HPW’s Inspiring Women series profiles remarkable Greek-American professional women whose stories of success inspire and encourage us to achieve our own career goals and aspirations.
Global COO, [m]Platform, GroupM
Nicolle grew up in suburban NJ with her parents and older brother, George, who recently launched his own law firm. She attended Boston University and completed her degree in three years. She began her career in digital media, and pivoted when the bubble burst in 2000 to work for a CAD technology company while completing her MBA in the evenings. After completing her MBA, she went back into digital media in 2005 as an Account Executive. She has since held a variety of roles that have taken her across the globe including deploying a joint venture with Dentsu, one of the largest agency holding companies in the world, running Global Product Management for 24/7 Media, one of the pioneering companies in the industry, became President of Europe at the age of 32 and in January of 2016 became the Global COO of Xaxis, a $1.2 billion programmatic audience company, with 1500 global employees across over 46 countries. Most recently Nicolle was promoted to Global COO, [m]Platform, GroupM.
As a COO, what is the key to retaining talent and keeping an employee happy and motivated in their job?
It’s irrelevant if you are a COO or a first-time manager, the rules are the same on talent. There are some basic things that drive most people in life-not just in work life. Knowing they are valued means a lot. Getting out of their way is important as well. The people you really want in your company are the self-starters and problem solvers, and micro managing people with those characteristics will absolutely demotivate her/him. So, you guide and support, but you basically set them up to succeed and step to the side. I am a bit nonstandard in that I joke around constantly. I make or order silly things for my team members, have running jokes with colleagues, and generally try to keep things light. We are all in the office too many hours to pretend to be robots with no personalities. Work hard, laugh hard.
What is the one ‘people skill’ that most people can improve upon?
Face to face communication is being replaced with email chains that continue ad nauseam. I’ve literally seen email strings go back and forth 50 times between two colleagues who sit on the same floor. My general rule is if an email chain goes back and forth three times, hop into a room for 5 minutes and the issue will nearly always be resolved.
If you can give one piece of advice to women regarding their professional lives, what would it be?
Don’t operate from a position of self-doubt in business. If you want a promotion, be your own agent, and give data points why you’ve earned it. This is what men do, often when they have less data points to hang their hats on. Women wait until they are overqualified to ask for the job. Unfortunately, women are often raised to have to get permission to do things-like it’s somehow un-lady like to be confident in your worth. That allows other people to underestimate your abilities. Know your worth and own it confidently.
Additionally, any advice for working mothers?
Three pieces of advice:
1. Managed chaos is completely acceptable; perfection is highly over-rated. If the toys are all over or the dishes are left in the sink-really, who cares?! Your social media friends who post perfect pictures of their house, their kids and themselves are staging it. I promise.
2. Make time for yourself and be guilt free when you do. When your husband or partner is having a cocktail with a friend, going to a baseball game, etc. he isn’t beating himself up feeling like he’s neglecting his children or you by being there. Making that time will make you happier and healthier for family, health and work, so you are doing yourself and everyone around you a favor by being a bit selfish sometimes.
3. Don’t miss important events for your kids-go to Muffins with Mommy Day, the Halloween parade, and work from home on their first day of school so you can drop them off and pick them up. The company will be fine. And if the company isn’t fine with it, look for a new gig.
You recently received the 2015 Working Mother of the Year Award and were featured as a member of Ad Age’s 2015 40 Under 40, the 2016 Crain’s NY 40 Under 40, and the National Herald’s 40 Under 40 list. What impact, if any, has this had on your career and professional life?
They are all fairly recent in the scheme of things, and I am still with the same company, so I’m not sure there has been an impact per se. Each was entirely unexpected and incredibly humbling.
Can you please give your advice on non-typical career trajectories and what factors have motivated you to move laterally within Xaxis as opposed to starting a new career elsewhere?
I’ve been asked this over the years a lot since I’ve spent most of my career in various iterations of the same company. There was a time when I was at 24/7 Media for 4 and 5 years that some people were telling me I HAD to leave, because people would start thinking of me as a ‘lifer’ and then no one else would want to hire me. At this point, it’s been 11 1/2 years and I still love coming to work every day, love the people I work with and love the challenges we solve every day, and welcome every opportunity we have to make our clients succeed. My trajectory is non-typical because I was put into places where my company needed someone at that time. It’s helped because my perspective is broad because of the spectrum of roles I was put into very early in my career. I’m very thankful for that and appreciate it more as the years’ progress.
What are your three biggest accomplishments?
I’ll leave the obvious answer of my kids aside:
1. Completed a marathon and several half marathons.
2. Was a core member on a large strategic transaction for my company in 2014.
3. Promotion to Global COO of Xaxis and most recent promotion to Global COO, [m]Platform, GroupM.