Ranu Coleman: “Failure is an essential part of discovery and innovation”

An interview with Phil La Duke I’d love to inspire people to learn to benefit from criticism. Nobody enjoys negative feedback however receiving criticism is a chance to learn, even if it’s not delivered in the best way. And even when it’s unfounded, it gives you a window into how others think and increases someone’s emotional […]

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An interview with Phil La Duke

I’d love to inspire people to learn to benefit from criticism. Nobody enjoys negative feedback however receiving criticism is a chance to learn, even if it’s not delivered in the best way. And even when it’s unfounded, it gives you a window into how others think and increases someone’s emotional intelligence.

Thank you for joining us Ranu! Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I originally went to college to pursue Political Science and eventually go to Law School, but I realized that this path wasn’t for me after my first year of classes. I had always had a passion and interest in the fashion industry and decided to go to Fashion School (FIDM in LA) after getting my bachelor’s and it was the best decision I made. From there I had an internship with Kenneth Cole in Fashion Marketing and never looked back.

Marketing felt like such a natural transition because it involves writing and strategic thinking. After years of working in retail companies (both B2C + B2B) I worked my way up from Associate to Manager to Director and now am the Head of Marketing for Azazie, a direct to consumer bridal and bridesmaid apparel company. At Azazie, I am responsible for implementing the company’s growth strategy, driving revenue and awareness of Azazie’s product offerings and engaging consumers with the brand.

What is it about the position of executive that most attracted you to it?

What most attracted me to an executive position is that in order to have this type of role you must strive to think broadly and more strategically. It’s always important to question how things could be done better and how you can add value to your organization.

Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what an executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what an executive does that is different from the responsibilities of the other leaders?

An executive should be guiding the general policies and the overall mission of a company. They have a broader latitude and authority to make decisions that affect large divisions of a company.

What is the one thing that you enjoy most about being an executive?

I enjoy the responsibility that comes along with it. I know that I want to do things better and keep striving to improve the company, our mission and continuing to surpass our goals, and I have a heavy responsibility to get that accomplished.

What are the downsides of being an executive?

Sometimes executives have to make a lot of unpopular decisions for the good of the company. So, if you don’t have a thick skin, then you’re better off staying out of these types of roles.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being an executive. Can you explain what you mean?

That executives don’t need to put in the hard work: nothing great has ever been achieved without working hard and there is a myth that executives only delegate and “work smarter but not harder,” and that is not the case. It’s important to be fully invested in the vision of your company through dedication, commitment and hard work. If you exemplify that as a leader, your team will as well.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?

While we are definitely making small strides forward when it comes to women executives and entrepreneurs getting more and more recognition for their leadership and business acumen, we still see sexism in the world of business, especially at the executive level of women not receiving the same respect and accolades as their male counterparts. I have been fortunate to work with Azazie’s CEO, who is a strong male leader that recognizes that his business is predominantly geared toward the female consumer and because of the faith he has in his team, he pushes his female executives like myself into the ‘spotlight’ as a key representative of the brand and company.

What is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?

I perceived my position mainly focused around Marketing efforts looking at the big picture strategy to drive growth for the company and while I do manage that, there are so many other facets of my position that touch different areas of the business in terms of operations, merchandising, and being a lead spokesperson for the brand. Being an executive is broader and especially working for a smaller company you have to be open to taking on multiple roles.

Certainly, not everyone is cut out to be an executive. In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful executive and what type of person should avoid aspiring to be an executive?

● Successful Executive

○ Competitive

○ Do not settle for “good enough” — always strive for improvement + growth

○ Strong multi-taskers

○ Have mentors and know how to leverage them

○ Strategic

● Avoid Being an Executive

○ Someone who doesn’t believe in self-growth

○ Someone who surrounds themselves with “yes” people

○ Someone who avoids conflict

○ Someone who can’t ask for help

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?

Share your stories, experiences and challenges. Sharing our stories with our teams helps them to thrive and creates empathy in the workplace. Too often women put their head down and don’t speak up. It’s up to other female leaders, to break this down and help create a more open environment that helps other females advance. Lastly, I would also say it’s important to listen to role models you look up to and admire.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

It’s important to have an excellent support system around you to be able to manage being an executive leader and have a family and busy home life. I am particularly grateful towards my husband as he has played a key role in allowing me to strive for what I want professionally while holding things down and being flexible on managing tasks at home. I often have to take late night calls with colleagues who are overseas, work late and travel for my job and I never hesitate to do those things as I know I have his support. Without that, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

I have children and my main goal is to encourage them to be kind and generous human beings. To care for others and become leaders themselves.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?

  1. Have a clear understanding of your limitations — it’s ok to not have all the answers
  2. Don’t burn out — make sure to disconnect in order to be creative and reflect
  3. Failure is an essential part of discovery and innovation
  4. Executives must always be “on” — take breaks to clear your head and de-stress.
  5. Keep focused on the big picture

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I’d love to inspire people to learn to benefit from criticism. Nobody enjoys negative feedback however receiving criticism is a chance to learn, even if it’s not delivered in the best way. And even when it’s unfounded, it gives you a window into how others think and increases someone’s emotional intelligence.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My favorite quote is: “Taking initiative pays off. It is hard to visualize someone as a leader if she is always waiting to be told what to do.” — Sheryl Sandberg. This is relevant in my life because it reminds me of the importance of showing initiative and self-confidence. This has helped me climb the ladder at work and it’s also something I look for when hiring.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

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