Kristy Kozlowski: Know that you’re in your role for a reason. Trust yourself and have confidence in yourself!
Time Out with… is the interview series for inspiring leaders throughout Dentsu Aegis Network. In this edition, we spoke with Kristy Kozlowski, SVP, Managing Director at Carat USA, who was interviewed by Mark Mylan, EVP, Managing Director Business Development and Marketing, Carat USA.
Hi Kristy! When you look back how did you get in this career? Why did you get into advertising?
When I went to college my major was journalism with a focus was on broadcast news. I wanted to be a reporter or news anchor. I idolized Joan Lunden. She was beautiful AND smart. So I studied broadcast news journalism and took some advertising classes as a part of that major. When I graduated, I quickly realized that broadcast news was definitely going to be hard to get into. I had a close family friend who worked in media in Boston and the one thing I knew was that I wanted to stay in the northeast near my family. So when I started looking for my first job, I started to investigate media a little bit more and, lo and behold, that’s how I ended up in media.
What was your first account?
My first account was Phillips Electronics. I was an Assistant Media Planner and worked on the product launch of the MP3 Player. Wow! I then went on to work on New Balance sneakers and International Paper.
What would you say were the most pivotal moments in your career?
There have definitely been a few, but one that I often think back to was the time when I was a Media Planning Supervisor and was working on an automotive account. I was in a room full of car dealers and had to present to them. It was very intimidating because I was a young female in my role, speaking to a room full of olderish men! It was quite an interesting dynamic — this young me was standing up there telling 50+ car dealers how to spend millions of dollars when they thought they didn’t need any help. I look at it as a learning experience though, how to carry myself, how to command a situation when odds may be against you. It was a reminder to trust you are in your role for a reason.
The other pivotal moment or perhaps better said, career highlight, has to be being honored by Advertising Age in their 40 Under 40 list this year. It is certainly something that holds up as a career-defining moment. It really just shows that all the hard work is paying off. It was a great honor.
Congratulations! That’s huge. I know you’ve also been doing some work with the Ad Council. Tell us about that.
The Ad Council came to us a few years ago wanting to evolve their media relationships. In the past, they had really focused their partnerships with creative agencies, and had done a lot of the media part of their campaigns in house. They started to see that companies like Carat really have a lot of power and clout in the market and working together could make their work go even further. When they came to us, a small exec team got together and chose to work on the anti-bullying campaign. We felt strongly about the topic and wanted to put some support behind it and so we’ve been working with them on that campaign for about four years now. We’ve secured millions of dollars of free media space on their behalf. It makes me feel like I’m using advertising to give back instead of just selling packaged goods!
So, let’s talk a little bit about Carat’s business itself. You’ve been a big driver of our new business success. What are your tips for how you pull that off?
Be okay with no sleep. Just kidding! I think every time there’s an opportunity to work on new business, it’s a huge learning experience. With it comes stress for sure, but what’s really nice about it is that it gives you a whole different level of exposure to the network and you really start to see all of our capabilities come to life in a very different way. I think going into it with an open mind is extremely important because you have to realize that you’re not in your day to day anymore. You have to draw upon day-to-day experiences, but you absolutely have to have an open mind to think differently and do so in quite a short amount of time. I would also say feeding off the adrenaline that comes with it; there’s nothing quite like it when you’re at the finish line. The adrenaline is what really keeps you going and you realize why you’re doing it — because you believe in the people you are standing alongside in the room with and together, you know this is the best team for this client.
What do you think are the qualities a good leader should have, especially in this environment?
A good leader certainly needs to be relatable. We work with many different teams across Dentsu. To be successful, you have to be able to relate not just to your direct teams, but also to the extended network, to your clients, to your agency partners, etc. That takes someone to be open-minded, have great people skills and the ability to gain trust from the people around them. At the end of the day, we talk to our clients everyday about connecting with people. Well we are people too. We can’t lose sight of that. Leaders know when to bring people together to make the outcome better. We’re not a singular organization.
So, you’ve literally been here for ten years, right? How do you stay fresh? How do you stay engaged?
If I think back to when I started, when I came to Carat ten years ago, we were smaller then. We were a little bit more of a challenger. We didn’t have the clout that we have today within the industry. Over the past ten years, that has dramatically changed and part of it is because of the people in the organization. It’s the continued strength of our leadership. It’s our ability to continue to evolve our capabilities. It’s the way we evolve ourselves. That alone keeps us fresh and keeps me going. The other thing that keeps me going, honestly, is the people. I love teams and collaboration is one of my favorite things. I pride myself on having teams that work well together. I also like to see people grow. I get really charged and excited when I see folks that have been on my team as an assistant work their way up through the ranks. That excites me. That means I’m doing something right.
What does a weekend look like for you?
My weekends are usually filled with friends and family. I love to go out and socialize as much as I can. But sometimes I’m tired from the work week, so actually decompressing is very nice. That sounds kind of boring!
What is one object you can’t live without?
My curling iron. And my lip gloss. Don’t judge.
Do you have any superstitions or good luck charms for when something major is coming up?
It is a bit of a superstition and I don’t know how it started, probably in pitching at some point. Whenever I’m about to go into a really big meeting, I text my childhood best friend “Okay, I’m about to go in,” and she always texts me back the same thing: “You got this!” Not sure why that makes me feel better, but it’s now routine.
That’s phenomenal. Is there a piece of career advice that you were given before that you still think is incredibly valuable now?
I guess it’s kind of obvious, but just be yourself. There are times when you are in different situations and you try to behave or say what you think others want to hear. It usually it doesn’t work out the best. When you’re genuine, that’s when people start to trust you.
Is that the same advice you would give to women who are coming up in their careers behind you?
Absolutely, yes. That, and I would say confidence is a big one. Having confidence is extremely important and knowing that you’re in your role for a reason. You’re there because you know what you’re doing so trust yourself and have confidence in yourself!