In honor of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, we’re celebrating the women leaders of Landor around the world. As a company that’s had three consecutive female CEOs—where woman make up 47 percent of our office leaders (versus just over 20 percent at most organizations) and 57 percent of our employee base—we’re proud to say that we support, mentor, and advance women across all facets of our company.
In this edition of Inside the Studio, we’re speaking with 18 of our top women to get their take on leadership, success, and breaking boundaries. From award-winning designers and innovative thinkers to gifted client managers and C-Suite decision-makers, each of our women has a different story to tell. Throughout the month of March we’ll be celebrating them on Instagram and participating in the International Women’s Day #PressForProgress movement. Check back on our Instagram daily for updates about each of the women featured here.
1. What is one of your proudest accomplishments while working at Landor?
Jane Geraghty: Being asked to lead Landor as CEO. During my seven years here, I’ve worked with a hugely talented group of people as we’ve grown the company, expanded our capabilities, shifted geographies, and welcomed the brilliant ManvsMachine into our family. I’m proud every day to lead such a fascinating and vibrant company.
Lulu Raghavan: Founding and building our Mumbai office has been an incredible challenge and an overwhelming source of pride. From a team of one—myself!—to a bustling office that is celebrating its 10-year anniversary this year, the change has been thrilling. I’m also extremely proud of nurturing so many talented team members, from client managers and designers to strategists and marketers.
Mariagrazia De Angelis: I’m most proud of the multi-country, multidisciplinary rebranding programs I’ve led because they are so complex, fast-moving, and impactful. The most recent example is our work rebranding Saudi Hollandi Bank, the oldest bank in Saudi Arabia, to Alawwal Bank, a digital-first bank focused on Saudi millennials. My goal is to drive tangible results that go beyond metrics. It’s to earn the moment when our client says, “You guys are the dream team.” In the case of Alawwal, we accomplished that and then some. Our work has become a benchmark in bank repositioning across Saudi Arabia.
Trevor Wade: Building our current website, Landor.com. It is people’s first introduction to Landor, so it has to land a big punch. The process was challenging, but Landor.com has won top honors from W3 Awards, the Mobile Web Awards, and the Webbys, among others, and is still going strong. Stay tuned for some cool updates later this year.
Mimi Chakravorti: On 28 April 2016, I was on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange watching S&P Global ring the opening bell as it officially launched its brand. I had helped win the business, create the strategy, and bring the brand to life. It was a remarkable moment for many reasons, but I was especially proud of the fact that I had just come back from maternity leave and this was my first big project as a working mom. At a time when many women doubt themselves, I was experiencing one of the most successful moments of my career.
2. What’s something that surprised you about being a leader?
Emma Beckmann: You don’t have to pretend to be something you are not. Leaders do not need to fit into stereotypical boxes. Be yourself—you got to where you are because of who you are, not who you need to become or emulate.
Valerie Aurilio: I’ve discovered the thrill of leading designers more talented than myself. As a leader, my challenge is no longer to have all the ideas. It’s to recognize a good idea in the raw, focus it, and help connect it to the bigger picture.
Jane Geraghty: While strategy, ideas, creativity, and plans are critical, they are all dwarfed by the importance of great people. Without brilliant minds, very little can be achieved. With them, anything can be.
Marie Minyo: Even though leaders are extraordinary in many ways, they are also just normal people. They are friends, mothers, daughters, and sisters like everyone else. We all have it in us to be a leader. Some are born with it, some have to work hard for it. But it’s something every woman is capable of if they set their mind to it.
Lulu Raghavan: I found it surprising how much my energy and mood transmit throughout the office. I have to be careful of my words and behavior, because I—like most leaders—am always being watched. I’m naturally a very positive person, but sometimes I have to remind myself not to publicly show signs of stress or irritation.
3. What’s your personal motto, and how does it impact your work?
Lori Gross: “Causing the right amount of trouble is an art form.” This phrase embodies how I work. Design is all about seeing a fresh way through a complex problem and being fearless in how you solve it. It’s where intellect meets passion. Where courage meets creativity. This quote is me at my core.
Emma Beckmann: “Belief creates fact.” If you believe in something strongly enough, you can make it a reality. This is particularly useful in CEEMEA, where market conditions can be very unique and agility is key to success. I rarely say no to a challenge set by a client or prospect. If I believe that my team can find the solution, we work until that becomes reality.
Noelle Flood: “People first.” Creative combinations of talented people unlock disproportionate originality. It isn’t about having the right “roles” in the room. It’s about having the right individuals. I invest time in getting to know my team and my clients personally: their strengths, their challenges, their dreams. This allows me to combine the right set of experiences, perspectives, and values to create breakthrough chemistry and thinking.
Mariagrazia De Angelis: “Good is not good enough.” Whether I’m looking at a financial report, a strategy approach, or a design touchpoint, my goal is always to push it one step further. I apply a “Can we…?” filter: Can we improve the report template? Can we make the strategy crisper? Can we create a more compelling design? My mentality is a constant fight against complacency in favor of learning, discovery, and fearlessness.
Marie Minyo: “Open eyes, open mind.” Always stay receptive to the people around you, the work going on, and the experiences and opportunities that come your way. All my experiences have shaped me into the leader I am today. I’ve learned as much from the people I’ve admired as I have from those who proved difficult. This has helped me focus on what I want, and what to avoid—and made me a better leader overall.
