A few weeks ago, Ad 2 hosted a great event (led by former Tommie, Chloe Lewis)–a Women’s Leadership Panel. I did not attend, but the event featured a number of women leaders talking about their career progressions and encouraging others to seek the curiosity, bravery and creativity needed to drive successful careers–and lives (my educated guess based on the posts I saw from the event).
I love the premise of this event–give successful women business leaders in our industry the floor to talk about how they did it and (again, guessing here) how it was more messy than you think. And, most importantly, a “if I can do it, you can do it” type theme throughout. Brilliant–and most likely, very inspiring to many under 30-year-old women in the crowd.
That got me thinking about all the wonderful women I know and how some of their stories and career progressions could be just as inspiring as those featured on the panel. After all, this was an advertising panel. Most of the folks I know come from the PR, comms or social media worlds.
So, I thought about some of the women with more interesting and inspiring career progressions. There are so many out there–but I settled on just a handful to offer inspiration to you. Note about almost all of these how there is not a linear progression. Careers are messy and are marked by many stops and starts.
Her start: Public relations intern with Fleishman Hillard
Interesting jobs along the way: Numerous roles at Sleep Number, where I overlapped with LeeAnn for a while.
Other leadership roles: LeeAnn was involved with MN PRSA earlier in her career as the co-chair of the student relations committee.
Where is she now? LeeAnn is the CEO of WomenVenture, an organization devoted to empowering women to reach their economic goals by building profitable and sustainable businesses.
What makes LeeAnn’s journey so interesting? Here’s a woman who started in PR/comms, worked her way up to a senior-level role in that world in just 5 years; then, she pivots to digital marketing where again, she works up to senior roles at Securian and RBC Wealth Management. Then, as she’s in the prime earning years of her life, she does a complete 180 and becomes a CEO of a non-profit, despite the fact that she’s never been a CEO of any organization. LeeAnn is an excellent case study in the art of the pivot. And, the fact that you really can do anything if you set your mind to it.
Her start: Deputy director, student correspondence, The White House (quite a start!)
Interesting jobs along the way: Doesn’t get a lot more interesting than the freaking White House, but Anna also worked for Colle McVoy and Carmichael Lynch Spong for years. She also most recently served as chief communications officer of the largest privately held company in the U.S., Cargill.
Other leadership roles: Anna was very involved with PRSA years ago and was president in the last 2000s.
Where is she now? Anna is now out on her own as the founder of White Gate Communications.
What makes LeeAnn’s journey so interesting? Anna’s one of those rare folks who has worked in almost every different PR/comms environment. Starting at the White House I’m sure was pretty darn interesting. But then moving to agency for a couple years before transitioning to Sleep Number, which is where I first met Anna. From there, she moved to CarVal Investors, a unit of Cargill, before moving over to the mothership and eventually becoming a CCO for one of the biggest public or private companies in the world! And now to be a solo? That’s a pretty incredible ride. Anna truly has seen it all.
Her start: Talent resources intern at Fallon
Interesting jobs along the way: Worked in social, SEO and SEM in the early days at Risdall (where I first got to know Holly). Also spent time at Bolin Marketing in Minneapolis.
Other leadership roles: Holly led the MIMA Summit efforts for 2+ years while on the MIMA board of directors. I served with Holly on the board at the same time, and I’ve never seen someone work as hard as Holly did to help put on Summit (with fellow friend, Bryan Vincent) than she did those two years.
Where is she now? Holly is now the vice president of corporate branding and partnerships at Polaris. She’s had six different jobs at Polaris in her 10+ years with the company.
What makes Holly’s journey so interesting? Holly’s one of those folks who started in marketing right at the beginning of social media. So it’s been particularly fascinating to watch her navigate that–particularly at Polaris where she started as an interactive marketing communications manager in 2012 and is now a VP! We see so many people move around these days–and that’s completely fine. It’s much more normal in 2022 than it was when I was coming up! However, it’s also nice to see someone stick with a company for a while and grow into a senior leadership role. Holly is a great model of what that looks like in real life.
Her start: Public relations specialist, Marshall Fields (for you young people, this is now Macy’s)
Interesting jobs along the way: Molly has worked for multiple companies that are no longer in existence. Earlier in her career, she worked at Arthur Andersen (part of the Big 4). She also worked at Campbell Mithun, which is now McCann.
Other leadership roles: Molly has held a few senior-level comms leadership positions with some pretty large companies recently–Target, U.S. Bank and Optum. That’s a pretty impressive resume builder.
Where is she now? Molly is the chief communications and public affairs officer with Shipt.
What makes Molly’s journey so interesting? Molly graduated from Northwestern, which is a pretty good place to start from. For context, my wife was the salutatorian of her class of 400+ and she got rejected by Northwestern. So yeah, Molly’s pretty smart. But, what always made Molly’s journey interesting to me is that she continued to climb the ladder and take on these senior-level roles, but was always learning and experimenting with what’s next. In fact, that’s how I got to know Molly–as a mom blogger! She was doing that in the early 2010s. In fact, I think I even invited her to a blogger event with the St. Paul Saints at one point on behalf of a client. And I think that’s a good lesson for aspiring leaders–always be learning, always be experimenting and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there (and potentially fail).
Her start: Special events intern, Science Museum of Minnesota
Interesting jobs along the way: Bridget spent her formative years working at the largest mall in the U.S. She held many different positions at the Mall of America and left as the senior manager of public relations and social media.
Other leadership roles: In Bridget’s next role, she worked her way up to creative director at Periscope.
Where is she now? Bridget is now the group creative director (social creative lab) with Dentsu Creative out in New York City.
What makes Bridget’s journey so interesting? This has been particularly fun for me to watch as I remember speaking to Bridget in class at the University of St. Thomas in 2007-2008. I worked with her when she was at Mall of America–she went from public relations intern to senior manager of PR and social media in 6 years! And then, she made another big pivot and went agency side and really started diving into the world of social creative and influencers. Bridget has worked with some pretty massive social activations including some very cool work with Trolli and NBA star James Harden. And yet again pivoting and moving to NYC to work in big-time social creative there? Really admire all the leaps and risks Bridget has taken in her career so far. And she’s still really young–very curious to see where she goes from here.
Her start: Writing intern, Ronald McDonald House Charities
Interesting jobs along the way: Maggie has SIX internships before she landed her first full-time role. And they were all with a pretty interesting mix brands–Guess, Fairview and the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation. I’m sure that prepared her well for full-time work.
Other leadership roles: Maggie was the editor of the LOL/OMG blog as part of l’etoile Magazine from 2013-2015, giving her insight into social media and allowing her to hone her writing skills. An interesting career twist.
Where is she now? Maggie is now a vice president with MSL Global working in influencer, PR and social work in New York City.
What makes Maggie’s journey so interesting? I got to know Maggie years ago when she worked for my friends at Bellmont Partners. Always thought she was an interesting mix of editorial, PR and social. And, that’s exactly the path she’s gone down, taking on leadership roles in influencer work at Fast Horse, and now MSL. And, I think the twist to leave the agency world for a couple years and work in editorial for the l’Etoile Magazine is an interesting ripple. Don’t be afraid to make surprising moves if they’re interesting to you, and you believe they’ll help you build the skills you need long-term to be successful.