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Maya Dukes

Maya Dukes

Executive Director of Creative

With far-reaching and diverse campaigns, the in-house creative team at Delta Air Lines is making a global impact. Get an inside look at the pioneering creativity and global impact emerging from Delta Air Lines’ Window Seat.

Leading the North American front for top-performing airlines, according to Forbes, Delta Air Lines is also driving tailwinds as one of the leaders in creative brand strategy. Opening its doors in 2021, award-winning Window Seat has sought out and surpassed its goal of connecting the world through visual creative. In this episode, recorded live at this year’s Adobe MAX, we sit down with Maya Dukes, executive director of creative, to explore the discovery and collaboration that drives Delta’s internal success, positions itself as leaders in creative brand strategy, and empowers its positive global impact with its consumers.

As the champion of teamwork, Adobe is changing the world through digital experiences. Empower your team to do its best work through Adobe solutions — learn how in the webinars below.

Show notes

The Power of Teamwork is brought to you by Adobe and hosted by Claire Craig.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by guests are their own and their appearance on this podcast does not imply an endorsement of them or any entity they represent.

With far-reaching and diverse campaigns, the in-house creative team at Delta Air Lines is making a global impact. Get an inside look at the pioneering creativity and global impact emerging from Delta Air Lines’ Window Seat.

Leading the North American front for top-performing airlines, according to Forbes, Delta Air Lines is also driving tailwinds as one of the leaders in creative brand strategy. Opening its doors in 2021, award-winning Window Seat has sought out and surpassed its goal of connecting the world through visual creative. In this episode, recorded live at this year’s Adobe MAX, we sit down with Maya Dukes, executive director of creative, to explore the discovery and collaboration that drives Delta’s internal success, positions itself as leaders in creative brand strategy, and empowers its positive global impact with its consumers.

As the champion of teamwork, Adobe is changing the world through digital experiences. Empower your team to do its best work through Adobe solutions — learn how in the webinars below.

Show notes

The Power of Teamwork is brought to you by Adobe and hosted by Claire Craig.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by guests are their own and their appearance on this podcast does not imply an endorsement of them or any entity they represent.

Maya Dukes

Maya Dukes

Executive Director of Creative

The Power of Teamwork Season 2, Episode 4

“Building a More Equitable World Through Creative Disruption” — Delta

Host: Claire Craig, Organizational Development Specialist, Adobe

Guests: Maya Dukes, Executive Director of Creative, Delta Air Lines

Maya Dukes: It’s trusting people with the expectation that if you give them trust, they will give it to you. And that vision is going to be something that they blindly follow because they believe that you’re there to help them see a different path and not to harm.

Claire Craig: Hi, everyone! Welcome back to The Power of Teamwork. I’m your host, Claire Craig, and today is going to be a little bit different. I’m so excited because I had the chance to catch up with Maya Dukes from Delta Air Lines’ in-house creative team called Window Seat at the 2023 Adobe MAX conference. We had an incredible conversation. 

Maya is breaking barriers in every sense of the word, truly inspiring all of us by building an award-winning team and changing the landscape of innovation and creativity across the globe. So without further ado, let’s take you to our conversation at Adobe MAX. 

Today we have a really incredible guest. We have Maya Dukes, who is the creative director of Delta’s in-house creative agency called Window Seat. So welcome, Maya.

Maya Dukes: Thank you.

Claire Craig: So a little bit about Window Seat. It was started just two years ago. In two short years, it has already garnered worldwide attention and won awards across the board and really redefined what it means to connect the world through creative.

So let’s dive right into it. You obviously have a huge background in marketing, but when you came to Delta, you really had to build a team from the ground up. So what kinds of opportunities were you looking to build when you got to Delta? 

Maya Dukes: When Delta called, I got a call from a recruiter. I was working at a Fortune S&P 500 organization. It was a femtech, and I was really happy. It was a smaller organization and we were doing some amazing work. When the recruiter gave me a call, she was like, “Hey, you have this opportunity to paint the other side of the canvas, there’s already a team in place, but we need you to build the capabilities, bring some more heads and hands in to increase the influence of the organization.”

