In This Episode
In the latest episode, host Angie Lee is joined by the accomplished leader Marjorie McCarthy. Together, they delve into Marjorie’s insights and experiences as the Chief Marketing Officer at Unispace, exploring the dynamics of women leadership and the complexities of the global marketing landscape.
In this engaging episode, Marjorie shares her approach to balancing self-care, professional responsibilities, and family life. She talks candidly about how she starts her day and emphasizes the importance of preserving time for oneself amidst global collaborative responsibilities.
Listeners will gain valuable perspectives as Marjorie reflects on her diverse career journey, touching upon her early days in international relations and the lessons learned from her time abroad in Argentina and India. She sheds light on the intricacies of making bold career moves, taking calculated risks, and adapting to pivotal decisions, drawing on her own experiences in India and beyond.
The episode delves into the unique balance of approachability and authority in women leadership, offering insights into the significance of cultivating inclusive conversations and embracing diverse perspectives at the workplace. Marjorie also highlights the value of authenticity, emphasizing that the best version of oneself is a genuine expression of leadership.
From navigating the complexities of marketing to fostering a sense of belonging in the spaces we occupy, Marjorie shares new initiatives at Unispace aimed at incorporating diversity and inclusion into all aspects of space creation.
Marjorie’s Morning Routine and Professional Background
- Marjorie’s morning routine
- Early career aspirations
International Relations and Global Affairs Experience
- Lessons learned from working in different markets
- Transition to the US Chamber of Commerce, Council on Foreign Relations and work in India
Significance of Taking Risks in Career
- Career risk-taking and opportunity in India
- Experience at McGraw Hill and the impact of business transformation
- Learning from pivot moments and business decision-making
Guiding Principles in Decision Making
- Balancing data and intuition in decision-making
- Embracing individual authenticity and coping with imposter syndrome
- Leadership style as a servant leader
Gender Dynamics in Leadership
- Unique perspectives brought by women leaders
- The balancing act of managing personal and professional responsibilities
- Inclusivity in conversations about masculinity and gender dynamics
Future Projects and Final Thoughts
- Unispace’s focus on diversity and inclusion in space creation
- The importance of building and maintaining relationships in career growth
- The value of continuous growth and trying new things at any stage of life
Angie Lee [00:00:36]:
Welcome back to leadership narratives. Today, a special guest is joining us, none other than Marjorie McCarthy. From managing a high performing team and directly interfacing with executive leadership and the board of directors to developing hundreds of global partnerships and leading over 50 annual corporate events, Marjorie has done it all.
Angie Lee [00:00:57]:
She not only coordinated the US based campaign that contributed to the 2005 congressional passage of the KaF Dr. Free trade agreement, but also managed a twelve city us tour with ambassadors of six signatory countries. In today’s episode, we will decode the secrets of Marjorie’s leadership style and understand how she navigates the complex world of marketing as the chief marketing officer at Unispace. Marjorie, welcome to the show.
Marjorie McCarthy [00:01:27]:
Hello, how are you?
Angie Lee [00:01:29]:
So glad to have you with us. Marjorie, what did you have for breakfast?
Marjorie McCarthy [00:01:32]:
I was just finishing before we started here, so hopefully there’s nothing in my teeth. I was just finishing part of an Acai bowl.
Angie Lee [00:01:39]:
Marjorie, what does your morning routine look like besides Acai bowls and other amazing breakfast items?
Marjorie McCarthy [00:01:47]:
Okay, so let’s see. I tend to get up really early, so I get up at five or 530, and I exercise. That’s the only time in my day I usually have an opportunity to exercise, and that’s usually a run, or I ride the peloton bike, or I do something, and then I get my kids ready. I have two kids. I have a nine year old little boy. He’s really not so little anymore. And I have a six year old girl. Try to help them get ready for school, feed them breakfast, feed myself breakfast.
Marjorie McCarthy [00:02:19]:
The other thing that I try to do to keep my mornings for me is I try my best to not look at my phone until I’m ready to sit down for the day and start my work day. I have a global role at unispace. We’re very globally collaborative across all of our offices around the globe, which is part of what makes us really amazing. It also means that I could literally be on email 24 hours a day if I wanted to. So what I’ve learned over time is that as soon as I look at my email, I’m hitting the ground running. So if I want to preserve any time for myself, I need to sort of keep that compartmentalized until I sit down and I’m fully ready to work.
