29 Powerful Women Reveal Their Success Secrets, Leadership Tips & The Awful Advice They Didn't Take

This week leaders in advertising and media descend on Cologne, Germany for the annual Dmexco conference. Ahead of the event, we sat down to profile 29 female managers from marketing, media, and tech to preview the priceless advice and stories they will be sharing on stage this year. Enjoy!
Earlier this year, the percentage of women running companies in the Fortune 500 reached an all-time high, and the share of women sitting on their boards nearly doubled. For millennial women, who grew up being told we were born to lead, the idea of gender equality in the workplace has always been a given. We’ve seen women overtake men on college campuses. We’ve watched the wage gap narrow. We’ve witnessed countless women across the world own their power, take on executive- and senior-level roles, and build empires. Thanks to pioneering Baby Boomers who paved the way and reached out to the Gen Xers following them, our potential has always felt limitless — as long as we’re willing to put in the hard work.
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To help inspire the next generation to continue chipping away at the glass ceiling, we’re highlighting 29 influential women who are true champions of female leadership. Shattering stereotypes in the boardroom and innovating in ways that were previously unimaginable, these women are writing their own rules for success, challenging workplace conventions, and owning their individuality — and they are all speakers at Dmexco. Read on as they share their surprising histories, their proudest moments, and the best and worst advice they’ve ever received.
1 of 29
Demet Mutlu
Founder & CEO of Trendyol

Launching your own business takes passion, hard work, and persistence, but it all starts with a gut feeling and a great idea. After realizing the potential of launching a fashion e-commerce company in Turkey, Demet Mutlu dropped out of Harvard Business School to pursue her entrepreneurial dreams. Now at the helm of Turkey’s biggest fashion e-commerce site, she’s committed to helping others achieve their dreams by investing in her employees' professional growth and advocating for their success.

What is the best advice you have given another woman in 2017?
“I think one of the biggest female barriers is the ‘perfection issue.’ Most women feel they need to be perfect. We are afraid to fail, and this is the biggest mistake. My advice to women is: Do not be afraid to make mistakes, fail, and learn from your mistakes.”

It takes a lot more than hard work and dedication along the way to claim your power. In hindsight, what advice would you give your 22-year-old self?
“When I was young, I was focusing on being perfect: perfect GPA, perfect internship, perfect hair, perfect dress. But perfect is the enemy of good enough. You should focus on always improving; you don’t have to be perfect.”

Bad advice is worse than none at all. What was the worst advice you have ever gotten?
“I really do not remember these kind of things. If it is bad advice, I move on.”

Not every ambition turns into a result. It is sometimes hard to accept that. When did you fail and how did you overcome it?
“First of all, I accept mistakes and failures, and I really treat them as learning opportunities. One of the biggest failures I had was during startup phase. I was working 18-20 hours in a day, damaged my health, and developed insulin resistance. I overcame it by talking with my mentors and taking their feedback seriously. You should always be open to feedback. I am surrounded by people who are not just part of the board of directors in my team, but also in my life. I ask them a lot about what I do well, and what I do poorly, and take their feedback seriously. This is very important to build that circle of trust.”

Can you tell us about the last time you were proud of yourself?
“I’m most proud of myself when I see my team is growing. There are people who’ve been at Trendyol for almost five years now, managing huge accounts and large teams. Most of the time when I am proud of myself it’s when I see the impact I’ve made on them and see them growing, doing things better than me. There are many instances which I say I could not do better than them, which is a great feeling.”
2 of 29
Bozoma Saint John
CBO at Uber

Forced to flee her native home in Ghana and seek political asylum in the U.S. at just 5 years old, Bozoma Saint John is no stranger to confronting impossible situations with a badass attitude. An embodiment of the American Dream, she’s shaped her destiny through hard work, resilience, and a forceful creative personality. After a long, successful career in the music industry (holding executive positions at iTunes, Apple Music, and Beats Music), she was appointed as Uber’s first-ever Chief Brand Officer in June.

What is the best advice you have given another woman in 2017?
“Listen to critics.  They may tell you truths that your fans will not.  But take all feedback, from critics and fans alike, with a grain of salt.”

It takes a lot more than hard work and dedication along the way to claim your power. In hindsight, what advice would you give your 22-year-old self?
“I would tell my 22-year-old self… ‘You've got it, girl! Don't worry so much!’ That's because I would stress myself out about all the possibilities of any decision that needed to be made, and could be rendered immobile because of it. When I started going with my gut and threw out all of the pros and cons lists, I made better decisions that fit my life.”

Bad advice is worse than none at all. What was the worst advice you’ve ever gotten?
“When I was told ‘never wear red lipstick or red nail polish to the office; it's too bold’ — not just because of the superficiality of the advice, but because it made me question how bold I could be in the office. It made me wonder if my voice was too loud and my personality too big.  What a mistake it would've been if I'd taken that advice and quieted myself. I would've made no dynamic contributions at all.”

Not every ambition turns into a result. It is sometimes hard to accept that. When did you fail and how did you overcome it?
“I fail a lot — in small ways and in big ways.  But if I don't fail, I know that I'm not pushing far enough.  So every time I go for too long without stepping in some shit, I push a little further. There's nothing like some caca on my stiletto to let me know that I need to step up my game.”

Can you tell us about the last time you were proud of yourself?
“On my daughter's first day of third grade this year, I was really happy to be able to take her to school and get her settled. But, I also felt guilty because some of the parents were going to stay for the whole day and help out in the classroom. I couldn't because I had make a mad dash to the airport to catch a flight for important meetings. While I was taking out her school supplies and arranging her desk, I overheard her talking to her classmates about their activities that day, and she was telling her friends why I wasn't going to be there. She was so proud of me, and my heart nearly burst with pride at the sound of it. I'm proud that I'm able to be an example for my daughter, and that she finds me worthy to brag about.”
3 of 29
Sabine Eckhardt
Member of the Executive Board & CCO at ProSiebenSat.1 Media

Sabine Eckhardt isn’t just okay with change; she revels in it, viewing it as an opportunity. Working in various leadership roles at ProSiebenSat.1 Media since 2004, Eckhardt is currently the company’s Chief Commercial Officer. She is responsible for the group’s content monetization, primarily focusing on new advertising products and innovation in that space — which is where her passion for emerging technology comes in quite handy.

What is the best advice you have given another woman in 2017?
“Always be ready for change, and see it as an opportunity at all times! Organizations need to reinvent themselves constantly and adjust their business models accordingly. For that, agile people are needed. Be that person!”

It takes a lot more than hard work and dedication along the way to claim your power. In hindsight, what advice would you give your 22-year-old self?
“Break the rules, but don’t do it at all costs. Be courageous and take risks. Embrace unknown territory.”

Bad advice is worse than none at all. What was the worst advice you’ve ever gotten?
“‘Be careful with new technologies!’ People are afraid of things they cannot fully comprehend, like technology. In the ‘80s it was computers, today it’s artificial intelligence. Don’t be blinded by every hype, but don’t be scared either. Instead, look for the opportunities it provides.”

Not every ambition turns into a result. It is sometimes hard to accept that. When did you fail and how did you overcome it?
I have failed quite a few times, but luckily I noticed my mistakes earlier than others. I reflected on my own thinking, corrected wrong assumptions, adjusted, and started over. I believe that mistakes are a great thing, how else can you truly learn? Never trust people who claim they have never made mistakes — and always strive for self-reflection.”

Can you tell us about the last time you were proud of yourself?
“I am not sure if ‘proud’ would be the right term. But I am always happy to see my employees excel — seeing us achieve goals together that seemed unattainable. To work with an energetic, loyal, and passionate team is very rewarding for me.”
4 of 29
Aline Santos 
Global EVP Marketing and Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Unilever

First joining Unilever in 1989 as a marketing trainee, Aline Santos has tirelessly climbed the ranks to her current role as Global EVP of Marketing — and made a major impact each step of the way. Santos leads the global diversity and inclusion initiative within Unilever and works passionately with her team to banish all negative stereotypes from its advertising.

What is the best advice you have given another woman in 2017?
“I always tell other women it’s important to be themselves. We are all strong and talented people who have worked hard to get where we are. You don’t need to become ‘one of the men’ to succeed.”

It takes a lot more than hard work and dedication along the way to claim your power. In hindsight, what advice would you give your 22-year-old self?
“It is vital to keep top of mind that work is not the most important thing, and the people that you go home to are. So if I was to do anything differently, it would be to find more balance between work and home. I should have slowed down more while I was pregnant with my first son. You should not feel guilty for going on maternity leave. You shouldn’t work twice as hard before you leave. Enjoy your pregnancy; don’t leave the office just one day before going into labor.

“But, for the most part, I do think that you need to have the experiences that you do, both the good and the bad. The trying times are truly when we learn the most and when we become who we are destined to be. So, unfortunately for my 22-year-old self — they all need to be lived through!”

Bad advice is worse than none at all. What was the worst advice you have ever gotten?
“‘Don’t ever be publicly more successful than your husband.’ Rubbish. If you are going to engage in a relationship you need to find the right partner. Your partner will have a lot of influence in your professional life. Some partners can be like a trampoline to your life; others can be like an anchor. You should surround yourself with positive people. People who want you to achieve your full potential and who will be proud of you — especially in public!”

Not every ambition turns into a result. It is sometimes hard to accept that. When did you fail and how did you overcome it?
“I think this all comes back to mindset. I am naturally a positive person and I truly believe that success is just a matter of time. I don’t see failures. I just see projects that need more time to succeed — some need a lot!“

Can you tell us about the last time you were proud of yourself?
“What I am most proud of is #Unstereotype — Unilever’s commitment to banish negative stereotypes from our advertising. Our Unilever research showed that only 3% of ads show women as leaders, 2% show them as intelligent, and only 1% show them as funny. I don’t need to say these are terrible statistics and don’t reflect me or any of the women I work with.