4. What do you wish you had known when you began your career?
Valerie Aurilio: There is no mold for what a leader, or a creative director, looks like. When it comes down to it, there’s just success or failure—the great equalizer for all.
Noelle Flood: Women can be amazing bosses. That sounds a bit surreal today, but it wasn’t a given when my career began. I also wish someone had told me that women didn’t always need to be nice.
Carol-Ann White: Careers don’t have to be linear—in fact, most aren’t! It’s about whatever works for you and the company you work for. Every career path is individual, and all can be equally successful.
Trevor Wade: At the beginning, you raise your hand for everything: scheduling meetings, creating decks, writing copy, doing research. But as a manager, your shift focuses. Your role is to support others who are doing the meeting scheduling, the deck writing, or the insight creation. You carve out space for others to shine and help them enjoy the credit.
I also wish I’d known that life isn’t a meritocracy. It’s easy to think that if you work hard, things will work out. And many things will. But there is also a lot of luck, relationship building, and politics on the road to success.
Charlotte Morrison: Don’t let a lack of experience or confidence hold you back. Don’t wait for more responsibility—take it. You are much better than you think you are.
Eimear Hunter: There are many routes to and versions of success; find your own. But there are also no shortcuts. Success relies on your ability to inspire (and be inspired by) your team. Work hard and carve out your own path.
5. What personality attribute has most helped you succeed?
Jane Geraghty: Relentless determination. Hands down. One of my business partners often says that I don’t hear the word “no.”
Charlotte Morrison: My honest and direct communication style. I ensure that people have a clear understanding of my perspective, my expectations, and what needs to be achieved.
Marcela Garces: Passion. Whether it’s branding, design, or helping my employees succeed, I bring excitement and energy to everything I do.
Manuela Fachin: My proactive nature. It’s helped me succeed more than almost any other skill I possess.
Mary Zalla: Resilience. Setbacks and disappointments are inevitable. Hopefully not frequent, but inevitable. Sometimes you have to be tough and have the resolve to get back at it tomorrow. Or after lunch, really.
Hsu-Ying Fullick: Stubbornness—and “impostor syndrome.” It’s an exhausting combination.
6. Who have been your most important mentors, and why?
Mimi Chakravorti: When I started out in the agency world, there were very few women in leadership roles. I’ve been lucky to work under three consecutive female CEOs at Landor. They have set a standard for women in leadership and show us all what we can achieve.
The other person who has been a major influence on me is Thomas Ordahl, Landor’s chief strategy officer. He helped me transition into a working mom, an executive director, and find my voice as a leader.
Mary Zalla: My dad is my most important mentor. Early on, he taught me the value of hard work. He also never assumed there was something I couldn’t do. I often say that he made me try everything. As a result, I always felt like I could do anything I set my mind to.
Carol-Ann White: The women mentors in my life have been invaluable. Always surround yourself with passionate and motivated people who support your career ambitions, but as a woman, female mentorship offers perspective, understanding, and nuance that is unparalleled.
Marcela Garces: I have three: First, my husband, who always finds time to listen and offer wise recommendations. Second, Mary Zalla (Landor’s global director of consumer brands); she has believed in me from day one. Third, Lois Jacobs, our former CEO. She continually pushed me to do better. She had confidence in my office, she was caring and understanding of our culture, and she truly listened when I needed advice.
7. What’s something that surprises other people when they meet you?
Trevor Wade: That I’m a woman. Two of my job interviews ended the moment the interviewer shook my hand and realized I was a woman. But on the positive side, my name is also a great icebreaker and an excuse to laugh about awkward stories—like being assigned a male roommate in college. People don’t usually forget my name after they meet me!
Doris Ho: My boldness. As an Asian woman of small stature, certain assumptions tend to be made. But those who know me would never describe me as shy.
Carol-Ann White: My sense of humor! I think the role of an HR leader is often perceived as “very serious business.” Of course, there is always a time for propriety, but in a people- and culture-centric role, personality and fun go a long way.
8. How can women help other women get ahead?
Doris Ho: Embrace the fact that strength and femininity aren’t a contradiction or trade-off.
Mimi Chakravorti: Stop apologizing. We need to ask for what we deserve. Help women find their own voice and get their points heard. Also, if you have upspeak, get rid of it.
Eimear Hunter: Foster confidence and instill flexibility. In practical terms, this means building a work environment where women feel valued, able to speak up, and comfortable leading teams. And one in which they can work flexible hours. Women (and men) who chose to be parents shouldn’t have to choose between career and family. It should be possible to succeed at both.
Lori Gross: As women, we simply must be our best. We have to hold ourselves and the women around us to high standards while embracing each other’s unique skills and inner badass. No apologies. Bring it.
Hsu-Ying Fullick: Focus on collaboration, support, and drive. We are a formidable gender. Don’t let anyone or anything give you an excuse to not want more.
Want more information about the women leaders of Landor? Check out our Instagram channel every day during the month of March for a spotlight on each of our featured women.
Also this month, Landor Cincinnati is honored to be hosting AIGA’s third annual Words of Wisdom gallery event, which showcases quotes by famous women, typeset by female designers. For more information, head to AIGA’s website. To learn about attending the event, please email our global marketing director: Trevor.Wade@Landor.com.
We’re also enormously proud to announce that our client Wujud—an initiative focused on the economic integration of women—will be launching in the coming weeks. Check back at Landor.com/news for more information.