And the first thing I said to my leader at the time that was at my former company, I said, “I love what I’m doing here. I love working with the team, but it’s Delta.” And he was like, “Yeah, it’s Delta. I get it.” And so the opportunity to really, again, paint that other side of the canvas and really look at the things that I wanted to see when I was coming up through the creative ranks. I started as a graphic designer, and I never really had mentorship that either looked like me or represented something other than what I saw in the space.

That opportunity to come in and build a team with the goal of being able to reflect the world that we were trying to tell stories for was really interesting for me. We already had an amazing team that was already filling up the left side of the canvas, and they were doing some amazing work. They didn’t have leadership to have that influence, but the opportunity to make sure that there were different voices at the table, at the decision-making table, at the creative table, who could tell stories about their experiences and how they see travel was so interesting to me. And that was what I set out to do.

Claire Craig: I think that’s incredible. I lovingly call you a disruptor, which I think is one of the best labels because you went into an industry that can seem a little bit stale, a little stagnant, and you are out there absolutely breaking down walls, pushing past barriers, and doing things that really haven’t been done before. And I think that is so inspiring. 

One of the things that I love about your team is you’re really inspiring and future-focused. You’re always looking for what’s next. So speaking of what’s next, I feel like the hot topic for everyone right now is AI. So can you tell me a little bit about how your team is currently pursuing or thinking about AI?

Maya Dukes: Yeah, absolutely. I’m not afraid to say that I learned a lot at Adobe MAX this year. We’ve been talking a lot about AI and what it means for us and how we can protect the sanctity of creativity. But where we really see the future of AI coming in and helping us is thinking about our safety videos, thinking about these opportunities like our centennial that are coming in, thinking about moments like South by Southwest.

And we’re thinking about how we can amplify our content, our concepts to make sure that our stakeholders and our clients understand the creative that we’re trying to pitch, right? So I’ll give you an example. The South by Southwest work is really exciting. The team was so proud to be on this project and typically sometimes internal orgs decide when they want to go to an external agency and internal agency.

So every project we get where our clients, our stakeholders have made a decision to go with us we are grateful for it. And it’s just another test. It’s just another opportunity to prove our worth and we don’t take anything for granted. 

So the South by Southwest work came by, and we had three amazing concepts. We were really disciplined in our approach and thought about the creative constraints we had to consider to really put our pens to paper and came up with some really cool concepts. And so we were in the pitch session and the stakeholder was like, “All right, this looks so good. We’re going to take it to executive leadership. Can you do us a favor before we log off? Can you apply these concepts to the space and can you do it, I don’t know, in a couple hours?” And we were like, “We sure cannot.” You know, we don’t have enough time to render all of these concepts onto the space. And so thinking about generative AI and having the capability to say, all right, we have these three concepts. Can we just with a push of a few buttons show our stakeholders how this could look in real life so that they can say yes faster so we can start creating faster? And that was the thing that really clicked for me, with me on Tuesday. 

When I was looking at all of the demos, I was thinking about the safety video, right? So we’re starting to shoot the safety video. I hope y’all fly Delta. So we were starting to shoot the safety video and reimagine the safety video. Another project that used to go to external agencies that came internal and we have been so hyped about it. So the last safety video, not the one that’s on flight now, the one before really looked at AR and just creating this virtual world outside of the airplane and using metaphors for the plane.

And so to your point, trying to disrupt and do something a little bit different. So all of the other carriers are on board, how do we take it off board and do it in a way that makes sense? And so we were thinking the last one we did, it felt good. It was this kind of virtual world. And we told this virtual story and still protected the safety story and messaging, but we really wanted to think about how to do that beyond what we did the last time. So this time we did it in a theater as a metaphor as the world is the stage. So that was really cool. But how do we use AI to paint these destinations that might not even exist?

So these future-focused destinations that you can start dreaming about and thinking about what might encourage you to not only fly and see the world, but imagine what the world could be. And so that’s what unlocked for me on Tuesday. It’s just an amazing tool that can amplify all of the creative work that’s happening on Window Seat.

