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Produced in partnership with the Women in Marketing Awards, we spoke to two winners, and a highly commended finalist from the 10th anniversary of the awards on their work and what it means to be a female leader today.
Russell Goldsmith was joined online by:
- Elizabeth Del Valle, Global Head of Marketing for Gaming at YouTube, USA. Winner of the ‘Special Award for Outstanding Contribution to Marketing’.
- Agnisha Ghosh, Integrated Marketing Lead for Asia at 3M, Singapore. Winner of ‘The One to Watch’ award.
- Shona Smith, Head of Marketing, Planning and Performance for Tesco Bank, UK. Who was Highly Commended for the ‘Best Leader in Marketing’.
Women in Marketing is a global community created to educate, inspire, connect and recognise women in marketing and associated professions, through the cycle of their lives. They have had past winners from companies such as Burberry, Google, Facebook, Unilever, Diageo and SAP.
Elizabeth said she felt very proud and delighted when she received the award, but she couldn’t help but reflect on her journey. She said she studied marketing for four years in the Polytechnic school when she was living in the Dominican Republic, her home country, 20 years ago. She then started university and continued to study business and marketing and then started to find jobs and roles in the marketing field. She explained that she didn’t just wake up one day in a marketing role, but it’s something that she takes for granted sometimes and getting the award really helped her to reflect and feel very humble. Elizabeth said that sharing that with her peers and family, was very rewarding and that it was also a great way to connect with people, especially during this time when it’s been so hard to go to conferences and connect with others. She added that sharing that sense of pride and excitement with Shona and Agnisha and all their peers from all over the world felt really good.
Agnisha said that her journey has been very unique, when she was studying, she did her bachelor’s in microbiology and after that, while she was wanting to pursue her master’s, she realised that marketing was something that really excited her. She then moved from a very research-based education to marketing and said it’s been an amazing journey so far. She agreed with Elizabeth in regard to the award, that she realised the amount of work she had done in the last few years and that she has learned a lot, made a lot of mistakes, but she is really proud of the person that she’s become because of that experience. Agnisha said that winning the award was very exciting and looking at 2020, it was good to have that morale boost from winning. She added that it brings a lot of joy to family and friends as well and there was something good to finally happen that year.
Shona said that the sentiment was the same for all of them, she felt very proud of what they achieved last year and to be in such great company with the winners and commended and everyone who was nominated was wonderful. She added that she felt like she had won it for her team, and she got lots of great feedback and support from them on the back of it as well. Shona agreed with Elizabeth and Agnisha’s comments about the awards and said they definitely all feel the same.
Elizabeth said it’s been a long journey, but she’s a firm believer in doing everything to achieve her dreams, she said she believes a lot in vision boards and even though she’s been training for marketing, her dream was always being in tech and working in gaming specifically, so, she was laser focused on that at the beginning of her career. She said that being so visionary and knowing what she wanted gave her great opportunities, but that also became a challenge. She explained that when she finished her master’s in marketing at the University of Rochester, New York, she got a job straight after she graduated. However, she said it wasn’t the right fit and that was a challenge, she started her post master’s career in an investment management company, in the financial service industry, and it was just not the right fit. Elizabeth explained that it really opened her eyes and made her realise that she needed to focus and make a plan to find the right cultural fit in a company that shared her values, where she felt that she would have a great time, find great teams for collaboration and be creative. She said it was a challenge, but she overcame it by making plans, being laser focused and really trying to find the right place. She eventually found her place when she moved to the Bay Area for her dream job working at PlayStation, she said from there to where she is today has been amazing. Elizabeth said she’s been very lucky to find great managers and mentors throughout her career, and people that really helped her make all her dreams come true in the sense of finding the right roles.
Shona said that she’s been at Tesco Bank for 14 years and that you’d think it would be repetitive, however, she loves working at the bank and she’s stayed there for so long because she’s been able to move around within the business. She explained that she certainly feels like she’s fallen into some roles along the way, but she knew that she wanted to work in marketing and that’s definitely where her passion was. Shona said she’s probably learned as much as she could in one area and then the next job and next opportunity presented itself to her, certainly as marketing’s evolved over time as well, her role has therefore had to evolve and grow.