Angie Lee [00:03:04]:
It sounds like you achieve more than most people before. 08:00 a.m. I love the fact that you try to incorporate exercise, self care, and your needs are met before you tend to your kids and everybody else in this world.
Marjorie McCarthy [00:03:17]:
I think some days are more successful than others, right?
Angie Lee [00:03:22]:
Yeah. And it seems like that concept translates over to your corporate leadership role. Right. Could you help our audience understand more about your background?
Marjorie McCarthy [00:03:32]:
Sure. I went to undergrad at Pomona College outside of Los Angeles, California. And in my kind of earliest conception of my career, you might laugh. I actually really wanted to be a soap opera actress. I love theater and I do love so, especially going to college outside of Los Angeles. I had the opportunity to dabble a little bit in the industry there. I would say I dabbled with very little success. So I decided that moving to Washington, DC would be an interesting path for me to take as well.
Marjorie McCarthy [00:04:07]:
Got to Washington, got a great sort of first job at a law firm that did some international work and pretty quickly figured out that I didn’t want to be a lawyer, but that I was very interested in the international relations and global affairs element of what we did in that business. And I had minored in Spanish in undergrad and at the time spoke really fluent Spanish. I’d studied abroad in Spain during college, somebody I knew was vacating a role in the international division at the US Chamber of Commerce. I applied for the role and got it and ended up working for the next two years, kind of traveling all over Latin America and the western hemisphere and within the United States, working on both trade policy and trade agreements and also promoting us business interests in countries throughout Latin America. I think it gave me a lot of perspective on how important perspective is in terms of working for a global business or working in international affairs. From there, I had an opportunity to move to New York and to work at the Council on Foreign Relations. The Council on Foreign Relations is a global think tank that is focused on all aspects of us foreign policy and international relations. And the president and CEO at the time wanted to.
Marjorie McCarthy [00:05:34]:
He had a vision of expanding CFR’s reach both in the US and international. And I had an opportunity to join and to help lead those efforts. And that was, again, just like a really interesting opportunity to combine what I have sort of come to over the course of my career, say, are kind of my two passions, which are connecting audiences with the right products or resources and storytelling, and then obviously, the opportunity to be working across many cultures, countries and markets.
Angie Lee [00:06:11]:
It sounds like your early career days in international relations and global affairs has really shaped your perspective. And I love how, you know, you’ve learned that perspective is everything. How did your experience at the US chamber shape your perspective on international relations?
Marjorie McCarthy [00:06:31]:
Good question. It’s one thing for any of us to sit in the market that we sort of operate in the most, and we all have perspective based on where we grew up, our socioeconomic background, our gender, our ethnicity, our education. Right. And so I think that the perspective that I gained was that people are super similar in so many ways, but we all bring different perspectives based on all of that, and then add in a layer of operating in a particular country or a particular market, and the interests that layer into that. Right. When I was working at the chamber, I had the opportunity. The chamber has a really interesting staff exchange program where the chamber from the international division would send individuals to work at some of the american chambers of commerce in other parts of the world, and likewise, those chambers would send delegates from their offices to come work at the US chamber in Washington, D. C.
Marjorie McCarthy [00:07:37]:
So I had the opportunity to go live in Buenos Aires for about six weeks and work out of the American Chamber of Commerce of Argentina. And it was right after one of the economic declines that Argentina had experienced, one of the quite severe ones. And it just gave me a firsthand perspective of, we can sort of see how that impacts business and see how that impacts society from kind of where we sit in the US, going there and experiencing that and hearing the considerations that my colleagues were taking under and kind of their perspective on the world was just very different. So that sort of gave me that first perspective. I also had the opportunity to live and work in Delhi, India, for about 18 months a little bit later in my career, and I’m happy to talk more about that, too. But that was sort of a next iteration of really, truly being in a market, realizing that, okay, this is really going to be a shift of my perspective, having to operate in another market. I mean, it’s something that I experience working at unispace all the time. Like I said, we operate in over 25 countries around the world, and I have team members in our marketing and communications team here at Unispace that are located in about eight different markets all across the globe, all across different time zones.
Marjorie McCarthy [00:09:05]:
And so that’s something that we are all very fluent in in terms of just about any time zone across the world right now, because we have colleagues there who we’re engaging with.
Angie Lee [00:09:16]:
I’d love to hear more about your time in India. Can you talk about a time when you had to take a significant risk in your career and let us know how did that turn out?
