Women to watch
U.S. 2019
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Azania Andrews

VP of marketing, Michelob Ultra

Azania Andrews

VP of marketing, Michelob Ultra

Azania Andrews is not bashful when discussing her career ambitions. “I hope to be a CMO someday,” says the VP of marketing for Michelob Ultra.

She is more than deserving of a bigger title given her performance at Anheuser-Busch InBev. Hired from WPP Group in 2013, she started at the brewer as director of digital strategy. She moved to Ultra in late 2016 and has overseen multiple innovation and marketing programs that have fueled the light beer to new highs. U.S. shipments of Ultra soared 14 percent last year, according to Beer Marketer’s Insights. The low-cal brew has continued to position itself as a fitness beer, suitable as a post-workout reward.

“What has worked well for us is consistency,” she says. “If you look across light beer, there has been a lot of shifting of positioning and messaging over the past 20 years.” But “our position as a brand for people who want to be balanced—live an active lifestyle—has held firm and true,” she adds. “My job has been to hold us firm to that.”

Andrews has also found new ways to spread the brand’s message. She oversaw two Super Bowl ads this year by FCB Chicago, including one for a new organic line extension called Pure Gold. The spot starred actress Zoe Kravitz, while making use of a sensory phenomenon known as autonomous sensory meridian response, or ASMR, in which people experience a calming or tingling sensation in response to certain sounds like whispering and finger tapping. The ad, featuring a lush Hawaiian scene, stood out for its calm amid noisy Super Bowl marketing. “We wanted a different marketing campaign for a different beer,” says Andrews, while finding “an expression of mindfulness and connectivity to the self and nature.”

What advice would you give your younger self?
Be humble but don’t let others’ perceptions about youth and experience stop you from excelling. Trust your instincts. You are old enough to get the job done!
If you weren’t doing your current job what would you be doing?
I started my career in nonprofit, and while I firmly believe there are many important ways to create change in the corporate world, if I were not doing what I am doing now, I would be helping nonprofit service providers market themselves to prospective donors and communities.

Lorraine Barber-Miller

Senior VP and chief marketing officer, ADP

Lorraine Barber-Miller

Senior VP and chief marketing officer, ADP

Soon after joining ADP as senior VP and chief marketing officer, Lorraine Barber-Miller pitched the kind of project that needs buy-in from key executives: a global brand relaunch. Perhaps if ADP were an organization with a history of running big campaigns, it might have been an easier sell. But for a software and services company that started out processing payrolls in 1949, Barber-Miller knew an all-out marketing effort could be seen as a bit of a stretch.

“It was not part of the DNA of the company because they had been primarily sales-driven and not marketing-driven,” says Barber-Miller, who spent more than 20 years at IBM before joining ADP in 2017. But she got the buy-in and the rebranding kicked off in March with an activation at SXSW and a new tagline, “Always Designing for People.” It’s been “incredibly well received,” she says.

That might not have happened had Barber-Miller followed her original dream of interior design. She switched to a marketing career on the advice of her parents. “They told me, frankly, that they didn’t want me to be a starving artist,” she says. So, she majored in marketing at Lehigh University and hasn’t looked back. Along the way, Barber-Miller has learned to advocate for herself and urges others to do so for themselves.

And she says it helps to be ready to move quickly when opportunities arise. Such decisive action led her to prestigious overseas posts in Dubai and Prague, leading IBM’s marketing and communications across large international regions. “Some of the most influential experiences in my career were because I raised my hand,” she says.

What advice would you give your younger self?
From a professional perspective, I think it’s important to not allow your work to speak for itself. You need to also be present and visible around your own accomplishments and career trajectory.

Melanie Boulden

Global head of marketing and brand management, Reebok

Melanie Boulden

Global head of marketing and brand management, Reebok

The daughter of a federal government employee whose job required lots of moving around, Melanie Boulden grew up in a variety of places—bouncing around Colorado, Oklahoma, New York, Kentucky and North Carolina. But her uniform remained constant: jeans and Reebok Classics. “My Reebok Classics were a big part of my experience growing up as a middle schooler and a high schooler,” says Boulden. “The brand was so daring and so different and so unconventional ... I felt like it spoke to me as a young woman and made me feel that I was daring and different and unconventional.”

So, it was no surprise that when Reebok began looking for a new top marketer, Boulden jumped to answer the call, joining the Adidas-owned brand last year as global head of marketing and brand management. A seasoned executive, her career previously included stints at Meredith Corp., Kraft Foods, Henkel Corp. and, most recently, Crayola, where she introduced a brand new color and retired another.

And Boulden has already made her mark on Reebok. The Boston-based shoe seller is hoping to spark a welcome revival with a return to its glory days of the late ’80s and early ’90s. In March, Boulden broke Reebok’s largest campaign in more than five years with a fresh and unexpected look at a game of streetball. Venables Bell & Partners worked on the campaign, which also features two other spots. Reebok recently appointed Deutsch its new creative partner starting next year, following a review.

Reclaiming a place in pop culture, fashion and sports is no easy feat, especially with scores of competitors flooding the market. But Reebok is making big strides, its chunky kicks having graced the feet of Ariana Grande and Gigi Hadid in recent months. Boulden says the campaign boosted website traffic and sales, too.

“The great thing about marketing today is you pretty much know instantaneously whether your work is resonating with consumers,” she says. “We definitely saw that it was.”

What was your worst career mistake and what did you learn from it?
Back in 2006, I had the opportunity to do an expat assignment. I was one of the first marketers from the Dial Corp. to have the opportunity to work at the Henkel headquarters in Düsseldorf, Germany. Quite a few people had given me guidance about doing an expat assignment, but I was very naïve in thinking that because I enjoyed connecting with people and had moved a lot that I knew all about change and assimilating into new cultures—but I had underestimated this geographical cultural change. It was quite a humbling experience because I really do think that one of the ways I connect with people is through my ability to communicate and listen, but I was not prepared for the language gap of moving to a country that does not speak English as its primary language. To be responsible for advertising and communications in another country when your first language is not the language consumers speak was obviously a huge challenge. Even though it was a humbling experience, it was probably one of the best experiences that I had and it shaped me earlier in my career.