Agnisha said it’s been very different for her, she started her career in advertising straight after college and at that time, there was a lot of focus on traditional media. She explained that Facebook and Google had already come in, but in India at that time, people were not sure how to use those platforms and channels. Agnisha said that some of her seniors saw potential and thought she would be a good fit and they’ve recommended her for positions or encouraged her to take up a new challenge. She said that her movement into digital happened because of that confidence and she could take up the challenge and deliver. She said it’s funny that none of her seniors wanted to do anything with digital at that time because they knew that it was just getting two percent or five percent of the total client’s budget. She said that everyone was focused just on the mainstream media and there was so much learning that she had to do. However, she said when she moved into that role, it was the right place and right time and it definitely helped her in her career and there are very few people who can say that they have a decade of experience doing digital. Agnisha explained that she’s also been very open to challenges, experiments and new roles and she has always been looking forward to gaining experience across different markets. She said that when she started her career, her focus was one country, India, however, being in Asia, it did open up quite a lot of doors for her and she was always looking forward to seeing how she could work across different Asian countries. Agnisha said that the exposure of working in Asia, is so dynamic, diverse, so many different languages and cultures and that’s something that excites her and helps her go back to work and learn something new every day.
Mistakes along the way
Agnisha said that one mistake which really stood out to her was when she moved to Singapore about four years ago, even though it’s in Asia, it is so culturally different and some things that she did back home in India, when it came to engaging with peers or clients, she could not use that same approach or way of working in Singapore. She said she had to tone down the way she spoke, be very thoughtful and respectful of seniors in the room so, make sure her point was clear and that she was not offending anyone. Agnisha said that in Asia, it’s very relationship based, you can get a lot of things done in Asia just because of the kind of relationship you have with people and that’s something that she learned a little late after she took up her role in Singapore. She explained that she was very task oriented and goal focused and when she wanted to work with people, she then realised that that’s not something which works well, people prefer relationships, they want to know you more before they start supporting you and working with you. Agnisha said that’s something that she should have possibly tried to do earlier but has learned it now and really helps in her with the way she works with different people across Asia.
Elizabeth said that something that she’s learned throughout the years is just taking time to slow down. She said that’s something that she always keeps in mind to avoid huge mistakes is really taking time to plan things, bring the right people to the fold, the right people that can help make decisions and can execute a big idea. She said she compares it at times to making a meal, to execute a good campaign, for instance, you need to have the right cooks, the right set of people that can help you with that attention to detail, make sure that you get everything right. She explained that with that, there’s a lot of patience and that’s something that she’s learned, slowing down, talking to peers, and bringing in the right people to help bring a different perspective. She said that’s something that she’s very mindful for, in her organisation, her teams and in her personal life as well.
Shona agreed with Elizabeth and said with the attention to detail, your impact on people and that mistakes happen all the time, but it’s how you react to those mistakes. She said she always thinks back to one of her very first agency days where she put the wrong phone number in an ad, that’s a mistake, but it happens and it’s how you deal with it and it’s how the people around you support you to make it right. Shona added that if you don’t learn from it, that’s when you’ve really made a mistake and said that when things like that happen now, she can feel it for people in her team and knows they’re going home and worrying about that mistake. She said that as leaders they have a responsibility to try and help that person make sure they learn from it and make sure that as a team, they learn from it as well. Shona said that in terms of that and attention to detail, she never made that mistake again.
Shona said that as well as the pandemic affecting her work life, she had her children and home schooling to contend with as well. She said that everyone in 2020, dealt with what they were dealing with, as well as the unknown and she was thrown into leading a ‘comms squad’ for the company, which they hadn’t had before. She explained that her marketing team were dealing with the marketing messages and proposition, and that all changed to serving and helping their customers overnight. Shona explained that there’s no right or wrong answers to it, you just have to get on with it. She said her impostor syndrome sometimes kicks in when she’s asked to take the lead on something that they’ve never done before.