“The power of advertising is undeniable, and while gender identity has progressed and changed, the way it is portrayed in advertising has not. Advertising needs to use its power for good and lead the gender revolution, showing people as they really are and empowering all to embrace their unique attributes.”
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5 of 29
Melanie Mohr
Founder and CEO at YEAY

With more than 20 years of experience producing and telling stories through video under her belt, Melanie Mohr combined her love of shopping with her digital background to create a business all her own: YEAY, the company she founded to redefine mobile commerce for Generation Z,  helps brands build a more engaged and collaborative relationship with a younger audience.

What is the best advice you have given another woman in 2017?
“I tell women that we need to stop talking about the challenges of being women in business and keep the conversation on being in business. I absolutely think that women should come together to empower one another and to provide a support network, but we can do that by exchanging knowledge and strategies, not by wasting energy, or time, on the struggles or the barriers.”

It takes a lot more than hard work and dedication along the way to claim your power. In hindsight, what advice would you give your 22-year-old self?
“I am not someone who lives with regret because I take complete ownership of my decisions. And I’m happy with where they have taken me in life. I started my family at 23, and went on to have three kids and a career in TV production before building my own businesses. I never felt that starting a family would compromise my chance of a career, or that following my career would mean I couldn’t build a strong and loving relationship with my family. So if anything, my advice to my 22-year-old self would be to take strength in the knowledge that always listening to and trusting yourself will pay off.”

Bad advice is worse than none at all. What was the worst advice you were ever given?
“I see all advice as ideas I can take something away from and deeply reflect on. It’s up to me to think critically about what I am told and use my instinct to sense whether it feels right or not.”

Not every ambition turns into a result. It is sometimes hard to accept that. When did you fail and how did you overcome it?
“I think it comes down to how you choose to see failure. If you accept that you are on a constant journey then the bumps that some see as failures are really just part of a long ride. It helps to be a real optimist. I owe my mum for that.”

Can you tell us about the last time you were proud of yourself?
“Honestly? I was proud this morning when I made the perfect snack for my little boy for his first day at school... As a businesswoman, it was when I received the first email from Apple expressing interest in YEAY. Knowing that they were interested and really wanted to understand my business and roadmap felt good.”
6 of 29
Rachel Levin
Creator of RCLBeauty101

Rachel Levin is the creator of RCLBeauty101, a wildly successful YouTube channel boasting 100 million views per month. Starting out as a “beauty guru,” she launched an entire genre of her own, with her personal stories and comedic chops reaching far beyond typical makeup tutorials. Her fans — known as “Levinators” — are loyal to the Gen-Z star, who at 22, is really only beginning her path to the top.

What is the best advice you have given another woman in 2017? 
“I receive comments on a daily basis about how ‘I don't know how to spend money,' or my body is ‘so disproportioned that I had to have had surgery.’ With the criticism being so harsh in my career path, the best advice that I've given to close friends and my subscribers is to just ignore the haters and delete the comments! If you're happy with what you're doing and it's not disrespectful to others, then it's no ones place to give their negative input on what you're doing.”

Bad advice is worse than none at all. What was the worst advice you have ever gotten? 
“The worst advice that I've ever gotten, which I obviously did not take, was to delete my YouTube channel. I was very shy in high school, so when everyone (including some bullies) found out about my ‘secret’ channel, they found it very weird. My friend at the time told me that I should just delete it to stop people from bullying me. After that conversation, I almost did. But then I took a step back and realized I was about to stop doing something I loved, that made me happy, because people who were always going to find something wrong with what I do, were being mean to me. I’m very proud of myself for being strong and ignoring what others had to say about it. ”

Not every ambition turns into a result. It is sometimes hard to accept that. When did you fail and how did you overcome it?
“I've never looked at things that have not worked out for me as a failure, but more so as a lesson. If you change your perspective to look at every failure that happens to you as a trial and error as opposed to an end result, then you’ll be more keen to try new things and learn from them! I like to think that’s really what life is all about .”

Can you tell us about the last time you were proud of yourself?
“I make sure to be proud of myself every day for everything that I’ve accomplished. I think it's important to allow yourself to be proud and appreciate how far you have come thus far. If you can't be proud of yourself, you can't expect others to be proud of you, so let yourself be excited for every milestone, small or big! ”
7 of 29
Marianne Bullwinkel
Country Manager D-A-CH at Snap

After an impressive 22-year career working with big name companies like Unilever, Allianz, and Adidas, Marianne Bullwinkel left the agency side to pursue her passion of media; she now serves as the country director for Snap in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, a role she previously held at Facebook.

What is the best advice you have given another woman in 2017?
“If you have been criticized and you are upset, sleep it off, then put yourself in the other person's shoes. Be brave and ask your trusted advisors for their honest, unbiased opinion. See what resonates with you — then decide what to do.”

It takes a lot more than hard work and dedication along the way to claim your power. In hindsight, what advice would you give your 22-year-old self?
“Believe in yourself. Find what you love. Don't analyze too much.”

Bad advice is worse than none at all. What was the worst advice you’ve ever gotten?
“You need to be tougher than the guys.”

Not every ambition turns into a result. It is sometimes hard to accept that. When did you fail and how did you overcome it?
“I failed many times in my career. I am an analyzer. I try to understand what went wrong and why. I ask other people for the same to even out my blind spots. Then I come up with a learning, and try to adopt it the next time. That, for me, is the most difficult part, because no two situations are the same. When I analyze, I suffer, but then I find my inner optimism and keep going.”

Can you tell us about the last time you were proud of yourself?
“I am proud I found a way to live a full life by integrating work and my private life. That was very hard for me in the past, as I always prioritized work. I am proud that I manage to focus on the moment and enjoy being with my family as much as achieving great things at work. ”
8 of 29
Katharina Borchert
Chief Innovation Officer at Mozilla

Many people have bet big on Katharina Borchert throughout her career. But when she decided to leave her position as CEO at Spiegel Online in Germany to move to Silicon Valley, she bet big on herself. The decision paid off tenfold, as she currently serves as Mozilla’s Chief Innovation Officer, driving the company’s “culture of open innovation” as well as “connecting Mozilla’s product and technology development to the global community and enabling far-ranging collaboration with external experts.”

What is the best advice you have given another woman in 2017?
“Learn to distinguish between humility and your imposter syndrome. Humility allows you to grow, be a much better leader, and build truly inclusive teams. Listening to imposter syndrome holds you back; makes you play it too safe.”

It takes a lot more than hard work and dedication along the way to claim your power. In hindsight, what advice would you give your 22-year-old self?
“I would definitely start with a good hug. Then, ‘try to relax a little, my anxious young self. I know that every decision from the classes you take to the internships you choose feels like a very fundamental decision. Like THE ONE decision to make or break your career, to determine your path in life forever. But that could not be further from the truth. A life well lived is not a straight, paved line but a winding path with the occasional detour. I saw that eye roll, but I really mean it. You don’t know what you want to be when you grow up? Great! That means you can be driven by your curiosity, and your desire to learn will take you into several different, exciting careers. You have a really long road ahead so make sure your desire to get it right doesn’t blind you to opportunities off the path. Try to enjoy the trip a little more.’”

Bad advice is worse than none at all. What is the worst advice you have ever gotten?
“I was given huge opportunities at several points in my career because people had more faith in me than I often did myself. So I decided to pay that back by betting big on others whenever possible. More often than not, people strongly advised against that. But in my experience investing in talented people and, if necessary, trusting them more than they do themselves is one of the best things you can do. Yes, the risk is higher, but the potential reward is also much, much higher.”

Not every ambition turns into a result. It is sometimes hard to accept that. When did you fail and how did you overcome it?
“It sounds trite but I really believe that failures, as painful as they often are, provide you with great learning opportunities. I have certainly learned more from my failures than my successes because failure forces you to reflect more than success does. And I appreciate the approach Silicon Valley takes: You are encouraged to embrace failure, learn from it, and ideally share your learning more broadly. One thing we are currently experimenting with on my team is a regular Friday meeting where people come together to share how they have failed either professionally or personally in the past week. This has led to remarkably open and vulnerable conversations that I really value and have learned a lot from.”

Can you tell us about the last time you were proud of yourself?
“The past 20 months have been incredibly exciting and I have learned more than I ever have thought possible in such a short time. But it has also been quite exhausting to navigate a radically different environment where I could not easily rely on my instincts. So when I recently realized how far I have come, and how much I now feel at home here in California and at Mozilla, I felt a moment of pride. And [I felt] intense gratitude for the wonderful people on my team and beyond that always had my back and had faith in me even when I didn’t.”
9 of 29
Sophie Blum
European Vice President of Marketing and Brand Building at Procter & Gamble

Working as an executive with Procter & Gamble for the past 26 years, Sophie Blum is passionate about innovation and building a better tomorrow through educating future generations. Constantly pushing boundaries, she was named one of the Top 100 Most Influential People in Switzerland in 2017 and one of the Top 50 Most Influential Business Leaders in Israel for the last six years.

What is the best advice you have given another woman in 2017?
“I would simply borrow Procter & Gamble’s latest 'Always Like a Girl' campaign theme: Try. Fail. Learn.  Keep Going.

It takes a lot more than hard work and dedication along the way to claim your power. In hindsight, what advice would you give your 22-year-old self?
“Impossible is nothing. Dream big and reach out for it. Dare to challenge boundaries; it opens the door for exponential thinking and business results.”

Bad advice is worse than none at all. What was the worst advice you’ve ever gotten?
“To hold back and always try to ‘be safe.’ Coming back from maternity leave as a young brand builder I was offered the most sought after assignment, the golden path to a successful career at P&G. At the same time, I was also offered a new opportunity in a fully unknown territory. I had to pick between my comfort zone and safety, and stretching to the exciting unknown. I chose the second, and it was one of my best professional decisions. The ride has been fascinating: the phenomenal people I met, the learnings, the skills, the capabilities. The business results have been unparalleled and despite the extreme hard work it was one of the most fulfilling business experiences. Success and fulfillment lie outside our comfort zone. It is about daring to go beyond.”

Not every ambition turns into a result. It is sometimes hard to accept that. When did you fail and how did you overcome it?
“All experiences teach us something; it’s a continuous learning process. It’s really not about dealing with failure — it is about resilience and having the mental strength and the commitment to learn from our own choices and experiences. This is how you become stronger and proficient and permanently raise the bar of your results.”