Karen Costello

Chief creative officer, The Martin Agency

Karen Costello

Chief creative officer, The Martin Agency

When Karen Costello was promoted to the role of chief creative officer for The Martin Agency after having spent just a few months serving as executive creative director for the Interpublic Group of Cos.-owned shop, she was thrust into the throes of a very public crisis. Her predecessor, longtime Chief Creative Officer Joe Alexander, had been ousted a month earlier in December 2017 following an investigation into sexual harassment allegations.

Costello admits that this caused her some doubts about accepting the position. Everyone in the industry was watching the agency and what it would do in its MeToo moment. And she knew there would be the naysayers who accused her of receiving the role only because she is a woman.

“I would be lying if I said all those things didn’t pass through my mind,” says Costello. “But even so, I’d say, ‘OK, I got the job because I’m a woman.’ That is not the defining part of this story. The defining part is what you’re going to do with that opportunity.”

What she and newly installed CEO Kristen Cavallo did in the past year not only dramatically changed The Martin Agency but set new standards for the industry.

They doubled the number of women on the executive board. They appointed the first person of color to the board. They closed the wage gap. And under Costello’s creative leadership, the agency won seven new clients in 2018 including Buffalo Wild Wings, UPS and CarMax.

As a leader in a crisis situation, Costello said she simply listened, staying late most nights during the first year to counsel the agency’s employees.

“My inherent instinct when people are hurting is to just sit and listen,” says Costello. She added that the skill remains vital to her role as a leader as the agency moves past its fraught history.

“If I can, I try to lift everyone up and help them understand that they’re part of something bigger than themselves, like we’re all building something together,” says Costello. “That empowers them to be their best selves and bring their best selves to their creative work. I want everyone to know that I have their back.”

What would you be doing if you were not at your current job?
I’d be a forest ranger or an art therapist.
What was your biggest mistake, and what did you learn from it?
I didn’t advocate for myself early enough, and I never really recognized my own worth until later in my career—compared to the men in my peer group. It’s made me hyperaware of encouraging that recognition and advocacy in young people today, particularly those from marginalized groups.

Deirdre Findlay

Chief marketing officer, Stitch Fix

Deirdre Findlay

Chief marketing officer, Stitch Fix

New York subway riders passing through Columbus Circle station earlier this year were surprised to find paparazzi snapping pics of “regular” folks on a red carpet. The out-of-place activation was part of a marketing effort from Stitch Fix, designed to bring celebrity glamour to everyday moments—including the grime of the subway—and to tease a larger brand campaign that debuted on Oscars night.

The effort was spearheaded by Deirdre Findlay, who joined the San Francisco-based e-commerce company last year as chief marketing officer. Previously, Findlay had been senior director of global hardware marketing at Google, following a stint at eBay. Before that, she spent more than a decade agency-side at Digitas.

Stitch Fix uses a mix of stylists and computer algorithms to send customized apparel and accessories to customers, and Findlay’s focus on data science has helped infuse an even greater degree of personalization.

“Building the path from data to emotion in an authentic way is a particularly important part of my job, and I think that came through in our ‘red carpet moment’ Oscars campaign,” says Findlay.

The daughter of Jamaican immigrants, Findlay has always had an inquisitive nature, and it’s a trait that has served her well as a marketer. Growing up in New York City, she would often interview her fellow bus passengers, many of whom were adults, while traveling to elementary school. She’d ask about book recommendations or career choices.

“This innate interest in consumer behavior has always been key to my role as a marketer,” she says.

In addition to higher-awareness TV campaigns, the eight-year-old retailer is fine-tuning its marketing by sending personalized emails to target consumers, says Findlay. The company, which went public two years ago, is also ramping up its advertising spend. In fiscal 2018, Stitch Fix spent $102.1 million, up 45 percent over 2017.

What was your worst career mistake and what did you learn from it?
In my first role on the client side, I took too long to fill key positions on my team. This made it twice as hard to get the job done. I was overworked and overcommitted. Ultimately, I prioritized building the team and managing expectations in the interim, but it took a huge personal toll. I now hire well and hire fast, and I push my leadership team to do the same.

Emily Fink

Chief marketing officer, Liberty Mutual Insurance

Emily Fink

Chief marketing officer, Liberty Mutual Insurance

How do you make a brand memorable when there’s no physical product to show in ads? As chief marketing officer of insurance company Liberty Mutual, Emily Fink has devoted a lot of work to that question. This year Liberty Mutual debuted a pair of funny characters—LiMu Emu and Doug, inspired by buddy-cop shows like “Starsky & Hutch”—to plug its offer.

Just a month into the campaign from Goodby Silverstein & Partners, testing showed that 27 percent of U.S. consumers recognized the oddball pair as Liberty Mutual mascots, the agency says.

The brand also launched a jingle—another way to help people remember it.

Fink began her career in packaged goods at Pfizer and Colgate-Palmolive. She joined Liberty Mutual over six years ago and has held five different marketing roles there. “Being hands-on across the board made it easier for me to have a good view on what needed to be done in the job I have now,” she says.

When Fink took over as CMO two years ago she held a pitch and hired GS&P. She also has been building up Copper Giants, Liberty Mutual’s in-house agency, with about 40 people doing creative to augment GS&P’s work and a group of others handling media.

“In order to make a team work well, everyone needs to understand the vision and how their own unique role contributes. Emily is a phenomenal coach to her team and agency,” says Jeff Goodby, co-chairman and co-founder at GS&P. “She sets goals and motivates everyone along the way to meet them.”

Fink is also the first woman heading up marketing at Liberty Mutual, which was founded over a century ago. That’s something she keeps in mind running her department, which is 72 percent women.

“I’m very conscious of, ‘What’s my role in helping other people climb up through the ranks?’” she says.

