Home » Up Close and Personal: Getting to Know Joseph Smallwood, Chief Creative Director, Booz Allen

Up Close and Personal: Getting to Know Joseph Smallwood, Chief Creative Director, Booz Allen

by | Mar 19, 2017


Capitol Communicator is running a series featuring in-depth profiles of communicators in the mid-Atlantic.  In this “Up Close and Personal” profile, we feature Joseph Smallwood. Photography for Capitol Communicator’s profile series is by Cade Martin. Wardrobe styling by Pascale Lemaire for THE Artist Agency; and hair and makeup was by Patti D Nelson and Janice Kinigopoulos for THE Artist Agency.

Please provide us a short bio.

I love to tell stories. After 15 years on stage and in the performing arts, I went on to study musical theatre at Millikin University and eventually transferred to University of Maryland Baltimore County where I received my bachelor of arts in English literature. Since college, I’ve worked a mixed bag of jobs, as a casting director, creative sales, editor and field producer in the Middle East, brand manager, stratcom advisor, and even raid designs and video fiber network installs for distributed editing and live internet streaming for social justice causes and campaigns in Los Angeles.

My goal in all of these jobs, and others, was to learn everything I could at every level of production and storytelling, to better position creative solutions into the executive thinking and amplify these into meaningful platforms, brand experiences and stories with measurable value for clients.

I’ve been at Booz Allen since 2012 working as the firm’s Chief Creative Director where I built and lead a team of award-winning in-house creatives who are catalyzing an effort to transform perceptions and renew the brand, marketing, advertising, and communication capabilities of a 100-year-old company from the inside, out.

Are you involved in any other organization?

I volunteer, when I can, helping a literacy startup and animal rescue around the city, but to be fair, my day job takes up more time than it probably should, and this is an area of balance I should look into.

What are the things you are most proud of?

When I came to DC in 2001, it was on the Oliver Project scholarship from the Orphan Foundation of America. I came to the city with a group of 14 others from around the country for a week of advocacy with businesses, Capitol Hill and even the White House. Growing up in and out of foster care, bunking on friends’ couches for weeks at a time, and eventually being legally emancipated at a young age, taught me the real value of resiliency, creative confidence, resourcefulness, and community, all necessary to produce good art. Of course we all experience adversity in our lives, but having experienced poverty and abuse as a child and teenager cemented these better qualities into my DNA, and I believe a lot of what I’ve been able to accomplish professionally is the direct result of never giving up through these various personal trials.

Who are your personal role models?

Debbie Regier, and Keith and Anne Collett, who took me in to their homes and showed me what unconditional love looks and feels like; Mr. and Mrs. Wilson, my cross country country coach and his wife, who believed in me, challenged me and never let me quit; Cary Danielson who I met aimlessly roaming the halls of my seventh grade year. She took a chance on me, and gave me a scholarship to her organization, Musical Theatre for Young People, which instilled focus and sparked a creative fire and new outlets for expression; and DB, who showed me that anything was possible if I was capable and willing to work hard for it.

Did your role models offer professional advice that helped you in your career?

“Be careful what you do, because you’ll end up doing it” and “Act first to desire your own good opinion of yourself.” (David Mamet)

What professional advice do you have for others?

Stick to the work you really want to do, and the people you want to do it with. Those that make you happy, that rile your passions, align with your values, and capture your imagination and sense of wonder. Life’s too short for anything less.

 What advice do you have on appropriate attire at Booz Hamilton?

Dress for your day. Your clothes should enable your performance, not hinder it. I would no more wear a suit and tie on set – unless I’m in front of the camera and that was my wardrobe! – than I would a graphic tee and jeans to a big client pitch. But that’s just me. I think there’s a progressive trend to overvalue comfort versus thinking more broadly about the perceptions of what yours clothes say about you in different environments. Like it or not, people judge you for what you’re wearing. So it pays to care, consider and, at times, play with these underlying signals. Every environment has its standards. Grooming still matters. Shine your shoes. Buy clothes that fit. A well-sized, two-button blazer is insanely flexible; it can be dressed up with an oxford and tie, or styled for the weekend with a textured henley and jeans. And like most things in life, the best way to appear effortless is to work hard at it.

Where do you buy most of the clothes you wear at Booz Hamilton?

I am an eclectic and casual shopper who usually browses more than I buy, but am also ready to purchase when I spot something that speaks to me. Banana Republic, Alan Edmonds, Bonobos Nixon, Guess, Frank Dandy, and Orlebar Brown definitely rise to the top of my list for the office.

Is there anything else you would like us to know about you?

I’m always open to new opportunities and adventures!

About the Author

Capitol Communicator

Capitol Communicator is a unique online and offline resource for Mid-Atlantic advertising, marketing, public relations, digital and media communications professionals. The e-magazine, e-newsletters and events bring together communications professionals, fostering community and providing important information; news; trends; education; and opportunities for networking, career enhancement, business exchange and showcasing great work. Visit www.capitolcommunicator.com to learn more.


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