8 min read
Welcome everybody to the second episode of People of Marketing Podcast. This one’s with a very inspiring guest, Jess Greenwood, who is probably one of the most badass women in marketing we know. She is the global CMO at R/GA and 2019 Ad Age Woman to Watch. Prior to R/GA, Jess worked as the Managing Editor of Contagious Magazine and Founder of the Contagious Consultancy Insider. She joined R/GA in 2012 as Director of Business Strategy, followed by a stint on Google’s in-house Creative Partnerships team in 2014.
Jess returned to R/GA in 2015 to help the Strategy department and now, she’s overseeing 17 offices worldwide as R/GA’s Global Chief Marketing Officer.
What I can tell you about this episode and about Jess is that for me, she’s a breath of fresh air. She speaks freely, she tells her stories as they happened, and she’s not afraid to let us in. Also, have I mentioned how badass she is?
I just picked a few favorite moments from the episode so you’ll be even more intrigued, but trust me, you have to listen to the entire thing. Seriously, it took me a couple of hours to pick between these moments.
The bigger you are, the freer you are
As I’ve already told you, Jess isn’t afraid to speak the truth. Xenia asked her how she stays productive and here’s her reply:
“I am very lucky — have a job that suits the way my brain works down to the ground. I have a schedule. I walk from room to room. People tell me what they need me to do. I do it.
It’s kind of super well-focused for me. The thing that I would say is if the way of working in your current job does not suit your brain, why not be in the right job? It’s not true that everybody in advertising has to work in this kind of very frenetic way.
There are ways to be quieter and to be more thoughtful. But you have to find those corners for yourself. There’s room within organizations to find a way of working that fits your personality. The whole productivity debate is only a challenge when you’re not in the right space.
I think I’m lucky, I’m in a position right now where people will wait for me, but it takes a long time to get there and for a really long time and just had to work my ass off.
It’s interesting. Everyone thinks it gets to be more work the higher up you get and it isn’t true, it’s less. The further up in your career you get, there’s a little bit of a breathing room as opposed to earlier on”
What I love about this is that I think there are so many companies in which the culture is so focused on hierarchy and everyone feels the need to highlight their role. I’ve heard plenty of managers constantly complaining about their workload but never showing empathy for the people on the frontlines. Hearing Jess being so open about this felt like a breath of fresh air.
Sometimes people will tell you what you need to hear at the moment you need to hear it
We all get a lot of advice along the way. From family, friends, colleagues, and bosses. Some of it sticks, some doesn’t. Here’s one that changes how Jess looked at life:
“Nick, who is now a friend of mine, was the CCO of R/GA when I started here.
When I first started at R/GA, I was put in the new business department. It was an amazing place to start because I got to meet all the executives really quickly and when they were in pitch plan. Somebody told me once that everybody gets demoted during a pitch.
So I was crawling around on the floor with Nick, looking for documents, copies of pitch documents and he’s like the CCO. I was panicking because I was working on this pitch and I felt like I was failing and I didn’t really know what the job was. I think anyone who was around me at that time would probably also say that I wasn’t doing that well.
I was sort of panicking and flapping at him: “What about this? What should I do?” He said, “did I ever tell you about my mother?” He told me he grew up in Australia, his mother was Scottish and was not very communicative. There wasn’t a lot of maternal touchy feelings going on. And he said “do you want to do what I took from that? To never ever take my sense of self from what anyone else thinks.”
I didn’t really think much of it at the time. 20 minutes later I realized my entire life had been about what everyone else thinks. I cared all the time. I was devoting so much mental effort caring about what other people thought. It doesn’t sound that profound, but sometimes people tell you the thing that you need to hear at the moment you need to hear it and they don’t even know.
I obviously care what my boss thinks and I care what my peers’ opinions are, but I don’t always care what they think of me in the same way. I don’t let my fear of what other people will think of me inform my decisions in the same way.”
This pick is a subjective one. I found it difficult at my first roles to care about me and my work, not about how other people feel. I love how Jess describes it, it’s not about stopping to care or about ignoring feedback, just about not letting fear dictate the way you do things.
I think women should be able to have babies whenever they want babies
I couldn’t wait to hear about this. Jess was on a roll at R/GA when she became a mom. What happened when she got back? She had an awesome career change.
“I read in the New York Times at some point that if you have a child between 25 and 35, that’s when you struggle because your salary doesn’t recover.
You’re at that point where you’re like climbing the ladder as fast as you possibly can. And, if you have a child before 25 or after 35, you can kind of bounce back a little bit more easily.
I do not want that to be true because I think women should be able to have babies whenever they want babies. It’s a statistic representation of a workplace that is still not designed for women.
My office is extremely supportive of returning mothers. We assign buddies when you get back. A working mother buddy can talk you through how to pump and where the pumping rooms are and where to go to when you’re having like a miserable time and all of that stuff. I don’t currently feel like I’m compromising that much, but the one thing I’ve learned about parenting is you should never make any ground pronouncements about how it is because in two weeks’ time it will change and you will regret having said it.
I think the best advice that I would have is just like, don’t feel guilty. You’re doing what you need to do. And also the way that other people do it doesn’t have to be the way that you do it.”
As a young woman myself, this part had me jumping up and down with optimism. That it can be done. You just have to make your own path happen.
These were my top 3 moments from this episode. Now here’s some homework — listen for yourself and tell me your top picks.