What was your worst career mistake and what did you learn from it?
I have three young daughters. Earlier in my career I made every effort to keep that out of the workplace. I thought people would be reluctant to give me work—or trust me with a bigger job. I didn’t want people to see me as a mother but as a worker. In my current role it’s so important to be transparent and share aspects of your life. I think it’s motivating for people coming up the ranks to see that someone who has a family life can have a perfectly successful career in the workplace.
If you weren’t doing your current job, what would you be doing?
High school debate coach. I learned so much from debate. Critical thinking and good public speaking skills are transformative in your ability to be successful in the workplace.

Jessica Greenwood

Chief strategy officer, US, R/GA

Jessica Greenwood

Chief strategy officer, US, R/GA

Jessica Greenwood spent a good chunk of her career in journalism, working at Contagious Magazine for seven years, where she interviewed bigwigs in various industries. One of them was R/GA Founder and Executive Chairman Bob Greenberg.

“He told me about R/GA and I was like ‘This company is fascinating,’” says Greenwood, bringing her to the realization that she was sick of “writing about all the creative things that other people were doing” instead of doing them herself. “I came to R/GA immediately. They saw that I had potential and brought me in and it was wonderful.” Potential, it turns out, was an understatement.

Greenwood joined the agency in 2012 in business strategy, realizing that “journalism and strategy are basically the same thing in that you have to do a ton of research and then find the most interesting things about that research.”

She spent two years at R/GA before leaving to work in strategy at Google Creative Partnership. She was there nine months before returning to R/GA in 2014.

“R/GA is my love,” says Greenwood. “We get to decide here what we want to do, how to optimize the company for the future, where we should and shouldn’t invest. I get to come in every day and be with people who are smarter than me or know how to do things that I don’t know how to do. That keeps me hungry, on my toes and curious.”

In the last year, Greenwood was promoted twice: to senior VP of strategy and to U.S. co-chief of strategy alongside Tom Morton. The latter promotion came while out on maternity leave.

In the last year, she and her team launched /Make, Samsung’s editorial platform for next-generation creators. She also oversaw the transformation of the Galaxy Note to a “gaming” phone through the launch of an exclusive Galaxy skin in Epic Games’ Fortnite. In addition to helping R/GA win new business last year from clients such as Ally, she leads WomanUp, R/GA’s network that helps female talent succeed.

“Define success on your own terms,” Greenwood advises rising leaders. Also, if you’re “ever the smartest person in the room, leave that room.”

What advice would you give your younger self?
Define success on your own terms. It takes a long time to figure out the difference between what you want and what you think you’re supposed to want. The things that make me happy—being on lots of problems at once, being surrounded by lots of different types of brains—are other people’s definition of hell, and vice versa. Figure out what makes work fun for you and chase that.
My worst career mistake:
Chasing a love of music into a music industry job and immediately realizing that sometimes it’s better not to know how the sausage gets made. Not all passions deserve to be careers.
If I wasn’t doing this job, I would be:
Either happily sketching a capsule collection in a French atelier or working as a color consultant for Pantone. Color theory is fascinating.

Melissa Hobley

Global chief marketing officer, OKCupid

Melissa Hobley

Global chief marketing officer, OkCupid

Melissa Hobley is the first global chief marketing officer at OkCupid, the dating app that uses innovative matching algorithms to connect users not just on shared attraction and interests but also on shared points of view.

Since joining the company a year and a half ago, she’s ramped up OkCupid’s visibility, bringing Wieden & Kennedy New York on board to create the brand’s first-ever advertising campaign. “DTF” redefined the raunchy term, turning “Down to Fuck” into 19 other options, including “Down to Fight About the President” and “Down to Fall Head Over Heels.” The inclusive campaign drew ire from anti-LGBTQ activists who were upset by the portrayal of same-sex couples, a battle Hobley was happy to take on.

The campaign won numerous awards and boosted social media mentions for the brand by 50 percent in the first four months. Hobley also championed new ways for OkCupid’s mostly millennial user base to express their political beliefs at a time when every issue was becoming political. A “Trump Filter” let users screen any potential match based on their political affiliation. It was followed by a “Pro-Choice/Planned Parenthood Filter” as well as an “ACLU Filter.”

In addition to her work at OkCupid, Hobley is a vocal proponent of family planning and fertility treatment options for workers, having undergone in-vitro fertilization twice herself. She is now seven-and-a-half-months pregnant with her second child. Hobley also sits on the board of Shatterproof, a national nonprofit that advocates for addiction treatment progams. She has been active in the fight against the growing opioid epidemic since 2011, when her younger brother became one of its earliest victims.

What advice would you give your younger self?
Find a good mentor. Find a few good mentors. Don’t just ask them for advice—make sure you also like their tweets and follow their careers, follow them when they show up in a story, make it a reciprocal relationship.
What was your worst career mistake, and what did you learn from it?
A powerful learning moment for me was staying at a job for too long for the wrong reasons. Being very aware of why you are in a role, and why you are not looking for the next challenge, is so important.

Mira Kaddoura

Founder and executive creative director, Red & Co.

Mira Kaddoura

Founder and executive creative director, Red & Co.

Mira Kaddoura grew up in Beirut, speaking Arabic and French. She lived through multiple wars there and witnessed firsthand the suddenness and finality of death. Even after moving to Virginia to attend VCU Brandcenter, she worried about friends and family back in the Middle East. Those experiences colored her design philosophy, and after 10 years at Wieden & Kennedy Portland, she founded the agency Red & Co., which she says focuses on “nondisposable” work for brands.

The agency has partnered with Google on an initiative to teach girls to code and with Lululemon to take yoga out of the studio. Last year, Red & Co. developed global brand strategy for Netflix and created the “Make Room” campaign, the platform’s showcase for talent and stories that are often overlooked, underrepresented or missing in most mass media.

The push features Uzo Aduba from “Orange is the New Black” jumping from scene to scene within various Netflix offerings featuring women in leading roles like “Roma,” “Nanette,” “GLOW” and “Dear White People.” “Make Room” became Netflix’s most successful brand campaign to date in terms of earned media, and it racked up nearly 10 million organic impressions within the first two weeks.