Marjorie McCarthy [00:09:27]:
Yeah. So I think that’s actually a great segue to talking about my time in India. I think we all take certain levels of risks every day in our careers. Right. But some are bigger than others, and some are more challenging and stranger than others. Right. My husband and I had the opportunity to make a decision together to move to India. It was actually primarily for his job.
Marjorie McCarthy [00:09:53]:
When you think about careers and decision making, if you have a partner, there is a level of complexity that gets added to that. Right. And so we very much made the decision together that this would be a good opportunity for both of us. It was a little bit of a jumping off point for me because I was trying to figure out, okay, what do I do? At the time, I was at the council on foreign Relations, I’d been there for about five years, was having an amazing experience, but was also really excited about maybe an opportunity to transition to something new. So it just happened that I had an opportunity while we were in India to work for the McGraw Hill companies on a pilot that they were doing as part of their McGraw Hill education business. Part of my role there was embedding with the local team, making relationships with local stakeholders across the higher education spectrum in India. So, anyway, that’s a long winded way of saying that leaving my great gig at CFR and kind of moving to a market, not really knowing exactly what to expect, not really knowing exactly what was going to come, this opportunity was a huge game changer.
Angie Lee [00:11:09]:
I’m curious to know, what was the outcome of the launch of the app? Was it a massive success, or did you have to work on reiterating the app and remaking the app?
Marjorie McCarthy [00:11:21]:
Yes. So, Angie, that’s a really good question. One of the things that you and I have been talking about is, what are some lessons that I’ve learned over the course of my career? Right. And I would say that a big lesson that I learned that has served me really, really well is what it means to pause and pivot when a campaign or when a product or when a program isn’t necessarily performing. Sometimes businesses have to pause and pivot for reasons not having anything to do with the success of a program. And interestingly, about the time that our pilot was wrapping up the McGraw Hill Company, which was at the time, a publicly traded company that had a whole bunch of different business units and whatnot, was experiencing some real transformation in the company, the broader parent company. And the pilot actually was paused simply because they had decided to resource focus elsewhere. And at the time, I remember I hadn’t had an experience like that before in my career, where there was a bigger sort of business transformation that just led to some decision making that impacted good work that the team and I had been doing.
Marjorie McCarthy [00:12:36]:
It was a really interesting lesson in business decision making. I remember that my boss at the time, sharing this update with me, she did it in a really incredible way. It explained the thought process that the business had gone through about it. And one that’s as highly complex as the McGraw Hill companies at the time was that had multiple business units across multiple markets. How all these different pieces are building blocks and kind of little layers of how this company operates globally. And it’s something that has served to sort of have me step into the next phase of my career. And that experience was really invaluable.
Angie Lee [00:13:17]:
For know, Marjorie, as you were talking, I am thinking about a very similar experience that a client of mine had, which was he was brought into a project and given a relatively sizable budget to launch a product. And in the end, after, I would say, three years, just hitting the ground running, trying to get this design built and launched. And right before the launch phase, he experienced something very similar, like what you had experienced. The company realized that by launching the product or by going through the process of designing and developing the product that they built a business case around. This app is not going to support it or it’s not going to be needed, but it took all that time and resources arrived to that decision. Right.
Marjorie McCarthy [00:14:05]:
Angie Lee [00:14:06]:
So it sounds like, though, the experience in itself gave you the courage or even what was needed for you to move to the next phase of your career. Right. There were so many lessons that you.
Marjorie McCarthy [00:14:19]:
Were taking with you into your next chapter. Totally. And again, it really was that lesson. There’s no downside in taking risks. I mean, of course, we have to make educated decisions about things. Right. But that taking risks is. I can’t remember which poet it is now, but there’s a phrase that I took the road less traveled, and it made all the difference.
Marjorie McCarthy [00:14:42]:
Right. I think about it all the time because I definitely think that’s a mindset that I have tried to take as much as I can, particularly as I think about my career path. And it really is kind of one of my values. I think it’s something that I’m grateful for and that I think has served me well.
Angie Lee [00:15:02]:
That’s amazing, Marjorie, in terms of decision making, and you talked a little bit about values. I’m interested in knowing what guiding principles do you rely on, especially when the stakes are high.
