“Continue to evolve and grow in new ways” With Tyler Gallagher & Hannah Dixon

Two things give me a huge sense of pride. Firstly, watching the people I’ve mentored or worked with flourish professionally. Secondly, seeing brands I’ve worked on continue to evolve and grow in new ways. As a part of my series about the strategies that extremely busy and successful leaders use to juggle, balance and integrate […]

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Two things give me a huge sense of pride. Firstly, watching the people I’ve mentored or worked with flourish professionally. Secondly, seeing brands I’ve worked on continue to evolve and grow in new ways.

As a part of my series about the strategies that extremely busy and successful leaders use to juggle, balance and integrate their personal lives and business lives, I had the pleasure of interviewing Hannah Dixon. Hannah is the Marketing Director at Davines, an Italian sustainable beauty company sold in over 95 countries and over 5000 salons in the US and Canada. Before moving to New York in 2017, Hannah spent most of her career in London working across multiple categories for large consumer goods companies such as Nestle, Pernod Ricard and Unilever before focusing in on beauty and professional haircare and skin care specifically

Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?

I grew up in Cheshire near Manchester, an affluent suburban area in the UK, known for its footballer’s wives, before moving to London to study Geography at University College London. I found it very difficult to decide between English, History and Geography as a degree subject — but ultimately was swayed by the prospect of field trips since I love travelling. At 17, I didn’t have a clear idea on my career path, so I followed subjects I was passionate about.

Graduating during the recession, when it was difficult to walk into a graduate job, I took the time to road-test different roles, taking internships at a variety of advertising agencies and law firms (and did a lot of travelling). I knew that I was passionate about brands and intrigued by consumer behaviour and understanding why people act the way they do. I eventually landed the perfect job as a fresh-faced 22 year old in London working on Malibu. This dream role got me hooked on Marketing. I joined the Nestle Graduate Scheme (after sneaking in more traveling) and ended up working on Purina’s market leading dry dog food brand Bakers where I worked in Marketing and did a short stint in Sales working with Asda (Walmart). I followed an old client across to a role on Bed Head, working at TIGI — Unilever’s professional hair care portfolio, covering Marketing for Western Europe. This was my first taste of marketing in beauty industry and I loved that my consumer was now a young woman and I could focus on more digital and innovative marketing campaigns. My last role before moving to the US was Marketing Manager at Aveda (part of Estee Lauder Companies) and I stayed within the sustainable professional haircare market when I took my current role in New York as Marketing Director for Davines.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

One of the funniest moments was when people started calling the customer care line at Nestle Purina to complain that their dogs were running at their TV screens and in some cases they claimed their dogs had broken them! We’d just run a PR campaign around the world’s first TV advert for dogs, which used high-pitched noises to attract dogs — and it went viral for a few days and some pet owners obviously didn’t appreciate it! I’ll also never forget one of the regular office dogs at Purina subtly peeing on one of the management teams laptops … we all kept quiet.

What was your biggest challenge to date either personally or professionally and how did you overcome it?

I was keen to move to the US for several years. I’m a very honest and direct person, so working abroad was something I always discussed with managers. I had a career development plan, with a few potential career paths mapped out over the next 5–10 years, but working abroad took years of persistence — it felt like nothing lucky ever happened to me, and certainly no opportunities landed on my plate. I tried to move abroad with 3 of my employers in the UK and faced challenges such as seniority, needing to work in Europe first, corporate restructures, or there being no roles available. I met with dozens of people in HR and different departments to try to secure new roles and a big frustration was actually lining up a Maternity role transfer in the US only to have the move blocked by senior management who didn’t want to lose me. I firmly believe that you should support people’s development and help them to achieve their goals — even if that’s outside of your company or means more work for you to hire and train a replacement. Persistence and a focus on your goals will get you there in the end — I didn’t take no from one company as an answer.

What does leadership mean to you and how do you best inspire others to lead?

Leadership to me is about leading by example, showing you’re willing to do the grunt work and being yourself. I care deeply about people’s careers and want to help them work out where they want to go and how they can grow or learn new skills in their current role to help them in the future. I try to be as much myself at work as I am outside of work, even though it can be hard to build the same relationships when you’re managing someone. It is also about trusting your team and letting them know you don’t have all the answers — but hopefully by asking questions you can support them in working through the best solutions. I always try to make sure there are some fun team events — they’re great for building team morale and creating a culture where people like to hang out together outside of work over a drink. It’s nice to know what’s going on in the lives of the people you spend so much time with, and work wise I think it makes for stronger working relationships which are more productive.