Kaddoura also spoke at TEDxPortland last year about reframing life's challenges, using the Arabic phrase “Lhamdella," which signifies gratefulness for everything that comes your way.

What advice would you give your younger self?
You only get one body. Study it, nurture it and learn to love it. It's the only home you have while you’re here.
What was your worst career mistake, and what did you learn from it?
Not realizing my value. Not being aware of toxic people and behavior. I learned that the only way to create the life I want is to surround myself with people who raise each other up every day. This led me to start my own agency where I get to create work I’m proud of.
If you weren’t doing your current job what would you be doing?
I’d create an agora.

YuJung Kim

President, The Dodo

YuJung Kim

President, The Dodo

The Dodo is responsible for some of the most “aww”-inducing moments online with its videos about animals and their owners. YuJung Kim makes sure those videos get as wide distribution as possible, attracting advertiser along the way.

“We have this laser focus on content, emotionally compelling entertainment,” says Kim. “It’s created this enormously loyal fanbase.”

This has paid off in both viewership and partnerships. In 2018, Kim’s team brokered direct advertising sales opportunities across Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Snapchat and brand partnerships grew more than 50 percent from the year before. The Dodo has also benefited as marketers look for safe spaces on the web. The site now works with 50 advertisers including Samsung, Geico, Netflix, Blue Buffalo, Swiffer and BMW. The last is featured in a show called “Freedom Ride,” where dogs are filmed going from shelters to their forever homes. It’s feel-good animal stories like those that the internet can’t resist.

Now, Kim has bigger plans for The Dodo. In addition to a TV show on Animal Planet called “Dodo Heroes,” she is overseeing the development of a new channel for preschoolers on YouTube, tapping into the children’s market. There there will be animal-themed podcasts, too.

“We’re just stretching the bread and butter of what we’ve built,” says Kim.

What was your first job?
I wanted to explore a different corner of the world from the U.S., so I went to Singapore on a teaching fellowship where I taught Spanish and creativity at a local junior college. I knew I had a great window before officially jumpstarting my career.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t be in such a hurry. You think you can save the world at 22, and you measure everything against that very aspirational yardstick. The reality is you have a lot of learning to do. On some level, you’re expecting to change policy and change entire communities, but you should focus on the individual level and make small changes that are real, that you can enact.

Kinjil Mathur

Chief marketing officer, Squarespace

Kinjil Mathur

Chief marketing officer, Squarespace

A self-described “calculated risk taker,” Squarespace chief marketing officer Kinjil Mathur believes “everything is doable with the right risk/reward analysis, and I encourage my team to think the same way.”

Mathur joined the website building platform in 2017. Mathur, a new mom, was previously CMO at Foursquare and Artspace as well as VP of digital marketing at Saks Fifth Avenue.

At Squarespace, she has spearheaded campaigns that not only promote the company’s services but double as outreach efforts to empower people to succeed in their own careers.

Squarespace got exposure as the first brand patch partner on the New York Knicks’ basketball jerseys in a deal with Madison Square Garden Co. That pact also included the “Make It Awards,” an annual program that provides $30,000 grants to four local entrepreneurs, along with access to expertise and some high-profile exposure, including signage inside and outside the arena.

Another of her efforts was an Equal Pay Day push in 2018 showing customers including Gloria Steinem and offering a 20 percent discount on new websites, a symbolic figure representing the average discrepancy in wages between women and men. That led to the biggest sales day to date in Squarespace history.

The company partnered with Gimlet Media for a follow-up competition to find a podcast host, which received 5,000 entries from across the country. And while it sat out the Super Bowl after five consecutive appearances, Squarespace didn’t keep quiet. Short films for the brand were directed by Spike Jonze and starred Idris Elba.

For Mathur, being a CMO includes representing customer needs and helping to guide strategic decisions at the company. “Externally, it’s our job to be a steward for the brand and help shape culture in a broader sense,” she says.

If you weren’t doing your current job what would you be doing?
I would be a visual artist, working in oil, acrylic or mixed-media sculpture. I’m interested in any medium with heft to it.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t be so hard on yourself. Becoming the best version of yourself requires patience, compassion and respect for yourself and your own journey. It takes time.

Jessica Pels

Editor-in-chief, Cosmopolitan

Jessica Pels

Editor-in-chief, Cosmopolitan

Back in 2008, Jessica Pels was doing exactly what an ambitious, media-obsessed NYU grad should have been doing: interning at A-list publications (The New Yorker, then Vogue). Her career path at Condé Nast thereafter was also rather traditional—editorial assistant, assistant editor, then associate editor at Glamour—but something really clicked for her when she joined Teen Vogue as features editor and online deputy editor in 2013.

The Condé glossy was gaining a reputation for being a web-savvy talent incubator, and Pels was poached by Hearst’s Marie Claire to serve as digital director in 2014. Three years later she was named digital director at sibling title Cosmopolitan, and then just eight months later, in October of last year, she was named the youngest-ever editor in chief, at 32, of the whole operation—web and print.

So what makes Pels, who has already risen to the top of her profession, a rising star? Her web-driven, data-centric approach to content strategy, which involves everything from monitoring social signals (Instagram trends are a major feeder for stories) to community building across platforms (e.g., Cosmo’s reader-generated Snapchat feed) to tracking sales across Cosmo’s rapidly growing brand extensions (CosmoStyle lingerie, CosmoLiving home decor, etc.)

The brand’s traditional mission of celebrating “fun, fearless females” continues under Pels’ reign (recent coverlines: “Emma Roberts gets real as hell” and “The difference between good sex & great sex”), but behind the scenes she has a laserlike focus of the market-shaping power of her audience. For instance, when asked why her magazine should still matter to marketers, Pels, without missing a beat, tells Ad Age that “Cosmo readers spent over $5 billion on beauty products and $17.7 billion on clothes in the last 12 months, meaning one third of all beauty and fashion purchases in this country are made by a Cosmo girl.” The Cosmo girl in charge has all her data locked and loaded, thank you very much.

