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Stacey Grotz of Ingenio: “Do not underestimate the qualities that make women unique as leaders”

Stay true to who you are and do not underestimate the qualities that make women unique as leaders. Lean into your feminine and vulnerability to show your true authentic self to your team. This is going to capture the attention and loyalty of your team and allow them to thrive in an open and welcoming […]

Stay true to who you are and do not underestimate the qualities that make women unique as leaders. Lean into your feminine and vulnerability to show your true authentic self to your team. This is going to capture the attention and loyalty of your team and allow them to thrive in an open and welcoming environment where they too can be 100% themselves.


As a part of my series about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Stacey Grotz.

Stacey is the Senior Director of Marketing at Ingenio, LLC in San Francisco, CA. Stacey has spent majority of her thirteen-year career in marketing after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA. She has worked at companies large and small, including merchandising at Macys.com, joining as fifth employee at startup ClearSlide and exiting at 250 employees, running North America advertising at Polycom and consulting on marketing strategy at Google. A fifth generation Californian, she enjoys traveling, sailing and hiking in her life outside the office.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I have always been fascinated with how products and brands appeal to consumers. A lot of times products are not that different feature wise, but savvy marketing can create the allure for a consumer to want to go out and buy it now. Why do people feel compelled to go out and buy the latest and greatest new gadget or gizmo? The answer is great marketing that understands the consumers needs and wants and shows them how and why this is going to improve their life.

I, like so many young girls growing up, was obsessed with Barbie. Why? She had limitless fashion options, bouncy shiny hair and got to roll around in a cool car. This appealed to a lifestyle I thought I wanted at even a young age. As I grew older, this led me to ponder why some brands seem timeless and others disappear? Marketing is ever changing and for a brand to stay relevant they must adjust to the ever-changing times. Throughout my career in marketing I’ve always kept asking these questions and putting myself in the customer’s shoes — How are they feeling? What are they seeking? Why are they considering your brand? I have worked with both consumer and B2B brands and the one thing that never changes is that the customers are always people first.

Since graduating college with a degree in marketing and finance, I immediately jumped into the marketing world and have stayed there ever since. One interesting detail from my years in marketing (specifically in user acquisition) is that my finance schooling came in handier than my marketing education. As the world has become more digital it is important to be a data driven marketer. I’m increasingly able to flex my finance skills so that I am staying on top of trends and understanding consumer behavior. I was drawn to user acquisition marketing in particular because it excites me with the ever-growing methods to reach customers. There is always some new platform, media channel or data set to adjust how brands interact with consumers.

I joined Ingenio about four years ago because I was looking for a consumer-focused brand that could make a positive impact on people’s lives. The company and team are extremely supportive of my career growth and leadership development. Over the past four years, I’ve earned four promotions and helped to grow the marketing team to where it is today. It is extremely fulfilling to continue to do the type of marketing I love, while leading and coaching the next generation of marketers.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your role at Ingenio?

We operate several brands and one of our main brands, Keen.com, is tailored towards intuitive advice, so customers can communicate with psychics, tarot readers, astrologers, relationship specialists, spiritual guides, mediums and beyond. I have spoken to several of the advisors and it has been wonderful to learn all their stories. Some have had their gifts since early childhood while others have honed their intuitive skills over time. There are advisors from all over the world with different skill sets and education, some even have PhDs. It has been fulfilling to see the bonds advisors have created with customers in the long term. The advisors support customers through low points in their lives and encourage them during high points to soar.

The Keen.com platform is an online marketplace for giving and receiving advice where advisors communicate with customers over the phone or via chat. Often these relationships can span many years without an advisor ever meeting a longtime customer in person. With the permission of both the customer and the advisor, we were able to create a really unique experience and flew advisor and customer to our San Francisco headquarters where they spent the whole, entire day together. It was truly a once in a lifetime experience and I was so happy to have been a part of it!

They were also kind enough to share their story in a live Q&A session with our entire company. It was amazing to see them connect in person after having six plus years of online communication. It is the moments like those that show the power of our brand and our community.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When I first joined Ingenio, I had several years of marketing best practices under my belt, so I was ready to immediately jump in. Right away, I identified some low-hanging fruit to help improve the metrics. At several companies I had previously worked, implementing a “chat with a customer service representative now” while the consumer was on the website considering their purchase really helped move customers to the next stage in the process. This seemed like a no-brainer for Keen.com too. The team encouraged me to run it as a test and I took their advice. What I did not anticipate were the results.

