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How She Got There: Heather Lapham Duque, Co-Founder of Momba

Name: Heather Lapham Duque
Job Title and Description: Momba, Co-Founder & CFO / VivaKi (a division of Publicis Groupe), North American Financial Monitoring Control Director
Education: Cornell University – BA, English / City University of New York / Baruch College, Zicklin School of Business – MBA, Finance & Investments
Website: http://momba.me
Twitter Handle: @HeatherLDuque

Her Campus: What does your current job entail? Is there such a thing as a typical day?
Heather Lapham Duque: As Momba’s co-founder and chief financial officer, I provide leadership and guidance on all financial matters. Getting Momba going has been an all-hands-on-deck experience, and there’s no such thing as a typical day. One day I’m designing a financial projections model based on our current and future aspirations as a company; the next day I’m packaging products in our inventory storage space.

At VivaKi, I provide financial monitoring and control oversight of Publicis Groupe’s wide variety of digital advertising and media agencies in North America, which generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue every year. My daily responsibilities consist in deep dives into these agencies’ financial statements, and identifying areas where they can improve their efforts. While my core focus on financial monitoring and control remains constant, each agency is different, posing unique challenges from agency to agency.

HC: What is the best part of your job?
HLD: When working on Momba, I get to work with my wonderful husband and Momba CEO, Steven Duque. It’s absolutely the best part of my job. But, it’s also incredibly rewarding to be building a business whose focus is not only on being viable and profitable, but also on making a positive social impact. From helping empower entrepreneurial college students, to contributing to host school’s financial aid programs, to working with socially minded organizations and brands, we are building a great business model that’s both pragmatic and compassionate.

As North American Financial Monitoring Control Director at VivaKi, I really enjoy how different all the agencies are. As a result, I get to tackle new challenges every day, depending on the agency I’m working with and what I’m focusing on during a given review. I also travel a lot, visiting agencies across the United States, Canada, and even Brazil. I’m incredibly thankful for these experiences, but traveling isn’t as much as it used to be (when I was single)! Even though my job and travel schedule are demanding, the challenges I face are interesting—there’s never a dull day!

HC: What was your first entry-level job in your field and how did you get it?
HLD: My first entry-level job was as an associate project manager at an interactive agency, where I was able to move up into roles of increasing responsibility. I eventually landed great jobs at WPP and Publicis Groupe, making the transition into advertising and media finance and compliance.

HC: What is one thing you wish you knew about your industry when you first started out that you know now?
HLD: I think it’s important to know that strong, educated women have a very important role to play in the advertising and marketing industry. When I first started out in the industry, it felt a bit like something you’d see on “Mad Men”. Fortunately, I discovered with time that the advertising world was and is changing very rapidly—thankfully, for the better.

HC: Who is one person who changed your professional life for the better?
HLD: I’ve had so many great mentors, but here I’ll name three. My cousin, the amazingly talented advertising, media, and marketing guru Jeannette McClennan, helped me land an interview that set me on my professional path. My boss George Rankin, who hired me for the role that precipitated my move from project management into finance, and my boss Lester Feintuck, who encouraged me to get an MBA. It was difficult to complete my degree while working full time and traveling, but it was definitely worth the effort! Lastly, my parents Mark and Linda Lapham have supported and encouraged me throughout my career.

HC: What words of wisdom do you find most valuable?
HLD: “You have to take risks. We will only understand the miracle of life fully when we allow the unexpected to happen.” – From Paulo Coelho, one of my favorite authors.
Another is from my husband, Steven, who inspires me daily: “Let’s crush.”

HC: What is one mistake you made along the way and what did you learn from it?
HLD: I left a very solid company, where I was having a difficult time with colleagues, to go to a tech startup just before the dot-com bubble burst. Eventually, my then-employer had to lay everyone off and close shop. Although it led to some other interesting experiences that I’m happy to have had, it wasn’t an easy time for me. I learned to ride out the difficult times at other companies I went to: often, I’ve found, when I ride it out and continue to do an excellent job, things turn around.

HC: What do you look for when considering hiring someone?
HLD: Integrity, intelligence, curiosity, and problem solving skills. Also, someone who doesn’t shy away from accepting responsibility.

HC: What advice would you give to a 20-something with similar aspirations?
HLD: It’s important to take risks. It’s also important to dream big. Set a real, solid goal – an apartment, a car… anything that gives you something real to work toward. Keep your eyes on the prize, and do everything that you can do to reach your goal.

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Gennifer is the Branded Content Specialist for Her Campus Media. In her role, she manages all sponsored content across platforms including editorial, social, and newsletters. As one of HC's first-ever writers, she previously wrote about career, college life, and more as a national writer during her time at Hofstra University. She also helped launch the How She Got There section, where she interviewed inspiring women in various industries. She lives in New York City.
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