Can you tell us about the last time you were proud of yourself?
“Last week, when I promoted a brand manager. It is building an inclusive winning organization and leaving a legacy for the years to come that makes me proud. It is absolutely fascinating to enable young people to develop new cutting-edge skills and see them transform to become successful leaders and architects of the new economy.”
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10 of 29
Sheryl Sandberg
Chief Operating Officer at Facebook

Facing personal and professional setbacks on her path to success, Sheryl Sandberg never fails to inspire us with her resilience in the face of adversity. Currently the Chief Operating Officer at Facebook, and the first woman ever to be appointed to Facebook’s board of directors, her professional achievements are an equal match for her personal strength. A staunch advocate for women climbing the corporate ladder, her bestseller, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, shines a light on gender differences, and offers practical advice to help women achieve their goals.

What is the best advice you have given another woman in 2017?
“The best advice I gave another person – woman or man – this year has to do with cultivating gratitude. Two years ago, I lost my husband, Dave Goldberg. I thought that my children and I would never have another moment of pure joy again. A few months later, my friend Adam Grant, a professor of psychology, suggested that I start writing down three moments of joy every day. Of all the New Year’s resolutions I’ve ever made, this is the one I’ve kept the longest by far. Nearly every night before I go to sleep, I jot down three happy moments in my notebook. Doing this makes me notice and appreciate these flashes of joy. It’s a habit that brightens the whole day.”

It takes a lot more than hard work and dedication along the way to claim your power. In hindsight, what advice would you give your 22-year-old self?
“I would go back and tell myself, ‘don’t try to plan out your entire career.’ ‘Don’t do it at 22, and don’t do it at 32 or 42 or 52, either.’ In retrospect, it would have been especially fruitless to try to plan my whole career at age 22, because when I graduated from college Mark Zuckerberg was in elementary school. Computers were something you used in a lab. It was impossible to envision where I’ve found myself, and I think that’s true today, looking to the future, too.

"Instead, I recommend having a long-term dream and a short-term plan. I hope everyone — but especially women — will dream big. Even if the chances of achieving that dream are slim, that dream can still provide useful guidance when you’re making career decisions. We never accomplish something we don’t set out to accomplish! One way to challenge yourself is ask yourself my favorite question — What would you do if you were not afraid?”

Bad advice is worse than none at all. What was the worst advice you’ve ever gotten?
“I’ve gotten plenty of bad advice in my career. Nearly always, the person offering the advice had my best interests at heart. Some truly extraordinary mentors advised me not to take jobs at Google and Facebook, and those ended up being two of the most challenging and fulfilling roles I’ve ever had. It was my friends and Dave who encouraged me to take what turned out to be some of the most incredible opportunities I could have ever wished for. Often our peers are our best advisors.”

Not every ambition turns into a result. It is sometimes hard to accept that. When did you fail and how did you overcome it?
“One of my most painful failures was personal. After I graduated college, I moved to Washington, D.C., and I hoped to meet an eligible man while I started my career. My parents always emphasized marriage as much as they emphasized academic achievement. They thought that marrying early, before all the ‘good ones’ were taken, was wise. That seemed smart to me, so I met a great guy and got married at 24. But it turns out, I wasn’t mature enough to make that lifelong decision. By 25, I was divorced. It felt like a massive failure. For a long time, I worried that no matter what I accomplished professionally, it would always be dulled by the scarlet letter ‘D’ that I was sure was visible to everyone I met.

“Since then, I’ve learned that not all the ‘good ones’ get scooped up early (I met my husband Dave almost 10 years later). I’ve also learned that you shouldn’t let a fear of failure (something that was definitely on my mind all those years ago, looking for a husband right out of school) dictate your life decisions. At Facebook, we work to create a culture where people are encouraged to move fast, break things, and not be afraid to fail. We have posters all around the office that encourage people to take risks: ‘Fortune favors the bold.’”

Can you tell us about the last time you were proud of yourself?
“Since losing Dave, I’ve discovered that you can be really proud of yourself for the smallest thing sometimes. After Dave died, my confidence — both at work and at home — took a nosedive. Before I started listing moments of joy my friend Adam Grant (who I eventually wrote Option B with) recommended another list-making exercise: to write down three things that went well each day. At first, this felt silly — I would write things like, ‘Made tea.’ ‘Got through all of my emails.’ ‘Went to work and focused for most of one meeting.’ But there’s evidence that noticing and celebrating small wins like this really does help. It did for me.

“I ended up deciding to share what I’ve learned about facing adversity and building resilience — including tips like these — because I felt that if I could help anyone else recover or support a loved one through a tough time, then I would have found a meaningful way to honor and continue my husband’s legacy. I wrote a book called Option B, and now my foundation has started OptionB.org to carry this work forward. I’m proud of how we’re helping kick elephants out of the rooms and starting conversations about grief and adversity. I’m proud of the community we’re building online, which is already touching thousands of lives. And I’m proud of the fact that Facebook is now leading other companies toward smarter, more compassionate bereavement policies. There is so much we can do to help each other, and I’m glad to be a part of that conversation.”
11 of 29
Bessie Lee
Founder and CEO of Withinlink

Disregarding some cringeworthy advice early in her career to find a rich man to marry, Bessie Lee has always taken success into her own hands. The previous CEO of WPP China and the current founder and CEO of Withinlink, Lee is currently one of the most experienced and highly-respected individuals in China’s media industry. A proud mother and risk-taking business women, she confronts conflict head on, turning her biggest failures into triumphs.

What is the best advice you have given another woman in 2017?
”Fight for what you think is right. Bitch? You bet!”

It takes a lot more than hard work and dedication along the way to claim your power. In hindsight, what advice would you give your 22-year-old self?
“Don’t bother getting a master’s degree. Dive right into the real world and learn from real business people.”

Bad advice is worse than none at all. What was the worst advice you have ever gotten?
 “You should marry someone nice with a steady job and lots of zeros in his bank account. Then start your own little family and support your husband in his career.”

Not every ambition turns into a result. It is sometimes hard to accept that. When did you fail and how did you overcome it?
“1. My biggest failure in my career was a USD 6billion mess of mismatched financial records. It was accidentally discovered by an outgoing CFO back in 2007 when I was GroupM China CEO.

WPP had to take aUSD10 mil hit at the beginning of 2008 ahead of the two-year reconciliation work. For three months after the discovery, I woke up every morning telling myself that this would be the day WPP would send someone to fire me. It never happened. I didn’t resign too as that would not have helped resolve the crisis at all. Instead, I chose to stay on top of it and worked diligently with the new CFO and the finance team to reconcile every single record. At the end of the two-year effort, not only did we not lose money, we actually had some financial gain.”

Can you tell us about the last time you were proud of yourself?
“ 1. I was very proud when Central Saint Martin offered my 18 year old daughter a place this year, based on her art portfolio and without an interview. I am proud I am a very open-minded and unconventional mother when it comes to her education and her life, especially in a country filled with Asian Tiger moms. I always encourageher to try things even if they were not conventional or even provocative but felt were highly relevant to her, her friends and the community. My daughter’s art reflects the inspiration and life experiences she has gained as a result. I am a proud mother.”
12 of 29
Shermin Voshmgir, PhD
Founder of BlockchainHub

Self-described unicorn Dr. Shermin Voshmgir, PhD is familiar with being the only woman, immigrant, or interdisciplinary person in the room — and she has used her unique perspective, as well as her creative background in filmmaking, to her advantage throughout her career in information technology. She is the founder of BlockchainHub, an international information hub and think tank, and is on the advisory board of Estonia’s groundbreaking e-residency program.

What is the best advice you have given another woman in 2017?
“My best advice would be: ‘Don't try and fit in where you are not heard, seen, and acknowledged.’ Create your own reality. Create your own company or start your own project with the type of people you want to work with.”

It takes a lot more than hard work and dedication along the way to claim your power. In hindsight, what advice would you give your 22-year-old self?
“I let myself get distracted by the people around me who didn't understand, or even outright questioned, what I was doing or how I was pursuing things. Very often I would doubt myself — these moments of doubt made me weak and didn't allow me to enjoy what I was doing. In the end, I have been very successful because I did things differently, but I wish I would have enjoyed it more along the way. So my advice to myself would be: Trust yourself and don’t listen to the people who don't understand you. Try to find people who understand you and will help you get to where you want to be. It will be easier and more fun!”

Bad advice is worse than none at all. What was the worst advice you’ve ever gotten?
“The worst advice I ever got was from people who tried to convince me that I should play it safe rather than taking a risk; that I should follow rules rather than creating my own; that I should follow their dreams, not my own. Because of that I often lost focus, got distracted from my own path, and started jobs or got myself into situations that were not good for me. ”

Not every ambition turns into a result. It is sometimes hard to accept that. When did you fail and how did you overcome it?
“Failing is such a harsh word. Life is a path of trial and error. If we don't try, we will never know how it would have ended. My biggest regrets are all the things I didn't do or didn't say because I was afraid of what others would think of me.”

Can you tell us about the last time you were proud of yourself?
“I am proud of the variety of things that I have done in my life, from jobs and companies to all the places I lived and countries I visited, and all of those wonderful people I met along the way in spite of external and internal conflicts."
13 of 29
Danielle Lee
Global Head of Partner Solutions at Spotify

Danielle Lee — who has made it onto Business Insider’s Most Powerful Women in Mobile Advertising list twice now — credits most of her success from learning the lessons of persistence and resiliency at a very young age. An accomplished strategic marketing professional with over 15 years of experience, she has worked for some of the world’s most respected brands including Vevo, AT&T, and Showtime. Currently the Global Head of Partner Solutions at Spotify, she’s responsible for developing the company’s go-to-market strategy and growing global revenue by developing high impact content and branded experiences.

What is the best advice you have given another woman in 2017?
“Not long ago, a young woman reached out to connect over coffee after hearing me speak at an International Women's Day panel. My comments inspired her and she was looking for professional advice. She was recently promoted from a coordinator role to a project management position. A male colleague, also a project manager, was failing to respect her elevated position and repeatedly made disparaging remarks, such as, ‘why don't you get me some coffee?’  While she recognized that he was joking, the comments left her feeling uncomfortable and disrespected. She was hesitant to share her feelings with him for fear of damaging their professional relationship.

