Exclusive Interview with Barbour - by Lucy Alexander
Barbour is a company well known on campus for their iconic wax jackets. Perfect for crisp fall and early spring days to block the wind and rain. Being a brand ambassador this year has taught me a lot about the rich family history of Barbour. All of the employees have had nothing but good things to say about their experience with the brand and family. Very different from the stereotypical corporate environment, above all else Barbour values integrity and quality. I got to speak with Elissa Millican the head of Barbour’s North America marketing and Emily Dillon who is a Marketing Manager for Barbour US. I asked them about career, life and Barbour!
Q: What was a career defining moment for you?
Emily: I have had many moments that made a big impact, but I think that the best is yet to come. Building a successful career takes decades of progress and hard work.
Elissa: I’m not sure I have a specific career defining moment, but rather a bunch of small wins, small successes, and small opportunities that help to build a confidence and an assurance that you are in the right place, investing in the right career for you.
Q: What made you want to go into marketing? Did you major in it in college?
Emily: My major was Magazine Journalism with a concentration in French. I was drawn to marketing after a summer internship in copywriting and have never deviated from that path since. Marketing incorporates a lot of what I loved about that major, such as storytelling and creativity, but also requires business acumen and strategic thinking.
Elissa: I majored in Political Science and Cultural Geography in college, and had no idea I would end up in Marketing! Looking back, marketing was and still is a natural fit for me, but it is something that fell into – not something I actively pursued. A very happy accident!
Q: What is a great thing about working for Barbour?
Emily: In a world where authenticity and craftsmanship are becoming increasingly important, Barbour stands out as one of those rare brands that people really do cherish, respect, and associate with times spent with friends and family. Customers know that we stand for quality, and they are passionate about our products, which in turn makes us excited to tell stories.
Elissa: Barbour encompasses such a rich wealth of history and heritage that makes being a part of the organization very rewarding. The Founder of our company, John Barbour, had a vision for the type of quality garments he wished to make, and 123 years later, we have held true to those values and principles. These elements of company history play so well into collection storytelling and product inspiration. It is a Marketing dream to be tasked with taking these fantastic stories as inspiration and making them relevant to customers today.
Q: What made you want to start the ambassador program?
Emily: The ambassador program started a few months before my time at Barbour, and it was exciting to get involved. Barbour already has popularity in the college market, with potential to grow even further as ambassadors educate their peers about the brand. Our ambassadors really embody the way of life that we talk about so often, and I know from experience what a rewarding experience these programs can be, not only for brands, but for students.
Elissa: We have a great existing following within the College Community. We wanted to start the Ambassador Program as an opportunity for College Students to market to other College Students, rather than a Brand directly marketing to College students. We felt the message would be much stronger and more relatable coming from a peer.
Q: Do you have any career tips for someone just starting out or graduating?
Emily: Develop a sense of professionalism as early as possible. People will have preconceived notions about you as a young person, sometimes from prior experiences, so you must display maturity and wisdom beyond your years. Develop strong working relationships, and identify a mentor if you can. More experienced co workers are often willing to give good advice and may recommend you for certain projects if they notice that you have a particular talent or interest. Finally, accept that you will sometimes go to work early, leave late, and step out of your job description or comfort zone.
Elissa: Keep your head down and work as hard as you possibly can for the first couple of years into your career. Stay late when you don’t have to, complete tasks when weren’t asked to do, and be overly energetic and polite. Try limit the complaining and watching what everyone else around you is doing or how they are being treated. You are making your first impression in the workforce and making a name for yourself. Your boss, your employer, and your peers will remember the hunger and drive you had in those crucial years, and opportunities will come up quicker for you than they will for others.
Q: What have been some obstacles you’ve had to overcome in your career?
Emily: None of my career obstacles are worth mentioning. I am happy and lucky to be where I am today, so they were not insurmountable! Everyone faces unique obstacles based on factors that they can or cannot control. For circumstances that you can change, put all of your energy into improving. For those that you can’t change, get creative and work around them.
Elissa: Throughout your working career and even in your adult personal life, you will face continuous obstacles and adversity. It is really how you deal with these setbacks that shapes you into the strong individual you need to be to be successful. I have learned that your outlook and ability to pick your battles is essential in moving forward and navigating through a corporate environment.
Q: What has been your experience as a woman in the workplace?
Emily: It is inspiring to work for a company where a perseverant, intelligent woman like Dame Margaret Barbour is Chairman. Strong female role models have played an important role in my career from the beginning. I will always take the example that they set and apply it to my own leadership style. In my experience, women can have an incredible bond and camaraderie in the workplace. No woman is immune from unfair treatment, including myself, but I have always managed to advocate for myself and earn respect for my work.
Elissa: Truthfully, my experience as a woman in the workplace has been a struggle. Nothing is ever guaranteed, there is no outlined path to success, and you certainly aren’t always granted fairness or justice. It is very easy to sit and compare your own circumstances to others, but the real challenge is not quitting when you are struggling, continuing to push when circumstances are unfair. I have worked relentlessly hard for every promotion or raise I have received, and I am extremely proud of myself. And for those learnings, I actually feel grateful.
Q: Do you spend most of the time locally or do you travel a lot?
Emily: I can be found in New York most days, but travel is a huge part of my life. It is the best of both worlds.
Elissa: I definitely have a travel extensive career!
Q: What is it like traveling for your career?
Emily: Traveling is crucial for developing relationships in global companies; I am a big believer in face time. Visiting new places has been helpful for understanding the way that people live and work in other markets, which is necessary in this field. I am also restless and need to change environments often, so even the grueling parts can be fun.
Elissa: Traveling can certainly be very fun, but it is a lot of hard work as well. I have been lucky enough to explore places I never would have normally gone, and it has absolutely helped to develop an International mindset – something that is mandatory for any Global Marketing role.
Q: How did the jobs you had when you were in high school/college affect your career?
Emily: My work experience through senior year included retail, after-school programs, catering, hospitality, and making sandwiches in a non-air-conditioned shack in 90-degree weather. These experiences have shaped me into the type of person that gives their all to any task and cares very much about customer experience – incredibly valuable for marketing. You will be pleasantly surprised by the skills that translate from your first part-time job to your first “real” job and beyond.
Elissa: Establishing a strong work ethic and respect for process and authority are qualities that I developed in jobs in high school and college and absolutely affect how successful I am today. You never know what a job – no matter how small – could lead to. Marketing is very much about networking, and every connection counts.
Q: What have you learned through your experience with Barbour?
Emily: Working at Barbour has shown me the values that differentiate a brand with true longevity from others in the market.
Elissa: My experience at Barbour has taught me about working in a private, family owned business that holds traditions and values above all else.