March 8, 2022 / Thought Leadership

Celebrating CP’s Female Leaders

This week marks the beginning of Women’s History Month, and to celebrate, we asked a few of our leaders to take a moment to reflect on some of the major influences in their lives that helped shape them into the people they are today. Here are some things we can all learn from these remarkable women. 

Find your people

If you were to ask me how I became the first female CCO in the city of Boston, I could mention the hard work, the campaigns I helped create, or my relationships with clients. But really what it comes down to is that I found my people early on. Probably the single most important piece of advice I could give to any aspiring creative director. You have to surround yourself with your personal Board of Directors. I am inspired by mine. The person who will ultimately be your boss of 25 years who sees you as a creative person regardless of gender. The person who develops concepts with you and will take the time to discuss mutual parenting strategies before heading toward an idea. The people surrounding you on a daily basis who are open-minded enough to hear all perspectives but opinionated enough to tell you theirs. And make you laugh. It’s so important that they make you laugh. Most importantly, I’m inspired by my family who lets me be my authentic self while simultaneously reminding me why it’s all worth it. I’m not sure I can pinpoint any one person or thing or event that has inspired me the most over the years, but I know this: I did not do this alone.

– Alyssa Toro, Sr. Partner, Chief Creative Officer – CP Boston 

Don’t be afraid to fail

I have been the beneficiary of three incredible leaders in my career who all helped to shape me into the leader I am today. One who taught me the importance of pushing past comfort zones (by literally shoving me into a role that I didn’t think I was ready for), one that showed me the strength in being an empathetic leader (and how as women that is a huge advantage), and one that attuned me to listening – really listening (what isn’t being said, that you are hearing). However, in each and everyone of those leaders, never once was I made to feel like failure wasn’t acceptable. They collectively led from a spirit of encouragement and never fear. Fear-driven leaders can breed a toxicity that debilitates their staff and the damage often can be unrepairable, thus negatively impacting culture. My advice to any aspiring leader is to provide clear guidelines around expectations, offer all the support when they need it, then allow people the wiggle room to succeed and fail. Let them show you what they are capable of. And in the worst case that there is failure – this is where people will grow the most.   

– Nadine Cole, President, VRX Studios – Vancouver

Compassion and determination are the keys to success

My mom, Marian, has inspired me to lead with determination and compassion. As a divorced single mother, she fearlessly pursued her own career ambitions in education, which is something that I always admired. Beginning as a 5th grade teacher and ending her career as an Assistant Superintendent, she wore many different leadership hats, including Troop Leader for my Girl Scout group! My mom had high expectations for her students and fellow educators, but never let her firm approach affect the relationships she built with everyone she encountered. To this day, students she taught decades ago still keep in touch! That’s the kind of leader I strive to be. 

My advice for aspiring leaders is to strike a delicate balance between being assertive and direct, while still allowing your personality shine through. When it comes to team building, it’s important to create strong relationships with your peers. If you’re all business, all the time, it’s harder to foster those long-lasting connections. Instead, find a way to lead with empathy, as it will earn you respect, and ultimately help your team to achieve its collective goals. No one wants to work for a leader they fear and I’m a firm believer that compassion is the key to success. 

– Alyssa Stevens, Director of Public Relations and Social Media – CP Boston

Be fearless

I have been inspired by so many people in business. Each job I have done, no matter how random and unrelated to my current role, has taught me a skill that helps me today, taught to me by someone I admired. Most important for me, was how the task was done, and by that I mean how people were treated. Respect and kindness can never be overrated.

More than anything, I admire and am inspired by people who, through curiosity, sheer determination and tenacity, have achieved great success. Especially people who did not have support to guide them in their younger years. I firmly believe everyone has it in them to do well in whatever field they choose – extraordinary people are just ordinary people who go that extra mile, but having a mentor along the way helps.

I grew up in a family of successful entrepreneurs. I am one of six children, and am currently the only one not self-employed (though I did have my own business for 10 years – I had to!) My dad, although no longer on this earth, still inspires me. After he graduated with a degree in engineering, he, like so many Irish at the time, headed for the USA. As part of this programme to get his visa, he did training with the Marines. One of the key takeaways was something that stayed with him all his life, and influenced me as well. It was these four words: “Just one more step.” No matter how big a task seems or how overwhelmed you feel by the scale of it, just focus on one more step and you will get there – you don’t have to have everything figured out, just the next thing on your list. 

My current inspiration is a mantra I repeat daily as I strive to be more focussed and efficient in a world where we are pulled in so many directions each hour – it’s the following quote from Aristotle: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

So many of us suffer from imposter syndrome, thinking we are not as bright or as gifted as others, when really it boils down to determination, being fearless and getting into good habits. 

– Vaunnie McDermott, Client Business Director – CP Dublin

Don’t give up, even when things are hard 

This may be cliche, but I owe so much of what I’ve been able to do throughout my career to my mother, who was from a generation of women caught in the middle of the working mom movement. She grew up in the late ’50s when women were schooled in homemaking, only to be told by society in the early ’80s that, not only could she have it all, she was expected to do it all. The issue was that the culture of pressure and expectation hadn’t yet shifted to be supportive of working moms. I watched her juggle those expectations – going back to college, starting a job with young kids, finding her voice – and the toll those expectations took on her, her family, and her marriage. Yet, I watched from the safety in knowing that I was blessed with so many options.  This taught me that doing hard things was not only possible, but so very important.

– Michelle Capasso, Partner, Director of Media Services – CP Boston