Shona explained that all of a sudden, they were all working from home and had internal messages going out, colleague messages, external messages, operational messages, and they needed to get their arms around it and be able to speak as one voice and make sure that everyone was aware of what was going on. However, she said you just get on with it and do it and she explained that she had so much pride in the team for coming on that journey with them and it was great speaking to everyone from different parts of the world, from her home. She said she’s got to see into every one of her colleagues’ homes, she’s met children, partners, cats and fish and she’s really got to know people a lot better than she did before, weirdly, from being in the office with them. Shona said that from a journey point of view, last year has really made her believe that she can do a lot more and take on a lot more and you’ve just got to run with it.
Agnisha said that with Asia, travel has always been a big part of what they do because whenever they have any campaigns or programs coming up, they tend to go to the specific country, spend time with the teams, understand the product, the solution, the customers. She explained that the entire process is something which takes anywhere between two to four days and that’s when you build a connection. She said the Face-To-Face interaction and the entire bonding and trust happens, you then you come back to the country you’re working from and start working on the project and people know you, so, there is a lot of trust which has already been built because of those two to four days of interaction. However, Agnisha explained that because of Covid, they had to let go of all of that, they didn’t know what to do then, the challenges were also internal, they had to come up with a new model, a good way of engaging people in different parts of Asia, coming up with a strategy and make it interesting. She agreed with Shona, and said that people have really stepped up during this occasion and within her company, senior leaders have played a very important role because they are the ones who drive the change in mindset, the ones telling people that it’s OK to make mistakes, it’s OK to fail. She added that this pandemic has given them the opportunity to learn and experiment with new things and over the last seven to eight months, they have been able to develop a good replacement model that will still effectively work after the pandemic including things such as reduction in travel costs. Overall, she said people have played a very important role in wanting to make the difference, wanting to be together and having a common goal. Elizabeth echoed everything that Agnisha and Shona said, she misses travelling and it’s affected her personally a lot, being able to travel and connect with a lot of content creators. She said in her role, she has to know what’s happened in region to be able to build the great programs and campaigns for the creators, but she said the pandemic has really given them the opportunity to become more innovative. She said that it’s really challenging just to pivot their thinking and tactics, and a lot of times they just keep doing what has worked in the past and now they have that opportunity to be innovative, break the traditional marketing plans and really think digital. Luckily, she said they have amazing technology, and it would have been very different if this had happened 15,20 years ago. Elizabeth said that with the power of accessibility and technology and all the tools that marketers have now, they just have to rethink, there’s a lot of learning, especially for people that have been in the field of marketing for a long time, that’s a challenge. She added that you have to learn new tools, find people that speak a completely different tech language, but it’s an opportunity just to continue to innovate and that’s very core to marketing overall. She said now is the time to really innovate, rethink and pivot their strategies so they can last, as we don’t know how long we’re going to be in this situation, so continue to bring great products, continue bringing joy, in an efficient way and digital allows this to happen.
Marketing Over Time
Elizabeth said the world is really shifting, even before Covid, to all things digital and when she started her career, it was a lot about printing fliers, knocking on doors to sell a product and now it’s completely different. She explained that now we have social media, for instance, where you can sell a product just with a picture and everything is just a tap away, so, she explained that things are really evolving to this digital world, which is good but scary, there’s a lot to learn. Elizabeth said she’s excited to see what happens next, to see how we use more AI technology, for example, how we can lean more on live streaming events and reach bigger audiences. She said they’re no longer building campaigns just for one channel or two, but for multiple channels and that’s something they need to be ready for and continue to be flexible in their careers, how they lead their teams so they can build the right programs and campaigns using everything that is happening in the industry.
Shona agreed and said sometimes, you can have too much data and it’s the interpretation of that data they need to understand and add that value there. She said for her, it’s real time data as well, she said gone are the days of putting something out there and then analysing afterwards. She said now it’s pivoting all businesses up towards value rather than just a sale, really understanding their customers and that overall value. She said from a banking point of view, figuring out what customers want out of the next five, 10 years, rather than just an immediate sale in the door and marketing is at the heart of helping to drive that for the business.
