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Women of the C-Suite: “Adults can use their generative years to define and pursue purpose” With Jeannette McClennan

Rather than preparing for a quiet retirement, adults are using their generative years, now extended, to define and pursue purpose in their…


Rather than preparing for a quiet retirement, adults are using their generative years, now extended, to define and pursue purpose in their lives. They want to reach higher, explore their passions, make an impact, leave a legacy. The time is now: individuals are coming to understand this cultural and demographic shift, and companies are working hard to adapt, to stay relevant. I believe that by harnessing the power of digital, we can create a framework that helps people navigate these changes. My personal resolution is, to help fight hunger around the world, starting in Brazil through Rangri, the startup I super-advise.


I had the pleasure of interviewing Jeannette McClennan — a digital technology executive who has held C-level positions at five companies — has spent her career defining and developing innovative digital products and services essential to revenue attainment and business growth. She led sales and marketing at MapQuest, which became a leader in travel and destination planning; transformed Reuters into a strategic partner able to support the creation of the Fox News Network; established Organic as an e-commerce leader delivering excellence in shopping experiences for Tommy Hilfiger, Zagat, Microsoft/Corbis, Sting/Compaq, and Garnet Hill; transformed Ogilvy Interactive’s competencies to serve IBM, American Express and others as Ogilvy’s first digital marketing president in North America; built Local Matters into a local search leader; spearheaded Daily Makeover’s breakthrough in facial recognition “try-on” technology; and developed Life Reimagined for AARP to help people manage life transitions. She’s currently delivering product and marketing strategy for Holiday Retirement’s newly minted startup, Milo, and is the co-author of the new book Innovators Anonymous: Seven Steps to Get Your Product Off the Ground.

Thank you for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I was lucky that my parents always appreciated my spunk and curious spirit: growing up in New York, I was a dancer at the Eglevsky Ballet School and also the only female in my school’s robotics club. Truth is, it was pointless for them to make me conform to stereotypical gender roles. So whereas women have always been largely excluded from helping advance technology and our future, I realized that I had a way in: consumer insights that helped increase the likelihood of product and business success, and that really spoke to startup management teams and their venture backers. This tactic served me well in opening doors and further advancing my career.

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

Focus on the process is what makes us stand out. We’ve devised a way to intertwine the foundations of a solid business plan with the mechanics of creating a digital product — because what is one without the other? If there’s no revenue, everything comes to a halt. If there’s no process, there’s no path. Our value prop fills that void. It is understandable that most established corporations (having spent many years developing highly profitable businesses) would hesitate to take risks that could “rock the boat” or damage their brand.

We recently arrived at the midtown offices of a major corporation to discuss ways to get their startup unstuck. As often is the case, paralysis: the team didn’t know where to start, and was eager to jump into “coding mode”. Instead, we focused our time on laying the foundation that would support rapid innovation. And that entailed getting the entire team to buy into a new way of working, one that would give us permission to run agile experiments. The permission to experiment was key. Even naysayers figured, “yes, that’s our best bet — let’s give it a shot”. The culture had started to shift.


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

The work we do for our clients we also do for ourselves with our own start-up, Rangri, a food-delivery platform in Brazil, which is run locally. What makes Rangri (pronounced “hungry” in Portuguese) unique is that it satisfies and fights hunger at the same time, as a portion of every order goes to either UNICEF or the Brazilian Association of Organic Agriculture. Rangri’s users, who tend to be young, urban, middle and upper class, pay only the cost of food and delivery. Revenue is generated from participating restaurants, which pay a 10% fee for each order, including food, taxes and delivery.

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

Building a culture that, at its foundation, encourages experimentation and fosters curious minds to think independently is the most important piece of advice I can give. If that is not quite what you want, take the time to define your culture for yourself. And, it starts with you: the way you behave and interact all day long must reinforce the culture you choose to create. If hospitality is your business, make sure coffee is made available in the shared kitchen area. Silly example, I know — the point is, once you have defined it, you have to be it every day.

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 Aunt Joyce. She was a high school librarian in New Jersey and my mother’s sister and best friend. She loved being an educator and was an avid reader. Every christmas and birthday, she would package up book selections for each of us. She observed that I was clearly the curious one, so my book selections from my Aunt became completely customized to me. I just loved it! While my sisters got fiction books, my book collection comprised of human body, universe, robotics reads and so on. It was really fantastic and I so appreciated the time she took to think about what would excite me. To this day, I am proud to say I have Charles Darwin The Origin of Species on my shelf.

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

I am fortunate to afford the luxury of choosing whom I collaborate with. I choose projects strictly on the basis of the positive impact they promise. For that and other reasons, Rangri is at the top of our list — fighting hunger while making profit is extremely rewarding to me.

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. 🙂

A movement around what we call the “New Life Stage” — a period of transition and change unprecedented in previous generations. Rather than preparing for a quiet retirement, adults are using their generative years, now extended, to define and pursue purpose in their lives. They want to reach higher, explore their passions, make an impact, leave a legacy. The time is now: individuals are coming to understand this cultural and demographic shift, and companies are working hard to adapt, to stay relevant. I believe that by harnessing the power of digital, we can create a framework that helps people navigate these changes. My personal resolution is, to help fight hunger around the world, starting in Brazil through Rangri, the startup I super-advise.


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

On Innovators Anonymous, the book I co-authored with Flavio Masson, we collected quotes that resonated with the ups-and-downs of startup life. My personal favorite is by John Fritz, who famously said, “All Right, boys, let’s start her up and see why she doesn’t work.” I love it because it speaks of the chaos of innovation and one’s willingness to stick with it even when it feels hard. This has been my life’s motto which I proudly passed along to my three sons: life is messy. It’s all about what you choose to do with it.

Originally published at medium.com

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