There’s a new school of professionals who are taking over these days. Young men and women in business who are clearly a part of the changing guard in their respective industries. They're bringing new ideas and fresh perspectives to the game and large corporations are taking notice. Made Woman Zoe Zeigler is one of these trailblazers. A USC graduate, she started at Toyota fresh out of school and has risen in the company to her position today as Assistant Manager, Integrated Marketing. Never one to let grass grow under her feet, Zoe divides her time between her demanding day job, her newly launched blog and her leadership position in one of New York’s hottest women’s organizations.
SW: I know you started at Toyota as an intern and you’ve been with the company for ten years. So, what is a day in the life like for you now?
ZZ: It varies based on what type of projects I have going on, but typically if I’m launching a campaign, I work very closely with my in-house marketing team and 360i, the digital ad agency we work hand-in-hand with. During the day I’m setting the strategy for the campaign based on insights and research, and coming up with the creative outlets we want to use to execute on that strategy. There’s also the actual production on the creative, for me that’s a lot of overseeing website development, going on photo shoots, and traveling to oversee commercial shoots. Once we have the production figured out, my role is about making sure we are hitting our objectives and numbers, that we are optimizing and making sure the campaign is running smoothly. Along with the marketing part of my job, I also oversee the PR for all of our corporate marketing initiatives. That includes everything from media relations to serving as a spokesperson from time to time myself, talking to different media outlets about what we are doing at Toyota from a brand perspective.
SW: That’s really interesting, the marriage of those two things. I mean it makes perfect sense that it would go hand and hand, but I haven’t heard that too much. Digital marketing is usually pretty compartmentalized in large corporations.
ZZ: Yes, it really is. At Toyota I was very hands on with my career trajectory. I started in marketing as an intern and I came on full-time after graduation. Over the next few years I sought out different roles that would help me learn both the PR side of the business as well as the marketing arm. I was learning a lot of good stuff. There aren’t a lot of truly integrated communications people who know PR and know digital marketing. So I always felt like while I was doing the PR side of my job, I would have ways to showcase my unique expertise when I moved back to marketing. When I moved to my company’s New York City office, from Los Angeles, I kind of made a new role for myself and it really worked out. It wasn’t supposed to be a permanent role for me, but I really showed the value of how we could make this a more integrated group, and they offered me a full time position and a promotion within a year of coming on the team.
SW: Wow, that’s impressive.
ZZ: Yeah, it was really important for me to really defend what I wanted before anyone else.If you wait around for people to ask what you want to do, you are never going to get to do it. You really have to be proactive. I feel – especially as a professional woman and as a woman of color in the corporate world – you have to raise your hand and make it known what you have an interest in. And then find ways for people to support you in aligning yourself with that. Which I found was very important in my career.
SW: Interesting, that’s a unique path. So which one are you more in love with? Do you like digital marketing more or PR?
ZZ: I don’t know… It’s a tie. In addition to my role at Toyota, I am the Executive Director of an organization for women of color in communications called ColorComm. I really took that role because I have a passion for supporting other women in business and communications, and I wanted to find a way to continue to hone my PR skills in a different way. And I really like having an outlet for doing that outside my job while doing a lot of integrated marketing work at my job. I really can’t pick or choose one. I really like both.
Zoe pictured in the center wearing white, surround by other female executives at the first ever ColorComm Conference
SW: Dope. Can you tell me a little more about ColorComm?
ZZ: Yes. The organization just launched in New York about a year ago last August. The mission of the organization is to connect like-minded, women of color in the industry of communication -- whether its marketing, journalism, PR or social media -- and help us all get to the next level by supporting each other. Every month we have various events, where we bring out influencers and focus on making valuable connections. Jacque Reid just did an intimate dinner with us, and we talked about her career in Journalism and how she supports women of color in the industry. This year we also launched our first national conference with key-note speakers like lauded journalist Soledad O’brien and Desiree Rogers, CEO of Johnson Publishing and former White House social secretary—these women are leaders in our space but also supporters of the organization as well. My job at ColorComm is to lead the overall strategy and direction for the New York chapter, and to amplify the organization and its profile by helping to get media coverage and helping to plan events.
SW: Wow! You’re a busy girl! [Laughs] Do you think that participating in women’s orgs is important to career development?
ZZ: I just think that -- especially being in corporate America – there’s still not enough of us at the very senior positions. And even in an industry like communications, where I feel like there’s a larger majority of women than men, when you get to the senior level it’s still mostly men. So, if we’re not committed to supporting each other, giving each other opportunities, and making sure we advocate for one another – who really is?
SW: So you are a woman of color in the corporate world. What challenges come from that?
ZZ: Well, I learned early on that I need to be proactive about my career trajectory, but one of the challenges when you are in a large organization is that it’s easy to get swallowed, and easy for people to not notice you. Even if you are doing good work, you can stay unnoticed and without a promotion for a long time. So, I’m very conscious of trying to make sure I’m telling the right people about what I’m doing. It’s not about bragging; it’s about making sure people know how you are contributing to the organization in very subtle ways. Also, like I said, you aren’t waiting for people to tap you on the shoulder, but you are raising your hand and letting people know what you have an interest in, which is really important.
SW: It seems like you really know how to navigate the corporate world. What made you decide to start your blog Curlz And The City?
ZZ: After thinking about it and saying I don’t have the energy, time or resources for like two years. I finally decided to move forward and do it. I’m very interested in doing marketing and PR for beauty, fashion and lifestyle brands and I was trying to find ways to connect myself closer to those industries without having to switch jobs.
It’s a fair assessment to say that Zoe Zeigler is a bad ass who is tapping into all areas of the communication industry and making a name for herself in the process. We are sure to see more of this Made Woman as she advances and takes other female professionals with her to the top.