Agnisha said that her journey started with traditional media and there’s been a major paradigm shift in terms of how they do marketing today. She said she started with social media, with websites and they were focused on just laptops or computers screens, how you build an UXUI for customers and she’s seen that evolve to a mobile first approach. She said everything today, in marketing, they have to see how it looks on a mobile screen, it’s about creating a ‘thumb stopping’ experience and as a marketer, that’s one of her biggest challenges. Agnisha said she agrees with Shona about the total value but at the end of the day, all of them are responsible for their business KPI’s, they need to show effectiveness with all the marketing activities that they do. She explained that there is a lot of pressure today on them to reinvent themselves in terms of the activities they do, the way they engage with their customers, because if they are not innovating, they are going to be archaic very soon. She said that’s a challenge that not only she faces, but any marketer today is facing, how you keep abreast with all the things which are happening today.
Shona said she feels there’s a constant expectation for performance optimisation of everything, which is great that they can do it but there’s a lot of pressure, whereas before you would leave something for a bit longer to see what it is doing, but immediately looking how they can make something better seems to be the norm at the moment.
Agnisha agreed and said in terms of digital marketing, five years back they were looking at optimising campaigns and looking at data on a week-on-week basis. However, today, they are doing it in real-time or even at an hourly basis and that’s the evolution that they’ve seen in less than five years. She explained that it’s exciting to see that focus on optimisation, but it brings in a lot of pressure as well, today, she said it’s challenging as a marketer to decide which one to choose, which data they will see and which to ignore and you don’t know if it will become a game changing experience for your marketing campaign.
Being An External Spokesperson
Shona said that having been at the bank for a long time, she gets the opportunity to speak on behalf of the bank, which is great because she is very proud of the work that they do and proud of the people that she works with. She said they all want to be able to represent their businesses and put out into the world the important work that they’re doing, and the Women In Marketing Aard helps that as well, she said it’s definitely got that to more people, she’s been speaking to a lot more people than she would have done before and able to talk about the business a lot more.
Elizabeth said that again these moments make her reflect, she works at Google and YouTube, which is such a privilege, she said it’s something that she never thought could happen, so she feels lucky. She added that reflecting on the award itself, the hard work that she’s done helped her to achieve it, so she has a sense of pride, respect for the company and the culture, the values, and the leadership. Elizabeth explained that it’s something that she tries to carry whenever she’s speaking with someone, regardless of if it is someone that is trying to get an internship at Google, making sure that she reflects those values and everything that she’s learned in the company, that she can take that knowledge. She said that sense of pride and respect for the opportunity, it’s something that she just tries to reflect in any speaking engagement or whenever she’s connecting with people who want to work in the company.
Shona said she liked that idea of respect because of the Tesco brand and the Tesco name, she said she forgets sometimes when she’s speaking to new people coming into the business how excited they are to work with the Tesco brand and work with the data that they have and what they can do with it, respecting it is a really nice way to phrase it.
Agnisha said her journey with 3M is fairly new, less than two years and one of the things that she’s done in her career is be very experimentative. She said she started with an agency then moved to client side, where she was working more on the B2C side of the business and after a few years of doing B2C and gaining regional experience she wanted to be a holistic marketer, take up a new challenge and try B2B. She explained that in Asia, B2B is seeing a lot of business transformation and a lot of great companies want to get on to this entire digital journey, which they have possibly ignored for quite some time. She explained there are differences in the way you do B2B and B2C today, so she’s been a lot and one thing that as a part of 3M she really appreciates is, number one, the focus on innovation. She said 3M is known globally for innovation and this has played a very important role during the time of the pandemic. She said it was very humbling to see the kind of things the company was also doing to adjust to the new environment, and it made her feel very good to be a part that. Agnisha said that the fact 3M is so diverse is exciting and means she learns something new every day.
