Kicking off our second week of “Breakfast with the Boss” today was the experienced, innovative Glen Ellen Brown, Vice President of Brand Development at Hearst Magazines. Not only has today’s inspirational boss made a name for herself at one of the largest, most diversified communications companies in the world, but she has also developed a close relationship with the Fashion Scholarship Fund, currently serving on the Board of Governors. She also serves on the Mentorship Committee, where she works diligently to assign industry mentors to each scholar. Today, Glen Ellen focused on discussing her career path as well as providing an in-depth explanation of licensing and its many opportunities, giving our scholars advice about moving forward with their own careers. To top it off, we had the fortune of experiencing one of the best views of the NYC skyline from the Hearst Corporate Office. Take a look at what our scholars learned from Glen Ellen!
Hearst Corporation is one of America’s most extensive media and information companies. Since its founding as a single newspaper in 1887, Hearst has grown into a powerhouse—the company currently owns 15 daily and 34 weekly newspapers, hundreds of magazines, 29 television stations and leading cable networks, as well as maintaining diversified holdings in many other information services and media interests. Under the Brand Development group, Glen Ellen is specifically responsible for developing products and experiences that enhance the brands behind Hearst’s magazine titles and “reach the consumer with engaged content at every touchpoint.” Recently, she developed The Metropolitan Home Collection, a line of furniture and bedding designed to promote the sophisticated, modern aesthetic for the more urbanite, leveraging the legacy of Metropolitan Home magazine. Glen Ellen explained to our scholars that licensing a brand involves looking very strategically at elements of that brand and trying to capture its essence through the creation, as well as the marketing, of a product. She described the nature of Hearst as a “multi-tentacle brand,” one that allows the consumer to engage through “search and selection customization,” as being a major contributor to its success as a company.
The Boss’ Journey: Steps to Success
One of the most pivotal takeaways from Glen Ellen’s talk was her non-traditional career path. After graduating from the College of New Rochelle with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, she very quickly realized her desire to back her artistic talent with business savvy and develop a skill set that would benefit her long-term. As Glen Ellen shared, “I didn’t want to stifle my creativity, but I knew I needed serious skills.” It was then that she entered Chase’s 8-month financial training program and never looked back. “This experience fed that left-side of my brain that had been feeling a skill set void,“ she explained. “I finally felt that my right-side and left-side were working together.”
Glen Ellen’s introspective ability and self-knowledge has taken her very far. At each step of her career, she has been able to satisfy her creative drive while also feeding the “entrepreneurial monster” within herself, and whenever the equation feels unbalanced, she seeks change. After spending her early years doing sales and marketing for a personal women’s and children’s clothing business, she grew to love marketing and rigorous branding, but felt that it was time to go bigger and find that next skill set. It was in her next position as Vice President of Grey Advertising, Inc. that she “learned how to take [a brand or trend], position it appropriately, and market it so that consumers will act.” To change things up even further, she went on to become Director of Marketing for consumer products at The Walt Disney Corporation. From Glen Ellen’s description of the environment at Disney, we could all practically feel the “incredible, can-do, magical, fast-moving drive to create”, that she experienced each day at work. Learning the valuable skills of teamwork, leadership and motivation along the way, she helped the leadership team challenged with transforming Disney into a consumer brand, introducing the idea of an entertainment branding and branded Disney products to stores nationally. Glen Ellen has also held notable positions such as VP of Consumer Products at MTV as well as SVP and GM of IMIX.com, a customized music and entertainment business. Her “zig-zag” path from small business to large business, shifting cultures and entrepreneurial styles with each move along her journey, has “fed [her] monster” and armed her with invaluable experience.
Q: Hannah Wheeler (Cornell University): How do you strike a balance between your creative side and your business-savvy side?
