Adam: Thanks again for taking the time to share your advice. First things first, though, I am sure readers would love to learn more about you. How did you get here?
Traci: I’ve been interested in fashion since I was a young girl, but I also loved data (I was a math athlete in high school!). I’ve built my career using data and technology to better understand and improve the shopping experience and the end product itself. I cut my teeth as a data analyst at fashion brands and worked my way up through the Brand Marketing and CRM route across various national retailers. Applying my data-orientation to my love of fashion has been a pretty powerful combination here at TechStyle – it’s the perfect marriage of the two.
Adam: What failures, setbacks or challenges have been most instrumental to your growth?
Traci: A lot of naysayers have fueled my ambition, and my ambition fueled me to be curious, innovative, and hard-working. In terms of projects that haven’t worked out, I have a strong appetite for testing, so I’ve seen as many failures as wins – I like to quote Thomas Edison when we have a test that doesn’t win – “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”- you have to just keep going after it.
Adam: In your experience, what are the defining qualities of an effective leader? How can leaders and aspiring leaders take their leadership skills to the next level?
Traci: When it comes to the leaders on my team, I equally value functional expertise and leadership skills. Functional skills are easier to assess than leadership skills, but it’s the latter that can have a much bigger impact on a team. Having leaders in place that bring out the best in their people is important to me. I try to foster an environment where people feel safe to challenge ideas and bring new ways of approaching a problem.
Adam: What are your three best tips applicable to an audience of entrepreneurs, executives and civic leaders?
Traci: I’m going to give you 5. I know, my Type-A overachiever is showing…
a. Assume positive intent. A lot of workplace (or social group) conflict is bred from someone reading text on a screen and assuming an emotion was connected to it that may not have ever been. If you assume negative intent, you may read something into it that wasn’t there and then respond with a nastygram that wasn’t warranted.
b. Always know where you want to be in 5 years and figure out what you need to learn, accomplish, or change in order to get there. Take a course, volunteer to take a new project at work, ask to have coffee with a senior exec in that area – whatever you do, don’t sit there waiting for it to fall into your lap (spoiler alert: that isn’t going to happen).
c. Be your own champion. A mentor along the way told me to always have a plan for what to say to various senior management members if you run into them at the water cooler. Run into the CFO? Share the big news that you came in under budget on the big project. Run into the CEO? Share that your latest launch is beating plan. Keep a running list in your head for those moments of opportunity to subtly and organically champion your wins.
d. Listen to your customers. This is the key to a successful business in ANY industry. In my past, we spent a lot of time in the stores talking to customers. At JustFab & Shoedazzle, we don’t have stores so we started having dinner with our customers – once a month we invite them to the office to hang out with us and tell us what we could do better. I can attribute millions in revenue from ideas that have come from those dinners… actually one idea is now driving nearly $20M annually now.
e. Always go beyond. When I was growing up, my dad used to always challenge me with “Have you done everything you could do? Can you think of one more thing you could do to achieve your goal?” So think of that one thing, and then do it. J
Adam: What is the best piece of advice you ever received?
Traci: Assume positive intent
Adam: How do you pay it forward?
Traci: I mentor a handful of men and women and it’s pretty awesome to see them grow and benefit from it.
Adam: What are your hobbies and how have they shaped you?
Traci: Well, if I’m being totally honest it’s probably shopping. But, I also spend a lot of time hiking. I’m heading to Peru in September to backpack across the Inca trail and see Machu Piccu.