Empowered — RV’s Employee Resource Group (ERG) for women — strives to foster a community that inspires, supports, empowers, and educates all women-identifying folks and allies of all gender identities. And one of our favorite ways to inspire and empower our community is simply by sharing the wisdom of the amazing RV women we get to work with every day.
On this month’s Empowered leaders feature, we hear from Senior Vice President of the Financial Services portfolio, Christina Wells. We discuss some of her favorite accomplishments while at Red Ventures, how she stays focused day-to-day, and some of the challenges that come with being a woman in high leadership. Check out her conversation with RVEDU Editor Giselle Cancio below.
Giselle Cancio: What’s a day-in-the-life of an SVP of the Financial Services portfolio at RV?
Christina Wells: Every day is a bit different! The two constants are Zoom and iced coffee. Always iced! But what I love about my workday is the variety within each day.
For the most part, each day has portions of time to connect 1:1 with the team, collaboration with our business and team leads on our biggest in-flight projects, performance meetings designed to let our more junior teammates discuss the work they’re doing and its impact, and lastly if I’m lucky, dedicated time to take the blinders off and think big picture. I’ve learned I’ve had to schedule that last one or it doesn’t happen.
On a personal note, I try to make sure each day has 30 minutes or more of activity. Lately, it’s been morning walks with my dogs and a workout. On that walk, or if I’m commuting to the office, I try to either listen to podcasts or make calls to friends and family. Those quick conversations have become increasingly meaningful as the pandemic has forced more isolation. And turns out, I do some of my best thinking in the car… or the shower.
GC: You’ve had a long tenure at RV, what are some of your favorite accomplishments?
CW: Some of the things I’m most proud of are not the things that necessarily went perfectly at the time, but from which I learned the most or in which the inputs were hard-fought and the team persevered.
These include moving to Brazil to help launch our first international office, together with amazing teammates launching several businesses from the ground up, working on the Bankrate acquisition team, and most recently being trusted to stand up a Brand team within Financial Services (ask me again in a year about the latter!). There is something truly special about “launch team” energy.
GC: Is marketing something you’ve always had a passion for? If so, where did it stem from? If not, what led you to pursue marketing?
CW: I’d love to be one of those people that had the intention or perhaps maturity, to recognize a stroke of inspiration at a young age, determining a career choice. For me, it just wasn’t that way at first. I think what ultimately drove me into Marketing was equal parts my love for Psychology and one very brilliant professor in undergrad. I absolutely loved diving into why we as humans behave the way we do and fortunately, Professor Wertalik was there to stoke the spark into a passion for Marketing. When I left school I sought a company that would allow me to build real, functional expertise, not knowing where that road might lead. And here we are!
Maybe the lesson is that it only takes a small spark, but if you have someone to turn it into a fire, amazing things can happen. Let’s all be fire starters!
GC: What helps keep you focused day-to-day?
CW: On brand for an ENFJ, there are two big things that keep me motivated day in and day out.
- My team and what we are all collectively and interdependently working toward together
- Knowing when to take a break and replenish my energy and my mindset.
Before the pandemic, if you’d asked that question you may only have gotten the first part. But after almost two years of more “me time” than I’ve had in years, I now realize the importance of checking in with myself and replenishing that fire in the belly for what I do and what I care about. Sometimes that comes from a physical break and sometimes that comes from picking my head up; listening to a podcast, reading from the experts in my industry, or even having a meaningful development conversation with a teammate.
GC: What are some unique challenges that come with being a woman in high leadership?
CW: I think one of the challenges we don’t often talk about because it’s also a privilege, is the pressure women in leadership may feel to “represent” women across the company. Not only are you thinking about or acting on what matters to you, but you may also feel pressure to speak for and speak up for all women. For those of us that already put a lot of pressure on ourselves, that’s a lot. But I think that can also be motivating; knowing that likely most of us feel that way and so in some unspoken way we’re progressing together.
It reminds me a bit of how buffalos trod through deep snow. There may only be one at the front forging the path but it’s in support of all those to come behind her. And eventually, when the buffalo in the front gets tired, another from the herd takes a turn. I guess the key is to make sure you’ve got a strong herd!
GC: What’s a piece of advice you’d give to a woman who’s just kick-starting their career?
CW: Do the hard thing, even if it scares you. Nothing good, or worth having, comes from the easy road. Do the thing that’s a little bit scary and you just might surprise yourself. And if you are lucky enough to be a manager of women, be an advocate for her to do the scary thing and help her do it!
GC: What does being ‘empowered’ in the workplace mean to you?
CW: Over time, I have felt the most empowered when I’ve been the recipient of both advocacy and support. I don’t think it’s enough to just be nominated for an opportunity or greater autonomy. I think you also have to feel as though you have the tools or means to be successful, because more than likely, you are going to feel intimidated or nervous or self-conscious about things that are new or different muscles for you. And support is truly a verb, given over-time not moment-in-time.
I think the best managers I’ve had have advocated for me but also helped me address my own imposter syndrome or skill gaps. Done well in that way, empowerment is a process, not an item on a checklist.
GC: Now, for a lightning round:
- One of your New Year’s resolutions?: Drink more water (same resolution as last year if that tells you anything about my dedication to resolutions!)
- What’s your hype song when you need a boost? Good Day by Greg Street ft. Nappy Roots
- If you could share a meal with anyone in the world (living or departed), who would it be and why? My team knows this but I’ll share here: my Dad has advancing dementia. Recently, and especially as it’s progressed quicker and quicker, I’ve found myself doing a lot of reflecting on the things I wish I could ask him and making a point to have those conversations with others. If I could pick anyone, I’d like to have a meal with him at a time before this disease took most of his lucid thought. (Praying for anyone going through something similar or caring for aging parents in general.) Sorry to be a downer on this one; this was supposed to be all fun stuff!
- Audiobooks, physical books or digital books? Depends on the situation! If I can sit down and read, preferably on a beach somewhere, physical book all the way. It’s the smell of a book for me. But for a road trip, I’m a big audiobook fan. Might be an unpopular opinion, but digital books just don’t cut it.
Keep the Empowerment rolling – check out last month’s Empowered Feature and get to know Vice President of Corporate Technology Lisa Shasky!