Claire Craig: And we’re back with Maya Dukes at Adobe MAX. 

So it really is so cool to see how much you’re changing things up and creating a really fresh perspective, allowing people to view travel in a new way. And I liked what you said about imagining a world that they haven’t been to or that doesn’t exist yet, right? What else can we think about that’s outside of what we currently do? 

“Someone Somewhere” is a great campaign that your team focused on that had an impact on how we think about travel as a whole. It really shifted how we view travel. How did your team define what’s next for their audience? 

Maya Dukes: Yeah, we talk about this all the time. We honor the briefs that we get from our stakeholders, but we have a couple, maybe two philosophies that we really lean in on is this notion of “outward in.” As creatives when we don’t have a lot of time, we tend to go to our go to inspiration, which is usually online, right? And I’m not knocking anyone, that’s exactly what I do. We don’t always have the time and space. What I try to tell the team is “Use what you have at your disposal, innovate with what you have,” is what I always say. What we happen to have at Delta is travel. We have the world. And so there is no reason why we should be sitting at our desk googling destinations when there is a world that we can go see and that our organization is imploring us to go see and make these experiences real and understand the people who live.

In these places, understand the culture, understand their stories, tell the stories in a way that honors their experiences and bring that back. So “Outward In” is something that we really focus on where I tell the team, for instance, I’ll give you another example, we’re working on this centennial campaign initiative. Delta turns 100 in two years, about 18 months in 2025.

And the team has been charged with developing all of the creative that will guide that conversation. We’re really excited about it. Another opportunity that came from internal versus external. And we were talking about changing the Delta Museum in the space. And right around the time we started to brainstorm the Book of Hove. I don’t know if you all have seen it in New York’s Brooklyn Museum. But we started thinking about all the work that was being done to celebrate Jay Z in New York, just how that experience came to life. And we started googling and I was like, “Nope, inward out, right?” We need to get on a plane because we have that at our disposal and travel to New York to see what this space looks like, how it feels to really experience this creative.

So we really made it easy for us to come inside and go out and then bring what we saw back into the work. And then the second philosophy we have is really honoring our constraints and honoring our intuition. So I’ll talk about the constraints first. The constraints are the brief. So we know our agency partners, our external agency partners are amazing. We know we need them. For some of the bigger ideas to come in, but a lot of times they aren’t working with the constraints we are working with. And so they come back with these lofty, beautiful ideas, and it’s like, must be nice not to think about copy.

So for us, we’re thinking about the brief. We’re thinking about our consumer insights. We’re thinking about what our customers want and need from us. We’re thinking about demographics. We’re thinking about ROI. We’re thinking about what the organization is really focused on. What are our initiatives that need to come through our brand beliefs?

All of these constraints, and we’re not looking at them as something that’s holding us down. We’re looking at them as things that are within this box that will force us to create more specific creative that speaks one-to-one with people. So that specificity is there because we have constraints, not because the sky’s the limit. Actually, there are limits, right? And we need to embrace them. And usually, you’ll see creative that’s not guided by any framework. It feels a little… what’s the word I’m looking for? A lot of sizzle, not a lot of substance. And then when you see creative that moves you in a way that speaks to you, you know there are constraints. You know that people were paying attention and locked in to what they knew to be true about the brand, about their customers, and about the assignment, right? So honoring those constraints. 

And then the second thing, which is a little counterintuitive, is honoring your intuition, right? So we have data and benchmarks that will make your head spin. You can get paralyzed, analysis paralysis, if you are locked in so much that you don’t honor your intuition. That gravitational pull that tells you, yes, follow the brief, but there’s something better that the client doesn’t know they even need, right?

I always use this as an example. It’s not my work, but I wish it was, but Nike’s campaign with Colin Kaepernick. If I try to imagine a world where that campaign came to life and I think about it, maybe there was a brief and someone said, we need to do something really breakthrough and groundbreaking. And then everybody got together and they came up with a concept and the agency came in and they pitched an idea or some ideas, and then there was one creative, probably somewhere down the line of hierarchy that said, “My intuition tells me we need to do something that’s going to disrupt and something that’s going to really speak to who we are and something that is right, the right thing to do, right?” And so honoring our intuition usually leads us to, yes, following the brief and using our constraints to develop beautiful, creative, but then also using our intuition and what we believe is true to create things that will move the needle. And “Someone, Somewhere” was one of those moments where we did just that. 

