So you want my job? Celestine Maddy’s Journey from Pinterest to Pinpoint Magazines

This week, we chat with Celestine Maddy, Global Head of Consumer & Brand Marketing at Pinterest. Don’t forget to subscribe to our bi-monthly newsletter, Working It Out, which brings together the best new marketing jobs and helps you get accurate interviews.

What did you want to be growing up? Does your job now look like this?

I wanted to do magazines and be an editor, even though I hadn’t known that was his name for a while. I drew on my walls when I was a child. I created characters and stories, I played them in my room. I did zines at Kinko when I was a teenager. I tinkered with comics using collage materials and staples because I have no talent for drawing.

My professional work echoes the themes found in these types of creative expressions: storytelling, creating a world, sharing information and ideas, art.

How did you get your job? Tell us the full story?

I took an unconventional path. I didn’t go to college – I did it for less than a semester, to be exact. I do not recommend it. There are incredible benefits to college, gaining a network, enjoying vast learning opportunities and really, not being left alone at 18. It’s still too young for many, including me. I didn’t know who I was or how to pay my bills, but traditional learning environments just didn’t seem to suit me, my hustle and bustle, the best way to learn.

So, I did it the hard way. I’ve worked in almost every industry a young woman can afford, from restaurants (I was rightly fired from iHop) to starting a magazine and failing. I worked at High Times, I wrote for cool ads like Vice. I have done retail and video editing. I said no to nothing. I considered everything to be a resume builder. I will be eternally grateful to David Hershkovits, Co-Founder of Paper, for giving me a chance to become Director of Broadcasting. But magazines were struggling and I lived in New York. I barely made it. I needed the money. I was lucky when I landed a freelance trend hunting position. It’s not quite a job anymore. At the time, it was tangential to advertising and allowed me to see enough about the business to know I wanted to get into it. In advertising, my trends have become campaigns, sales, communities.

I put my writing skills to good use and started Agency Spy, which is now owned by Adweek. Creating this brand put me in touch with some serious heavyweights, but more importantly, this experience of building an online audience and exceeding category expectations was the exact reason I got got my first full time advertising job at StrawberryFrog.

During my days in advertising, I got lucky and worked for Ilana Bryant and Jean Vaughn – two powerful women who taught me so much about strategy; how it relates to culture, how to use your instincts, and how to leverage data to drive business results. These incredible women. Incredible minds. They also gave me my first lessons on how to stand up against the tide of patriarchy. Without these two, I certainly wouldn’t be the leader that I am today.

It was hard to be in advertising and be only a strategist. I also wanted to create. To do this, I quit my job as an advertiser and founded a magazine called Wilder. This time I had a stroke. It has been a joyful time in my life and I hope to return one day soon. In a wilder environment, between greenery and shade, this is undoubtedly where I feel the happiest. I hope to be able to work in these environments again.

But, the publicity was good for me. It helped me discover organizational design and great technology, that’s where I found my rhythm. Technology is for me. It’s hard. It is demanding. It’s a constant bet. I love it.

Alright, so what are you doing? How would you explain your work to someone outside of this space?

Here’s how I would explain my job: I’m the Global Brand Manager for Pinterest. My job is to express and explain our company, our products and the value of our community to the world. I tell stories on Pinterest that drive user happiness and business results.

What do you like the most about your job?

The duality of my role is incredibly satisfying. I can create creative things like B2B magazines or mainstream ads while driving ROI and business results. On a daily basis, I focus on the short term (what is happening right now in our culture or the needs of the brand) and on the long term. My team creates the chapters that make up a saga, an epic. It’s just fantastic.

How would someone entering the industry go about getting your job now? What would their background be?

I know very few people who have chosen to become a brand marketer or vice president of marketing. It’s always roundabout, which is appropriate given the various skill sets you need. It is never clear. The most unusual people end up being CMOs.

My advice is to start small. Pick a small brand where you have a direct impact on how it manifests and drive it. Get your hands dirty and create a brand from scratch. Understanding what it takes to start a brand will make every job that much easier. You become a practitioner rather than a steward. Accept to be a brand launcher and not just a brand builder.

What advice would you give to others entering the advertising industry, especially during this strange time?

Many countries and communities are experiencing a moment of collectivism or reconsideration. We are on the cusp of a global cultural renaissance and if you are into advertising right now my advice would be to inspire your client to live up to the potential of the world. Forget about trying to get them to do good. Get them to be an agitator. Be the first. Rethink assumptions about capitalism and the expectations inherent in the vertical in which they find themselves.

What trait do you think is best for you for your role?

Empathy. The world is huge and complex, and no person, identity, gender, nationality is at the center of it. Being able to see the world from someone else’s perspective is a must for marketers.

Who should those who want your work read or listen to?

I don’t think there is an easy answer here. There is no should. The culture is huge. There is so much to ingest and to process.

Turn it on. I regularly change what I listen to and what I explore in an attempt to stay outside the echo chambers that mainstream media and digital technology have created for us. I ask friends what they like. I go down rabbit holes on Reddit to figure out new ideas. I regularly subscribe to random newsletters and Patreons. I have a dummy TikTok account that just tracks random terms.

But, I can tell you what I’m digging right now:

I would love to know what everyone is following and what trends you are passionate about. Connect with me on LinkedIn and let me know what you’re following and where you find inspiration.

Last week we spoke to Maktuno Suit, Director of Transformation of Iris, to mark the launch of The Drum’s Digital Transformation Festival.

About Cedric Lloyd

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