What advice would you give your younger self?
Being a night owl will serve you well as an ambitious professional with a lot on her plate. Nurture it like you’re Daenerys and it’s a dragon. (You won’t get that reference for a few years, but just trust me.)
What was your worst career mistake, and what did you learn from it?
Assuming there was a “path” that I “should follow.” In reality, there’s only one thing that matters: passion. As your passion grows and evolves, so should the jobs you seek out to expand it. There is no such thing as a linear career anymore. Challenge yourself to grow and keep things interesting.
If you weren’t doing your current job, what would you be doing?
I’d be an award-winning breeder of truffle-hunting dogs.

Nancy Reyes

President, TBWA/Chiat/Day New York

Nancy Reyes

President, TBWA/Chiat/Day New York

Nancy Reyes was raised in Queens, New York—her mother is from El Salvador and her father is from Puerto Rico—and knew nothing about advertising until being introduced 22 years ago to a program called Prep for Prep that helps promising New York City students of color into colleges and careers.

Through the program, she joined Ogilvy, which brought her in as an account manager.

Reyes spent just two years at the agency before moving on to swiftly rise in the industry ranks, becoming an account supervisor for D’Arcy before spending nearly 13 years at Goodby Silverstein & Partners, first as a group account director then as managing director of New York. After serving a short stint on the client side as Verizon’s VP of brand creative, Reyes became managing director of Omnicom’s TBWA/Chiat/Day New York and last year was elevated to the become the agency’s first New York president.

One of her main priorities as president is what she calls a “relentless focus” on recruiting and nurturing diverse talent. “I’m a Hispanic woman,” says Reyes. “I grew up in an incredibly underprivileged situation. I never knew about advertising, and I always wondered, ‘What if I knew? How many people are we not reaching in advertising?’”

At TBWA, Reyes created Circle of Women, a program that pairs junior female employees, particularly of color, with executive coaches to prepare them for leadership roles. She said this creates an “endless pipeline of female leaders” for the agency.

Reyes is also credited with helping TBWA/Chiat/Day New York, a 2019 Ad Age A-List shop, win several major new accounts in 2018—including Nissan, TD Bank, Hilton and the Mayo Clinic—and drive a creative turnaround.

“There was a tremendous amount of progress in what felt like a really short period of time,” says Reyes. “As a person of color, as an immigrant, it was always important to me to feel like I earned it: every penny I make, every achievement I’m fortunate enough to have received.”

What was your worst career mistake, and what did you learn from it?
When I was a client I worked on a campaign that received a lot of negative social media commentary. I pulled it off the air immediately. That was a mistake. I should have let it play out, and the comments would have likely neutralized themselves. I learned to sometimes let things live out there in order to spark conversation. We’ve become so worried about what we can’t say in this business that we don’t say anything at all. If we don’t allow people an opportunity to express themselves, we will never have the conversations we need to advance.
If you weren’t doing your current job what would you be doing?
I’d be a lawyer for the ACLU. Those folks are heroes.

Sheereen Miller-Russell

Group VP, ad sales and partnerships for multicultural and inclusion audiences, OWN

Sheereen Miller-Russell

Group VP, ad sales and partnerships for multicultural and inclusion audiences, OWN

At the Oprah Winfrey Network, Sheereen Miller-Russell has a rather elaborate title.

Her job is pretty simple, though. All she has to do, day in and day out, is change the world.

Miller-Russell collaborates with major marketers that want to find their voice with consumers (especially millennial consumers) who increasingly expect brands to have some sort of moral compass. In practice, that’s meant working with, to name a few, Procter & Gamble on its cultural bias campaign, “The Talk”; a health-and-wellness task force for WW (formerly Weight Watchers) tailored to black women; and American Family Insurance’s “Dreaming Fearlessly” campaign to take on hunger and homelessness and inspire hope in challenged communities.

She’s also worked with the Association of National Advertisers and the #SeeHer initiative to help marketers figure out how to avoid blind spots and erroneous assumptions in addressing women of color.

Miller-Russell began as a publicist at Time magazine in 2000, fresh out of Wake Forest University, where she majored in communications and journalism. She soon shifted to advertising, serving as national sales and marketing director at Sports Illustrated, before decamping in 2006 for Viacom, where over a 10-year run she rose to VP of brand sales. A 2018 NAMIC (National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Communications) Luminary Award honoree, Miller-Russell has been heavily involved in mentoring students and young professionals rising through the ranks of a media world where African-American executives at the VP level and up are still a rarity.

What advice would you give your younger self?
As you are, you are enough for every room, every conversation, every relationship and every job. You’re worthy of being loved and respected and appreciated just as you are. Don’t try to be like “her” or “them.” Light up every space by simply being you.
If you weren’t doing your current job, what would you be doing?
I would be creating and producing content so my young sons could see themselves in story. There is a dearth of storytelling reflecting the narratives of black boys in both television and film. They look for themselves in every story, and it pains me that there are so few stories that celebrate their aesthetic and nuance.

Elizabeth Rutledge

Chief marketing officer, American Express

Elizabeth Rutledge

Chief marketing officer, American Express

Growing up in Rye, New York, Elizabeth Rutledge once dreamed of becoming a doctor. She had even focused on pre-med while majoring in English at Princeton. Luckily for American Express, her destiny would lie in marketing.

A near 30-year veteran of the New York-based financial giant, Rutledge was promoted to the chief marketing officer post last year. Already, she’s modernized the 170-year-old brand for a global world with “Powerful Backing,” a new platform designed to unify the many facets of the $40 billion brand. A new campaign, created with McGarryBowen, and starring Lin-Manuel Miranda, helped to amplify the effort.

The new platform resulted in more than 2.8 billion earned media impressions. While the platform and campaign, tagged “Don’t Do Business/Don’t Live Life Without It,” helped increase awareness and understanding of AmEx, Rutledge says such marketing is only a small part of her job as CMO.

“As marketers today, we have to take a broader look at all the ways we interact with our customers, beyond just traditional advertising,” says Rutledge. “As we look to be essential in our customers’ digital lives, we need to deliver on the best customer experiences every day.” Case in point: AmEx has moved far beyond its credit-card roots to focus on other sectors like hospitality—the brand acquired restaurant reservations app Resy earlier this month and also owns services such as Mezi, a travel assistant app.

