Today, I start a new chapter of my career. But before I move ahead to this next phase, I thought it would be important to think, reflect, and understand the lessons of the past four years at American Express.
The pride of working at an iconic brand.
American Express was founded in 1850 as shipping company, not as the credit card company we know today. Throughout its 150 years plus of existence, the brand has consistently re-imagined what it could be. As a former employee of a brand like this, there was an instant recognition, excitement, and story from anyone I encountered, as well as a worldwide understanding of the brand and what it stands for.
There is a pride when someone tells you how American Express got them home in their time of need, or was there as the mark that they had achieved something. My favorite story was when my husband and I were honeymooning in Italy, and in Rome went to visit the famous American Express travel center. While I thought I might be the only one taking a picture, I was wrong. There were tourists not only taking pictures of the Spanish Steps, but of this building. Because throughout history (movie to be exact), this spot is iconic.
The pressure of working on a global, iconic brand.
With the recognition and pride of American Express, comes the pressure to execute flawlessly because well, the world is watching. I was extremely lucky to work on many large projects and there is no way to
underestimate the amount of thought and planning that goes into bringing a new campaign, project, or event to life. When I was part of the team that brought NBA All-Star to life in NYC (the home of American Express), I learned first hand that an event is multi-faceted and to actually make it happen we needed Plan A’s, B’s, and C’s (sometimes D’s). And that it takes a village to make a weekend appear to happen seamlessly.
What it means to be a leader.
I think this one can be short and simple. One of the most important lessons was how I hope to lead, and that is through focusing on two things. The first is that the outcome matters, not the steps to how someone got there. The second is partnership, and ensuring everyone (above, next to, and below) feels like they are in it in the trenches with you, and that they want to be there.
What’s it like to work with world-class talent.
When you are able to work with the best in the business across advertising, measurement, product, marketing, etc. you realize how much you can learn from those around you. It’s one thing to listen, it’s another thing to have your teams and co-workers push you into a really uncomfortable place so that you come out of it more well-equipped than before.
When I walked into American Express, I was a functional expert in media and communications planning, but did not fully understand how the details of digital worked. That changed fast when I became the lead on a few tech-heavy projects that I learned through my agency partners, my own research, and a lot of really, really good questions from my co-workers. Admiration and respect for those around you, and knowing you have something to learn is a lesson I will take to build any team.
How to talk about yourself (in a non-narcissistic way) and improve.
In order to succeed in a career, it’s important to understand how to evaluate your performance, course-correct, and graciously talk about your accomplishments. Easy, right? Selling yourself and your accomplishments can be a really uncomfortable thing, and so is hearing “constructive criticism”, but they are necessary. I’ve taken away a few ways to do this.
The first is, be open to hearing everything about you, even if it sounds off to you. Someone that you work with thinks it, so it does matter to them. Then, understand what really matters to your success and focus your time on that. My first review at American Express was not stellar. For many reasons (which I won’t bore you with here), I was not really pulling my weight in my role, specifically as a partner to my colleagues, and as a project manager on key campaigns.
I sat nicely in my media expert title, but I didn’t want or know how to step outside of that. Once I understood what was expected, I was able to course correct and make strides in the following years. And if I am being honest, there are some items from that first review that I just, may never address.
The second is, clearly lead a few projects and root success in numbers. If you are the recognized lead then it’s easier to discuss the successes without offending the rest of the working team. Then, tie success to numbers where you can. Numbers are not emotional, and not offensive, and clearly show a positive (or negative) trajectory.
When your brand is not just a physical item, but in the room with you.
Previous to American Express, I worked at agencies and technology companies on world class brands, but not for the world class brand. What I learned since being at the brand is that it’s a living and breathing thing, and since it’s not a person in the room with you, it’s up to those who work there to ensure they are upholding it, moving it along, and bringing it to life in the best way. This is no small feat, since it not only matters to those at the company, but the consumers who use it everyday. When it’s done right it feels like a world-series home run (one day, Mets), and when it doesn’t, well it’s called course correcting.
When one door closes, another one opens. My next chapter takes me to iHeartMedia as the VP of Content Partnerships. This is another iconic brand, holding the reigns to the future of audio, music, and events. I am thrilled and excited to be part of a team and company that brings joy to people’s everyday lives and brings them closer to the artists they love. Much, much more to come.