Best Piece of Advice in Marketing
Agnisha said Customer first, that’s the most important advice that she’s got, bringing that into different conversations that they have with stakeholders who are at different levels, whether it’s an intern, agency, bosses or senior leadership. She said she’s seen a lot of companies want to do something because it’s a trend, but is that what their customer wants? She said she always goes back to that as a marketer, is it going to add value to your customer’s life? She explained that’s how all my marketing campaigns have also been built and that’s the approach which she always looks out for.
Elizabeth said definitely user first, everyday that’s a motto that she lives by. She said in terms of having a career in marketing, the mindset of education and to never stop learning is so important. She said that’s one of the things she loves most about the Google culture, the fact that she’s always learning, everyone, every marketer in the entire organisation is so smart, everyone that she has the opportunity to interact with has amazing perspectives. She explained that mentors have said to her so many times, and beyond just the day-to-day work, learn from people’s experiences, find the right mentors, inside and outside of the organisation that can really nurture your knowledge and bring new perspectives, help your growth. Elizabeth also said she loves picking up a book, going to marketing conferences, reading articles on LinkedIn and continue training. She explained that the marketing field is evolving, and that we need to be ready to see and continue changing over the next years, she said we don’t know what’s going to happen this year, so have that mindset of continued growth, continued education and working with peers to pick their brains. She said you never know how their community can bring people together and help them improve the work that they do and can help them improve their professional journeys.
Elizabeth said she has a great manager who is her role model, she’s known her since she started in the company and feels lucky that she’s her manager now. From an external perspective, Antonio Lucio, former CMO from Facebook is someone she is a big fan of and in addition to the amazing campaigns and branding and marketing work that he has done in his career, she loves his leadership approach. She explained that he lives from the front, the middle, and the back, he’s a very inclusive marketer. She said she also takes a lot of inspiration from a lot of chefs and cooks because she likes the precision, it takes time to perfect something. For example, Elizabeth looks up to Melissa King and Thomas Keller. She explained that she has attended a couple of Melissa King’s cooking classes, looks at the precision and the patience and uses this to help her slow down and take time to perfect an idea and the execution of something. Elizabeth said there are so many amazing leaders and executives that she follows on Twitter and that it’s really nice to be connected and learn from them that way.
Shona said that she is inspired every day by people in her team that she works with. She said she could be in a meeting and all of a sudden, they have a great way of storytelling she says she’ll use that the next time she has to tell a story, or someone has a really credible way of explaining a subject matter, piece of expertise and that really inspires her to up her game for the next time she’s in that situation.
Agnisha said that 3M has a very similar culture to what Elizabeth was saying about learning and growth as a company. She said there is a lot of focus where they are encouraged to upskill themselves, they have dedicated hours within a week where they can focus on wanting to learn a new skill which will help them in their jobs. She explained that this is very important because as marketers, they need to keep on growing and learning because the world is so dynamic. Agnisha said that in terms of people or leaders or even marketers who she really looks up to, as a student was Peter Drucker, as that is what she read growing up in her college years. In recent years, she spends a lot of time reading up on the concepts that Malcolm Gladwell has or even Seth Godin, the way they want to look at a problem differently, that approach is very helpful. She said that as marketers, it’s always important to look at a problem differently, how to change their approach, how to think out the box. She said some of these, the blogs, the podcasts really help in sparking that imagination, bring in new concepts when she’s brainstorming with her team for a new campaign and it brings in excitement whenever they have a new concept. She said the company’s cultural element and some external influences help her stay focused and motivated with all the marketing activities that she does.
What excites you about being in marketing?
Shona said the fact that every day is a learning opportunity is what excites her in marketing. She said that ultimately, they’re solving problems every day, every campaign is a new challenge and a new problem to be solved and she loves that. She explained that the very fact that every week, month, year, they’re learning new skills and tech and new ways to interpret data, she loves how fast paced that is and she gets to solve problems every day and can’t imagine being in anything else.
Elizabeth said she also can’t imagine being in any other field and that they’re very lucky because it’s a special field, they can be creative but also very data oriented. She said she loves the fact that you can really flex your brain muscles and do so many different things. She added that the creativity component of the work they do and having the opportunity to bring joy to someone, help people’s lives with the products that they sell or market, to provide information to people through being creative. Elizabeth said she likes the fact that she can have this wonderful idea or work with people in her team and peers that might have great ideas and then work together to bring them to life. She said that keeps her excited about the work that she personally does, continuing to be creative, continue bring in great ideas that can help people be happy, bring them joy and learn something.
