Singapore Markets closed

If you want success, 'be unapologetic about your ambitions': Career advice from top marketing chiefs

Lucy Handley
1 / 5

If you want success, 'be unapologetic about your ambitions': Career advice from top marketing chiefs

The world's top marketing executives give their best career advice, from the benefits of being yourself at work to showing your ambition off.
Dana Anderson, chief transformation officer at MediaLink, speaks at an event in New York in September 2014, in her former role as a senior vice president at Mondelez.

The world's top marketing executives gathered at the Cannes Lions ad conference last week to discuss where they were spending their advertising dollars and compete to win a coveted Lion award. They also issued a few words of career advice, from the benefits of being yourself at work to showing your ambition off. CNBC took time to talk with some of the world's leading marketing executives.

Berta de Pablos, chief category officer, Mars Wrigley

'If everybody else is thinking like you, then they don't need you'

M&M's, Snickers and Skittles make up part of the multi-billion-dollar business that Berta de Pablos helps to oversee at Mars.

She's an advocate for bringing her personality to work, having written about how, as a young woman, she hid her Spanish heritage after a manager told her she would never "make it" because of how she spoke and dressed. De Pablos was 25 at the time and took it to heart, changing her appearance and restricting her views because she wanted to fit in. Three years later, a woman she was supposed to be mentoring suggested that she was hard to get to know, causing de Pablos to have a rethink.

Berta de Pablos, chief category officer at Mars Wrigley

"It's about making sure that you really know yourself … and find your inner strength," she told CNBC. This links to having a diverse team around you, she added.

"The other thing that has worked for me — and when I have not done it, it has gone horribly wrong — is when I don't listen to others. So when I think that I have all the answers … I actually found that the best answers are from talking to people, from talking to the experts and having a very diverse group of people that are surrounding me, diverse in thinking, diverse in origin, diverse in culture, upbringing."

"So again, just to surround yourself with people that are not like you … If everybody else is thinking like you, then they don't need you."

Dana Anderson, chief transformation officer, MediaLink

'The value of what you bring is not always connected to your billings or your revenue'

Dana Anderson has had "so many different jobs," from writing scripts for commercials to being a project manager in ad agencies, where she had responsibility for bringing money in. But it was her switch to the role of "planner," a job that involves thinking about marketing strategy, which set her up for the rest of her career.

Dana Anderson, chief transformation officer at MediaLink, speaks at an event in New York in September 2014, in her former role as a senior vice president at Mondelez.

Working at ad agency J Walter Thompson (now Wunderman Thompson), a colleague convinced her to become a planner, but she was "petrified" because she would no longer have financial responsibility, she told CNBC.

"(Strategic) planning … taught me that the value of what you bring is not always connected to your billings or your revenue … you can bring incredible value … if you make your company and your client make strides and have insights," she said. This approach helped her become chief marketing officer at Mondelez, before joining media and marketing consultancy MediaLink in 2017.

Her second piece of advice is to be generous with your time.

"A woman came up to me … that I did not remember. And she said I just want to thank you for the time that you spent with me three years ago and you told me, don't let your job decide if you're going to have children. She said, I had a child, I'm so happy and I just want you to know … We spent time together and had that conversation (and) I didn't expect anything back."

Andrea Mallard, chief marketing officer, Pinterest

'I continually refer to my personal life and that's only made me more successful at work'

In 2013, Andrea Mallard posted a very personal essay on Medium, titled "Death. Dying. Design. What I Learned Watching My Mother Die." In it, she wrote about her mother's last days and how her care could have been improved. She referred to IDEO, the Palo Alto design consultancy she worked for at the time, and how healthcare could be better designed for the dying and their families.

Andrea Mallard, Chief Marketing Officer at Pinterest

Speaking to CNBC about her current role as CMO of Pinterest (she joined in November 2018) Mallard said she increasingly brought her personal self to work. "The decision to take the job at Pinterest was a decision to go even deeper and trying to link my personal life with my work life … The only currency that matters to me — and I think should matter to most people — are time and meaning," she said.

Discussing her personal life in the office has only helped her, but like de Pablos, she initially shied away from doing so. "And now I've gone completely the other direction, which is to continually refer to my personal life, to reference my home life, the things that I value that matter. And that's only made me more successful at work."

Lisa Utzschneider, chief executive officer, Integral Ad Science

'Be unapologetic about your career ambitions and the more success you will have'

Lisa Utzschneider has a tough job. She is the chief executive of Integral Ad Science (IAS), one of the companies tasked with making sure advertising does not appear next to inappropriate content on YouTube and other sites, and that online ads are seen by humans rather than bots.

Lisa Utzschneider, Yahoo's former chief revenue officer, and current CEO of Integral Ad Science, at an event in New York, September 2016

Earlier in her career, Utzschneider spent six years at Amazon when advertising on the site was in its infancy. What she learnt at Amazon was to get comfortable with ambiguity, because everything was new. "At IAS … there's a hunger for being able to build the business together and being comfortable with ambiguity and not having a playbook and comfort with being handed a marker, going to (a) whiteboard and figuring out how to build our verification business together," she told CNBC.

Her advice for someone starting out? "Be unapologetic about your career ambitions and the more success you will have."