By Emily Scott
Stephanie Gallo has spent the vast majority of her career in the family business. She currently serves as the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) for E&J Gallo Winery in Modesto, CA, overseeing marketing strategy, consumer product insights, brand development, digital marketing, and public relations.
Gallo spoke virtually at Vanderbilt a few weeks ago as part of the Distinguished Speaker Series (DSS). DSS is a student-run initiative where prominent business leaders share lessons and experiences from the business world. Past speakers include Sarah Trahern, CEO of the Country Music Association (CMA), and Steven Reed, Mayor of Montgomery, AL. Hosted by Dean Eric Johnson, the talks are open to all students, faculty, and staff at Vanderbilt.
During her talk, Gallo reflected on her successful career at E&J Gallo before offering advice for students looking to work in marketing and other business fields. Here are 3 key skills and capabilities that she believes are essential for all business leaders:
Regardless of whether students choose to pursue a career in marketing or another business field, Gallo encourages them to have a tremendous amount of empathy. For the teams at E&J Gallo working on wine businesses, this means understanding the choices, challenges, needs, and wants of wine consumers across different price points. “Empathy is absolutely critical to be an outstanding marketer,” she said.
Gallo also encouraged students to be curious about the world, different cultures, and experiences. She said that regardless of industry or position, students should always ask questions to continue to broaden their knowledge. “I think the best marketers are able to identify patterns, pull them together, and identify opportunities,” she said.
Gallo also emphasized the importance of learning agility: the ability to quickly gain new knowledge and apply it to your job. She explained that how you reach consumers, find emerging channels, and leverage those new channels are all critical to that learning agility. “I think that because consumer behaviors are shifting so rapidly by the hour, your learning agility [is important],” she said. “I think empathy, curiosity, and learning agility are just critical skill sets that any marketer needs to have if you want to be successful in our function.”
Thinking back to her family and corporate values of integrity and respect, Gallo closed with one final leadership lesson: you have to lead with values at the forefront of your decision making. “As you accelerate and as you grow in your career, the decisions become harder, and you have to make tough decisions each and every day,” she said. “The only thing that will get you through it is if you can go to bed at night, and you can put your head on the pillow knowing that you made the decision in accordance to your own personal values.”
Want to become a business leader? Learn more about the Leadership Development Program (LDP) at Vanderbilt Business.