Marjorie McCarthy [00:15:15]:
For me, it’s a combination of data and using my gut. There are certain things where we absolutely have to use data to make decisions. My role as chief marketing officer of Unispace, my team and I always run marketing campaigns based on what the data is telling us. Right. So we can have a gut sense about, like, I love this story. I think it’s going to play well. Yeah, this isn’t that interesting, but we’ll try it. And I will say, in situations like that, I am always surprised by what the data tells us.
Marjorie McCarthy [00:15:52]:
And so that has taught me very well to rely on the data for that. I would say when it comes to decision making, that’s more about people, about my career, really trust my gut instinct about things. That’s a piece of guidance I give to people who ask me about that. Right. Is it’s like, if you trust yourself, your instinct is rarely going to let you down. I mean, obviously, you have to make sure that you have all of the facts, but there is also kind of an instinctual element that we can never overlook when it comes to making decisions, particularly as they relate to our careers as individuals. Right. And I would also say to decisions we make about the other people that we’re working with.
Angie Lee [00:16:42]:
You talked about the importance of data driven insights and being able to navigate the complex world of marketing. As an executive C suite leader, how do you balance being approachable while maintaining authority?
Marjorie McCarthy [00:17:00]:
Yeah, that’s a really good question. I sort of adhere to the philosophy that I’m a servant leader, so my role is really to serve as a guide. There are decisions that I have to make sometimes, and sometimes those are tougher than others. Right. But as much as I can, I really see my role and my position as a leader to facilitate and empower the people on my team and the people that I get to work with to do their jobs and to do that well. I try to not make any decision where I can bring other perspectives into helping me make that decision. I absolutely will do that, because none of us can do any of this alone in any aspects of our lives, but certainly not in a business. And I think the best leaders look for as much feedback and guidance from their leadership teams and from other people in their organizations, and are constantly talking to and having their ear to the ground about things in order to help them make better decisions.
Angie Lee [00:18:09]:
Yeah. Was there ever a moment that changed your approach, or maybe perspective to leadership?
Marjorie McCarthy [00:18:17]:
That’s a good question. I like to observe other people. I mean, it probably sounds a little silly to say I’m an observant person. I think most of us would probably say that about ourselves. I’ve really tried to hone in my career is being a good listener and being a good observer of others. And I think we’ve all seen, and those of us who’ve been fortunate in our careers to work with leaders who we think are incredible and who we would love to model ourselves after. We’ve also had the opportunity, probably, to work with individuals for whom we can almost say, I’m learning what not to do. Right? For me, it’s been all about just what I can observe from others and learn from others and glean from others.
Marjorie McCarthy [00:19:03]:
And I think the other big piece of this, Angie, is learning that the best version of me as a leader is me. I’m very, very passionate about gender dynamics in the workplace and women in leadership. Something we talk about a lot is impostor syndrome, having to sort of feel like we need to mold ourselves into something that we’re not. And I’ll be completely candid, it took me a lot longer than I’d like to admit to get comfortable with the fact that the best version of me as a leader is me. It’s not a version of me that I’m trying to project or that I’m trying to change. It’s just me.
Angie Lee [00:19:46]:
I love that authenticity and seeing that as something of value, and knowing that you’re contributing something unique and different to the world. So, as a woman in leadership, what unique perspectives do you bring to the table?
Marjorie McCarthy [00:20:01]:
Good one. We all bring a really unique perspective to the table. I’m always looking. Trying to look at things from sort of like an intellectual perspective, too. I’m fascinated by how gender dynamics play a role in the corporate world and in boardrooms around the world. We are so many different versions of being a leader in our lives, right? Whether a coordinator, leader, facilitator, mentor, whether it’s coordinating my kids schedules, whether it’s managing the team, whether it’s helping make decisions on behalf of our business, whether it’s like figuring out what to buy groceries at the store. Our lives as mothers and as working professionals, the lines are very blurred, right? So I always think that we just bring that perspective of just how to be super ruthless in terms of coordinating and facilitating, and just like getting stuff done. Right.
Marjorie McCarthy [00:21:01]:
That’s a little bit what I think of, too, that at least I personally bring.
Angie Lee [00:21:04]:
I can’t agree with you more, the fact that most women in our lives do and also sacrifice. And I think we’re just sort of naturally wired that way. Right. To give all of ourselves, like you said, whether we’re leading at workplaces or being a leader at home, there is that part of us that says we need to continue to provide and give and be there for the people around us. And we are sort of the glue that keeps everything together. As cliche as that sounds. It’s really true, because when we take a look at all of the women in our lives, that’s exactly the kind.