Agnisha said that marketing is such a beautiful combination of art and science, your creativity has no bounds and there is now with new technology with omni channel marketing, a lot of data which there, so that science component again, comes in. She said for her as a marketer, something that is very satisfying is the kind of work that they do and how it helps in improving people’s lives, how it helps in make better decisions for them and that the influence they have with the work that they do, is one thing which she is really proud of. She said she loves being a marketer because of that, seeing the difference that her work can bring to everyone.
Agnisha said that everyone is very positive, in her team they just had a team bonding session where people all across Asia connected, five hundred of them on a Zoom call. She said they’ve never done something like that before and everyone is very positive. She added that 2020 has been challenging for everyone but 2021 has more of a potential and promise and people have learned a lot last year. Agnisha said that although some of the challenges from 2020 will remain, she feels people are now more mentally prepared to deal with those challenges and they just hope they can continue to keep their focus and momentum and make 2021 a good year for the company as well as individually.
Shona agreed with Agnisha and Elizabeth and said at the bank they delivered so many wonderful things for customers last year to help them, they’ve learned a lot about the benefit of just doing the right thing and helping their customer with payment breaks, extensions and volunteer gift cards to help them. She said they want to take that into 2021 and beyond that pivot to value and she said she’s really excited about being in the middle of that for the bank.
Agnisha said that one thing which is very promising about 2020 for her is that as a digital marketer, for the longest time, she really had to push ideas and tell people to invest in digital and then in 2020, everybody wanted to know about digital.
Shona added that everyone wants to agree now which has definitely helped.
Agnisha explained that the mindset change, which as a digital marketer she’s been wanting to drive for the last four to five years, has meant that her colleagues who are not even in marketing, have a lot more respect for the work that they do and are now constantly reaching out. She said she is very happy with that change because that’s something that she’s been really working towards.
Experience and skills that have helped achieve the WiM mission to ‘educate, inspire, connect, recognise and empower women through the cycle of their lives’.
Since winning the award, Elizabeth said that they have definitely adopted the WiM mission and set of values that they need to carry on throughout their careers. She said that’s why she tries to give back to her community, she’s from the Dominican Republic, and whenever she has the opportunity to speak to students, she does and that’s something that she encourages anyone to do. She added that she wishes she had people talking to her when she was in high school and college and said that’s what they need to sell as marketers, shine the light on all the opportunities, what’s possible because nothing is impossible. Elizabeth added that if someone is really passionate about any career, about becoming a leader in any organisation or in any industry, it’s possible. She said it goes back to the education, the training and surrounding yourself with the right set of people and those two most valuable things that she owned are things that she’s willing to share with people. She said continually giving back in the sense of sharing advice, her experience and hopefully someone feels inspired and motivated to follow a similar path.
Agnisha agreed with Elizabeth and said sharing her knowledge and time are very important and she’s been trying, in her own way. She said within 3M, they have a mentoring program, so Agnisha mentors women in digital marketing within the company. Externally as well, there have been quite a lot of people in recent years who’ve seen her make progress in her career, who have reached out to her and want to learn how they can start. She said she wants to continue doing that and there are so many learning modules available that the only investment required is your time. She said keeping your mind open and being a learner for life will help you to be a good marketer. Agnisha said that as she progresses in her career, that focus remains and as women they should support each other as much as possible.
Shona said she is very passionate about encouraging, not just women but anyone who works part time to develop their career. She explained that she was able to get her head of role while working part time and that as a business, they’re trying to do a lot more to encourage that. She added that she’s trying to help set up jobs share and prove to the business what a great opportunity it is for both individuals and the business. Shona said that podcasts like this, the Women in Marketing awards, everyone connecting with each other, anything that they can do to share that is for the good.
If you want to find out more about the Women in Marketing group and their awards, simply visit WomeninMarketing.org.uk