A: “When I started in banking, I felt this incredible urge to paint. I was in finance doing spreadsheets and looking at cash flows, and amongst all of this big data, I kept feeling the desire to keep that creative side alive in me. Eventually, that need to paint ended up translating into a need to design things. It’s about finding the balance between creativity and business that’s right for you, but it may not be 50/50. There are so many ways to find creativity within business, as I’ve learned through my many positions. Part of my creative equation [when licensing a new product] is always asking, ‘how do I position this product?’ or ‘how do I advertise it?’ Find little ways to incorporate your creative side in whatever work you are doing.
Q: Katie Class (University of Missouri): Before accepting a job position or entering a new industry, what elements do you assess to make sure it’s the right fit for you?
A: “First, consider for yourself, ‘here’s what I’m doing, here’s what I love about what I’m doing, and here’s what’s less pleasurable.’ Do your research! Talk to people you know and tell them what you’re specifically interested in. Use your network, or create one. And once you get inside, be prepared to ask questions and assess the fit for yourself. I’m a big business development person and a marketer, so the fact that I went from family to teenage demographics was strategically right for me. But ultimately I decided that the specific environment [of MTV] wasn’t a very good fit, and knew it was time to move on again.”
Q: Mariel Bolger (University of Wisconsin): When applying for your many different jobs, did you always go into an interview with a specific job in mind, or instead position your capabilities and leave it to the company?
A: “ In the Agency instance, I was determined to get into Advertising, and open to all opportunities. When presented with a specific opportunity, I was prepared with several reasons why I was a good candidate, as well as how my past experience could contribute. I think today you have to be open to the opportunity to get into the field in whatever way possible, and once you’re presented with opportunities within the industry you’ll find the right fit. It all falls into place.”
Q: Shota Adamia (Brandeis University): “In an industry where practical experience and formal education are both extremely important but hard to leverage at the same time, how do you strike a balance?”
A: “As I went along my zig-zag path, I encountered some people who felt that only a vertical path (formal education, then experience) works. In their minds, you enter a training program, become a buyer, and then advance in a very linear way. From my perspective, that’s not always the best strategy. Of course, there are crucial things that you need to know, but having an infusion of several different vantage points can be extremely valuable. As you’re building your career, that vertical can sometimes be daunting and seemingly hard to break, but that’s where your mentoring really helps. So much is about leveraging what’s at your fingertips—you have an amazing network of ambassadors and mentors, it’s all there for you.”
Glen Ellen’s “Words of Wisdom”
In addition to sharing some “Baseline Expectations” she felt scholars must be prepared to face during their careers, such as completing internships, networking, time management, organization and commitment, Glen Ellen shared some more personal advice.
- Develop your own path. It’s ok not to take a vertical path in your career. Try entrepreneurial, try big brand, try it all.
- Teamwork is extremely important. “You can’t do it all.” Figure out your vision, and do your best to get others on board. “Make them feel the same magic you feel.”
- Don’t do “no.” Have a “yes” mentality, and don’t take no for an answer! An environment with negative energy hinders success.
- Feed your “monster.” If you are working in a business setting, try to find a way to satisfy your craving for creativity, and vice versa. Build a foundation but don’t neglect your passions.
Some of our scholars shared with us what they found most meaningful or memorable about Glen Ellen's presentation. Take a look!
Anna LaPlaca (UCLA): “My top takeaway was her advice that we try to get a diversity of experience. It was really interesting to me how she bounced back and forth between creative and business sides of her career and balanced between left and right brain. She diversified, and made herself more competitive that way.”
Brooke Begalka (Oklahoma State University): “Her career path and how she went from small business to big business, creative-sided to more business-minded, was very inspiring. I’m a very creative person, so it was cool to see how she fed her thirst for creativity while also gaining business skills.”
Mariel Bolger (University of Wisconsin): “Glen Ellen provided me with valuable insight about the concept of going into a business, maybe not in the position that’s right for you at first, but being open to learning from it and finding the right fit as the opportunity comes along.”
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