“My advice to this young woman was simple: You  owe  him this feedback. These comments are actually limiting his own career and he is likely unaware of how it is impacting you. Think of it this way: You are doing  him  a huge favor when you share very directly that his comments are inappropriate and will most certainly impact his career. This totally changed her perspective and served as an aha moment. By flipping the script and approaching her intentions as altruistic versus coming from a place of weakness, she released the fear of how her counterpart would receive her words. It was a powerful moment.”

It takes a lot more than hard work and dedication along the way to claim your power. In hindsight, what advice would you give your 22-year-old self?
“I would share three things with my 22-year-old self:

"You deserve a seat at the table.  You will be a unicorn in many situations.  Know that you are worthy.  Know that you belong.  Trust your dopeness.

"Strive for excellence, not perfection.  My Jamaican father was a huge influence in my life and he valued education above all else. If I brought home an A, he would ask, "why didn't you get an A+?" I grew up understanding that as a Black woman, excellence was required in order to be considered qualified.  As an adult, I understand perfection doesn't exist.  I would have treated myself with more grace on this journey had I understood that earlier in my career.

"Build your support system at every stage of your career.  You need mentors and sponsors early in your career, but your need for a strong support system only grows as you take on more senior roles. The politics, microaggressions and feelings of isolation you will experience will make you doubt yourself. You need a trusted board of advisors, homegirls, and faith to remain whole.“

Bad advice is worse than none at all. What was the worst advice you have ever gotten?
“‘Keep your head down and just work hard. ’ There is so much more to it. ”

Not every ambition turns into a result. It is sometimes hard to accept that. When did you fail and how did you overcome it?
“At a very young age, I was fortunate to learn the lessons of persistence and resiliency, most notably in my profound experiences in high school. I grew up in Harlem and went to New York public schools until high school, when I became an 'A Better Chance' scholar. I was accepted to Concord Academy, a private prep school in Massachusetts, and at 14 years old I made the leap to boarding school. It lacked diversity and was located in a small suburb. As a result, I experienced culture shock, racism, and homesickness. It was also the first time I struggled academically. I had always been a ‘perfect’ student and here I failed for the first time. I begged to come home; however, it was the opportunity of a lifetime and there was no way my father would allow me to squander that. So, I worked harder. I studied and studied some more. I excelled academically. I discovered new things that I enjoyed, like ballet, ice hockey, and photography. I traveled abroad and I became a stronger person.

“Any professional failure I've experienced since then doesn't compare to those four years at Concord Academy. I focus on understanding what I am meant to learn from each situation, asking myself, ‘What can I do differently next time?’ That is what will prepare me for my next opportunity.”

Can you tell us about the last time you were proud of yourself?
“Shortly after I joined Spotify, I partnered with two amazing colleagues to launch the company's first HBCU (Historically Black College or University) Summit, The Opening Act. We selected 80 HBCU students and hosted them in NYC for a two-day summit that exposed them to different careers in music, tech, and media. We conducted workshops focused on various disciplines: design, entrepreneurship, programming, and more. Industry thought leaders shared their perspectives and inspired the students to consider STEM majors and a career in tech and media. This was extremely rewarding for me, because we had a profound impact on these impressive students and I recognize the importance of giving back.   The Opening Act was so successful that we are doing it again this November.”
14 of 29
Suzanne Darmory
Executive Creative Director at Zeta

Suzanne Darmory was fired from her first two jobs, but these early setbacks never stopped her from ultimately achieving her dreams. With more than 20 years of international advertising and marketing experience, Darmory’s work has won over 100 Advertising Awards and been featured in publications such as Ad Age, Adweek, Forbes, and Mashable. Currently the Executive Creative Director at Zeta, she’s responsible for the company’s overall strategy and the entire creative department.

What is the best advice you have given another woman in 2017?
“One of my passion projects is to give back through mentoring young female creatives in the industry every year. Here's the three points I tell them: 1. Know your brand. Can you explain your personal brand in 15 seconds or less? If not, you should. You'll constantly need to sell yourself along with your work. 2. Have good mentors. We all need outside guidance from time to time. I've been fortunate to have some incredible mentors — from Alan Holliday (cofounder of Hill Holliday) to my former boss and current mentor Anthony Reeves (ECD of Amazon) — who have helped me hone my craft and navigate some major landmines. 3. Be humble but outspoken. Young female creatives tend to be afraid to be vocal. You are your biggest advocate. Don't be quiet.”

It takes a lot more than hard work and dedication along the way to claim your power. In hindsight, what advice would you give your 22-year-old self?
“You will need passion and creativity. You will need thick skin. You will need to find colleagues, employees, and bosses who have your back. But be confident that your hard work will pay off.”

Bad advice is worse than none at all. What was the worst advice you have ever gotten?
“I was told that I wasn't good at different things. I wasn't a good speaker; I wasn't a good writer; I wasn't a good creative. Every time I was told I didn't do something well, it made me work harder. I started speaking on panels, and teaching university classes. I worked on my writing; I worked on my creative discipline. Suffice it to say I've proved them wrong.”

Not every ambition turns into a result. It is sometimes hard to accept that. When did you fail and how did you overcome it?
“I'm the first to admit that I was a really bad copywriter when I started. I was fired from my first two jobs and really reconsidered my career path. It was at that moment that I got a call from Deutsch to start up their interactive division. That year, I wrote the global IKEA website, won multiple awards, and was recognized for my work within the industry. Learn and love your craft, but know that you learn as much from failing as you do from winning.”

Can you tell us about the last time you were proud of yourself?
“The last time that I was proud of myself was the minute I received an email from Refinery29 telling me that I made it onto this list.”
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15 of 29
Julia Von Winterfeldt
Founder of SOULWORX

After 20 years in digital media, Julia Von Winterfeldt launched her newest venture, SOULWORX, adding founder to her long list of titles, from MD to yoga teacher. Challenging leaders to rethink and reinvent how organizations are run, she and her team are equal parts changemakers and consultants who are committed to helping organizations bring purpose and humanity to the forefront.

What is the best advice you have given another woman in 2017?
“This is YOUR life, so YOU should play the main role: by constantly studying and reflecting your qualities and inner workings, pursuing your heart's desire, your purpose, always following what captures your curiosity, and initiating what you feel is right for you. Take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way, with grace and humility, and be that sponge that absorbs and learns from each encounter. Deepen your mission in life, by getting extraordinarily good at what you love to do. The rest of what we believe we need in life, like security, stability, success, wholeness, beauty, health, and standing, will follow.”

It takes a lot more than hard work and dedication along the way to claim your power. In hindsight, what advice would you give your 22-year-old self?
“At 22, while doing relatively well as a cultural studies and business administration student at the Leuphana University in Lüneburg, I was not particularly confident in myself. I was neither German nor really English (having grown up in London for 15 years). I didn’t feel comfortable in my body, and my written German was appalling. I felt quite inadequate and didn’t really have a passion for anything specific in my life. Despite studying, my focus was on friendships, sports, having fun, and making sure I was going with the crowd. With 20+ years of hindsight, I realize I could have done a lot more when I was younger. If I could travel back in time, I would give my 22-year-old self the following six tips:

“Always think ‘crazy’ and try crazy ideas. Don't be afraid to take risks.

“Don't accept ‘no’ without exploring and understanding the boundaries. Stay honest and direct, and fight the boundaries for what you think is right.

“Always take action, no matter how small it is. Every action is a learning experience that you will most surely find reasoning in if not in the moment then later on in life.

“It is absolutely fine to to ask for help or advice. Don’t be shy to take the first step. Engage in conversation, openly. No one minds, and if so they will let you know. Plus, you can always return the favor by helping them in other ways.

“Engage in activities beyond the classroom to develop and learn different life lessons such as creativity, imagination, humility, negotiation, presentation, risk-taking, meditation, and networking.

“Don’t be afraid to fail. Yes, failures are painful and make you lose confidence, but they also make you a more experienced and interesting person. Learn from failures and move on.”

Bad advice is worse than none at all. What was the worst advice you’ve ever gotten?
“The worst advice I was given was: Be a leader. Stop being nice. Cultivate distance and act more superior to your team. This simply wasn’t me. Had I followed the advice, I would have turned myself into a person I never was and I never wanted to be. In contradiction to this advice, I strongly believe in showing respect, and empathy to those that follow you. Tapping into their emotions and connecting in a way that lets that person know you understand what it means to be in their situation is what I believe fosters collaboration in, and success of, any venture.”

Not every ambition turns into a result. It is sometimes hard to accept that. When did you fail and how did you overcome it?
“I truly believe both successes and failures are essential for us. Just as much as we should not linger in past successes, we should also not hold on tight to failures. Learn from them and move on, in order to create new experiences that matter now and in the future.”

Can you tell us about the last time you were proud of yourself?
“Currently I feel most proud of trusting in myself and setting up my own venture, SOULWORX, as a woman, at the age of 45! I don’t think there are many women out there who at my age take the leap of faith and start a company.”
16 of 29
Alicia Hatch
Chief Marketing Officer of Deloitte Digital

A digital marketing veteran, Alicia Hatch has spent the past 15 years pushing the boundaries in marketing for Fortune 500 brands. After 10 years of leading business development strategy at Microsoft, she looked into the unknown, saw nothing but endless possibility, and decided to launch her own digital agency, Banyan Branch. Her agency was acquired by Deloitte in 2013, and Hatch currently serves as Deloitte Digital’s Chief Marketing Officer.

What is the best advice you have given another woman in 2017?
“The greatest discoveries across the ages have been uncovered by those who were willing to step into the unknown. Fear of the unknown is the biggest hurdle when you are on the frontier of anything. The digital era is, without question, the most dynamic period in history and things change faster than they can be mastered. This can be overwhelming and intimidating, but I see the unknown as being full of endless possibility. It’s my favorite thing about being in a woman in business now. When brilliant women come to me looking for career advice, I often tell them, ‘Tomorrow will be full of new ideas. Run towards the unknown and one of them will be yours.’”