Marjorie McCarthy [00:21:40]:
Of role that they played, right? Completely.
Angie Lee [00:21:44]:
This topic might be a little too controversial, especially what’s going on in this country right now, but there’s just so much conversations around how there’s this attack on masculinity, right. And men are just feeling so left out of conversations while certain media outlets or certain perspectives about masculinity as a whole. But I don’t necessarily think that’s really happening as much as we think it is. I don’t know. Do you have any opinion on that?
Marjorie McCarthy [00:22:18]:
I think I have two thoughts on that. So the first is that I absolutely believe that all genders need to be a part of the conversation about how we elevate women, not least because we can’t do it without everyone. Right. So we have a couple of employee resource groups at unispace. One of them is focused on women. I’m really fortunate to get to be executive sponsor of that group, but we absolutely have men that are members and active and that want to participate in that. And we encourage it, because, again, we need allies, full stop. I think the other thought that I would offer on that, Angie, is that I am very happy to have that conversation about masculinity being attacked when the pay gap is closed between women and men, and frankly, even more for minorities.
Marjorie McCarthy [00:23:17]:
Right. Like where we have those pay gaps closed. I think then maybe that’s a better moment for us to have that conversation in earnest.
Angie Lee [00:23:30]:
Maybe we can talk more about this at a later point. But I think I do agree with you that we should think about how we can engage all parties and have more meaningful conversations with everybody involved. Right. Not particularly excluding by inclusivity. The last question I have for you, Marjorie, do you have any projects or anything that you’re working on? Can you share? What’s next for you, Marjorie?
Marjorie McCarthy [00:23:59]:
Oh, gosh. Well, I’m assuming, Angie, you’re not to, how am I going to coordinate my kids’schedules for next week?
Angie Lee [00:24:08]:
Maybe a little bit of that, too.
Marjorie McCarthy [00:24:11]:
Unispace, our focus is on creating spaces that spark brilliance in people, but that also foster a sense of belonging for the people that occupy them. And so we’re working on some really exciting projects and some really exciting initiatives that are focused on how we really fully incorporate diversity and inclusion into conversations about space creation, whether that’s physical space, digital space, because I think, as we all know, we occupy both of those worlds now. So that’s something I’m really excited about. And, folks, follow me on LinkedIn. You’ll see a lot more about that and have a number of colleagues that we’re collaborating with on at Unispace. It’s exciting stuff.
Angie Lee [00:25:00]:
That’s exciting, Marjorie. And we will be sure to link your LinkedIn profile in our show notes so people can follow you and learn more about your work. What is one final thought you’d like to leave our listeners with?
Marjorie McCarthy [00:25:15]:
Okay, so one of my former bosses who I adore, John Sylvan, if you’re listening, I know this is yours. But he always liked to say that life is short, but careers are long. And I love that because the point he was always trying to make, and he has so many incredible relationships with just everyone and is a master networker and a master relationship builder. And he is so great at creating partnerships and relationships and introducing people. But I think the point he was always making there is that make sure that you hold and you develop those relationships that you have, because you never know where we might end up. That’s something that I’ve really kept with me, and I guess I’m sharing it with the audience just because I think it’s something to think about when we think about our careers, both in terms of the relationships that we develop and that we hold, but also the fact that there is always time to try something new, to pivot, to grow a new skill, whether you’re 25 or you’re 45 or you’re 65. Right. So I think that that’s always just something that I hold with me in terms of just something that I think helps align my values with my career.
Angie Lee [00:26:48]:
Amazing, Marjorie. And I hear you loud and clear. Relationships are everything. And that community that you talked about earlier and fostering a sense of community in our lives and having the right relationships really will make a difference in the world, whether it’s in our careers or in our personal lives. There’s been so many great nuggets of wisdom and stories you’ve shared with us today. Thank you so much for joining us this morning.
Marjorie McCarthy [00:27:14]:
Marjorie thank you for having me. It was so much fun.
Angie Lee [00:27:17]:
Audience thank you for tuning in. If you’ve taken away anything from today’s episode that’ll help you to tweak how you lead or how you serve, tell us about it in reviewing the show wherever you’re listening to this podcast, and please be sure to listen and tune back for another episode of leadership narratives from another industry giant. Thank you so much for listening. See you later.