This Week’s Perspective: Marisa Thalberg

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There has never been a more exciting yet challenging time to be a working woman. The opportunities are abundant, but the 24/7 demands of the digital, real-time, working world can be completely overwhelming. I know it because just like you, I’m living it! My remarkable guests, each have their own story and path and are an inspiration to all of us. — Katie Kempner

And now, a few words from , Chief Marketing Officer for Taco Bell.

What’s your proudest work moment?

It would be sad to have worked this long and only have one. In reality, it’s a series of moments that create pride and satisfaction in work. I’m writing this on the day my team is launching a big, ambitious and extremely clever new product campaign. Yet even this moment is an apotheosis of proud moments that led up to it. As a leader, not so different from being a parent, the pride now comes from seeing the members of my team shine.

Favorite book?

I can never do those “pick one favorite” questions. I love to read and I’ve had different favorites at different stages of my life. In my 20’s I loved Marjorie Morningstar by Herman Wouk, The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver and Surrender the Pink by Carrie Fisher. A couple of decades later, my preferences are more eclectic, from Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs biography to Christopher Buckley’s political satires to a recent favorite, The Improbability of Loveby Hannah Rothschild. That’s about as concise as I can get on this one!

What do you find yourself thinking about when you’re alone in your car?

I often find myself replaying certain events or conversations from the day…and playing through how I want to take something forward tomorrow. Alternatively, I like to use my commute time to connect with family and friends on the phone, or listen to music, a podcast or an audiobook so I can actually disconnect a bit. (Of course that is sometimes when the best ideas wind up hitting).

What inspires you?

One word you hope your colleagues would use to describe you?

Inspiring. (One can hope, at least!)

What was your biggest failure and what did you learn from it?

In my early 30’s I had a very glamorous job as head of Global Advertising for Calvin Klein Cosmetics and Fragrances, but I felt there was additional experience I needed, and after being wooed for several months to become the head of marketing for a home furnishings company, I made the leap. I am not sure the word “failure” is the one I would choose for this, but it certainly felt at the time like I had made a big mistake. To make matters worse, the company, which I thought was going to at least prove very lucrative for me, wound up in a chapter 11 filing. I really thought I had driven my career right off the tracks and it was a very challenging time for me. Of course, with the gift of hindsight I now can see that I did gain some important hard skills out of that experience (i.e. I learned how to oversee an eCommerce business quite early), and I also learned (albeit the hard way) the importance of a great culture fit. Lastly, I learned how fundamentally important it is to maintain your humility, integrity and tenacity in the face of adversity. Those are the lessons that stay with you.

Any tips for working moms trying to balance their family and career?

As the founder of (all the way back in 2002) I have a pretty big point of view on this topic. In simplest terms I would say: forget the idea of “balance.” To me that always connoted a sense of perfect equilibrium, which is a state in which no one I know actually lives. Rather, I think it’s honest and helpful to consider family, career, and all else as the components of an almost daily calculus we all have to do. There is always some give and take between the parts; it’s the big picture view that matters. One of my favorite insights from all the research we did among the members of Executive Moms is that women in this group are actually a lot happier and more gratified than you might ever think from the stereotypical depictions of them in media and popular culture (if we are depicted at all). Finding a sense of shared experience, peer support and occasional outlets for commiseration is the key extra fuel we all need.

Favorite cocktail?

I have never been a big drinker, so the real answer is probably a cranberry and seltzer with lime! Or a great glass of Chardonnay.

What are three “power words” to live by?

What is one piece of advice that’s helped guide you through your life and/or career?

That’s my perspective,


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