It takes a lot more than hard work and dedication along the way to claim your power. In hindsight, what advice would you give your 22-year-old self?
“Find your voice. You may be tempted to simply mimic others you admire, but dig deeper and find the heart of your authentic voice. Stick to it; nurture it; cultivate it. Every truly remarkable woman I know has developed her own voice. ”

Bad advice is worse than none at all. What was the worst advice you’ve ever gotten?
“‘This is just the way things are.’ Complacency is for zombies. ”

Not every ambition turns into a result. It is sometimes hard to accept that. When did you fail and how did you overcome it?
“Building a startup is heart wrenching. Everything is high stakes. Wins can quickly alter the course of your entire future, and losses can obliterate the entire operation overnight. When I built my digital agency, we got a shot to pitch one of the largest consumer brands in the world for an account that would increase our revenue 8 times, impact the career trajectory of all of our employees, and signify that we had officially made it into the big leagues. We put our whole hearts into preparing and held nothing back.

“After the executive team spent three hours in our office evaluating us, they left letting us know they’d be contacting us in the next couple of weeks. I went home and collapsed on my floor in exhaustion. I let my 2-year-old play with my phone because I was too tired to care, and when it rang he answered it and delivered his babble. Once I wrestled it back from him, I was mortified to learn my toddler was talking to the head of procurement for this global brand. She was calling to immediately let me know we just weren’t the right fit. When you put your heart onto the conference table for examination, it’s crushing to simply not be the right fit.

“When there’s nothing more you can do, what do you do? You keep going. Resilience and grit don’t guarantee success, but they do guarantee growth. How did I overcome it? It still hurts when I think about that day. The worst part was telling my team. Yet, when we ultimately developed a highly diversified portfolio of clients and sold our agency to a prominent global consulting firm, it was more thrilling than if we had won that single banner account.”

Can you tell us about the last time you were proud of yourself?
“I have four boys, all under the age of 10. Last fall, they wanted to come with me to vote for the next U.S. president. On the way to the voting booth, I told them that women weren’t allowed to vote when my grandmothers were born. They looked confused. They tilted their heads and they squinted their eyes. They didn’t actually understand. They couldn’t actually understand women being viewed as inferior. This was an incredibly meaningful moment for me to realize I was raising boys who simply saw equality as reality.”
17 of 29
Becky Owen
Head of Digital Partnerships, EMEA for The Walt Disney Company

Positioned at the forefront of video and data-driven advertising, Becky Owen is responsible for developing campaigns for Maker Studios as well as key partnerships across the Walt Disney Company. From ideation to realization, she works with her team to create unique digital storytelling, putting the brand partner at the heart of every execution.

What is the best advice you have given another woman in 2017?
“Being confident is one of the best things you can be in your career. On average women underestimate their abilities while men overestimate them, yet for success, confidence matters as much as competence — to the point that the confidence gap has been attributed as one of the reasons we see more men in leadership positions than women.”

It takes a lot more than hard work and dedication along the way to claim your power. In hindsight, what advice would you give your 22-year-old self?
“Learn when some feedback isn’t worth the attention it's seeking. I can honestly say over my professional career, I have spent too much time obsessing over feedback that did nothing to serve me. And one of the hardest lessons I’ve learned is to discern the negative from the positive.

“What I’ve learned alongside this is that negative criticism often comes from when you are starting to make noise and are challenging the status quo. I often think of the Winston Churchill quote ‘You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life.’ Because it is impossible to be friends with everyone and really drive change. Every great leader will tell you that. It’s about learning that it’s okay to sometimes ruffle a few feathers if you are operating with conviction and integrity — and with that learning when to embrace the positive and brush off the negative.”

Bad advice is worse than none at all. What was the worst advice you’ve ever gotten?
“The worst advice I was given was to curb my enthusiasm. As we grow in business, especially as women, we start to question how we should behave and present ourselves. We question our choice of clothing, our use of words. How opinionated is too opinionated? If you spend five minutes with me, you will see I am a naturally passionate, inquisitive and outspoken person. I put my hand up at every chance I get and I truly work on leaning in. The gist of the advice given to me was to be less of the above. It told me not to trust myself, to sit back and be quieter. And it made me question myself even more.

"I believe, wholeheartedly, you do not have edit yourself in order to achieve. In fact, it’s the very opposite. Be more of yourself, invest in those characteristics that have taken you this far, and trust your instincts.”

Not every ambition turns into a result. It is sometimes hard to accept that. When did you fail and how did you overcome it?
That’s an easy one — at a previous company when I lost a potential £8M deal... There were many reasons why this project was lost that were out of my control, but I also knew there were things that I could have done differently. Once the dust had settled, I picked apart each step of the project to understand what had happened and why, and to see how I could perform better next time. By understanding how I could learn from it, I became more in control of the situation and less annoyed by it. And believe me — those lessons are with me to this day and I use them every time I start work on a new project. I can probably even thank that one failure for several very exciting wins.”

Can you tell us about the last time you were proud of yourself?
“When I found myself on stage with nothing but a microphone and 200 blank stares. I recently took part in an important global presentation for my company. As I sat in the wings waiting to go on stage, I had that creeping feeling of inadequacy that occurs when you watch the presenters before you completely rock the stage — somehow managing to be both informative and entertaining (not an easy task).

“When I started my presentation, I clicked to show my beautiful, painstakingly developed slides, only to discover the wrong deck was being projected to both the audience and my comfort monitors. Everything stopped as I realized I was going to just go freestyle...for 45 minutes. As I began speaking, panic transformed into confidence as I started to realize, ‘Hey, I really am expert in this field… look how much I know!’"
18 of 29
Verena Hubertz & Mengting Gao
Cofounders and Managing Directors at Kitchen Stories

Cofounders of the wildly popular Berlin startup, Kitchen Stories, Verena Hubertz and Mengting Gao met in business school and bonded over their shared passion for cooking. Taking a detour from the traditional career paths they were individually headed on, the pair took a leap into entrepreneurship together and their risk paid off big time. Their user-friendly, video-based cooking platform is not only the first of its kind, but currently has more than 15 million users in 150 countries.

What is the best advice you have given another woman in 2017?
“We always give the advice to not let criticism get you down. You learn from every new piece of feedback, and it will be a great ‘school’ in taking something positive out of each discussion and pitch."

It takes a lot more than hard work and dedication along the way to claim your power. In hindsight, what advice would you give your 22-year-old selves?
“When we were 22, we were both following the classic, traditional career paths and attending school.  I always felt I had an entrepreneurial spirit, but did not believe I could start my own company. It was meeting Mengting during business school that made me ‘jump’ and take the risk. Looking back we wish we would have felt more empowered to think outside the box rather than thinking about CV optimization. There would have been other entrepreneurial opportunities (such as projects or internships) that we could have followed at that age. ”

Bad advice is worse than none at all. What was the worst advice you’ve ever gotten?
"We were told not to start Kitchen Stories. Pretty much everyone who we approached for funding and advice said ‘Why do we need another cooking app? You should go and find a corporate job.’ Luckily, being a founding team means that one person could always lift the other one up in cases of doubt and self-questioning. ”

Not every ambition turns into a result. It is sometimes hard to accept that. When did you fail and how did you overcome it?
“As a first-time founder you make mistakes and fail all the time. The important thing is to never give up, learn from your mistakes, and do it better next time. One situation that we always look back to was definitely during our first recipe video shoot. We rented an Airbnb house outside of Berlin. We thought we could get 100 recipes shot in nine days, but we failed. I believe that it was crucial to set too ambitious of a goal in order to get the first product version of Kitchen Stories to the market really fast. In the end, the production also turned out well. We worked until 4 a.m. each morning and made it happen. So ‘hard work’ can compensate for ‘estimation failures.’ It’s important to set ambitious targets when initiating a project for the first time since this will automatically ensure you go the extra mile. However, work/life balance is also important, so our production plans are in doable scope these days.”

Can you tell us about the last time you were proud of yourselves?
“Having the Apple CEO Tim Cook visit our office in Berlin. He stopped by because Apple played a crucial role in our young company history. When no investor wanted to back in us back in 2013, we convinced people who believed in us, and not the idea, to lend us money — so basically the classical FFFs (friends, family, fools). Mengting sold her car. When we launched Kitchen Stories on the iPad in 2014, we got discovered by Apple, received our first feature in the Apple App Store, and generated over 50,000 downloads in the first weeks without any marketing spend.

“Cook’s visit (which was livestreamed by Refinery29) was a really big moment for us. We got to meet one of the most inspiring leaders from one of the most visionary companies in the world. We really appreciated that he took the time to share his views on leadership and mobile strategy development. But we were also amazed that he shared his vision of diversity within the Apple organization and his ambition to empower each employee, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, nationality, or ‘outgoingness’ (since leaders sometimes tend to favor team members who articulate their wishes and needs the loudest). It was definitely a memorable, unforgettable visit.”
19 of 29
Alma Lipa
General Manager of L’Oréal Germany

Alma Lipa joined L'Oréal Germany in 2006 and has spent her career in prominent sales and marketing positions across several markets within the company.  In 2014, she successfully launched Urban Decay as a new brand within the German market and reached record sales with a unique, digitally-driven launch strategy.

What is the best advice you have given another woman in 2017?
“Think of criticism as a gift and try to maximize its benefit. Without honest feedback, whether positive or critical, you will not be able to improve, learn, or grow. You would make the same mistakes again and again. So, as long as it’s fair and constructive, criticism is always valuable and crucial to success. I know, it hurts sometimes. But don’t fight back impulsively in those situations. Give yourself a cooling off period before you respond. A few hours or days may give you the time you need to be more objective about the issue.”

It takes a lot more than hard work and dedication along the way to claim your power. In hindsight, what advice would you give your 22-year-old self?
“Choose your battles. As a young professional you tend to get swamped in bits and pieces and lose your strategic overview. I‘ve been through that myself, and I also used to spread myself too thin. That’s why it’s important to prioritize and to set a schedule. And last but not least: network. Don’t put pressure on yourself by thinking you have to make it on your own. Make use of networks from the start and keep on building relationships; you will definitely profit from that.”

