The native New Yorker, Khartoon Ohan, knew she liked to push herself to the limits since she was 6-years-old. She says her mom took her to The Julliard School to take ballet lessons with “evil Russian ballet masters,” and while most kids were intimidated, Ohan loved the terrifying experience. Until this day, she says what made her get ahead in life was the fact she dives head first into whatever challenges or scares her.
At 34, after more than a decade in the advertising field, she is now the vice president of integrated media for Clear Channel Connections. Ohan says one of the things she enjoys most is the diversity her job provides such as, the people and businesses she gets to work with, from entertainment to technology.
She got her start in the media world during her time studying psychology and marketing at the University of Rochester, where she and other minority students started a publication called “The Messenger,” which had a multi-cultural focus.
“I was always fascinated by people – mind and body,” says Ohan.
The physically-toned triathlete says she didn’t get ahead in her career by dancing the corporate two-step.
“Just be as confident as possible, and do good quality work,” she says in her matter-of-fact way. “I figure if I do the work, I am bullet-proof.”
Ohan’s strong exterior matches her mindset. She says for years she was often the only woman, and only person of color during board meetings. She remembers her parents used to always tell her, “You could do anything you want,” but she says she didn’t really understand, or own that, until she turned 30.
“At 30, I jumped in a pool, and I learned how to swim,” says Ohan. “I got hooked and I’m doing triathalons…I’m still scared of the water, but I can swim for miles.”
Ohan works hard, and she also plays hard. She says she tries to fit in everything that’s important to her in about 20 hours, each day. She even completed a half Iron Man a few days ago.
“My day starts at 5am training, then work, and at night I absolutely make time to see my friends and family,” says Ohan who likes to have dinner with her mom and then drinks with her friends. “I think I can have it all – so I squeeze it into one day.”
Ohan says when she worked at her last advertising agency, she started a program where she recruited and mentored college students to help them get into the advertising and media industry.
“I looked for the best, most passionate talented [students], and groomed them to think, behave, and thrive in the advertising community,” she says. “That was four years ago, and I recruited 15 students from around the country. Today, I mentor each and every one of them still, and added another six to the group. I feel like a mother hen and love and connect with them often.”
She plans on getting married and having her own children one day. The energetic career woman says, that is a given. But in the meantime, she enjoys traveling outside of New York City whenever she can, and looking for her next challenge – like the NYC marathon in November. Ohan says she wants to infect others with the same sense of adventure.
“I have to do what I don’t think I’m going to do, and go for that,” she says.