It helps that Rutledge herself has a diversity of experience to serve AmEx cardholders, as she manages the brand’s advertising budget, which was $3.2 billion in 2017, accoridng to Ad Age Datacenter. After working as a ninth-grade biology teacher, she eventually landed at AmEx in 1990 and has held a variety of jobs there, including managing the charge card business and negotiating partnership deals.

“I didn’t grow up in advertising,” says Rutledge, but she notes that every post has been “a learning experience.”

What advice would you give your younger self?
Stand up and have a point of view. You get a job because someone believes you are the best fit for that position, so it’s a disservice to the company and your colleagues if you don’t voice your unique opinion. And always be curious—curiosity fuels creativity.

Gretchen Saegh-Fleming

Chief marketing officer, L’Oréal USA

Gretchen Saegh-Fleming

Chief marketing officer, L’Oréal USA

Big beauty players face an onslaught of direct-to-consumer competitors stealing share and attention. Few marketers at traditional players are better equipped to navigate this new world than Gretchen Saegh-Fleming, chief marketing officer of L’Oréal USA.

She came to the CMO post last year from L’Oréal’s Luxe division, where since 2012 she’d been running the d-to-c and e-commerce efforts of such brands as Khiel’s, Giorgio Armani and Yves Saint Laurent. Before L’Oréal, she worked for General Electric, helping bring the digital effort behind that company’s Ecomagination campaign to China. From there, she ventured out to run sales, marketing and customer service for two small e-commerce startups: the now defunct reverse-auction platform MoneyAisle.com and WoodPellets.com, a sustainability play based around carbon-neutral heating fuel.

“I loved everything about how nimble you can be in digital and make changes to your website and see it move the needle so quickly,” says Saegh-Fleming. She says that Carol Hamilton, group president of the Luxe division in the U.S., was looking for e-commerce startup experts and gave her the opportunity “to have an e-commerce and startup mindset within a very well-funded L’Oréal.”

The notion that the big lumbering beasts of conventional beauty are too distant from their consumers to respond quickly or give them what they want doesn’t seem to apply to Saegh-Fleming. And if the experience with d-to-c operations isn’t enough, she also spends one day a week answering phones and talking to consumers, something she encourages the rest of her team to do at L’Oréal.

All that listening, which includes social media, is fueling unprecedented levels of personalization for L’Oréal.

During her first year as chief U.S. marketer for the world’s biggest beauty player, L’Oréal has launched Custom D.O.S.E. by SkinCeuticals, a personalized serum-dispensing service to address more than 250 skin types and conditions, and Color&Co personalized d-to-c hair color based on expert consultations.

What was your first job?
I grew up in a small town in Massachusetts, and my first job was working at our local pharmacy, counting pills. Lots of sensitive information flows through pharmacies. I signed my first nondisclosure agreement at the age of 15.
What advice would you give your younger self?
First, spend as much time as possible actively listening to consumers. Be intentional about learning what is important to them. The more deeply you can understand that, the higher the probability your marketing efforts can be successful. Second, always be testing! Dedicate some small percentage of your budget to testing new partners, channels, technologies. Some will work and some won’t, but being on a constant learning cycle is important. Our world is always evolving—we must be, too.
What was your worst career mistake, and what did you learn from it?
After business school, I joined the General Electric Co. as part of their two-year sales and marketing executive training program. GE owned NBC Universal at the time, which bought iVillage in 2006. Linda Boff [current CMO of GE] was going to head marketing and asked me to be her chief of staff. Beth Comstock [former vice chair of GE] was leading the group. While I loved everything about digital, I turned it down because I would have had to forfeit completion of the training program, which at the time seemed important. In retrospect, it wasn’t, and that role would have got me to where I wanted to go much faster. It also would have afforded me the chance to work for two incredible, empowering female business leaders!
If you weren’t doing your current job what would you be doing?
An art museum curator. My undergraduate B.A. is in English literature and art history. I’ve always been captivated by the power of words and images to tell stories.

Melissa Selcher

Global head of brand marketing, corporate communication and social impact, LinkedIn

Melissa Selcher

Global head of brand marketing, corporate communication and social impact, LinkedIn

Since Melissa Selcher arrived at LinkedIn in 2016, the company has increased its spending threefold and launched its first-ever global marketing campaign.

The “In It Together” campaign was the company's first foray into TV, resulting in an 18 percent increase in brand perception for LinkedIn. The 14-country effort spearheaded by Selcher, who oversees a staff of 150, highlights real LinkedIn user stories, such as that of Lauren Simmons, who was, for a time, the only black woman on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, thanks partly to connections made on the platform.

When asked what business she would start if she could, Selcher says: “I would start an incubator for entrepreneurs and innovators to channel the energy, resources and models we’ve used to create massively successful private-sector companies to solve our biggest social and societal challenges. In my mind, the rock-star status we ascribe to leaders who build great companies should pale in comparison to the rock-star status afforded to those applying the same genius, effort and skills to fixing education, homelessness, climate change, and the other leading issues of our time.”

What advice would you give your younger self?
Enjoy the ride. Be present, be patient and always be kind (to yourself and to others).
What was your first job?
Lab technician in a biotech lab.

Lina Shields

Chief media officer, Lilly USA

Lina Shields

Chief media officer, Lilly USA

Perhaps no one has wanted into pharmaceutical marketing more than Lina Shields. Now that she’s there, the chief media officer of Lilly USA is fundamentally reshaping how it works.

As an Italian immigrant getting an M.B.A. at California’s University of the Pacific, Shields wanted a Fortune 500 marketing job. She decided her best route would be starting in sales for a pharma company.

So she bought a book called “3 Days to a Pharmaceutical Sales Job Interview” and did what it said. It took a lot more than three days (five months, in fact) but she got job with Eli Lilly & Co. And after three years of steady attempts to move into marketing, she took a job at the company’s Indianapolis headquarters that few others wanted: “e-marketing” to health care professionals.

