Women Trailblazers Priceless Advice

from Trailblazing Women


I’ve always admired the incredible women leading marketing for some of the world’s most iconic brands. Not only have they managed to make it all the way to “the top” but they must have discovered the keys to success for also having healthy personal lives and perspective.  Over the last few months, I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing some of these amazing women for CMO Moves podcast where they shared their stories and honest advice. These women are not only influencing consumers all over the world, but they are also role models and mentors for the next generation of great women leaders. It is my honor to share their insights on leadership, career, mindset and balance.


CMO = Chief Motivational Officer

“I think that CMO stands for Chief Motivational Officer. I had a great mentor, Phil Kent, tell me, ‘Think of yourself as the chief motivational officer and really provide resources, support and focus for the team.’ It's very important for your team that you communicate the purpose of why we're doing something. Why are we conducting a meeting a certain way? Why are we going through this presentation? We also have to ensure that in the communication, we have a desired outcome. We're not just having meetings for meeting's sake. We understand why we're doing what we're doing. I also think it's really important to bring the team together. I'm a big believer in outings and offsites and dinners - any way to keep a team motivated, happy and feeling connected. Lastly, I think feedback is a gift and giving feedback in the moment, both constructive and praise, is vital.” - Listen to Pam Kaufman, President, Viacom/Nickelodeon Global Consumer Products

Trust your team and be mindful of your voice

“I’m conscious always that my voice probably has an oversized importance in many meetings and therefore I try hard to think twice before I speak. That doesn't sound like something very hard to do, but I'm a classic extrovert, I think out loud. So I find myself sometimes caveating and saying, hey look, this is just an idea. The greatest thing I can do is have the courage to say ‘yes’ when people I trust have an idea and there isn't yet a pathway forward. But knowing that we have the courage of our brand and the courage of knowing or trusting our people, trusting my people.” - Listen to Linda Boff, CMO of GE

Know where you’re most needed and spend your time there

“When I start my day, I think, ‘Where am I needed to make the greatest impact?’ This is not necessarily the place where I want to spend my time, but is actually where my time is most needed. I really have had to learn [this tactic]. I'm someone who can have tendencies toward micromanagement, but I've learned as an executive that it is about empowering people and letting them do their jobs. I have to gut check myself, really be honest with myself: ‘Am I stepping in and doing people's jobs or am I putting my time and my effort where my time and my effort is most needed?’ I think a lot of times we know what we love to do and we have to be honest and say, ‘If we're just spending our time where we're happy to spend our time, that's not necessarily the best use for the business.’” - Listen to Mary Beech, CMO of Kate Spade NY

Investing in team members makes everyone better

“You absolutely have to institute regular training that bolsters everyone's skill sets up so they can work in the digital age, understand AI, understand all the technology implications for the business, etc. We really need to foster that because most people come into marketing traditionally with strong creative skills, right? That's why we didn't end up in finance versus marketing. But I think everyone's skill sets need to keep pushing forward on both of those fronts and we, as the leaders, have an obligation to make sure that we provide [education] and help people along so that we can all perform better.” - Listen to Deborah Wahl, CMO of Cadillac


Treat your personal brand like a startup

“I always tell my mentees that we have to approach this like a startup. How are we going to get you that good valuation? How are we going to get you that exit that we're desiring? How do we bring everything we know about crafting a value proposition, building a killer team, marketing and selling your product, and investing in your product together to make you into the best product possible to help you get where you need to go?” - Listen to Dara Treseder, CMO of GE Ventures

Be vulnerable in order to learn

“In the mid-nineties, I was working at Hill Holliday and all my clients started asking about this thing called 'digital advertising' on the web. And I knew nothing about it. So, I decided to take every single vendor supplier up on their offer to go to lunch so I could hear them sell their wares because it helped me learn. I've applied that here [at TD Ameritrade] and have taken every lunch and made sure that I really asked all the tough questions and made myself completely vulnerable because you run out of time to be vulnerable. My litmus test has always been: If I start to feel a little vulnerable, a little insecure, I go deep into that subject.” - Listen to Denise Karkos, CMO of TD Ameritrade

