“It’s all about the mission. Does it align with your values? Do a lot of due diligence, not just on the leader, but speak to the people that you’d be working with. Is it aligned with your own personal values? Your personal brand?” – Elaine Barsoom
Elaine Barsoom, the current VP of Marketing at Zeel is an expert in helping meaningful, visionary companies connect with their audience. From working with a range of small to large scale companies such as American Express, Airproxima, Luxury Retreats, Eleven James and advising companies like Fuigo and Rescueskin, Elaine has been at the forefront of helping companies scale and reach their audience. Graduating from Wharton’s MBA Program, she is living a career that many of us are incredibly fascinated and intrigued by. Therefore the Penn Innovators in Business Network asked her to share some of the secrets of her trade and her advice for undergraduates …
How have you found the companies you wanted to dedicate your careers to?
“I have spent a majority of my career helping innovative, and disruptive founders change the way consumers travel, access products (such as luxury watches) or consume services such as massage. Over the past 15 or so years, we have seen a paradigm shift in consumer behavior where personalized experiences have become more important than ownership. I witnessed these trends early on at American Express where trust, service and experience was at the core of everything. Having had great mentors early on at American Express who taught me these values, I knew what great leadership meant. So when I decided to move into more entrepreneurial roles, it was because of the founders that were leading those companies — strong mission, passionate, empathetic and a service mindset. I followed them because I saw their impact not just on what they were building, but the impact on the people that were working for them and their followership. That was extremely important to me because I wanted to help shape that culture and, more so, I wanted to work for that person.”
Paint the rosiest picture of the field of marketing. Paint the grimmest picture of day in your role as the VP of marketing.
“Firstly, I want to say that marketing is all about testing and learning and optimizing. The beauty of marketing in this day and age is that everything can be measured very quickly so you can’t be afraid to take calculated risks. Sometimes it sticks and sometimes it’s a failure. But you have to be willing to learn from the data, be flexible and agile and adapt. It’s important to “leave your ego at the door” and move forward. As marketing is constantly evolving, there are going to be terrible moments where a campaign fails after investing all this money and time and have to start over. Those are defining moments that I call the customer feedback loop where you have just learned what doesn’t work. So, in short, if you are not willing to fail you are not willing to innovate. To me the best day in marketing is when we have put in the effort, made mistakes and learned from it.”
What did success look like for you during your undergraduate years? And now?
“During my undergraduate years, I thought success was about rising up the ranks, about being at the top of my game and achieving that C-suite title. I quickly learned that leadership and success happens everyday — a colleague that you mentored, a partnership that you signed or a customer that you served — it all about the connections and the people around you. That to me really is what success is all about — about bringing people with you and the impact that you make everyday. In the beginning of my career, I was really focused working for an NGO as I was passionate about driving global change and that’s where I can make the most contribution. And I quickly realized that I was defining my success by what I did when it was much more about the people that I was working with. They believed in me and that’s what true success is all about — putting people first and having a shared vision.”
What is one last thing you hope we can take away from this interview?
“Be authentic, have compassion and invest in people, most importantly. Relationships are so vital to your career, success and growth. Even on your busiest days, take a moment and recognize those people around you. In the words of Teddy Roosevelt “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” In the end, you might be the smartest, most admired person but what people will remember is how much you cared for them.”