A Peek Inside Her Agenda: Allison McGevna-Cirino

SVP of Content at iOne Digital


Dec. 11 2023, Published 7:00 a.m. ET

Share to XShare to FacebookShare via EmailShare to LinkedIn
Allison McGevna
Link to FacebookLink to websiteLink to websiteLink to Instagram

Allison McGevna-Cirino leads with her whole self. People are hungry for vulnerability and authenticity in the workplace. She understands that assignment. As a multi-hyphenate executive with nearly 20 years in media, she’s learned to hold herself and others to standards of excellence with compassion. 

So, how does a self-declared introvert become a Senior Vice President of Content at iOne Digital, a company formed by Urban One? By stepping outside her comfort zone and pushing herself to build meaningful relationships. As a leader, that also means realizing she doesn’t always get it right and having the courage to be humble and apologize. 

Her Agenda:You’re a media strategist, media executive, writer, producer, and creative. What would you say are three things that have impacted or contributed to your success as a multi-hyphenate creative? 

Allison McGevna-Cirino: Having a fire and drive to keep going is first and foremost. 

My drive is not necessarily ‘I want to make money’ or’ I want this title.’ [I have a] drive to keep pushing myself to keep learning and bettering myself. 

Secondly, I never think that I know more than someone who is my peer [or that I have] learned everything I need to learn. I am not afraid to be wrong. [I am] open to that evolution and learning from everyone and everything around me. 

Number three, I try to have great relationships. Everything is based on how you treat people. I’m certainly not perfect. No matter how hard you try, you can be the villain in someone’s story. I follow up with people I meet and keep the relationship going. That’s not something that comes naturally to me. I’m kind of an introvert. 

Article continues below advertisement
///POST  x

Her Agenda: How does the SVP of Content role at iOne fit into the impact you’d like to have within your industry?

Allison McGevna-Cirino: It’s a privilege for me to work in a Black-owned and operated business. Urban One has always had the mission to predominantly serve an African-American audience.

As a biracial Black woman, I feel like it’s my duty to make sure that I understand and can recognize whatever privilege I operate in. 

I’m super proud that my entire executive team is all women, all Black. And all mothers, which is a big thing. You don’t see an executive room like that. Digital storytelling has gone from being blogs and evolving into newsrooms to serving the community differently. 

Her Agenda: You have a reputation for cultivating talent. What’s your approach?

Article continues below advertisement

Allison McGevna-Cirino: That is the ultimate compliment for me. So thank you for saying that. The first thing I think about with talent is the vibe. You can tell when you’re talking to someone, and you’re like, gosh, I love what you’re saying. And you sound like you know this, or you see people light up when they talk about different things. It’s like their whole spirit lights up. 

I’m always looking at that when I have conversations with people. Cultivating talent is about having conversations with people about who they are, not what they do, because [when it comes to] what they do, they may be in the wrong role. They may not be in the role they want to be in, and they may need to see who they could be. When you have conversations with them, you can see what lights that and what drives their fire and then go from there.

Article continues below advertisement

The biggest lesson I’ve learned as a manager is you cannot use a blanket management approach. As a mother, you can’t mother every child the same way because each is different. Yes, you have unifying principles about who you are as a mother. I have that as a mother and manager, but what one person needs may not be another person’s needs. And so that’s allowed me to spot talent in unlikely places, and some of my proudest professional moments are seeing the people I’ve worked with go off and shine.

///POST  x
Article continues below advertisement

Her Agenda:How has your leadership style evolved as you’ve grown in your career?

Allison McGevna-Cirino: When I first became a manager, I had what I thought a manager should be and what I thought a [woman] manager should be. I had to check everybody if they were not speaking to me correctly, and I had to hold people accountable. All of these things may be true. But my idea of what that looks like changed. You’re not always right. 