That led ultimately to online marketing work on the Cymbalta fibromyalgia drug, on Cialis in Europe and then back to the U.S. working on the Trulicity diabetes business as director of consumer marketing. From that role, she began overseeing marketing across the company and became chief media officer late last year.

Now Shields is shifting the traditionally TV-heavy skew for Lilly’s big pharma brands toward more of a 50-50 digital-TV mix. She’s launched Lilly’s first ever Spanish-language marketing campaign behind Trulicity. And she’s fostering a data-driven approach to media buying, planning and creative development through targeted online video and addressable TV.

“When I started, we did not have permission to re-target people from our own websites,” says Shields. “That’s how far behind we were.”

All this means shaking up Lilly’s agency model, so Shields worked around some internal procurement obstacles to launch a series of pilots involving Omnicom and Publicis Groupe developing customized agencies for the marketer spanning data insights, media and creative.

What was your worst career mistake, and what did you learn from it?
Coming to this country as an immigrant, my biggest mistake was that I was so grateful for everything that I never really negotiated my rewards or my salary. That was a mistake I would want to take a look at. I didn’t understand what I was bringing to the table. Now that I’m at the decision-making table on people’s careers, it’s my responsibility to make sure people are advocating for themselves, and if they aren’t that I advocate for them on a regular basis.
Is it true you learned English from Tupac?
Unfortunately, not directly. I never took an English class. I learned all my language from music. I was a huge fan of Tupac. I had to clean it up a little bit by the time I took my M.B.A. classes. I honestly didn’t know. I thought that was the way everybody talked.

Stacy Taffet

VP of marketing, hydration portfolio, PepsiCo Beverages North America

Stacy Taffet

VP of marketing, hydration portfolio, PepsiCo Beverages North America

PepsiCo got a late start tapping into the flavored sparkling water craze. But thanks to Stacy Taffet, the beverage giant has more than caught up. Bubly, which launched in early 2018, exceeded $100 million in sales in its first year, according to the company. It finished last year as the fourth-largest sparkling water brand, according to Beverage-Digest.

Taffet, who has been at PepsiCo since 2007, has overseen Bubly for about a year, along with its other water brands, Aquafina and Lifewtr. The secret to Bubly’s success, she says, is that PepsiCo has marketed it like a soda. It comes in brightly colored packaging, and PepsiCo has poured major marketing money behind it, including a Super Bowl ad starring Michael Bublé by Goodby Silverstein & Partners that played off of the crooner’s name.

Says Taffet: “Consumers were looking for fun, playful, flavorful ... brands, much in the way they experience them in traditional [soda]. And there weren’t a lot of those options in the sparkling water category.”

Lifewtr, which is not carbonated, has taken a different approach: Marketing includes partnerships with emerging artists. Philanthropic programs include beautification projects and an arts education initiative in collaboration with Scholastic, the children’s publishing and media company. “This brand is being built with a strong purpose around creativity and art,” says Taffet. Consumers, she adds, “feel good about carrying this brand.”

Taffet has held a variety of positions at the company, including senior brand director for Pepsi-Cola. She says she takes a people-first approach to marketing. “My team and I spend a lot of time in people’s homes, traveling across the country in stores, looking in refrigerators, doing interviews,” she says. “It’s qualitative and quantitative, just understanding people.”

What advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. You’ll never do great things without taking some risks, and sometimes risk leads to failure. As long as you can learn from those failures and use them to make better choices next time, there is tremendous value in the mistake. If you chase perfection, you’ll never be satisfied or happy.
What was your worst career mistake, and what did you learn from it?
Early in my career, I never asked for a promotion or a new assignment. I let everything come to me. And even though I was offered good opportunities in my first several years, I learned that you need to proactively manage your career to achieve your ultimate goals.

Krystle Watler

Senior VP, head of business development, Americas, Virtue Worldwide

Krystle Watler

Senior VP, head of business development, Americas, Virtue Worldwide

Krystle Watler didn’t set out to work in advertising—she started in corporate banking at Citigroup and Goldman Sachs. A few years in, she took time out to reset and volunteer for the alumnae association at Spelman College, her alma mater. And when she made a list of what she enjoyed most in her volunteer work, the list pointed to marketing.

Which meant starting over. And taking a pay cut.

“I knew I would [have to] take a couple steps back so I could take a couple steps forward by age 30,” says Watler. She “took a class, took a risk and hit the pavement,” reaching out to people for informational interviews.

After roles at Underline Communications, KBS and Arnold Worldwide, Watler became senior VP and head of business development for the Americas at Virtue Worldwide, the creative agency born from Vice Media. Watler, who joined Virtue in mid-2017, helped draw in 18 new clients last year, including Google Chrome, Marriott Rewards, Target, Asics and AT&T.

Client retention has grown from 31 percent to 69 percent in one year, accoring to Watler.

In pitch rooms, she says, Virtue gives off a “relatable, authentic, nonpretentious, pulling-up-our-sleeves-to-help type of vibe that results in us getting feedback like, ‘I can tell you guys really like each other,’ or ‘You guys were the most communicative agency in the review.’”

Vice as a whole has worked to shed its former bad-boy image, and Watler says it’s an open, accepting environment where she has thrived: “There are so many different people here who identify in many different ways and by different pronouns. From day one, I always felt 100 percent safe to be my true self.”

Watler continues to work with other grads from Spelman, the historically black women’s college in Atlanta, through regular meetups for networking and mentoring. “We’re a community helping each other, sharing knowledge in pursuit of ensuring we have talented women in business doing great things,” she says.

