Women in Power: REI’s Vivienne Long on Not Holding Yourself Back

As part of FN’s annual Women in Power issue, we asked more than 15 footwear execs who have stepped into prominent new roles this year to talk about overcoming obstacles and their advice for the next generation.

Vivienne Long was promoted to REI’s chief marketing officer late last year after previously serving as VP of marketing since July 2019. Prior to REI, Long was an adjunct faculty member at University of Washington and held several leadership positions at Starbucks, The Clorox Company, and Microsoft.

Here, Long discusses how she overcame a career barrier, not holding yourself back, and why mentors are important.

My leadership mantra:

“In my new role, I believe it will be even more important to be visionary and innovative, while staying true to our core mission and purpose. Ensuring the brand is relevant to the next generation of REI members and customers is top of mind. Staying true to our purpose means we must constantly distill and communicate the essence of the brand and mission in everything we do, while also being careful not to overcomplicate things.”

My biggest opportunity and biggest challenge:

“Our biggest opportunity and challenge is to incorporate technology to build one-to-one relationships with our members. While doing this, we must also ensure that an authentic, human relationship with our customers is front and center as we enable all people to enjoy time outside.”

The most significant career barrier I’ve faced and how I overcame it:

“Working hard is a key ingredient to continuing to progress in one’s career growth but it isn’t sufficient.  It’s critical for women, especially women of color, to have mentors throughout their careers to identify critical skills and behaviors, and to navigate challenges at work. I’ve learned that soft skills such as resilience, flexibility, and vulnerability are as critical as hard skills. I’ve realized that you don’t have to have a certain leadership style to be successful, but you do need to show results, to build work relationships, be willing to take on different assignments, and to advocate for yourself and what you want in your career.”

Advice for women starting out in their careers:

“Early in my career, I had questions about being able to juggle having a family, being a great mother, and doing well in my career at a senior level. I think I learned that women don’t have to make trade-offs and choose any one over the other. It’s important to not hold yourself back and figure out balance as early in your career as possible. In fact, being a great mother and running a household means being empathetic, nurturing, and understanding, and learning to prioritize, which also makes you more effective at work.”

The leader who has had the most impact on me and why:

“As a director at Starbucks, Annie Young-Scrivner recognized my potential, mentored me, and gave me valuable opportunities to learn and show my leadership. It’s critical to have someone at a senior level make time for you, coach you, and give you feedback. I know I would not be at this level if it weren’t for her investment in me. Women can greatly benefit from both male and female role models and those who can give them advice, especially at inflection points in their careers.”

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