Education: Bachelor’s degree, Education, University of Maryland
First Job: Inside sales coordinator, I. Feldman and Co.
What I'm Reading: Building the Brand-Driven Business, by Scott M. Davis; The Heart of Change: Real-Life Stories of How People Change Their Organizations, by John P. Kotter
My Philosophy: Family first. I believe in working hard, but dedicating my “family time” to family. While there are times when work bleeds over into nights or weekends, in general I find I achieve better balance when I leave the office to be fully in the moment with my family.
Family: Husband, two daughters
Interests: My dogs, reading, and cooking.
Favorite Charities: UMass Pancreatic Cancer Foundation
Deb Oler • W.W. Grainger
Vice President, Grainger industrial Supply Brand2009 award winner
I was fortunate to start my career in sales, because I learned one thing very clearly from the beginning—everything revolves around the customer.
Positioning your product or service is essential to earning your customers’ loyalty. If you don’t have a compelling value story, you better get one quickly or your competition will pounce.
That same sense of urgency applies to women looking for a successful career in business, no matter what your field. Your primary focus should be on being excellent at the job you’re doing right now. By focusing your energy on being excellent, flexible, and displaying a willingness to take on additional challenges, you set the stage for career progression, often in positive ways you wouldn’t have anticipated.
To me, excelling includes being willing to adapt to change, because change is a constant in today’s workplace. Your ability to collaborate and rally people around a common cause enhances your value to the organization.
I’ve also found that seeking out a mentor is an excellent way to increase your personal portfolio of competencies, so long as you are targeted in your selection. When I first moved into a management position with responsibility for P&L results, for example, I knew I needed more in-depth knowledge. I went to the VP of Finance for my operating unit; he agreed to a monthly meeting to help me learn all the intricacies and considerations behind the numbers, making me a more valuable business leader to my team. He was the perfect mentor for the competency I needed to gain.
I mentor a great deal today, because organizations are made up of people, and I believe the future health of the business depends on it. I rarely say “no,” but I always ask people to articulate what they’re looking for to ensure that I’m the best person for the topic.
A final bit of advice is to work for a company that values diversity and inclusiveness, because they will give you an opportunity to flourish and reach your potential.
Grainger, for example, really means it when they say they are a “people company.” We demonstrate our commitment to people through our training, our talent management, and the creation of employee networks, like our Women’s Business Resource Group, of which I am honored to serve as president.
When you find the right environment, and dedicate your efforts to being the best at the job you’re doing today, your future will be bright indeed.