How She Got There: Charisse Ford, Chief Marketing Officer of PANDORA Jewelry

Name: Charisse Ford
Job Title and Description: PANDORA Jewelry CMO (Americas)
College Name/Major: B.A. Howard University/Finance Major | M.B.A. Kellogg School at Northwestern University
Website: us.pandora.net
Twitter Handle: @charissekay
Instagram Handle: @charissekay 

What does your current job entail? Is there such a thing as a typical day?

CF: I am the regional head of marketing for the Americas region (North America and Latin America) and my role is pretty broad. I’m responsible for driving the brand and consumer messaging within the region, so this includes oversight over all aspects: branding, media–for instance, digital, social, and print PR.

When you think about the Americas region, we have two very established markets in the U.S. and Canada, but we also have developing and emerging businesses in Brazil and Mexico, Chile and Panama. So, I am guiding those local markets and marketing teams to ensure that we’re delivering on the brand objective. We want to build awareness in markets that are newer to us. For instance, Panama and Mexico and Chile are really focused on what type of spending from a media standpoint or what type of tactics that we would take from a PR or social standpoint, and to be able to do that, we build more awareness and let consumers know that we’re in the market. In other markets it might be more about getting consumers to think about PANDORA and to keep us top of mind when they’re thinking about jewelry. Those could be some of the issues or challenges that we face in other markets that are a bit more mature.

That’s kind of a snapshot of what I’m doing, and I use all the tools available from a campaign aspect, [such as] data and insights to really understand the consumer and to make sure that what we’re communicating is really going to resonate and actually drive some sort of action from the consumer, whether it be a click or an engagement, a like, a share –or store purchase, which is the ultimate goal.

On a typical day, there is no typical day. I usually get into the office around 8 a.m., and that’s when I would spend that first hour kind of planning out my day and what I need to focus on. Usually, I have meetings... sometimes a mix of meetings with third parties, like my partners on the media side. We have this tool called PANDORA Listen, where we’re able to understand the level of satisfaction that consumers have around the in-store experience. For example, today we will have a quarterly presentation on that to really understand how we’re doing from a satisfaction standpoint. I also might have a meeting with some of my regional or country general managers, just to make sure that we stay close and aligned on what’s going on and the priorities and what support I need from them.

What is the best part of your job?

CF: If I had to boil it down to three things that I really love about my job, it would be 1) I love leading a team of people who are passionate and talented and really trying to inspire them to be their best as individuals and also best as a team. 2) Is being able to have a deeper understanding of consumers and what motivates them, or doesn’t. Really understanding those distinctions is very important, and my goal and the team’s goal is to make sure that we’re exciting people and women about PANDORA, so that always is a lot of fun. When you see something that really takes hold and grabs their energy, like PANDORA Shine, you get super excited about that. And then when things aren’t working out so well you’re kind of asking yourself a lot of questions and trying to dig deeper to understand what’s going on.

And 3) is really just learning new disciplines and new areas. When I was in undergraduate school and business school there was no such thing as digital or social media really, so having to really stretch yourself and your capabilities to continue to learn. Now I’m putting in place a data strategy, like where’s all this data going to live, how am I going to use it and how is it talking to each other? That is a whole new space for me. It’s exciting and interesting, but it’s completely new. So being able to learn new disciplines and new areas and being exposed to new streams of thought is also very inspiring and motivating.

What was your first entry-level job in your field and how did you get it?

CF: My first job out of college was I was a manager of financial planning and analysis at Northwest Airlines. Sadly, and I know that there are some people who have this situation as well, I actually did not have anything lined up when I came out of college. That was just because I wasn’t completely clear on what I wanted to do and how I was going to get there, so I was really fortunate that I have a bit of a network, and my mother also did too. So, we were able to land an opportunity at Northwest in Minnesota.

I had gone to undergraduate at Howard University out here in Washington D.C. and then I had moved home after graduation and was going on a lot of different interviews and trying to figure it out, and then landed the role at Northwest in Minnesota. I definitely did not want to go to Minnesota but I think one of the things that I might suggest or want to reiterate is that despite the fact that it’s not the ideal job, it was in my field, I was a finance major, but it wasn’t necessarily in the location that I wanted. I don’t really like Minnesota that much–nothing against the Minnesotans–and I didn’t envision myself being there and I wasn’t really that jazzed about airlines either. What I would say to people is, get your foot in the door, take the opportunity and learn, and then it’s all about forward progressing. You just never know what opportunities could come up after that.

What words of wisdom do you find most valuable?