Claire Craig: I think that’s so powerful. It reminds me of a study that was done, they studied two groups of children who were playing in playgrounds, and the first group of children, they just put in their playground, there was no fence around it, and they just were like, “Okay, go play.” What they noticed is that the kids in the playground without an external fence stayed really close to their teachers, but the kids who were put into a playground that had an external fence, They went all the way up until the boundaries they played all the way out to the edges And I think that’s a perfect example of the power of constraint, it’s not just keeping you in a box. It allows you to fully express further than you would maybe even if you didn’t have those. So I think that’s a beautiful thing 

Maya Dukes: I heard about that study as well. I teach a class at Georgia State University — go GSU — it’s called Systematic Creativity. That’s all we do is talk about the power of patterns and constraints and frameworks to develop groundbreaking, creative creative that kind of pushes against the traditional notion of what creative is supposed to be.

And we start the class off and I’m like, “Hands up, who’s creative?” And everyone’s like, they’re marketing. And so they’re like, I’m not. And so no one wants to raise their hand. They’re so intimidated. The class is being taught by me. So they automatically think we’re about to start getting into graphic design. We’re not. Then I tell them to close their eyes and imagine driving down this dirt road. You’re on your way to a vineyard or wherever it is. And you get a flat tire. The nearest gas station is maybe an hour away, no cell phone service, no one there to help you, and you have to use what’s in your closed world to change the tire.

So they’re like, that’s easy. I’m gonna go to the trunk and I’m gonna pull out my car jack. And they get their car jack out or whatever the car tools are called, and they take out the tire thing, iron, whatever, and they realize that the tools aren’t gonna work. I said, “Okay, tools aren’t working, get creative. Innovate with what you have. What is in your close world that you can use to be more creative?” They start talking about, I got hand sanitizer. Maybe I can pour it on the rust and loosen up the bolts. I didn’t drink this soda. Maybe, you know, soda’s bad for you. I know that, but now I can use it and pour it on the rust. I mean, people just start getting really creative. Because they use what they have, the constraints are helping them find more innovative solutions. And by the end of that exercise, I’m like, “Okay, now raise your hand and tell me who’s creative.”

And everyone’s like “That’s me, sis.” So it’s, so it’s really about taking those constraints and thinking about a problem in a way that’s different. And I think about that when I think about the team. You might not have all of the budget you need to build a team the way you need to, but you need to understand where your talent — the hidden talents of your team — where they lie, right?

So innovating with what you have is an amazing team. And there might be a graphic designer who’s also a writer. There might be a writer who’s also an illustrator. There might be an illustrator who takes beautiful pictures on Instagram and you can leverage their eye for art direction, innovate with what you have so that when you do get more, you can honor those resources better.

Claire Craig: Absolutely. I just feel like you’re just giving us so much wisdom, but we are now to the point where we are going to do some Q& A with all of you. Go ahead and raise your hand and our mic runner will come to you and you can ask your question to the incredible Maya. We got a question right up here in the front.

Audience member: This is a really simple question, a little bit about your team, your creative team. Can you share about the size of it? And one thing that I was going to ask earlier, which you actually just went in and alluded to that. You leverage the team’s talents in other areas, writers versus whatever. Tell us a little about the team and the size and some of the capabilities that they are doing.

Maya Dukes: Gladly. So they already existed without me. So I just want to clear that up, Window Seat was just newly forming. They had their cool brand, all the things. So I can’t take credit for that, but it was a small and scrappy team. And like I said, they were lacking leadership to give them influence within the organization.

So that was where I came in and really started to paint a picture of how we could build capabilities and really amplify the work that was happening within the organization through a creative lens, through storytelling. And so we started out with about 15 creatives, a typical in-house creative team. And again, it didn’t really reflect the world from a diversity inclusion standpoint. So I definitely knew we needed some opportunities there. We also needed to build our production capabilities. 

