Women in Leadership Q&A with Christine Lane
SVP Executive Producer - Innovation
McCann New York
EA Creative’s Women in Leadership conversation series with Chief member, Sandhya Jain-Patel, will continue throughout the rest of this year. New artwork for this extended series will be crafted by Eunjoo Byeon, an NYC-based graphic designer and frequent collaborator. Through interviews and artwork we are committed to showcasing women in leadership positions who are making history today. Please send us a message on Linkedin, e-mail us, and share socially to nominate someone in your network.
Sandhya Jain-Patel: Where do you work and what is your current role there?
Christine Lane: I work at the advertising agency McCann New York. I oversee all non-traditional advertising production. For anyone in the business, I usually say, “I produce everything that’s not TV, radio, or print.” In practice, the work includes digital, experiential, emerging tech, product, and art.
Sandhya: What was a defining moment in your career which has led to your current role?
Christine: There were two moments that led me to where I am today, both of which involved taking a chance on a new adventure. The first was accepting a job out of college to work at a boutique experiential marketing agency. The second was deciding to run a tech start-up. Both decisions were made for practical reasons (I needed a job out of school, I needed stable work during the Great Recession), but they became definitive because of my willingness and openness to take a risk, to try something new and unplanned. I’ve now based my career on leaning into the unknown and learning to thrive there.
Sandhya: When was a time in your career where it was clear that being a woman made your job more difficult? Are there any times it was easier?
Christine: In my mid-twenties I managed a development team, all of whom were males older than me, some of whom had especially large and sensitive egos. I was up against several challenges. Not only was I younger and female, but I also didn’t have an engineering education which meant I didn’t have the skills to directly instruct my team. What I learned to do instead was empower them. I learned what inspired and motivated them. I learned how to protect them. I learned how to ask them questions so that they could discover the answers for themselves. One of my proudest achievements to date is learning how to guide a team of developers to do their best work and earning their praise in the process.
Sandhya: Have you had a mentor or sponsor who has helped you in your career, and how did they do that? How have you been able to do the same for someone else?
Christine: As the oldest child of three, I feel I’ve been looking for a mentor all my life! Someone to say, “here’s what comes next, be sure to do this!” And yet, not having this guide has forced me to be comfortable with the unknown, with being the only one responsible for the decisions I make. While I haven’t had an official mentor, unofficial mentorship has had a tremendous impact on the leader I am today – by unofficial mentorship I mean the kind of mentorship that happens organically, sometimes in a moment of need, other times without even realizing it until years later. This informal education has allowed me to accumulate bits of knowledge, adopted from conversations and impressions, that have formed my personal work/life philosophy.
These days, I enjoy working with undergrads who are majoring in marketing and have questions about the industry. Even when life gets busy, it feels good to make the time to have a conversation and offer insight that may help someone in their journey.
Sandhya: Who is a historic or living woman that has inspired you?
Christine: One of the many women I admire is Katherine Graham. In her incredible memoir, she outlined her lack of confidence and distrust in her own knowledge when taking over the Washington Post (how many times have I felt momentarily unqualified in my own life?!). And yet, outwardly, Katherine Graham was fearless. She was the only woman to be in such a high position at a publishing company. She had no female role models and had difficulty being taken seriously by male colleagues and employees and yet, she presided over the Watergate scandal with commanding leadership, sure-footedness, and grace. Ultimately, she became the prominent name in a male dominated industry.
Sandhya: Is there something you would say to your younger self?
Christine: Never stop dreaming.
Sandhya: What haven’t we asked you that we should and what would your answer be?
Christine: Years ago, when I turned in my resignation, I remember my boss trying to convince me to stay by saying how important I was to the company. That moment left an impression on me. My takeaway is this: don’t wait until an employee is leaving to tell them that they matter. Tell them regularly and with gusto so they believe it. Your work matters here. You matter to me. You matter to this business. Everyone deserves to hear this more often than we do.
Sandhya Patel: How is the pandemic affecting your work and daily routine?
Christine: I know the pandemic has forced many people, parents especially, to juggle even more. For me, it’s forced me to slow down and take stock of where I am right now. It’s easy to get stuck in the same motions without stopping to evaluate why, without prioritizing, and setting boundaries. My hope is to come out on the other side of this pandemic with a clearer understanding of what’s important to me and a commitment to orient my life around these things.
Sandhya Patel: As difficult as it is, has the isolation and social distancing had any unexpected benefits?
Christine: Yes! Would you believe it if I told you my team feels more connected now than prior to the pandemic? Once we started working from home, I implemented Monday and Friday video-check-ins, moments to come together as a team to talk about our weekends, set an intention for the week, and share how our week went with one another. Often an individual’s weekly goal is business related, but sometimes the goal is incredibly personal - something someone would never have shared before the pandemic began. When we go back to the office, I plan to keep these check-ins and I hope we maintain the openness and support we’ve cultivated for each other during this time.
Sandhya Patel: Are there specific ways you have focused on staying positive throughout this temporary new reality?
Christine: There are two things that have helped me stay positive during the pandemic. The first is exercise. I’m the type of person who will always take the stairs but will never step into a gym. The pandemic has been a tipping point for me. Besides creating a standing desk and getting out for walks, I now do online cardio/yoga classes twice a week. Additionally, Julia Cameron, in her book “The Artist’s Way” suggests morning pages: three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. I’m not dedicated enough to do these seven days a week, I’m closer to 4-5, but I admit every day that I write morning pages, I feel better.
Finally, I read a blog post several months ago about the secret to enjoying a long winter, specifically in Vermont where I grew up. Want to know the secret? It has nothing to do with a tundra-proof parka (though this helps). The secret is changing your mindset. I have a friend whose life, while healthy, has been ravaged by the pandemic, and yet, her outlook despite all of the negative right now is positive.
As mentioned in the article, “mindsets serve as an overarching framework for our everyday experiences and they can profoundly influence how we react in a variety of situations.” Our mindset allows an experience to become either debilitating or enhancing. A long time ago I decided I am an ever-optimist and it’s the mindset I still live by today.
To learn more about Christine and keep up with her work at McCann New York, follow the links below.