Pro Tips: 23 Industry Execs Share Their Secrets to Success

And mistakes they made along the way

Twenty-three industry executives share how they navigated various points in their careers. Illustration: Dianna McDougall; Source: Getty Images

Every career is filled with opportunities and pitfalls. It’s how one deals with adversity andsuccess along the way that can mean the difference between moving up the ladder, making an impact or crashing and burning. Adweek reached out to leading industry executives who shared how they did it, navigating various points in their careers from mistakes to pivotal moments to the best advice they received on the path to success.

Adweek: What’s the best advice you got? 

Ricardo Marques
VP of Marketing, Budweiser

I have to go back to a meeting we had with our CEO [Carlos Brito] a few years ago. What he said was, “Dreaming big or small takes the same amount of effort, so why not dream big?” This was very simple but very cool because it allows us to not only think about your personal career but how you approach any given project, be it a Super Bowl brief or an innovation. That type of thinking when you have a large group of people at the table gets people focused on the right stuff, which is possibilities. All of a sudden people start asking what if we did it and how do we approach this differently. It is truly energizing and super simple as well, which I like, and applicable to anything from your personal life to business challenges. 


Lara Cohen
Global Head of Partner Solutions, Twitter

Our former CEO here Dick Costolo [told us to] assume your colleagues have the best intentions. It really resonated with me because I came from a traditional media background. I worked in New York media for a really long time before coming to Twitter. It was almost currency at magazines to be super cynical and almost cool to hate on everything. When I came to tech, I quickly learned it was a much different mindset here. There’s always something to learn and being the smartest person in the room is not necessarily always the best way to be. You should be striving to continue to learn every day on the job, and the best people to learn from are your colleagues. When you see the best in them and they see the best in you it creates an almost healthier, more open work environment.

Keith Cartwright
Executive Creative Director, 72andSunny

My greatest advice came from my father, who told me that being a great leader requires great humility. He’s a pastor, so humility was the dish he was serving. Humility at its core is about compassion for the people, for the work and for clients. Anytime you have a win, you find humility in who got you there, and when you lose you find humility by learning through your mistakes. Both, as he described, are gifts.

Check out Adweek’s 2018 Grad Guide

Getty Images

Tamara Mellon
Co-founder, Jimmy Choo; Founder, Tamara Mellon

Never stop working, even if it’s not exactly what you want to be doing. It’s always better to do something than nothing. You never know who you’re going to meet at one job, and what opportunities that can lead to or what ideas it may spark.

Robert Ascroft

Bridget Russo
CMO, Modern Meadow (former CMO, Shinola)

I’d say two things. One would be: Whatever you think you’re worth, ask for more. I think, as women especially—and speaking for myself—I sometimes question: Can I ask for that? I don’t know. Generally speaking, men feel more confident when it comes to asking, even when they don’t have the chops. The other is: Don’t kick the darkness. That was when I was working with Bono [at his fair-trade fashion brand Edun]. Often, when you’re working in the social-impact or environmental space, it’s easy to position yourself as better-than. And he was especially keen, and rightly so, to say there’s no reason to present a new idea by putting down another idea. And I strongly believe that.


Chloe Aftel

Margaret Johnson
Chief Creative Officer, Goodby Silverstein & Partners

Stay as scrappy as you were the day you started. I met with a recruiter who worked for WPP named Trish Shortell in 2006. She told me, “You need a brand. There are lots of guys out there who are much less talented but much more famous than you are.” And this piece of advice came from Jeff Goodby: “Draw your inspiration from everywhere but advertising—go to museums, watch documentary films, read comic books. Pull from lots of different places.”


Kelly Campbell
CMO, Hulu

“Take a seat at the table.” It was given to me firsthand by Sheryl Sandberg early in my career at Google. I was sharing a quarterly business review. I had prepared the slides and was planning to present the deck. However, when I walked into the room, most of the seats were taken by people more senior than me, so I hesitated. She waved me over and told me to take a seat. Later, in a one-on-one with her, she told me I earned a seat at the table, and I needed to take it without hesitation. This advice stuck with me. When I take a seat at a meeting, not only do I take it because I earned it, but also because I can add or gain value by being there, and thus will give 100 percent of my attention to the topic at hand. So now, when I take a seat at the table, I take it with purpose and without hesitation.


What was your biggest mistake? 

Raja Rajamannar
Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, Mastercard

I joined a company, and early on, I wanted to showcase my brilliance and prove to the company that I can overdeliver results. But what I discovered is that that wasn’t getting me the kind of acceptance and kudos that I thought I would get. It’s much more about your relationships and the network that you build in the company. Once you have those two, people are more receptive to what you do otherwise.

Katrina Craigwell
Executive Director, Head of Marketing, Finn by Chase

The biggest mistake I’ve made has been not giving relationship-building enough time and attention. As an introvert, it’s easy for me to retreat into my own space, especially after a busy stretch. I’ve made the mistake of retreating too much and hurting my relationships as a result. I practice doing the opposite every day, and I’m grateful for the incredible community of colleagues and friends who I get to work with that make this easy.

AMC Networks

Josh Sapan
President, CEO, AMC Networks

Worrying that zombies would have limited appeal with The Walking Dead. The truth is, great story and great characters can inhabit any genre or format.

Courteney Monroe
CEO, National Geographic Global Networks

In my first few months at my first job after college, as an assistant account executive at BBDO, I was assigned to the GE account. We were prepping for my first-ever print shoot for GE Appliances, and one of my jobs—arguably the most important—was to arrange for the GE Monogram appliances to be shipped from Louisville, Ky., to the New York studio where we were shooting. The New York address I was given said Long Island City. Brand new to New York, I just assumed that meant Long Island, as I had never heard of Long Island City, which of course is in Queens. Too afraid to ask questions for fear people would think I was not capable, I had the appliances shipped to the wrong address. The shoot had to be pushed back a day because of that. Total disaster! What I learned from that experience, which I remember as if it were yesterday, was to never be afraid to ask questions or confirm your understanding of an assignment. No one will judge you for asking; they will only judge you if you screw it up!

Daniel Khabie
Global CEO, Mirum

I started the company at a young age, and my biggest mistake was not listening to macro and micro economic trends because it’s so important to understand the world you live in. During the recession, I thought we could work through it. We would have been in a better position coming out, but instead we got killed. Now I’m very much a trend seeker looking to understand movements and listening to the street to see what’s happening. You can never operate in a bubble when it’s connected to the big ecosystem. … Whatever is happening around the world will have an impact on your bubble.

Brian Benedik
VP, Global Head of Advertising, Spotify

Early in my career, I was always chasing the next job before I really mastered the current role. I grew to learn that working hard in your current role and proving your value to the organization, the next step tends to take care of itself.

What is an important lesson you learned along the way? 

This story first appeared in the August 6, 2018, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.