We needed to diversify our vendors to make sure we were working with diversity in front of and behind the camera. We also needed to have storytellers, editors, all of the things. So we started at 15 and then we pitched and I remember this, it was April 19, 2021, when I went into the CMO’s office and I had this pitch and I was so proud of it because it was really steeped in ROI and the value we were going to deliver to the organization. It wasn’t just about the work and the volume. It wasn’t just about demand. We had those numbers, but it was about what we were going to deliver to the organization. And there were 68, the head count was going to be 68 and everyone in the organization was like, “Hmm, let’s see how she’s going to get 68 heads approved.” And by maybe halfway in, and Drake, who was there, he’s sitting in the back, about halfway through that pitch, the CMO was like, “Enough. Say less. Approved. I’m in.” 

And so we got to 68 heads, which is a feat. We walk around Delta and we’re really excited and the culture is popping. Everybody wants to be on Window Seat, and we don’t take it for granted.

We’ve really built a culture and I say from the top down and then bottom up. Because it’s important. I know that sometimes people throw culture on the teams when it’s really the responsibility of the leaders to make sure that people feel psychologically safe to come to work, that they have a space to share their ideas and also to share what’s happening in their lives.

And so we really lean in on some of those messages for the team. We don’t just lean in from a message standpoint. We actually live it. That’s why we walk around Delta so happy because we actually are living what we’re talking about. 68 strong. 

Claire Craig: There’s some really engaging questions coming from our live audience at Adobe MAX. They are not letting Maya off the hook. Hear what they have to say. Stay with us after the break. 

Our live Q and A is in full swing. Let’s jump right back into the conversation. 

Audience member: Good morning. My name is Miss Townsend. I’m from St. Louis, Missouri. I’m a public high school teacher. I was just reading text messages from my high school seniors. I teach a multimedia class. And as a woman of color and in a leadership role, because I emphasize leadership, I try to encourage my students to step outside the box. What words of wisdom would you give these graduating seniors as they embark on their new journey, new chapter in life after they graduate from high school? Thank you. 

Maya Dukes: You’re welcome. I would say to them and I would say to anyone that your differences are not a detriment. I used to be really self conscious about being an “other” in the room and really nervous to share my perspective and point of view. Not only am I a woman, I am a woman of color, I’m a child of immigrants. I had friends come to my house and food smelled different and accents were different and things were so different. I’ve just been different my entire life. And it just dawned on me. That’s not a detriment. That’s the thing that makes my story unique. And that’s what brings this unique perspective to every organization.

My team and I, 41% of Window Seat is diverse. And so we’re really proud of that. And when I talk to the team, we have real conversations about casting and styling. It’s not about box checking. It’s really about making sure that we’re honoring other people’s experiences.

We talk about making sure that we have a talent pipeline that allows people to come through the ranks and be supported. We talk about making sure that we have diverse panels that are interviewing, because when I interviewed, I never interviewed with a person of color until I was about four roles into my career, and that’s been the last person of color that I’ve ever interviewed with. 

And so my differences being in that room, being able to share those perspectives with people who might have not heard that had they not worked for me or with me or alongside me, that is my unique value proposition.

So your differences are not a detriment — they’re actually what you can use to outshine anybody. 

Claire Craig: Oh, that’s beautiful. We can take one more. 

Audience member: Hi, my name’s Josh, Delta Silver Medallion. I’m a creative at an in-house company, and I’m curious if you can talk a bit more about the briefing process at Delta. I know for us personally, a lot of people at our company don’t come from a creative or ad agency background, and so sometimes the briefs that we get aren’t the most helpful or insightful when you talk about how constraints can be helpful. So can you talk about how the briefs come across your desk? Are they in a good spot already? Do you have to work with other people to help get more insights in there that you want them to actually work with?

Maya Dukes: Yeah, I have to say Delta is a little bit more mature in that area. Our marketers are really sharp. They come with insights, they come with consumer needs, but all of that said, there’s always a push-pull where we wish we had a little bit more, right? And so what we’ve tried to do is have really strong relationships with our marketing peers.