As a leader, I’ve learned that I don’t always have to take on every battle that comes my way. Everything doesn’t need to be a fight, and I don’t need to be perfect. You try your best and show up but are willing to humble yourself. It’s also about that dance of standing firm in yourself but also being open to evolving.

Her Agenda: Your website mentioned that you helped steer iONE Digital to its most profitable years in history while increasing the audience. What’s the key to building and activating a team to accomplish those results? 

Allison McGevna-Cirino: I was here from 2014 to 2018, and then I came back again in 2020. And when I came in the fall of 2020, the team was small. When I first joined, I was running editorials, but eventually, we expanded to run social and video to truly be part of a content team. Then, I built that team. It’s not just me. Under my leadership, the team grew and expanded. 

Article continues below advertisement

It’s looking at talent and ensuring they’re in the right spot; everything starts with your people. Your people are the whole thing, and I don’t say that to mean that you have to have the biggest names with the biggest Instagram followings, which comes up a lot in our industry. It’s not about that for me. It’s about looking for talent and ensuring you have great talent. 

///POST  x
Article continues below advertisement

Her Agenda: You’ve been in the industry for nearly 20 years. How do you grow and develop yourself as a professional to always deliver your best work? 

Allison McGevna-Cirino: I’m a member of Chief, an organization for women executives; I do a lot of their training and sessions. I’m always making sure that I’m always learning.  

You have to have a life balance. I’m type A. I am extremely driven, and I’ve always been an extremely self-sufficient person. I can work myself until I get sick. And [only prioritizing work] is just not sustainable. It’s not good for anybody when I show up and I’m tired or not my full self. You can start to resent your work because you’re just giving so much of it and not giving anything else to your relationships, life, or hobbies. I’ve also tried to build that with my teams because you have to be in charge of your boundaries.

Article continues below advertisement

Learning how to work from home was also critical because I had to learn how to close my work computer and not look at it. I’m taking this time with my kids. That’s hard enough for them to understand during work hours. After hours, I need to make sure that I show up for them so that I can then show up for myself.

///POST  x
Article continues below advertisement

Her Agenda: What advice would you like to offer women who aspire to an executive level within your industry? 

Allison McGevna-Cirino: As your title gets bigger, your salary gets bigger, or your responsibility and your team gets bigger,[get rid of that idea of] ‘I have to work myself so much because I have to prove that I deserve to be here.’ No – you’re here. Of course, you need to do your job and live up to the standards that you sell for yourself and the company set for you, but that doesn’t mean you need to do that at your own expense. Secondly, make sure that you are asking for what you need. 

With your salary, if you ask for your number, come with the reasons why. You have to come with what you’re bringing. If in your heart you can’t do this role by yourself and need a team, you need to be clear with your company. Or if you need to work from home or if you need to sign off every day for an hour so that you can pick up your kids. That is something male executives haven’t historically had [to deal with]. 

Speak your worth and do your research. You have to know your business. Knowing your business is more than just knowing how to write and edit. Know what is happening at all the different places. Know who is in the space and who your peers are. Know what they’re doing well and learn what you can improve. As much as you can, stay humble, but know that you deserve to be there.

[Edtior’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.]

Ambition Delivered.

Our weekly email newsletter is packed with stories that inspire, empower, and inform, all written by women for women. Sign up today and start your week off right with the insights and inspiration you need to succeed.

By: Nesha V. Frazier

Nesha V. Frazier champions working moms in their pursuit of confidence and success. As an USAF veteran, mom of four, and formerly a certified HR professional supporting Fortune 500 companies, she deeply understands the challenges facing women juggling family and career aspirations. After finding her calling in coaching and training, Nesha launched her own business as an online course creator and educator. Now on a mission to catalyze courage, she empowers women entrepreneurs to overcome barriers and step into their highest potential.

Latest Power Agenda Media News and Updates

    Link to InstagramLink to FacebookLink to XLinkedIn IconContact us by Email

    Opt-out of personalized ads

    Black OwnedFemale Founder