As a part of our interview series called “Women Of The C-Suite,” we had the pleasure of interviewing Jamie Teahan.
Jamie Teahan is a 15-year veteran of digital marketing and the COO for Vanquish Media Group, a boutique digital media collective of film-vets, marketers, and digital natives who have countless award-winning campaigns under their belt. They collaborate with the entertainment industry, world-renown brands, thought leaders, and digital influencers by championing premium content, digital storytelling, and integrated marketing strategies. In her role she oversees all client-facing interactions, long-lead digital and marketing strategy as well as design and execution.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
I was always interested in a career in business. When I was in school there were no “digital” courses or majors. I grew up in a small town and wanted a change after school, so I decided to move to California. My first job was running the office of a small remodeling firm. The owners were not tech-savvy, and I took it upon myself to transfer their CRM (customer relationship management) online, which led to the start of my digital career.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
The most interesting thing that has happened to me is all the people I have met and the relationships I’ve formed. Every day provides the opportunity to meet new and interesting people. On any given day I could speak with a celebrity, a neurosurgeon, or an inspiring person to the change the world. It’s a privilege to hear their stories and be a part of their journey.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I wouldn’t call this a funny mistake, but I certainly learned something. I was messaging a friend about another colleague, and I accidentally messaged the colleague instead. It wasn’t particularly bad, but it certainly wasn’t tactful. It’s a simple, and likely common mistake, but it taught me to be much more mindful and careful of my decorum at work. I constantly remind myself that regardless of my relationship with a coworker, this is a business environment, and my behavior should always maintain a level of professionalism and respect.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
This is a great question because it’s so true. I happen to have three particular people that immediately come to mind in helping me get where I am today and I am so grateful for them.
The first is an old coworker of mine whom I have since kept in close contact and we are friends to this day. I was inspired by her drive and confidence when we worked together. She was smart, demanding and solutions-oriented, and I learned a lot working with her on how to set and achieve goals. Today she is a mother of four and an executive at Adobe.
The second is a personal friend whom I have appointed as my life mentor. (I’m not sure she ever applied for the job, but she got it nonetheless.) Not only is this person one of the smartest people I’ve ever met in my life, both in knowledge and life, her consistent poise and objective approach to almost all things, especially in her career, is beyond reproach. She has taught me how to respect myself and earn the respect of others around me, which is a key element to the success of any kind.
And the third is certainly not last. I happen to have the privilege of working with him every day. His respect for others, diligent work ethic and business savvy brought me to the company and is my incentive to give 100% every day. I have learned how to build and nourish a symbiotic partnership, how to never give up and to keep reaching for big goals. If there is one take away from this question, it’s to find and recognize the people that lift you up and put all your energy into those relationships. You’re only as good as the company you keep.
As a busy leader, what do you do to prepare your mind and body before a stressful or high stakes meeting, talk, or decision? Can you share a story or some examples?
Organization is key. I like to take a few minutes before a meeting to prepare any talking points, reports or collateral that needs to be discussed. I also try to have one main goal or take away from any meeting. It’s no secret meetings can be a huge time consumer and can often end with no discernable outcome. Before a meeting concludes I try to make a point to clearly reiterate any outcomes or next steps. As for high-stakes meetings, I can’t say I’ve never done the superhero stance in a mirror or recited a mantra right beforehand. Everyone needs a little ego boost once in a while!
As you know, the United States is currently facing a very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality and inclusion. This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for a business or organization to have a diverse executive team?
I actually think the reason is not as obvious as it should be. First, I’d like to say that our company is overwhelming staffed by women, so I’m very proud of that, and it’s certainly the first time in my career that this has been the case. It comes down to what I think is a very basic formula. For business and industry to survive it must have growth. For growth to exist you must have innovation. For innovation to exist you must have creativity. And for creativity to exist, you must have perspective. And that’s the root of it… perspective. Without diversity you lack perspective, outside your own, and there can be no creativity in a singular perspective.
As a business leader, can you please share a few steps we must take to truly create an inclusive, representative, and equitable society? If you can, share a story or example.
I am encouraged by the equitable movement. Equity and equality are not the same thing and for our society to truly make a meaningful change, equity needs to be at the forefront of conversation. As a business leader I would encourage other leaders to look for talent in new and diverse places. For instance, we work with a paid internship service that facilitates placements for minorities. We have truly enjoyed our experience and have greatly benefitted from their contributions. Another opportunity could be through mentorship programs. I think it’s upon us, the leaders, to put in the extra elbow grease that others must give to attain even the smallest achievements. When you get to a position of thought leadership and power, I feel it’s a duty to give back in kind all the effort that’s been put forth on your behalf for you to be where you are.
Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a CEO or Chief Executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what a chief executive does that is different from the responsibilities of the other leaders?