So if we’re missing something, we connect with them, have one-on-one conversations to try to get those insights on the table. And we’re asking them questions that they might not think of. And so even for the creative team, you have to encourage your team to ask questions. And I believe in cognitive diversity as well.

So you’re going to have people in the room that can rapid-fire questions and they go to a briefing or a kickoff and they have a million and one questions for the stakeholders. And then we have people on the team that have to absorb what they’ve seen and what they’ve heard. And that’s okay too, like everyone doesn’t, we’re not all thinking at the same rate at the same pace and we’re okay with that.

In the moment, we want to make sure we’re asking the right questions to get the answers we need from our team. Our stakeholders and clients, but then once we absorb that brief, we also want to take a minute to think about the brief. What are the insights? What are we missing? What do we need to do better work?

And then we hit our stakeholders up with those questions. 

Claire Craig: Okay, maybe one more if we go rapid fire. 

Audience member: Yeah, so as creatives or marketers, you know, we always have the outside input, the stakeholders. Somebody is always giving that information. How do you at Delta motivate your team to overcome burnout and some of those sometimes we just get stuck?

Maya Dukes: Yeah, that’s a good one. So we’re intentional about it. And I will say if you don’t put intention behind anything you do, you’re not going to really be focused and serious about it. So for us burnout, we have a pulse survey for the organization, we have a Glint survey. We have all these surveys that come and measure sentiment and how we’re feeling.

And then Window Seat has our own survey. So we’re really interested in how, yes, all the things, but specifically, how are you feeling within creative? Do you have opportunities to share your ideas? Are your ideas being heard? We have a question that says, “Is your leader honoring your ideas?” Like a specific question and then tell us more about that.

We hold each other accountable. My leadership team holds me accountable and vice versa. We are really interested in making sure that people don’t just come to work and give us the most, that people come to work and they give us their best. We implement a wellness week and we look and use that intuition to say, “Hey, I’m looking at you.”

When you get stuck, usually it’s because you’re tired or you’re overwhelmed or you have too much in your head and ideas can’t even break through. You need to be bored. And you need to have some air and space in your mind to create. And so we’re really intentional about making sure we carve those spaces out for our team.

Claire Craig: Oh, so good. This conversation was so rich and I got so much, I know all of us did as well. Thank you for inspiring us, creating the space for us to learn from you, and really show up, not just the most but the best. 

So thank you again for your incredible insight. It was so inspiring to see the amount of people who are waiting to talk to Maya after our session.

There was just a line of people who wanted to get more of her knowledge. And we were also part of that line. We had to pull her aside to sneak in a few more questions. We’re going to wrap up this episode with her lessons in team leadership and confidence. 

All right, so I want to talk a little bit more about what has your team done differently that’s really grown its project demand?

Maya Dukes: Yeah, so in addition to just being really disciplined about how we produce the work, we really have this one-project-at-a-time mentality. We know that our clients, our stakeholders have a choice and they can go to external agencies who are doing amazing work. So when they come to Window Seat, we really take every single project as an opportunity to showcase our value and to showcase how we can tell stories the best and to understand the magic in that secret sauce. 

We believe we understand that from employees all the way to products, to experiences, we tell Delta stories better as Delta employees, and so we just take every project one project at a time — and we take pride in the work we do. When we get a project, when one comes across our desk, we know that someone made a choice to go with us.

Claire Craig: Yeah, it’s an intentional choice and it, and it demonstrates how much they value you as well, which I really like “Yeah, I like that. It’s not just an expectation. It’s how you show up as a leader as well.” So tell me a little bit more. How are you continuing to support your team’s development and confidence?

You talked a lot about surveys and the different touchpoints you have to really ask those questions, but tell me what else are you doing to continue that support of your team’s development and confidence? 

Maya Dukes: Yeah, So we have an internal Window Seat mantra. It’s “Every year better.” And it’s really how we think about learning and development.

