Time Out with… is the interview series for inspiring leaders throughout Dentsu Aegis Network. In this edition we sit down with Roz Chinchiolo, managing partner of Fetch San Francisco. She recently met with Fetch Marketing Manager Nicole Skaff for a conversation about her career in the festively decorated One Kings Lane Studio.
How did you end up in advertising? Tell us about how you got to where you are today.
When I originally went to university I thought I was going to be a veterinarian, but I quickly learned that was not the direction I wanted to go and changed my major to undeclared. I was always passionate about languages and studied French, I really liked people so I took on psychology, and I loved different cultures so started studying international relations as well. I ended up graduating with a triple major in French, Psychology, and International Relations. Pretty far from advertising. I was always interested in politics as well and looked into going into the Foreign Service but at the time I wasn’t a US citizen (I was born in the UK). I wasn’t sure exactly where I wanted to go, and I honestly stumbled into a marketing job and really enjoyed it. I started at an ad agency after that and knew that I had discovered my calling. I loved the energy, the constant change, and have been in advertising ever since. Definitely not the most direct path, but I think it’s really given me a lot of perspective to come from a different route.
With all of that exposure to different cultures and lifestyles, how has that shaped how you approach your work?
It’s definitely had an impact on my approach. I grew up in the UK, and moved to the US about 20 years ago. I also lived in France for a year and worked in Australia. It has shown me different ways of working and living, and has given me a unique perspective on how I approach a situation and try to understand where everybody’s coming from. Everyone has a different background and when working with different teams and clients it’s beneficial to have that understanding. I hope that it has made me a better leader.
Speaking of being a good leader, what is your leadership philosophy?
If I had to put it into a few words it would be “lead by example.” At least that is what I aspire to do. And when I say lead by example I don’t mean I’m trying to show everyone how to do their work. It’s more about the broader things such as if my colleagues see that I’m excited to come to work every day, and that I’m treating everyone in the company with respect, it helps foster a culture that makes people love coming to work. I’m not perfect, but I hope I’m setting a good example for the people I work with.
A lot of that speaks to your most recent promotion to managing partner of Fetch San Francisco which is amazing, congratulations! I’m curious how you approach taking on this bigger position.
Thank you! I’m really excited to take on this new role and looking forward to what I can do in this position. As far as how I approached stepping into this role, I was in quite a unique situation where I got promoted right after coming back from maternity leave. It’s amazing the different viewpoint you get when you’ve been gone for four months and doing something so totally different from advertising. And then coming back to the office, I had been away from the day to day for several months and it allowed me to take a more holistic view of everything. While I’m obviously aware of what’s going on in the day to day and still touching that portion, it’s important to take a 30,000 ft perspective to understand where we should be going as a business, where we should be focusing and not just tied to into that day to day all the time. My maternity leave really helped me with that.
With this new transition (both personally and professionally!), how do you manage stress in your life?
Great question. Taking on the challenge of motherhood and this new management position, there definitely have been stressful moments. I think one of the true rocks in my life has been my yoga practice. I was recently certified as a yoga teacher, and it’s something I’m quite passionate about. Taking that time to do something that’s very different from advertising where my thoughts are elsewhere is important for me. I’m not going to lie though, a good glass of wine and sitting on the couch cuddling with my little girl — that definitely helps as well!
How do you continue to stay engaged and inspired at work?
It’s really the people. The people I work with here at Fetch are truly passionate about what they’re doing and they love the challenge of coming to work each day, and not knowing what clients are going to ask. There’s been so many times where a client has requested something and I don’t always know if we can do it, but the team always insists that they can and there’s such joy in taking on the challenge. How can I not stay engaged when I’m working with these kind of people? That comes back to what inspires me. We’re continually pushing the envelop, always looking for what’s next in everything we do. A lot of our clients also are working with us because they want to affect change in their organization and we get to be part of that. At the end of the day, that’s just pretty cool.
How does the culture at Fetch differ from other companies in your past work lives?
One of the things that I’ve found most different here is that we’re very nimble. There’s this startup vibe that we have where there are no challenges too big, and we’ll just figure out a way to make it work. And people just have fun with it. It feels like we’re a big family here. We do a lot of stuff together and people truly enjoy coming to work each day. That empowers them to have this passion to do everything we’re asking them to do.
On a lighter note, if your parents had to describe what you do at work what do you think they would say?
I think they finally have somewhat of an understanding of what I do! They’d say I do something to do with mobile or advertising, but they’re not quite sure what. For many years my mother thought I was an office manager, and in a way I guess now I am, so she’s kind of right. But they do get more what I do and I know that because I’ll get text messages from my Dad with screenshots of mobile ads that he doesn’t like, asking if I can fix it.
If you were to teach a college course, what course would that be?
Something around women in business. Recently there’s been a lot of talk about how do we further women in business and a lot of that seems to come later on once you’re in the workforce. But I think we need to do it sooner, maybe even in high school. At least in college we should have an opportunity where we’re talking with women about how to approach pay raises, negotiating, presenting themselves in meetings, etc. I think about all of the knowledge I’ve acquired over my career so far, but if I’d had that knowledge before I even came into the workforce who knows what I could’ve done with that! It’s something that I’m very passionate about and I’d love to pass that knowledge on. And this isn’t to discriminate against all of the amazing men I’ve met in my career who have helped me along, and I could see a lot of the male friends and coworkers I have in my life helping me teach this course.
You’ve talked a lot about continuing to learn and grow. What is something that you’re learning right now, whether that’s at work or in your personal life?
The number one thing I’m learning right now is how to be a parent. It’s something I’ve never done before, and I’m learning something new every day! I’m also learning flying pigeon (a yoga pose), which is something I’ve not done before and I’m falling down a lot. But tomorrow’s a new day, so I’ll keep trying. On a professional note, I’ve been learning so much in this role. I’m getting more insight into the broader workings of the business, and learning a lot by overseeing our move to a new office next year. It is a lot harder to secure and build out an office space than buying and furnishing your own house — which I thought was quite difficult!
If you could go back and give your 20-year-old self a piece of advice, what would you say to young Roz?
It would be some rather clichéd advice but it’s true: it all works out. At points in our career or our personal lives we think things are not going to work out, and we couldn’t see that path out. But at the end of the day those experiences really make us who we are, and I wouldn’t change anything so far in my life. Even the times that were unpleasant in the moment. I would just say to keep perspective, it will all work out, and tomorrow’s a new day. Learn from it and move on. It’s easy to say now because I’m older, but I do try to keep that with me every day. I got that advice from an old mentor who told me to not try to recreate the past but to focus on building the future. So I’d tell young Roz a bunch of clichés, and she’d just ignore me and keep doing what she was doing!