I once asked my friend, the aforementioned life mentor who is a VP at AT&T a similar question. She simply said, I remind the executives of the plan. Meaning, when you are at a C-Level position, it’s all about keeping your focus on the big picture. Often, they have no idea what their employees are actually working on, at least not in detail. Your daily tasks can vary quite a lot, from putting out major fires, to crafting broad change, to planning new goals. I also think a major part of being a strong and successful CEO is ensuring your employees are happy and have the resources they need to be successful. Making sure they know you have their backs, because we are all human.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a CEO or Executive. Can you explain what you mean?
I’m not sure I know of any “myths”, but I will say this and it kind of goes with the previous answer as well. CEO’s, Executives, they aren’t always right. They also make mistakes. However, I think a huge factor in what makes a great executive is how they handle those mistakes. When it comes down to it, executives are leaders and to be effective, need to embody the traits of a leader and lead through example.
Oh, and also, you don’t work less. You actually work much, much more.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
Is there a character limit to this? Unfortunately, it’s still a very long list. I do think there are a few key challenges that make a big difference in the ability of women to have successful leadership roles.
I have often seen that women are not heard as profoundly. They are either forced to repeat themselves or another colleague will essentially say the same thing and only then is there a reaction.
Respect is another major challenge. The level at which a woman needs to earn and keep her respect is at a much higher threshold. It’s an imbalance that penetrates across many facets of their job and career.
And it’s painful to see that harassment and abuse, sexual or otherwise, is still rampant in many companies. I’m glad to see a brighter light shining on the subject, but it’s clear we still have a long way to go before it’s eradicated.
What is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
My job had a very natural evolution so I’m not sure I ever thought much about how it would be. But I can say that when I started my career, and throughout my positions that ultimately led me here, I never envisioned finding a company where I felt so respected and as an equal participant. I am truly grateful to have found this opportunity; one evening atop a downtown LA rooftop networking event. You never know how or when a life changing door will open.
Do you think everyone is cut out to be an executive? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful executive and what type of person should avoid aspiring to be an executive? Can you explain what you mean?
Absolutely not. While I think being an executive carries an aurora of gravitas, it takes a certain individual to be one, and an even more particular individual to be a successful one. I believe a successful executive needs to be humble and open minded while also confident and decisive. They need to have vision for the big picture and trust in others for the execution. These traits are more often learned than inherent and it’s a choice to embody them.
People who should avoid becoming an executive are impatient, have trouble listening to others and carry an ego. If you want to be the loudest one in the room, if you have to demand respect over earning it, you may get some things done, but you’ll struggle trying to lead a company.
What advice would you give to other women leaders to help their team to thrive?
I’m a big supporter of feedback, conversation and team building. All of these things, if done with respect and with a goal in mind, only facilitate and nourish trust. And trust is the core building block of all relationships, including those in business. Your team will work harder and with more diligence when they can trust you have theirs and the company’s best interests at heart.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
The lessons I’ve learned and the values I’ve chosen to nurture have disseminated into my other relationships. I think my career has given me great resources and tools to teach and mentor others. I have the ability to help small businesses stay in business and nonprofits expand. I look forward to more lessons and opportunities that I can pass down to my friends and children, hopefully igniting a chain reaction of positivity and success.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share an anecdote or example where you can.)
Have Confidence & Respect Yourself: When you are younger and new, it’s hard to be confident, I think especially for women. But confidence is worn on your sleeves, it’s visible and impactful. As the saying goes “fake it ‘till you make it.”
Own Your Mistakes: Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone. What I think a good boss should look for, is not the mistake, but how that person reacts to and rectifies their mistake. Be responsible and accountable for your actions, good or bad.
Remember Names: This is a life hack that works for almost all aspects, and it’s more important than it seems. I’ve seen deals close and the clincher is, you remembered their name. When it’s all said and done, business deals are just another form of relationships.
Speak Up & Bring Ideas: I often had ideas I was too nervous or scared to bring up. And the longer I let them slip by the more I saw others speaking up, sharing ideas and gaining traction. There’s a time and place for sharing, but don’t let those opportunities go by. One will stick eventually, I promise.
Keep Track of Successes: This is a helpful tip for career growth. You know what you’ve done, accomplished, and brought to the company. But chances are, no one else does. Keep a log of your successes and use this to track how you’ve helped the company or gained personal growth. When it’s time to make your next move, this is your ammo.
If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Better and free education for everyone. The ripple effects are incomprehensible.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson” quote? How that was relevant to you in your life?
It’s not a quote per se, but a mantra that has been top of mind for me lately is, “nothing is permanent.” It helps me to embrace the fear of change, especially big change and challenge myself to go beyond my comfort zone.
Is there a person in the US or world with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?
I would really be interested in spending time and having discussions with Malala. Her worldly perspective, extraordinary experiences and personal respect and self-worth is astounding to me.