You’re the only one managing your career

Be very confident in yourself and put yourself out there for roles and positions - even if you feel like it's a stretch or you might not get it. I think it's really important for leadership to recognize that you're a person who is going to be 110% committed and really trying to grow in a way that is helpful to the business.  Even if you're not right for that role at that time, I think that energy and that ambition is very exciting and attractive. You're the only one managing your career. You have to be the architect of your career and really own it and just get out there and make it happen.” - Listen to Barbara Messing, Recent CMO of TripAdvisor


Don’t try to be something you're not

“Find your skill set, know what you're good at, and don't try to be something that you're not. For a long time, I tried to downplay what a creative person I am when, quite frankly, it made all the difference in my career. I think I was chosen to come to PepsiCo because I am a little bit different than the rest of the people that are out there. So to anybody starting off in their career: embrace that. Embrace that interesting thing about yourself because that's what's going make you stand out.” - Listen to Kristin Patrick, CMO of Brand Development for PepsiCo

Continue to look forward

 “Don’t do something today just because you did it yesterday and it worked. Do it because it's the right thing to do for today and tomorrow. Keep your mind open. It's very easy to get in a routine and start to tread on the same ground over and over again. I have a mantra that I live by personally: ‘We go forward from here.’ Really everything I've done to date has been a foundation for what I can do going forward from here, for Visa, for my friends, for my family, for my career. It's the future that matters, so face into it, enjoy it, and have a good time.” - Listen to Lynne Biggar, Chief Marketing & Communications Officer at Visa

Stop the mental gymnastics

One of the best gifts I could've ever had been granted during my career is perspective that people have a lot more going on than what's happening in the moment. When you go home at night and rehash the day, like we all tend to do, and think, ‘did I sound dumb on this call?’ Or, ‘did that person look at me funny?’ When you’re doing all of those mental exercises that bring you down and tear you down, just know that no one else is thinking about you. If they're changing their kids’ diapers, or they're trying to put food on the table, or they're thinking about the next board meeting, or they're running a company, they’re not thinking about you. Have the perspective to get out of your own way and don't hold back your own success by doing these mental gymnastics where you're tearing yourself down and thinking that the world is criticizing you. Because I guarantee they're not." - Listen to Denise Karkos, CMO of TD Ameritrade


Setting boundaries is the key to balance

“I have two kids and being both a mother and a professional are very important to my happiness. My work days are pretty crazy because I want to make the most out of the time that I have with my people and the different teams inside the company. But then at 5:00 pm, I leave the company and I go home [to my family]. That's a pretty strict rule that I've been following since I became a mother. I go home and I do not touch electronics for a good three, three and a half hours, which is time for my family, for my kids. Then when they go to bed, I normally reconnect and check my emails to see if I have to do something.” - Listen to Barbara Martin Coppola, CDO of IKEA

Quit the guilt cold turkey

“I think one of the things that I see women do is worry a ton if they have to run out to do something with their kids. They feel an enormous amount of guilt about it when they shouldn't. We should be able to say to our boss directly, ‘I'm not going to be here at 3:00. I have an outside appointment. I'll be back at four.’ It’s a fact of life. It is something that needs to happen. You know, if their refrigerator all of a sudden stopped working and they had to be home for the refrigerator repair person, they wouldn't feel guilty about it. But somehow when it involves our children, there's a level of guilt that we apply that we really shouldn't. I think we just need to show up and do the best job that we can possibly do and not feel in any way bad about that. I always try to role model that [philosophy] personally in the way I approach my work here. I'm very open about the challenges in my life and open about the time that I'm in the office. I work when I'm here and then feel no guilt when I need to walk out in order to do something with one of my kids.” - Listen to Mary Beech, CMO of Kate Spade

You can have a successful career AND be a great mom

Background: Dara was pregnant in her third trimester when she interviewed for the CMO role at GE Ventures with CEO Sue Siegel. Sue’s response? “Oh, that’s doesn’t matter.”

“That's what it means to have more women leaders in part because you know what? [Sue’s] a mom and she had her second child very close to when she took on another big job. So, she understood that women can do it. I could have a baby and also take on this really big responsibility because she had lived it. We need to get to a place where we have far more women who have that experience. I believe that I can help usher in the change that we need to see at the highest levels of business and society.” - Listen to Dara Treseder, CMO of GE Ventures