How Apple’s Bozoma Saint John Learned to Have Confidence as a Teenager

November 30, 2016, 2:55 AM UTC

After spending years in Ghana, Apple global marketing executive Bozoma Saint John moved with her family to Colorado at the age of 13—a critical and often awkward time for any teenager.

And Saint John was no exception. Even as a 13 year-old, she was already very tall, as she pointed out on Tuesday when speaking at Fortune‘s Most Powerful Women Next Gen conference in Laguna Nigel, Calif. “I was like a tumbleweed,” she joked.

And despite the common teenage desire to fit in and be just like everyone else, she knew it just wasn’t possible. “I couldn’t be blond, I couldn’t be white,” she said in an obvious nod to her dark skin and black hair. So her family’s move to the U.S. turned out to be an important experience and lesson in confidence for Saint John.

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“At 13, I learned what it meant to walk into a room and not care what everybody thinks of you,” said Saint John, whose career has already included high-profile jobs for Pepsi, Beats, and now Apple. In fact, if she could give her younger self advice, Saint John would tell a young Bozoma to be content with who she is instead of worrying about racking up achievements, she said on Tuesday.

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