“Be ready for opportunity,” Janet Lee from Samsung
Welcome to the Pass the Mic and the Defining Moment series. We’re giving powerful women the opportunity to make the world their mentee. These rockstars are joining us to share their stories and sage advice with up-and-coming women.
Meet Janet Lee, CMO – Mobile Experience, Samsung Electronics America. She set her sights on being the best marketer she knows, and this pursuit has helped her become the head of marketing at a leading technology company. Janet’s focus on continuous growth and improvement put her in the right position to tackle opportunities as they came her way.
In her Pass the Mic interview, Janet shares the moments that defined her career and inspired her to take on marketing. She also passes along some wisdom and advice that you won’t want to miss. Take a listen!
If I can help people who are going through similar struggles that I've gone through, that's meaningful.
Find something that fascinates you.
“When I think back, I think the moment, the big changing moment, career-changing moment, was when I decided that I was going to pursue a career in marketing. I started my corporate job in a biotech startup. Prior to that, people find this very interesting, I'm a trained interpreter for English/Korean. I have masters in translation interpretation between Korean and English languages. So, I was a freelancer. That was my first serious-money-earning job.
And then I moved into a role in global marketing and business development for a biotech startup. And that's when I started learning about marketing, and I got introduced to the concept of marketing… I remember reading how marketers are obsessed with their target consumers… And I was just fascinated and, quite frankly, very impressed with that, understanding your consumer so deeply.
So, that's when I started really wanting to get into marketing. And then, after a couple of years working there, I went to business school to formally study marketing so I could understand it from an academic perspective, as well. So, to me, that was probably the most important moment, or the most impactful moment. And since then, I've been a marketer all my life. So that's one; one moment that I would point out as a career defining moment.” – Janet Lee
Define your own success.
“Even career success is defined by you, nobody else. Your career success is defined by you. For some people, it's getting to that executive title by what certain age, making $1M by what age. I mean, everybody has different definitions. So, I don't think I should be critical of other people's definition of success. Mine, at least, was to be the best marketer that I myself know, and I stayed focused on that. By other people's standards, I may not be very successful, but by my own standards I am, because I was very focused on working towards my goal of being the best marketer that I know.” – Janet Lee
Focus on your craft.
“Now that I think back and I remember, I wanted to be the final decision maker in all things marketing. And that is somehow linked to that VP title, you know that SVP title. So, at that time, I thought that that's what I had to chase. I had to become an executive… So, I remember feeling very frustrated with that.
And the way I think I dealt with it was to say, ‘Hey, promotions and advancement, it's not 100% within my control, but what I'm going to control is to hone my skill set to continuously improve, so I'm ready when that opportunity comes.’ You know, I'm not going to let it pass me by because I'm not ready. So, I remember redirecting that energy, that frustration, and converting that into energy, focusing on myself. How can I be a better marketer? How can I be a better strategist? How can I be a better manager? And then the opportunity came, and I got that title.
Finally, I became an executive. I think for a lot of people, that's the critical moment. A lot of people kind of quit. But I would say, keep at it, stay focused, and you need to stay motivated. Something other than the title and the money has to be there for you as a motivator. And oftentimes, focusing on your craft (I call marketing my craft), focusing on that and honing that can help you through those tough times where you feel really frustrated, when you feel like you're not advancing fast enough or at the pace you deserve to advance.” – Janet Lee
Build skills to build confidence.
“I don't think I've suffered from imposter syndrome so much. But I, compared to the average person, moved around quite a bit from one company to the next. And I remember just feeling: wow, what if I fail on day one? What if they think that, ‘Oh, she was a bad hire. She doesn't know this. She didn't know that.’ So, I remember feeling that way with the first few moves.
And the only way to get over that is also to tell yourself, ‘I'm putting in honest, good effort, and I will improve. I'll get better. I may not know something today, but I will learn it.’ So, I remember having a list of things that I wanted to learn. And then, when I decided that my goal (career goal) is to be the best marketer that I know, every time I hear of some marketing skills or experience, I will make a list of that and say, ‘Oh, here's the gap between some marketer colleague, you know, imaginary marketing colleague and myself.’ And then I would try to find an opportunity to get that experience or develop that skill. And then over time, you build confidence.” – Janet Lee
Do what you think is right.
“Just personally, I did not work with the acute awareness that I was female (I was therefore a minority) until I got into the tech space. Prior to that, I spent most of my marketing career in the beauty category where women are the dominant gender. So, I think the way I've coped with that cultural shift in my working environment is to remind myself, I am who I am, and I work with a lot of people who are different from me, and I just need to continue doing what I think is right—what I think feels authentic to me, and what I think is important.” – Janet Lee
“I guess to women who are working in a work environment where the female gender is the minority, I would say, number one: don't be intimidated. Be true to yourself—be confident… What I observe is when you try or are not authentic to who you are in an attempt to fit in better into a certain culture, I think the outcome is probably not that great because you're not happy that you have to constantly exert energy to portray yourself as something that you're not. So, I would advise against that.” – Janet Lee
Have fun every day.
“I like to have fun. I want to have fun every day… I don't think happiness is a destination that you reach, and once you reach the destination, it's a constant state. That's not happiness. It's not a destination. Happiness is a state of emotion, mindset. So, you should pursue happiness every day. I like to have fun every day, whether it's with my family, with my coworkers. So, I bring that to the workplace, and I try to explain this to my team…
What if you get something more than money? What if you have fun every day working on your projects, working with your teams? Then your net value, your take home value, is greater. So, I always tell my team, if we laugh, if they have fun as we're working today, we've already won the day. So, that, I try to bring that. And I think that's what keeps me enjoying my job even in times of stress.” – Janet Lee
We think having fun while becoming a powerful leader is an amazing way to define success. From learning to build her confidence to discovering the best ways to be a leader, Janet is an inspiration! Want even more motivation? Check out more Pass the Mic content.