels. And, you’re walking in to many, many, many rooms of sameness.

The industry has changed very little. The marketing industry has been practicing the same old marketing best practices for decades, yet this world changes daily. Trends happen daily. I know you know because you are creating the trends and a lot of these are featured on TikTok.

The rooms of sameness will try to spit you out as paper dolls. You have to promise yourself today that you’re not going to let this happen.

In my 20-plus years in the industry, the people who have pushed boundaries, who have made us think differently, made us really feel something, have two similar traits:

One, they choose to be authentic. And, two, they value creating purposeful connections with people.

The values you built over your whole life, the things you passionately believe in, the person you are in your most comfortable surroundings, that is who you need to bring to the table.

When you exist in a place of true authenticity, the world opens up for you. Only then can you really start to make purposeful connections with people.

Create an environment where you shine so bright as your authentic self that it makes people feel like they can shine, too.

That’s real leadership. That’s what the industry needs. So walk in every single door and sit at every single table as you.”

Far shot of keynote speaker at podium receiving applause from attendees
Hernandez receives applause following the conclusion of her keynote address

2023 Brandcenter Commencement Keynote SpeakerSofia Hernandez, Global Head of Business Marketing / TikTok 

Sofia Hernandez is the Global Head of Business Marketing at TikTok, where she helps brands around the world tap into the power of TikTok by challenging them to build innovative marketing strategies that drive culture on and off the platform. 

Prior to TikTok, Sofia was the Chief Client Officer at consumer insights platform Suzy where she was responsible for driving revenue retention and growth, informing the product roadmap, and ensuring the entire company was rooted in a ‘customer first’ approach. With over 18 years leading some of the most iconic global marketing campaigns for Fortune 500 companies including P&G, J&J, Netflix and Spotify, Sofia’s passion for people and what makes them tick continues to fuel her keen understanding of how to drive successful connections between brands and the people that love them.

An activist at her core, Sofia recognizes her role as part of the 1% of Latina Executives in Tech and is committed to fostering inclusion in the tech industry by incorporating DEI into everything she touches–from a company’s hiring practices to its advertising. Sofia is a passionate advocate for social justice and co-founded a unique apparel line, Black on Black BK, that’s dedicated to spreading messages of equality and empowerment.

More Commencement coverage is on our website. Watch the Brandcenter Commencement 2023 video here.