I thought the test was going to be 100% successful, but it really turned out to be a facepalm moment. The test was a total bomb. I didn’t understand our customer base enough before jumping in. When customers came to our site and saw the chat pop-up window, they interpreted it as the way to get started chatting with an advisor. The majority of the questions were extremely personal — What is going to happen to me this weekend? What should I do about my boyfriend I think is cheating on me? How is Mercury in retrograde going to impact my month? Needless to say, lesson learned. Take the advice and feedback from those around you regardless of your level of experience. There is always something new to learn and, in my case, it was that you should always test before making assumptions.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Honestly, the people. I feel like being ‘nice’ is an underrated quality in the corporate world, but it goes a long way. We spend so much of our time at work that we should really enjoy being there. I am inspired everyday by the people I work with and the gifts they have to share.

Often as a leader, we put the needs of others above ourselves. It can, at times, feel lonely and isolating when confronted with big challenges or tough decisions. At Ingenio, I have never felt on that island alone. This is especially true, given the current climate of Covid-19 and having to quarantine. I check in with my team frequently to see how they are feeling and if there is anything else, I can do to support them. It is great when one of them asks how I am doing as well. It’s such a simple question but makes all the difference.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

At Ingenio, we are always working on new ways for advisors and customers to form better bonds. There are a few things in the works right now and coming soon. While we are working at home, I believe it is giving us a better perspective on how advisors and customers would like to engage without seeing each other in real life. This is a struggle we all are dealing with right now considering ‘social distancing’ is now the norm. This will help people feel connected even while we are all remote and staying in our homes.

On a personal note, I have been taking this extra time at home to learn more about the importance of sleep and its impact on anxiety. There are so many great books and resources out there and I would like to come up with a way to make it more digestible for all. If everyone was able to get enough sleep each night this would amplify their other wellness practices and help mitigate anxiety.

What advice would you give to other female thought-leaders or experts to help their team to thrive?

Stay true to who you are and do not underestimate the qualities that make women unique as leaders. Lean into your feminine and vulnerability to show your true authentic self to your team. This is going to capture the attention and loyalty of your team and allow them to thrive in an open and welcoming environment where they too can be 100% themselves.

What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a team, large or small?

Trust is the foundation of managing a team big or small. When issues or challenges arise remember that we are all part of the problem and all part of the solution. We are all in this together and that means giving people the benefit of the doubt. It can be easy to jump to conclusions, perhaps thinking someone is ‘not working hard enough”, but in reality, they are having a personal issue and they are doing their best given the circumstances. Manage your team with compassion by being a human first and a manager second.

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?

My mom has always been one of my biggest supporters. I am grateful that she has always been supportive of me and allowed me to make my own choices. She is not there to judge, but to provide guidance and reassurance to me on my journey. I am successful today because my mom was my first teacher and taught me how to be kind and compassionate first and then good things would follow. She used to tell me and still does that ‘being kind doesn’t cost a thing’. This has been valuable as I have moved through the corporate world treating the intern to the CEO with the kindness which I would want to be treated.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I have been very fortunate in my career and in my personal time I enjoy giving back to the community in which I live. San Francisco has a large homeless population, so I like to make brown bag lunches or help prep meals for those in need at Glide Memorial or volunteer at the SF-Marin Food Bank to package up food for those that are less fortunate. We are all part of a global community and the goodness can start right in our own backyard.

What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

1. Tailor Your Management Style — you need to modify your management style based off of the situation and the individual. A “one size fits all” approach does not work when everyone is unique.

2. Stay True to Yourself — never compromise your values or ideas to make someone comfortable. Show up as your authentic self everyday and people will trust you.

3. Lift Others Up on Your Journey — this is especially true for women in the corporate world but applies to all. If you’ve been fortunate enough to rise to the top, take the time to meet with others and help them achieve their dreams.

4. Have Fun — so often we get caught up in the day to day and forget to experience the joy and fun in life. Make sure to have fun with your team and outside the office too.

5. Have a Mentor & Be a Mentor — I am so thankful for the mentors I have had over the years and also take the time to meet with other young women who are interested in marketing and how they can grow their careers.

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

An issue I have struggled with my whole life has been anxiety. In the past couple of years, I have found practices and methods to overcome anxiety when it becomes all consuming. I would love to inspire a movement to bring more awareness to anxiety and the ways to overcome it. Often people suffer quietly thinking “this is just how I am always going to feel” and I’m here to say it can get better. I would love to partner with people on this to make it a reality.

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

‘Be the change you wish to see in the world’ — Gandhi

Often, we look to other people or external circumstances to change our lives, when in actuality we need to look within and start there in order to help transform the world around us. I have been on a personal journey for the past year and this has been extremely pertinent and a great reminder to stay the course.

Some of the biggest 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? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

I would love to sit-down with Sara Blakely, Founder and CEO of Spanx. She is such an inspiring female leader, entrepreneur and philanthropist. Her Neiman Marcus story to launch Spanx is iconic and she has great positive energy.

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