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?

My parents definitely taught me the importance of hard work and determination and have always supported me. They continue to listen to my work dilemmas — we love a classic pros and cons list for helping with difficult career decisions. I think I’m driven towards my ultimate goal of setting up my own brand by my desire to support my family in the future along with my passion for new ideas and solving problems I see in the world. My partner in crime, my husband, is my daily supporter and we’re both honest with each other. He’s more of a rational thinker than me, so when I get carried away with new ideas or frustrated only a few months into a role — he brings a more considered perspective and helps me understand the other point of view. He knows how much I love a pros and cons list and is always a champion of my career and reaching for new opportunities and adventures.

Was it difficult to fit your life into your business/career and how did you do that?

I’ve always prioritized friends and family and I don’t think I’ve struggled to make that work alongside my career. The hardest time was definitely when I had a long commute (90 mins each way minimum) and my gym time definitely slipped, but I still found ways to see friends — for example, arranging to meet in easier locations or joining people a bit later into the evening. My friends laugh that I still use a paper diary or at how far in advance I plan catch ups. I’m a very visual person and I like to plan out my social time to make sure I get to see friends and squeeze in travel (even if I’m last minute in most other respects!)

Did you find that as your success grew it became more difficult to focus on the other areas of your life?

The more senior you get in your career, the more you become aware of how precious your time is and the more I’ve personally learnt to ‘box’ my time. When I’m passionate about a brand, I think about it all the time (including in my dreams), so ensuring I separate work from home is really important to me. When you’re fresh-faced and eager to prove yourself, and once you have some responsibility, it’s easy to work long hours and that can quickly spiral and impact your relationships and life. I also think it takes experience to manage your time and it is a skill that you have to learn. I’ve definitely got more productive over time. I’m not a morning person, but I try to get in early to get through my emails while I’m still waking up, look through and add to my to-do list, prioritize my day and week and then I box out time to get work done. I often under-estimate how long tasks will take, but when I need to focus, I set my phone timer for 30 minutes, pop on my favourite playlist and zone in.

Can you share five pieces of advice to other leaders about how to achieve the best balance between work and personal life?

Moving abroad and away from friends has shown me how much more productive I can be with my evenings and weekends. It forces you out of your comfort zone and daily life, so you take stock and fill your time with activities or work you’re passionate about. Whether you move or not, taking stock to reflect on how you’re maximizing your personal life is a great way to bring balance into a rut when work might be taking over.

Plan your social life and exercise routine in advance (I also plan when I’ll wash my hair…) I hate cancelling on friends or being late, so I find it gives me more motivation to get work done on time during the day and get out on time for your evening plans. Booking and paying for classes is also a great way to hold yourself accountable to attending.

Remember that you manage your own calendar. Your time is precious, don’t let your week get filled with meetings you don’t need to be at. Don’t be afraid to decline meetings, let your team attend and de-brief you, or suggest quicker phone calls or alternatives to lengthy discussions. Once you have time blocked for the big tasks, try setting a timer on your phone for 30 minutes and see how much you can get done. Find a quiet meeting room, work from home or put on a playlist you can zone out to.

Always have holidays/vacations to look forward to and encourage your team to use all their holiday

Have a cc inbox rule for all emails you’re cc’d you and turn off notifications on your laptop and phone. It stops you getting distracted in meetings / personal time and if you have time boxed to check your inbox frequently you don’t miss things and you’re more productive — the mind can’t actually multitask, so staying focused on one thing at a time is much quicker than switching between multiple things.

What gives you the greatest sense of accomplishment and pride.

Two things give me a huge sense of pride. Firstly, watching the people I’ve mentored or worked with flourish professionally. Secondly, seeing brands I’ve worked on continue to evolve and grow in new ways.

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. 🙂

Multi-use spaces which encourage local community. In the past (and the present for many), meeting at Church was a way communities were built and people could connect and support each other. I’d love to see more ‘third spaces’ beyond just coffee shops or co-working spaces, where communities can work, exercise, volunteer, connect and make a difference. Co-working communities can be incredible places for so many professional people, but these spaces don’t exist everywhere and they can also exclude a lot of society (such as people with disabilities or those who are retired). Our society could continue to move towards lots of different micro/mini communities (spaces for women, spaces for entrepreneurs, spaces for small businesses, spaces for the affluent etc) but we could also look at connecting all these different spaces or building ones which can welcome more diverse conversations in communities in a modern way.

What is the best way for people to connect with you on social media?


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