Bad advice is worse than none at all. What was the worst advice you have ever gotten?
“One of my former supervisors once told me: Just do it, even if it makes no sense. In big companies, especially, there are a lot of existing processes and structures, which have to be challenged continuously. I encourage this behavior within my team. For example, we try to realize various out-of-the-box projects, and I try to dedicate some ‘play money’ out of our regular budgets whenever possible to help us question existing habitus and trigger innovation.”

Not every ambition turns into a result. It is sometimes hard to accept that. When did you fail and how did you overcome it?
“A few years ago we worked on a big product launch with a huge team setup. We spent a lot of time and money and invested extra capacities. The project was almost completed when we realized that it wasn’t feasible after all. Of course, this was frustrating. But that’s life! It’s important to deal with failures constructively and to move on. So we asked ourselves: What did we learn? What went wrong? What can we adapt the next time? We definitely gained some valuable insights for the future from that and enriched our database of what not to do for coming projects.”

Can you tell us about the last time you were proud of yourself?
“Recently, I was promoted to take over a team of nearly 100 people. Of course, I felt happy and honored. When my hiring announcement was sent out, a lot of colleagues, former supervisors, and mentors congratulated me. Their kind and inspiring words made me very proud and put a smile on my face. This brings me back to what I said earlier: Feedback is always valuable and important and should not only be used to criticize, but also to express your appreciation.”
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20 of 29
Sarah Wood
Cofounder and CEO of Unruly

Voted one of Business Insider's Coolest Women in Tech, Veuve Clicquot’s Businesswoman of the Year, and one of Ad Age's 20 Women to Watch in Europe, Sarah Wood’s impact is felt worldwide. As cofounder and CEO of video ad technology company Unruly, she ensures the company delivers the most memorable and viral social video campaigns on the planet.

What is the best advice you have given another woman in 2017?
“Define a career purpose that can grow with you throughout your working life, as you take on different jobs, roles, and responsibilities. Your purpose should start with something that matters to you and the impact you want to make. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have all the answers to start with; work out a direction to travel, and the rest will follow.

“Think about finding your CLAN: Choosing your company carefully, Loving what you do, always Aiming high, and Networking with purpose.”

It takes a lot more than hard work and dedication along the way to claim your power. In hindsight, what advice would you give your 22-year-old self?
“I wish someone had told me to worry less early on. Every moment I worried about what might go wrong was a moment I could’ve spent making the right things happen. Along the same lines, the best piece of advice I ever received came the last night before my final exams in college. I was so terrified and my professor passed me a handwritten note that just said ‘Courage!’”

Bad advice is worse than none at all. What was the worst advice you’ve ever gotten?
“Although nothing immediately springs to mind, I would say that while it's good to listen to what other people say. At the end of the day you have to call the shots for yourself and have the courage to stick to your convictions.”

Not every ambition turns into a result. It is sometimes hard to accept that. When did you fail and how did you overcome it?
“At Unruly we try and always see failure as an opportunity; an opportunity to iterate, to learn, and to think again. We are constantly testing things quickly to commit to MVP (minimum viable product), getting it out into the market as fast as possible, so we can get feedback as quickly as possible, and only spend time tweaking and perfecting the features our clients actually want.

“The earliest example of this happened when Unruly launched in 2006, and we built Eatmyhamster. The site which was a content sharing board like Reddit or Digg, and we soon noticed that the posts that were getting the most engagement and buzz were always videos, so we pivoted and built the Unruly Viral Video Chart to track and rank the most shared videos on the web.”

Can you tell us about the last time you were proud of yourself?
“My proudest Unruly moment so far has been getting into the Guinness Book of World Records — twice!  The first time was when Evian’s ‘Roller Babies’ campaign appeared as the Most Viewed Video Ad of All Time in 2010, and we did it again in 2013 with Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches, which were viewed 134,265,061 times! They were both campaigns we distributed and loved, so it was great to see the hard work pay off.”
21 of 29
Alisée de Tonnac
Cofounder and CEO of Seedstars World

Before joining the L'Oréal Group as project manager, Alisée de Tonnac traveled the world for a year to set up the first edition of Seedstars World, the biggest startup competition in emerging markets. Now, she is launching the competition in over 80 cities, as well as 15 strategic hubs around the world that include a coworking space, an acceleration program, and a venture builder program.

What is the best advice you have given another woman in 2017?
“The best advice I have given to women this year and that I repeat to myself often is to embrace your imposter syndrome! There are still too many of us forgoing opportunities and exciting challenges because of a paralyzing fear of not being good enough, of not being ready for the new role, of not having the right competencies to speak up, etc. We too often have that absurd, but very real, feeling of thinking we shouldn't be where we are today — that sense of being an imposter.

“Rather than pretending it is not there or being fatalistic about it, I suggest embracing it! Recognize its existence and surround yourself with the right mentors, partners, colleagues, family members, and/or friends to support you during these ‘imposter crises.’ So next time it kicks in, you can fight the fear, and your support system can be here to provide to you the right emotional support to take on the challenge and build up your confidence again.”

It takes a lot more than hard work and dedication along the way to claim your power. In hindsight, what advice would you give your 22-year-old self?
“Trust the pain. I wish I had trusted the more difficult moments in my life and accepted that this was just part of the process. In hindsight, you can usually connect the dots.”

Not every ambition turns into a result. It is sometimes hard to accept that. When did you fail and how did you overcome it?
“Before launching Seedstars, I realized that I was obsessed with building the ‘perfect CV’ and making myself look good on paper. I honestly think that this was also how I selected my friends, my job, my personal relationships. But I got it all wrong, as once I had achieved what I thought was the ‘perfect life,’ it did not feel any better.

“At that time, I had come across an Eleanor Roosevelt quote that said, ‘Do one thing every day that scares you.’ So I did. I quit my job and jumped on the first opportunity, which luckily enough became what Seedstars is today. That was the best decision of my life.”

Can you tell us about the last time you were proud of yourself?
“I think my biggest challenge today is to be a good manager and one that can change effectively within the company while it evolves. I was proud to receive an email from one of my team members recently, thanking the management team for all the efforts we had made in the past months and for taking into account her comments and concerns. That was a true success for us, and I am proud to be part of this team. Makes it all worth it!”
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Alison Lewis
Global Chief Marketing Officer at Johnson & Johnson

Alison Lewis is Johnson & Johnson Consumer Companies’ first-ever chief marketing officer, responsible for iconic brands including Neutrogena, Johnson’s, and Listerine. In addition to directing global marketing, she is a driving force behind building their digital and strategic consumer insights, professional marketing, and innovation pipeline. A creative visionary with over 25 years of leadership experience, she was named New York Advertising Woman of the Year in 2016. Before joining Johnson & Johnson, Alison held senior roles at the Coca-Cola Company (where she won the Clio Brand Icon Award and Cannes’ Creative Marketer of the Year) and at Kraft Foods in Canada.

What’s the best advice you’ve given another woman in 2017?
“Draw your own lines. We are all under enormous pressure to excel at everything we do — to be great at our jobs, be a great mother to our children (if we choose to have them), be a great daughter to our parents, be a great friend, and to ‘have it all.’ Life is about choices, but you will be happier if you’re the one choosing when and where you draw the line. If having dinner with your kids is what’s important to you, make it known you aren’t available for meetings after 6 p.m., but can jump back online at 9 p.m. as needed. If you’re someone, like me, who depends on exercise as an outlet, make that happen by blocking off gym time on your schedule and sticking with it. Choose your priorities and make sure those choices are the ones that what will bring you the most happiness, because if you don’t draw the line, it will never get drawn. Trust me, there will always be more work to do! It may not be possible to truly ‘have it all,’ but I believe you can have what you need to be fulfilled  and successful.”

It takes a lot more than hard work and dedication along the way to claim your power. In hindsight, what advice would you give your 22-year-old self?
“If I could climb into a time machine and give my 22-year-old self one piece of advice, I wouldn’t. At that age, I was incredibly naïve, but looking back now I know this was more of an asset than a liability. I didn’t grow up in a family of business professionals, and when I took my first job out of college I knew practically nothing about the career path on which I was embarking. All I knew was that I wanted to do a good job, so I put my head down and worked as hard as I could. I didn’t strategize or compare myself against the other new hires in my class, I just worked like a dog. Eleven months after being hired, I was the first in that class to get promoted. I think that as women we tend to be so hard on ourselves, so perfectionistic. I wouldn’t want to put any more pressure on naïve, 22-year-old me than she put on herself. But if I  had to say something, I would tell her, ‘Stay in the moment, and do the work — it’s going to pay off.’”

Bad advice is worse than none at all. What was the worst advice you’ve ever gotten?
“I’m going to speak generally, to protect the not-so-innocent, but the worst advice I ever received was that I shouldn’t even consider pursuing a certain career track at a company because the leadership there didn’t support women in that function. The advice was well-intentioned, and I can’t say that the bias this person wanted to protect me from didn’t exist. But it didn’t have to exist. If I hadn’t been discouraged from exploring that career track, it’s possible that I could have been the change agent who made a real difference. It was only later, when I saw that there were plenty of companies where women could and did succeed in this function, that I realized I had followed advice that was based on a presumption of defeat. I couldn’t go back and unfollow that advice, but going forward I could make my own decisions based on the premise that progress is possible.”

Not every ambition turns into a result. It is sometimes hard to accept that. When did you fail and how did you overcome it?
“I miss the mark all the time, but I don’t necessarily see failure as something that needs to be overcome. At Johnson & Johnson, I talk a lot about ‘failing forward,’ which is the idea that greatness is only possible if you approach new opportunities armed with knowledge gained through both good and  bad experiences. A negative outcome can either be a setback or a springboard; the difference is all in your attitude. Big companies are naturally risk averse, but I’m trying to change that part of our corporate culture. I like to kick off some meetings by asking people to share a recent W.I.F., which stands for ‘well-intentioned failure.’ I know this sounds excruciating, but it’s a pretty fun icebreaker — and a valuable opportunity to not just learn from your own mistakes, but the mistakes of others.”

