Essential Career Advice for Women

Apr 30, 2024

We are pleased to share our conversation with Cindy Davis, a senior advisor and board member, and expert on marketing and branding. Cindy walks us through her personal experience working in many different roles throughout the business world, as well as giving us her tips on switching roles or taking your career to the next level.

Will you walk us through your career?

I started my career right out of graduate school in Advertising working for several global ad agencies. I got an opportunity to move over the client side in Marketing and never looked back. As much as I loved the creativity in advertising, I wanted to be closer to the decision making and be able to directly drive the business forward.

I’ve been fortunate to work for many great companies – Walmart, Disney, Victoria’s Secret, Pizza Hut, Starwood Hotels and Bed Bath & Beyond – across multiple different industries. But the common thread across my career has been building businesses, building brands and building long-term customer relationships.

Two years ago, I decided to pivot my career and bring my breadth of experience to the boardroom. I sit on several boards as well as serve as a senior advisor and Iove it! What a rewarding way to leverage my expertise and help companies accelerate growth.

What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned throughout your career?

  • Relationships – Even in the smallest companies (and certainly in the largest), you have to be able to build effective partnerships to get your goals accomplished. Invest in mutually beneficial relationships inside and outside your company.
  • Risks – Be willing to step out of your comfort zone. Take on new assignments, learn new skills, and have the courage to shift directions in your career. Success is not usually a linear path.
  • Results – No matter how hard you work, your results will speak the loudest about your abilities and your future potential. Take on every project with the goal to deliver on time, on budget and on point in terms of outcomes.

Any career do’s & don’ts?

Champions and Challengers – Mentors can be the most important assets in your career. Most people have Champions – people in their corner that will recommend them for new assignments and promotions. But you also need Challengers – people who you know and trust that will shoot straight with you, give you tough feedback and push you into the uncomfortable. I’ve learned the most from the Challengers in my career.

Will you give us insight into joining boards? How do you apply to sit on a board? What skills are required? If someone is interested in being on a board, what steps should they take to get there?

I’ve always wanted to serve on boards but wasn’t allowed to do so at Walmart or Disney. So, when I decided on this path, I was started at ground zero. First, I reached out to every recruiter I knew and let them know I wanted to serve on boards. But I learned that only 10 – 15% of board opportunities come through recruiting firms. The key is really networking. Luckily, I have a great network (cultivate it now before you need it) so I reached out to my colleagues who served on boards for their insights which really helped. If you are interested in board service in the future, I highly recommend joining the NACD (National Association of Corporate Directors) and consider a board certification program. Ask your employer to sponsor you as part of your professional development plan – you’ll be glad you did.

What are your thoughts on the current state of retail & where the industry is heading?

The pandemic was very challenging for the retail industry. Out of necessity, many store-only shoppers had to shop online. What resulted was a significant increase in cross channel shoppers – customers who shopped across both channels.

To capitalize on this opportunity, retailers need to meet the customers’ needs wherever they want to shop. Customers want in-store shopping to be more convenient and want online shopping to be more inspirational. Brands who unlock this will win.

Any marketing or branding tips you can share?

It all starts with knowing your customer, your competition, and your brand. Work in your stores to understand customer behavior. Shop your competitors – know their strengths and weaknesses. Truly understand what your brand stands for in the mind of consumers. Then you can start the work of marketing and branding.

Don’t forget your own personal brand – We all know the story of the cobbler’s kids’ shoes. Identify who needs to know you (your target audience) and decide what is unique and relevant about you that they need to know. Then shout it from the rooftop!

What are some current projects you are working on?

Once a year I choose two women-led companies to mentor/advise the founder and help accelerate their growth. Right now, I’m working with two amazing female entrepreneurs:

Dawn Marie who founded Starla – A premium non-alcoholic wine company that tastes great and allows customers to enjoy a responsible lifestyle.

Bernadette Butler who founded Storytap – An innovative platform helping companies leverage user generated videos at scale to engage customers and increase conversion.

I’ve mentored emerging women leaders my entire career and I’m happy to be able to continue that passion.

Where can people find you?

The Style That Binds Us


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