20120509-GretchenFAM-88Currently the VP of Global Lead Generation & Field Marketing at the social intelligence company NetBase Solutions, Inc., Gretchen Hoffman has held executive marketing positions at the Genesys Contact Center & Alcatel-Lucent Telecommunications, and at other companies during an eventful 25-year career. In addition to having some excellent perspectives on the past, present, and future of marketing, Gretchen has kindly offered to share her perspectives as a marketing executive who happens to be a woman in a largely male field as well as the mother of two children (and three dogs).

In part one of this interview, we heard Gretchen’s thoughts on what’s happening in marketing now and in the years to come. Today, in part two, we’ll hear some of her perspectives both as a woman in a largely male-dominated field and as a mother who must balance the demands of work and family.


RAJESH KADAM: As a woman in a world where the vast majority of senior executives are men, what are some of the challenges you’ve encountered over the years? How do you think 2014 compares with, say, 10 or 15 years ago?

GRETCHEN HOFFMAN: I do see that there are more men on boards and in other executive level positions, but the number of women has continued to grow the past 10 to 15 years. Many companies are taking steps to influence the evolution to get a better balance. For example, Alcatel-Lucent offers an excellent leadership training program for women. I recall a former CEO of mine telling a group once that executive leadership with a mix of women and men proves to deliver better results because of the different ideas and ways of thinking that comes about from the mix. This can be harder to gain consensus but the result or decision made typically proves to be a better one. Personally, I have not found any insurmountable challenges being a woman. But this may be because I am a realist about what to expect and also a Bostonian who is willing to speak up if necessary to get onto an equal footing. Plus pre-kids my passion was motorcycling and triathlons so this gave me more to do and talk about with the men which helped me to “fit in” better more naturally.

RAJESH: I’m sure that being a woman has given you some perspectives that have helped you in your work? If so, can you share a couple of examples?

GRETCHEN: Happy to. I spoke to the women in sales and marketing at the Women in Leadership Forum Alcatel-Lucent and Genesys offered a few years ago. My advice to them about how to be a leader in business was:

  1. Act the Part. A former sales manager told a story that stuck with me. Her old boss had left and she wanted his job. She took on the role without officially having it, so eventually she proved herself and they awarded her the position.
  2. Act Positive and Alert. If you have been up all night with the kids and are exhausted, do not share that. If anyone asks how you are, be sure to respond, “Great.” You do not want anyone to doubt that you can’t make good decisions that day.
  3. Feel Equal. Don’t doubt yourself or focus on how you may feel different. Focus on the value you offer.
  4. Communicate Succinctly and Stay on Track. Sometimes I follow the CAR (Challenge-Action-Result) method to stay on track, especially if I have been up much of the night and feel tired or less focused. Men tend to not be as patient with wandering conversations or jumping around on topics. (Sorry if I’ve offended any men who are patient multi-conversational listeners!)

RAJESH: As the mother of two children and three dogs, lifestyle balance must be something you think about a lot. How have you managed to do it all? Are there any tips that you would offer other women in senior marketing management?

GRETCHEN: Well, I cannot “do it all,” and acknowledging this is the key. Most women feel they need to get “it all” done, so, once you accept you are not going to, it all becomes easier. I prioritize and re-prioritize. I make sure that my short list is done before I go to bed and that the kids are happy and tucked in tight and that dogs are fed and petted. This is all that matters at the end of each day. I do forget to allow “me time,” which I am often reminded. So this is something I am working on. I also am fortunate to work for companies that let me work remote one or two days a week. This allows me to bring the kids to school a few days a week. I also work after the kids go to bed, so my companies get plenty of work from me (at times too much so I get “unbalanced” and need to continue to check in with myself on how well I am sharing my time for work and personal- and readjust if needed). But the time for my kids happens so I can be a present Mom. This is key to my happiness and my work productivity. In the end, the trick is prioritize, re-prioritize, take time to check in with yourself, take time for you (I am still working on this) and let yourself off the hook at times. I do and this makes me a happier employee and Mom—and therefore more focused and alert.

RAJESH: Thanks, Gretchen. We’re really appreciated hearing your insights.

GRETCHEN: You’re very welcome!