When is the last time you were proud of yourself?
“When I was hired as the first-ever Chief Marketing Officer at Johnson & Johnson Consumer, I jumped into the deep end with an initiative that challenged the decentralized way the 130-year-old consumer company had always operated. Not surprisingly, this was met with a lot of resistance as it was rolled out. Change isn’t easy, but it’s necessary, which is why I kept my head down and just pushed forward one step at a time to make it happen. On a recent trip to our offices in China, Singapore, and Thailand, I had a chance to finally look up and see that four years into the initiative, other people weren’t just accepting this new way of marketing, they were running with it. They were making it their own. Hearing the excitement in their voices made me feel so much pride — in the company, and in myself.”
23 of 29
Emma Willis
CEO and Founder of CoCoBaba

Working with well-known brands such as Chanel, Christian Dior, Valentino, and Giorgio Armani and renowned fashion photographers such as Patrick Demarchelier and Annie Leibovitz, Emma Willis’ modeling career was extremely successful. Today, instead of walking down catwalks she’s the CEO and founder of her own beauty brand CocoBaba. Launched on the German market in September 2016, CoCoBaba is a sustainable skin care line made with all-natural ingredients.

What is the best advice you have given another woman in 2017?
“Gosh, you’d have to ask the women I advised if it worked out for them in the end! But to be honest, I rarely give advice; I prefer to give support. If a friend or colleague is looking for advice, I ask them how they are feeling about the subject that they’re struggling with. You can’t beat a woman’s intuition. We are so plugged in already, so sometimes all we need is someone to act as a sounding board. Just to hear someone else repeat what we already know is the right thing to do.”

It takes a lot more than hard work and dedication along the way to claim your power. In hindsight, what advice would you give your 22-year-old self?
“It did take a lot of work and dedication and commitment to succeed. From a young age, I started working as a model, an industry that is, in my opinion, very geared towards the empowerment of girls and women. There would be no fashion industry without us being the face and representatives of those revered brands. It might be the only industry that I know where women are paid more than men. That was a fact back in the ‘90s and into the new millennium, though I’m sure it still applies today.

“I’ve always felt powerful. I’ve always been aware of my own power. It might also come from being brought up by a single mother. I never really thought about it until I was confronted with it in other settings outside fashion. I know the power of a woman, and I’ve never had to think about it. So, it came as a shock that in other industries things aren’t as egalitarian. The concept that we must ‘prove ourselves,’ was not the way I was raised; I guess I’m a lucky one.”

Bad advice is worse than none at all. What was the worst advice you’ve ever gotten?
“My ‘bad advice’ radar is pretty good, especially since becoming a mother. If I detect anything that I feel isn’t constructive, it goes in one ear and right out the other. I’m lucky because I’m surrounded by highly intelligent and experienced people that thankfully have only steered me in the right direction. I look to them for their guidance and, most importantly, I trust them.”

Not every ambition turns into a result. It is sometimes hard to accept that. When did you fail and how did you overcome it?
“As I’ve begun to venture into the business side of things, I’ve quickly discovered that it’s definitely not a smooth ride. There are always hiccups, setbacks or things just simply don’t go according to plan. I assure you that I’ve not had some kind of overnight success experience. It’s taken years just to get my company CocoBaba launched and off the ground, and we still have a long way to go. But it keeps me on my toes; it’s exciting; and I’m grateful to be able to put my time and efforts into something I’m passionate about. Failure is not an option here.”

Can you tell us about the last time you were proud of yourself?
“I am most recently very proud of establishing my company and being a businesswoman. But what I find most gratifying is being a mom. After all is said and done, when I’m looking back at my life somewhere down the road, I don’t think my business life will be what stands out most as accomplishments in my life. I think I’ll be looking at the kind of person I was as a mother, wife, friend, and daughter.”
24 of 29
Tara Walpert Levy
Vice President of Agency & Media Solutions at Google

Staying flexible, creative, and bold throughout her life, Tara Walpert Levy has enjoyed a successful and multi-faceted career: She’s worked as a consultant at McKinsey & Company, a startup president and angel investor, and a public board member. What's more, she has previously been named one of Advertising Age's Women to Watch and made Fast Company's Most Creative People in Business list not once, but twice!

What is the best advice you have given another woman in 2017?
“Like any other decision, the ‘why’ is what’s most important. Make sure you’re running toward something, not running from something. Make sure that something is what you care about, not what others have told you that you should care about. Careers are long. Take your time. No one decision is as scary or as risky as it feels. Taking a leap out of an airplane is scary; taking a career leap just requires perspective.”

It takes a lot more than hard work and dedication along the way to claim your power. In hindsight, what advice would you give your 22-year-old self?
“‘Why not you?’ It’s easy to get caught up in the many reasons you are not the person to lead through the chasm, fixate on the gaps that you are only too aware of in your own training, and to be anxious about your own ability to succeed. Know that every leader has those gaps. And so in the many moments of doubt, frustration, and uncertainty, center yourself with the calm certainty that someone will certainly find their way through these challenging issues. And with all of the experience, expertise, and passion you bring to the table, remind yourself, ‘Why wouldn’t that someone be you?’ Which will help you to focus and move forward until what seems insurmountable is done.”

Bad advice is worse than none at all. What was the worst advice you’ve ever gotten?
“People are biased toward their own experiences and how they’ve rationalized them. When I was deciding whether to leave McKinsey for a startup (before it was cool to do so), everyone who stayed said I should stay; everyone who left said I should leave. No one deviated. I found nuggets of great advice in each of their ‘whys’ but the adamance of each party on the right conclusion was not helpful.”

Not every ambition turns into a result. It is sometimes hard to accept that. When did you fail and how did you overcome it?
“One of my biggest failures came on the heels of what felt like a big success. I had just taken our startup from a massive cash burn to profitability, which we reported to the board. I came out of that board meeting feeling like a million bucks and was met by one of my direct reports, who said to me, ‘You’re feeling pretty good, aren’t you?’ I confessed I was. Then he said, ‘And yet none of your direct reports would run through a wall for you.’ At my stunned silence, he elaborated, ‘This one follows you for politics, this one for advancement...but none out of true loyalty.’ And he was right. That shock to the system prompted massive and much needed changes to my leadership style. And every time someone comments on the loyalty of my teams, or my ability to draw out the best in people, I say a silent thank you for this abrupt failure and the courage it took to tell me about it.”

Can you tell us about the last time you were proud of yourself?
“I recently learned about an exclusive fellowship that seemed potentially instrumental in helping me to figure out where I could make the biggest difference in society at this point in my life. You couldn’t apply, however, you had to be nominated by a current business or societal leader. Worse, the deadline was in two weeks! Despite having counseled others for years to do the same, I’ve never loved asking for help, imposing on others, or risking the appearance of being self-promotional. This opportunity meant enough to me that I did all three. I asked my old boss, now a Fortune 500 CEO, to nominate me — and even provided a series of talking points about myself! As always, the dread of doing it was way more difficult than the ask itself. I was warmed by her enthusiasm, and whatever the outcome, I’m proud of myself for going for it.”
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25 of 29
Aisha R. Pandor
Cofounder of SweepSouth

As cofounder of the South African startup  SweepSouth, an online platform for ordering home cleaning services within minutes, Aisha R. Pandor is bringing technology to an industry that has remained unchanged for decades. The on-demand model has proven wildly successful, and is helping to address unemployment in South Africa by connecting domestic work professionals with safer work opportunities.

What is the best advice you have given another woman in 2017?
“The best advice I've given another woman in 2017 is to stop making excuses that allow her to delay following her dream of building a tech startup and to go for it. We sometimes invent reasons to stay within our comfort zone, and it can take being pushed by someone who we respect, to give ourselves permission to take a risk.”

It takes a lot more than hard work and dedication along the way to claim your power. In hindsight, what advice would you give your 22-year-old self?
“I would advise my 22-year-old self not to be too hung up on following the ‘right’ path and to just ensure I'm moving forward and making progress and giving my all to whatever I do. Effective execution leads to habits of achieving, which in turn creates a good reputation, which then opens up great opportunities. I'd also remind myself that it's okay not to have all the answers.”

Bad advice is worse than none at all. What was the worst advice you have ever gotten? 
“The worst advice I've gotten was to stay in a career that I was finding depressing and unfulfilling, for the sake of security, stability and a regular salary.”

Not every ambition turns into a result. It is sometimes hard to accept that. When did you fail and how did you overcome it?
“Early in our company's history, I made a few bad hiring decisions that went against my gut instinct, in most cases due to pressure from my team about workload. Then, to avoid putting the team under pressure, I kept bad hires on board even when their performance was clearly having a negative impact on the team. I learned to trust my intuition. It’s okay to make mistakes, but you need to correct them as quickly as possible.”

Can you tell us about the last time you were proud of yourself?
“I was last proud of myself for giving an inspirational speech at a women’s leadership event. It was a chance to share my story and to publicly give gratitude to many women in business who had inspired me. It was a nerve-wracking experience and I shook the entire time, but I was so grateful for the opportunity. I was also proud after we collected a survey from women working for our company. Hundreds of women expressed how working with us allowed them to earn income and care for their families in a safe and flexible way. It really hit home that we’d made an impact not only on their lives but the lives of their children and extended families as well.”
26 of 29
Anne-Marie Imafidon
CEO of Stemettes

Anne-Marie Imafidon was the youngest woman ever to pass A level computing at age 11, and one of the youngest students to be awarded a master’s degree in Mathematics & Computer Science by the University of Oxford at 20. She currently serves as Head Stemette and cofounder of Stemettes, an award-winning social enterprise inspiring the next generation of females into Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics roles via a series of events and opportunities.

What is the best advice you have given another woman in 2017?
“The best advice I have given women this year is: Don’t put barriers around yourself. Stop asking, ‘Am I allowed to do this? Is this okay? What effects could ensue?’ Go! Do your thing!”

It takes a lot more than hard work and dedication along the way to claim your power. In hindsight, what advice would you give your 22-year-old self?

“Keep on going! And have no regrets! If I hadn’t made mistakes when I was 22, I wouldn’t here with my 28 years of experience. It’s not that I knew everything, but I learned a lot in the last years, and don’t believe in mistakes.”