So if we can look back at 2023 and say, operationally, we’ve done some things to enhance our process and creatively we’ve done some things to really leverage our constraints to create breakthrough work and campaigns. We’ve gotten more campaigns, bigger campaigns that have more complexity. If we can look back and say that we started the year differently than we’re ending it and that ending is a lot better than it was when we started, then we know that this year has gotten better. 

And so that mantra is how we operate. It’s not just the mantra, we’ve carved budgets and we’ve carved time out to invest in our team’s learning. We ensure that people have the space and the time and the money and the resources to pursue them, and we track them and measure them and manage them.

Claire Craig: I love that. We know that with any kind of new venture or when you’re in a creative field and you’re really pushing the envelope, like you’ve done at Windows Seat, and really try to do things that are new and innovative and really haven’t been done before, that there’s going to be a certain level of failure that comes with that. 

What failures have you gone through, and how do you embrace those as a learning? 

Maya Dukes: I know everyone kind of skirts around the word failure. There is such a negative connotation with setting out to do something and not seeing it come to fruition. I try not to do that because at the end of the day, you have to fail forward and you have to be able to learn forward.

So I think about when I first got to Delta, I was about three months in and had this amazing opportunity to work on one of our holiday campaigns. And I didn’t know enough about the brand. I hadn’t spent enough time understanding the nuances, understanding how the brand worked and how to articulate it.

Our team wasn’t established. I took the project when I should have said, this is probably one that an agency should do, and maybe I shadow it, but I was so ambitious. So ready to jump in. So ready to prove my worth and it didn’t turn out the way it should have. And of course the business was like, this doesn’t meet our expectation of what we think the brand should stand for and how we want to bring the brand forward.

It wasn’t really what the brand stood for. We hit that mark, but how we wanted to articulate that visually wasn’t quite there and for Delta, it’s never just “good enough.” And so it had to rise to the level of that elevated look and feel. And so it didn’t run. And it was a learning and it was a learning that helped the team see me in a place where it was like, “Okay, I get it. I understand.” I needed some more time. I needed to be able to understand the assignment a little bit more. And I think they learned a lot from how I handled that. And I learned a lot about myself as well. 

Claire Craig: Yeah. I always think that it shows a lot about any individual, especially the leader by how they deal with failure and what they do and how they move forward and really share that openly with the team, it lends to vulnerability, which lends to trust, which lends to like all the great things, right? So you can’t be afraid of failure if you want to achieve great things. And I think your story showcased that beautifully. 

So you came into this team as a new leader, you’re establishing this team, and one of the big things that you focused on was establishing trust with both your stakeholders and your team members. How did you do that? 

Maya Dukes: Yeah, I think I really tried to lean in and show people that I trusted what they had to offer their insights and their experiences and their points of views and perspectives. I have always followed this “if people trust you, they will wait for the vision.”

And I know I was new. I had all these big ideas. I had all of these ambitions and I wanted the team to hang in there with me. I would say it all the time. “Y’all, I know we don’t have the hands and we don’t have the heads, but y’all just hang in there with me.” And there was a moment that happened last year when we won agency of the year.

And people were like, “All right, we hung in there with you and it actually paid off.” It’s trusting people with the expectation that if you give them trust, they will give it to you. And that vision is going to be something that they blindly follow because they believe that you’re there to help them see a different path and not to harm.

Claire Craig: Yeah. And they trust you implicitly, which I love. I think that’s so important. We’re going to transition. Let’s talk a little bit about teamwork. So Maya, tell me, what does teamwork mean to you? 

Maya Dukes: Teamwork means as a leader, it’s not just getting the most out of your team, it’s getting the best out of your team.

So really leaning in and seeing. What makes someone thrive? What makes them tick? How you get the best work out of them. And that’s about psychological safety and them feeling like you’re there to listen to their ideas and that when they fail, they learn forward, and it’s just getting the best out of people. 

Claire Craig: This was such a fun opportunity. I’m sorry to see this episode come to an end. To learn more about Maya and Window Seat visit Thanks for joining us. 

Let’s team up again soon. Who knows, maybe it’ll be at Adobe MAX in 2024.

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