CF: One that I love that is actually sitting in front of me in my office is from Maya Angelou, and it says, “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive, and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” I love that quote because I think it encapsulates everything. I’m mission-oriented, wanting to be confidently moving and forward, but you have to have something in your heart and something that really makes you get up every day. You have to care about people, you have to not take yourself too seriously. And of course, I’ve spent my whole career in beauty and fashion, and so you have to be stylish while you’re doing it. I just love that one.

I don’t even know where it comes from, but my mother says it all the time: “To whom much is given, much is required.” And what I like about it is that it reminds me that I’m very blessed and that I need to make sure that I’m finding a way to be a blessing to others.

The last one that I really like, also from an unknown source, but my previous CEO used to say something very similar, and it is, “I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.” What I like about that is that it reminds me that you have to have experts on the team who can adjust the sales. You have to have a clear view of where you’re headed because otherwise, you could go astray. And in some cases, you need to control what you can control.  

What is one mistake you made along the way and what did you learn from it?

CF: I think I make mistakes all the time. I’ve made so many mistakes. The mistake that I think that I’ve made repeatedly, and it’s one of the most unfortunate, is not to speak my mind sometimes. And I think we as women sometimes are very hard on ourselves, super critical, we want to be perfect, we want to have the right answer. You have to care for those you’re communicating with. You have to understand your audience, you have to think about what you’re trying to get across and make sure that it comes across clearly. But I think that the biggest mistake, and I would say that I make it daily still, is not speaking my mind.

What has been the most surreal moment of your career thus far?

CF: So, I am not super star-struck except when it comes to Oprah. One of the best moments of my career was when I got tickets to SuperSoul Sessions, and I actually met Oprah. I find her to be such an inspiring woman. She has such a relatable story, at least for me, with my family and our Southern roots. And I just love how she’s making such a powerful and positive impact on the world. 

What do you look for when considering hiring someone?

CF: When I’m considering hiring someone I’m definitely looking to see what you’ve done throughout your college career. I do look for achievement related to what you want to do because it says that you are committed to owning that and trying to embody that as much as possible. I also look for somebody who’s adaptable because the consumer landscape, the retail landscape, marketing as a function, all of those areas are just evolving and changing so rapidly, so if you as an individual are not flexible and adaptable, then that could be an issue.

Lastly, I look for someone who’s extremely optimistic, because if you’re adaptable then you know that it’s easy to sort of get down in certain circumstances. You need to really be able to rally the team, help to encourage them and help continue to drive the mission of the organization or your team or your department.

What advice would you give to a 20-something with similar aspirations?

CF: It’s so important to maintain strong professional relationships. Joining clubs, getting to know people who are in similar areas, that is so important to making connections and getting to know the people who can actually help you. Remembering that building this network of friends and colleagues to help inspire, encourage and guide you is really the way that people get to the place in their journey that they want to be. People really want to help you. I think when you ask for help I find that people nine out of ten times respond and they want to help. I think just remembering that is really important.

Also, be responsible for your own life and having ownership and attention, meaning: What do you want to accomplish, who do you want to meet, and what do you want to learn? If you say to yourself what are those three things and start to write that down, then you can start to map out a plan on how you’re going to get there. That’s how you can prove to be super successful – engaging with folks who will be in the same area that you want to be in. Then I think it’s important to be able to lead and also be able to follow, because I think that in today’s world sometimes people want to start out the gate leading, but you also oftentimes start out the gate following and you have to lead many teams. So, figuring out a way to do both I think is critically important.

Specifically, as it relates to marketing, it’s really all about getting experience, and getting experience in wherever you can get it. There’s no perfect company, there’s no panacea when it comes to a role or position. But, if you’ve defined what you want to accomplish, who you want to meet, what you want to learn, then you can define places and companies that you can actually go after and will help you to get those skills.

What's the one thing that's stood out to you the most in a resume?

CF: I look at the education and I look at the background of the individual, but there is nothing that can replace getting to know the person behind the resume. The interview is so critical. Really getting to know the person is so incredibly important,  and what motivates them? Are they passionate? Can they lead, can they follow, are they adaptable, are they optimistic, are they someone I’d want to work with? Those things are really important, so that’s how I approach it.

If I had to say one single thing on the resume, it is being able to translate your experiences into this message that communicates the situation, the task, the action and result, and being able to quantify the result is really helpful.

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Amanda is a senior at Carthage College double majoring in Communications and Public Relations. She is originally from Chicago, Illinois, which she can confirm is indeed a windy city. When she's not at cross country or track & field practice, she can be found obsessing over pizza, watching dachshund videos on Facebook, or enjoying the Lake Michigan view on campus. She is also the Editor in Chief for her college's Her Campus chapter, and a Her Campus Editorial Intern.

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