Bad advice is worse than none at all. What was the worst advice you have ever gotten?
“When I was going to school, I got a really bad advice. In the U.K., if you want to go to university, you can finish your education when you are 16 and then you can do your A levels. When I told the heads of sixth form that I wanted to go to Oxford, they laughed and told me that it was not going to happen. They didn’t think it was possible. Then, one year later, I was admitted to a degree program at Oxford. In the end, I became the youngest ever graduate with a master's degree.”

Not every ambition turns into a result. It is sometimes hard to accept that. When did you fail and how did you overcome it?
“In general, you can fail in funding quite a lot. It’s important to choose the right people to talk to, people who are already interested and have a better understanding of what you are doing. I remember a time when three funds we applied to didn’t choose our project. At first, I felt frustrated about the situation because we had put a lot of time and heart in it. But then I turned this frustration into motivation and applied for new funding that I got. My frustration turned into motivation and enabled me to achieve my goal.”

Can you tell us about the last time you were proud of yourself?
“It would be when I saw a documentary about one of our projects with teenage girls from different countries like the U.K., Ireland, Netherlands, and Spain, who came from mixed ethnic backgrounds. I started crying because seeing the impact we had with our project made me emotional. It was based on inspiring the next generation of females into science, technology, engineering, and mathematics roles. I expected more diffidence or more competitive behavior from the girls, but they developed a bond and learned from each other. In the end, it wasn’t just about our project. It was about the development of the teenage girls in this short time period. I was so proud of what we achieved in the time we had with the girls who participated.”
27 of 29
Fränzi Kühne
Cofounder and COO of TLGG

As the cofounder of the award-winning digital agency TLGG, Fränzi Kühne has watched her business grow from a small startup to one that was acquired by the second largest international communication network, Omnicom. Appointed to the supervisory board of freenet AG, at 34 she’s the youngest person to ever serve on a board in a publicly-owned company in Germany.

What is the best advice you have given another woman in 2017?
“It often boils down to a set of general words of advice that I believe are right, important, and too easily forgotten: Keep it light and positive. Have faith in your ideas and instincts, but don't become arrogant. Question yourself, but don't become too cautious. Listen to others, but decide for yourself.”

It takes a lot more than hard work and dedication along the way to claim your power. In hindsight, what advice would you give your 22-year-old self?
“I truly feel that everything worked out well for me. So my advice to myself would be to keep it up. Things will work out. Try everything, trust yourself. You are young, and you will be forgiven. Don't dwell on your failures; don't rest on your success. Share your cookies.”

Bad advice is worse than none at all. What was the worst advice you’ve ever gotten?
"You should really try the fish."

Not every ambition turns into a result. It is sometimes hard to accept that. When did you fail and how did you overcome it?
“Life evaluation seems to have become so binary these days: success or failure, inspiration or bad example. I don't buy into this idea. I don't feel that I ever truly failed. I have made mistakes, most often because of wrong assumptions or changed circumstances. I adjusted. I moved on.”

Can you tell us about the last time you were proud of yourself?
“I am incredibly happy that my appointment to the freenet supervisory board is getting so much media attention, because this is a large part of why I agreed to come aboard: showing young women what is possible. These positions are open to them. There is no reason to leave well alone. You can do it, too.”
28 of 29
Wilhelmina Jewell Strong-Sparks
Founder & Chief Innovation Officer Bithouse Group

Working in both corporate and startup environments for over 20 years, Jewell Strong-Sparks is a global executive known for “bridging the gap” by connecting the dots — which also happens to be her company’s motto. As the founder of Bithouse Group, a global business development cultivator fostering collaboration and innovation, she is recognized globally as a diversity and inclusion influencer.

What is the best advice you have given another woman in 2017?
“Women are special beings. Criticism goes along with the territory. I encourage women to identify what they are good at, admit what they need help with, and never give up. It has been my experience that criticism arises when there is fear or jealousy. The more criticism you receive, that may be a sign that you are on the right track.”

It takes a lot more than hard work and dedication along the way to claim your power. In hindsight, what advice would you give your 22-year-old self?
“I would tell my 22-year-old self that working hard is important, but so is building up relationships, having fun, and socializing.  Hard work is a must, but so is networking and making friends along the way. I would also say, vacations are just as valuable as work.”

Bad advice is worse than none at all. What was the worst advice you’ve ever gotten?
“The worst advice I got was from a manager who was afraid to have a voice.  I was therefore told to just do my work, have no opinions, and follow the rules. I was then told that my voice would prevent my success. In the end, I kept my voice and ended up in a better place. Never change because others choose not to embrace or hear you. This is their issue, not yours. Be ALL that you are. ”

Not every ambition turns into a result. It is sometimes hard to accept that. When did you fail and how did you overcome it?
“I have come to grips with the fact that during times of digitalization, change is inevitable. I will fail because I am a minority vs. a majority.  This has motivated me to identify #changeagents and seek out those who get it and those who just don't want to get it.”

Can you tell us about the last time you were proud of yourself?
“Sometimes it is hard to be in environments where others similar to you may not be present.  However, there is an advantage to being an expert in an area that others are trying to understand, but may fear due to the fact that it requires change in behavior and different skill sets. I was proud of myself most recently when I was the only one on a team who understood the value of gaining external insights in order to cultivate internal expertise. People complained and ridiculed me, but I continued to do the job I was tasked with in a way that I knew was best given my global experience. In the end, the culture changed a bit; others started taking risks and people started going above and beyond. In my personal opinion, this is how excellence can be achieved.”
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Carolyn Everson
Vice President, Global Marketing Solutions at Facebook

Included twice on Fortune’s 40 Under 40 list, and on Adweek’s Adweek 50 every year since 2013, Carolyn Everson is no stranger to success. Currently the Vice President of Global Marketing Solutions at Facebook, she leads the company’s relationships with top marketers and agencies for all of Facebook’s family of apps including Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger. A staunch advocate for future generations throughout her career, she’s passionate about encouraging and supporting young people who are creating transformational social change.

What is the best advice you have given another woman in 2017?
“I remind women that there has never been a better time to be a woman. Every company, board, non-profit, and government needs more women to drive their organization forward.  While, regrettably, the overall number of women in senior roles has barely moved in the right direction, don’t let that deter you.  In fact, look at it as a wonderful opportunity.  I started off working in business at the age of 21. I looked up to leaders and speakers at events not knowing if I could ever become one of those people. Looking back, I wish someone had said to me, ‘Of course you can.’

"One of the best  pieces of  career advice I ever read was from research by McKinsey & Co., which argued that individuals should adopt the Board of Director model that many companies have instituted. I realized that while I could call on people to give advice in a time of need, I didn't have enough ongoing support to really help me navigate my career — to think months and years out, not just about an urgent ask. I established my personal board: all people I trust to advocate for me, but who come from varying backgrounds, and some of whom take a different opinion and challenge me.

"You are never too young nor too old to establish your board — as more women take ‘jungle gym’ approaches to their careers, and even take time away from work, there are many champions out there who want to help you achieve your dream, no matter your age or stage. Remember, you are in demand. Your board can help you see that and get you where you want to go.”

It takes a lot more than hard work and dedication along the way to claim your power. In hindsight, what advice would you give your 22-year-old self?
“I would tell younger me that life is short and you have to dream big. Declare a bold vision and realize that anything is possible. It wasn't until a few years ago that at the suggestion of Lisa McCarthy, my coach, that I wrote a vision statement for myself, and started living with greater purpose and direction. Written one year in the future, I outline in detail what I've achieved personally, accomplished professionally, and how I have given back through community service. The vision is several pages long and extremely detailed. The act of writing in the past and present tense, as if everything has happened, is a psychological motivator too. I then share my vision with my family and to the entire team at Facebook, which makes me feel accountable to it.

"Several years, and several visions, later I am conscious of how I am spending my time and energy in the areas which matter most to me. Writing my annual vision a year in advance and then challenging myself to achieve what has been declared has made me a better person. I am more in tune with what is truly important to me, how I spend my time, and to be sure I am focusing on achieving new goals. I wish I started writing a vision years earlier.”

Not every ambition turns into a result. It is sometimes hard to accept that. When did you fail and how did you overcome it?
“I was fired from my own company, which deeply rocked my confidence for over ten years. I was at Business School in 1999, right at the first dot com boom, and I was taken with the potential of the internet and combined it with my passion for pets. Soon, Pets.com was formed with a partner who owned the domain name. We raised several million dollars in funding, and a stipulation of that was that we needed to hire a CEO, knowing that I wasn't ready to take on that role. The CEO the VC chose had one view of the direction of the company, and my position was exactly the opposite. After that meeting, I arrived back to my dorm room to find a fax telling me I was being let go.

"I was in complete shock.  My dream of launching a company had been shattered.  I was embarrassed.  It was two weeks before graduation. I wore a baseball hat to final exams and cried underneath that cap every day, despite a ton of support from my friends and professors. That experience haunted me for years. I never talked about it.  Over a decade later, with the help of Sheryl Sandberg, my team at work, and my coach, I redefined how that experience impacted me: No longer would it be a moment I was in fear of, but a moment in which I learned more about myself and my career aspirations than any other. I finally chose a new perspective. You can't let your failures define who you are: you have to learn from them and apply the learning, not the failure, to everything you do afterward.”

Can you tell us about the last time you were proud of yourself?
“My family has always been my number one priority, and I am most proud of how our twin daughters are growing up. I always say no one will remember how much revenue I managed or what my title was, but I do hope that the way we have raised our girls will be remembered.  Taylor and Kennedy are almost 15 years old and thriving: They lead with deep empathy and great care. They didn’t have an easy start in life because they were born prematurely, yet their resilience and passion, even when they were young, is incredible. They are global citizens. They have traveled to all seven continents, are passionate volunteers at home and abroad, and their commitment to learning is unbelievable.

"For the last eight years, I have had an intense travel schedule at work. As part of my annual vision, I have included my family on a work trip once a quarter, which has had a big impact on how they see the world: They have traveled to rural India, Israel, and we lived in England for six months when they were in middle school. As they start high school, the girls are each charting their own path and following their dreams. Women of their generation are going to make this world an even better place, and I am proud of the small part I played in raising two of them.”
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