Marketing innovator Ekaterina Walter shares her views on innovation and entrepreneurship, and the challenges faced by women in her industry.
Small firms and startups can speak with one voice, but communicating a single message in a signature style is much harder for companies with thousands of employees. Ekaterina Walter has met that challenge head-on and been at the forefront of the digital transformation revolution.
Walter has led strategic and marketing innovation for large Fortune 500 brands like Intel and Accenture. At Intel, she led the company-wide adoption of social media. She now serves as the global evangelist for social media software firm Sprinklr, which has acquired the advocacy marketing company, BRANDERATI, that she cofounded.
Ekaterina is also an international speaker and author of the Wall Street Journal bestseller “Think Like Zuck: The Five Business Secrets of Facebook’s Improbably Brilliant CEO Mark Zuckerberg” and co-author of “The Power of Visual Storytelling: How to Use Visuals, Videos, and Social Media to Marketing Your Brand.”
Excerpts from an interview.
What inspired your fascination with thought leadership and innovation?
Words like “innovation” and “entrepreneurship” seem to inspire awe and, sometimes, a bit of fear. I was always fascinated by that fact. People seem to think that to be innovative, you must be a genius cooped up in your parents’ garage while you come up with some breakthrough invention. That is not the case at all. Each one of us is capable of innovating. Some of us revolutionize the industries; some, simple processes.
What are some of the most valuable lessons you learned during your time working with large Fortune 500 companies like Intel and Accenture?
Here are just three of them. One, manage your career well. Always have a plan. Always have a path toward building a set of skills that will shape who you are professionally. I have moved every couple of years and changed my roles so that I could work in different teams, learn from a variety of leaders and hold roles across all disciplines of marketing and business.
Second, leadership skills are a must. Your team is everything. Without great people, there is no success. People always come first.
Third, build your network. A lot of times, it’s who you know. Give your time, your help and your advice before you ask others for favors. Relationship capital is more important than funding capital.
You’ve authored two successful books. What do you feel are the most crucial takeaways from each?
My first book, “Think Like Zuck,” is about innovation and leadership. It explores the critical elements that drive the success of Facebook and of businesses like it—Zappos, TOMS, Dyson and others. It talks about the five P’s of “Zuck-like” companies: passion, purpose, people, product and partnerships.
My second book, “The Power of Visual Storytelling,” explores the topic of brand storytelling, but from the visual storytelling angle. Filled with full-color images and thought-provoking examples from leading companies, the book explains how to grow your business and strengthen your brand by leveraging photos, videos, infographics, presentations and other rich media.
Do you perceive a glass ceiling for women in your industry? What key issues need to be confronted in order to break it?
There is absolutely a glass ceiling. That is especially true in the tech industry. Women need to be bolder, they need to stand up and speak up. Men need to listen, to support women through sponsorship and mentorship, and speak up when they are in an all-male environment, where the key decisions are being made and behind-the-scenes discussions take place.
Smart leaders build the best teams because they realize that to be an innovator in any industry, you must have diverse teams when it comes to gender, culture, skillsets or backgrounds. The more perspectives you have, the more creative solutions you will be able to implement.
When I mentor women, I suggest that they take career risks; don’t perceive failure as a weakness but rather necessary learning experience; look for the right mentors within and outside of the organization; aim high; build a solid network and cultivate strategic allies; not be afraid of speaking up; be firm when someone tries to take credit for their work or ideas; pick their battles; constantly self-educate; and never give up. And most importantly, women need to support other women, and not compete with them.
What new projects or topics excite you most at the moment?
I always have passion projects in the works. One of my latest was publishing the first children’s book with my 8-year-old daughter. It is called “Amber and Sapphire: The Magic Spell.” You can read the story of our journey at funtastictales.com. We dedicated our book to those who dare to be different. So far, there has been an overwhelming response, and we are planning to turn it into a series.
Jason Chiang is a freelance writer based in Silver Lake, Los Angeles.