"It would be a bold message, and you don't want to do that," Saint John says the executive told her. "You want to be sort of understated and let people take you seriously."
Though it was offered with good intentions, Saint John says the advice made her question whether or not she could be bold in the office.
For six months, she says she walked around in a slump while trying to live up to the executive's suggestion. Eventually a good friend asked her what was going on, observing that, "This isn't you." It was then when Saint John says a light bulb went off that made her realize the only way to succeed was to bring her full self to work.
Being authentically you is advice that has been offered by many women in leadership positions, including PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi, who routinely advises professionals to "bring your whole self to work."
For Saint John, she says it was important for her to understand that "you are the only you — so why not bring that?"
Like this story? Like CNBC Make It on Facebook!
Don't miss: Uber's Bozoma Saint John says she should have ignored this career advice from a female executive