What was your worst career mistake and what did you learn from it?
I remember being in meetings and thinking of an idea but not having the confidence to say it aloud because I wasn’t 100 percent certain. Then moments later, another colleague (normally a male!) would say the same exact thing I was thinking. After this happened way too many times, I finally realized that no one knows the “right” answer. We’re all trying to figure it out—especially in this ever-changing world of modern marketing and tech advancement. Your voice and experience matter. My voice and experience matter. On Aug. 27, 2015, my very extroverted and loving dad suffered a left-brain hemorrhagic stroke. As a result, he developed aphasia—he lost his ability to communicate. This rocked my world. Seeing his recovery, seeing his drive to recover whatever speech he could, inspired me in ways I never knew possible. My mom and I, as primary and secondary caretakers, had to speak for him in various situations. I promised myself, from that point on, that I would speak up for myself in all aspects of life and work—no matter what.
If you weren’t doing your current job, what would you be doing?
Economic development of local communities. What inspires local governments to invest in some neighborhoods’ development and not others? Why does it appear that a selected few benefit from a neighborhood’s redevelopment? How can local citizens affect economic development of their local neighborhoods? If I wasn’t thoroughly enjoying my business development career in advertising, I’d translate my skills to benefit economic development of local communities in New York City.

Xanthe Wells

Global executive creative director for devices and services, Google

Xanthe Wells

Global executive creative director for devices and services, Google

The benefits of working in a creative role at Google are clear—it’s the largest digital ad platform with the largest video site in the world, YouTube. Xanthe Wells, who heads creative for Google’s devices and services, accesses all those outlets and more for her ad campaigns to promote products like Pixel phones and Google Nest voice-assistant products. “Using all the cool toys from Google’s own stack is pretty exciting,” she says.

Wells oversees several categories for Google—smart home products; smartphones; laptops and tablets; and gaming and subscriptions—over more than eight global markets. She leads an internal creative team that created such campaigns as “Pixel Night Sight” with 72andSunny, “Mr. Rogers’ Pixel Anthem” with Droga5 and the Childish Gambino spot for the Grammys with Cashmere. She most recently worked on a campaign for Google Assistant, a sentimental spot around Mother’s Day that ends with “Hey, Google, call mom.”

Wells’ first job ever was as a production assistant at Pixar, and her work still lives on in “The Incredibles” franchise—she assisted on the first iteration of the logo. Pixar is also where she learned that people can actually make a living in a creative field. “I was lucky, I had great mentors,” says Wells. “Maybe the advice I would give my younger self is: In due time. I was always kind of really intense about work. I always loved it and was so passionate, I tried to cram it all in as fast as possible.”

What was your biggest mistake?
Creative people are really sensitive by nature, and that prevents them from delivering difficult feedback. I wasn’t always self-assured enough to deliver negative feedback, and it wasted a lot of time with people who needed to hear things.
What was your first job?
A summer job as a pharmaceutical rep. I was [dressed as] the Claritin pill educating people about the nondrowsy allergy medicine. That was grassroots marketing.

Catherine Williams

Chief data scientist, Xandr

Catherine Williams

Chief data scientist, Xandr

AT&T’s Xandr ad unit is on a mission to automate TV advertising and make it as precise as Facebook and Google’s targeted ads, but with greater brand safety. At the heart of this initiative is its data science team, led by Catherine Williams, which finds ways to make ad campaigns more effective for brands and fighting fraud.

Williams, who holds a Ph.D. in mathematics, was appointed chief data scientist at Xandr in October following AT&T’s acquisition of the ad tech firm AppNexus. Her new role requires a technical understanding of what’s possible with current data—and the ability to connect those insights with a strong sense for business opportunities and internal and external customer needs.

Williams sees it as a communication role, fostering collaboration among her team and product managers and engineers, interpreting solutions for business folks who can’t be as immersed in the data.

It’s a talent Williams fostered in her previous career as a postdoc mathematician at Columbia and Stanford. While she loved the subject, Williams realized university life wasn’t for her. That’s when she joined the AppNexus team, where she led data science and marketplace development. She also developed the company’s Women’s Leadership Forum.

At Xandr, Williams has been particularly focused on gender balance within her group; almost half the data science team is female.

What advice would you give your younger self?
Ask questions until you understand. Really. Even if you think it makes you look dumb! Investing in your own understanding is the best gift you can give yourself.
What was your worst career mistake and what did you learn from it?
My biggest career regret is that, in my later years of being an academic mathemetician, I spent too much time following the straight and narrow academic path, rather than pursuing my own actual wide-ranging interests in that fertile setting. As it was, I ended up defecting from academia to industry—a move I have never actually regretted—but in hindsight I recognize that as an academic I fell too much into checking the boxes I felt I was supposed to check, doing what I was supposed to do, rather than pursuing my own interests and growth.

Lauren Wilson

Founder, ColorComm

Lauren Wilson

Founder, ColorComm

After spending time in too many rooms with no people of color in leadership, Lauren Wesley Wilson took matters into her own hands. In 2011, she founded ColorComm, an organization offering business resources, networking and support for women of color in communications. She was 25 years old.

Since then, the group has grown to include more than 40,000 professionals, working not just in communications but also in marketing, advertising, media, digital and diversity & inclusion roles. ColorComm works with both agencies and brands on issues like improving the visibility of executives of color, building out D&I programs and employee resource groups, conducting unconscious-bias training and recruiting and retaining talented people of color.

But ColorComm’s main focus has always been on people in the industry who are underrepresented. In 2018, the ColorComm Network placed more 100 people of color into positions at firms like McCann, Ogilvy, Edelman and each of the the largest ad holding companies. The organization also held its fifth annual conference in Maui, Hawaii, attended by more than 300 people, which included a keynote by Soledad O’Brien, and its first conference for millennials of color in communications: the C2 Next Gen Conference, headlined by Gayle King.

Wilson also expanded ColorComm’s purview beyond women last year by creating Men of Color in Communications, a group geared toward the interests and needs of men in the industry who had seen the strides ColorComm was making for women and didn’t want to be left behind. More than 200 men attended the first summit last fall. ColorComm also expanded internationally for the first time. Its London office joins eight other locations in the U.S.

What advice would you give your younger self?
To worry less and prepare more. When you’re fully prepared, you have nothing to fear.
What was your worst career mistake, and what did you learn from it?
I have made many mistakes and they’re all equally tied.
If you weren’t doing your current job what would you be doing?
I would be a writer on a television show.
Illustration by Tam Nguyen. Photos courtesy of subjects. Web production by Corey Holmes.