A few months ago I spoke with Lynda over the phone for an informational interview to learn more about her career path and what it's like to work at Nordstrom. By the end of our conversation, Lynda invited me out to Seattle to visit the Nordstrom Headquarters so that I could experience the inner workings of the retail powerhouse for myself. Not only did Lynda provide me with the opportunity to meet and learn from several Nordstrom employees - including lunch with owner Pete Nordstrom, but she also went above and beyond by welcoming me into her beautiful home during my stay. A Bosslady is someone that truly wants to see other's succeed. She doesn't ask 'what's in it for me?', but she does take ownership of her work. A Bosslady lives life with curiosity and passion. Lynda has all these qualities and more. Continue reading to learn more about Lynda's career path and what she looks for when hiring.
Lynda grew up as a navy "brat" and lived nearly everywhere in that United States that has a Navy base. She loved growing up near the water and having the opportunity to experience living in lots of different places which has fueled her curiosity throughout life. She completed both undergraduate and graduate school at Virginia Tech where she studied business. She currently resides in Seattle, Washington with her family where she is the VP of Consumer Research at Nordstrom.
Molly: How did you get your start in consumer insights?
Lynda: I started in consumer insights with RJ Reynolds, after getting my MBA. There I learned a lot about how consumer research can influence business decisions. A few years later I moved over to Pepsi and had the opportunity to take these skills and apply them to great brands like Pepsi, Starbucks, Lipton, Lays, and Taco Bell.
M: Explain how consumer insights can have an impact on a company to someone who is not familiar with the field.
L: Consumer Insights is focused on helping others understand consumer behavior, perceptions, motivations and beliefs. Then it connects that understanding with business information and opportunities to influence decisions. This involves a range of business decisions including expansion, design, marketing communications, service standards, etc. We draw information from a wide range of resources including custom surveys, qualitative research, syndicated data, internal information, social, and more. Part of the "art" and the "fun" of consumer research work is integrating information across resources to tell stories.
M: You were recruited by Nordstrom to create the Consumer Insights team. What impacts have you seen at Nordstrom as a result of your team's work?
L: Nordstrom has always been a consumer focused organization since its inception over a hundred years ago. The work we do brings a little more fact, structure and depth to our understanding. And like most retail, it takes a village to make things happen within Nordstrom. With that said, my team and I have had the privilege to contribute to things like:
Nordstrom Rack's accelerated store expansion and growth in the marketplace.
Our women's apparel strategy and leaning toward more fashion forward brands such as Top Shop, and Madewell.
Our growth stemming from increased focus on the activewear market with brands like Zella.
M: What are you most proud of in your career?
L: I am most proud of the people I have supported and developed over the years. Some of my previous employees are now consumer research leaders at companies like Anheuser Busch, Horizon Media, McCormick, and Gap Inc. I also have dozens of former employees still within Nordstrom, who are now in different areas of the company such as marketing, finance, strategy and project development. I am extremely proud to have been part of each and every one of their career journeys.
M: What qualities do you look for in a young professional when hiring?
L: In entry level positions I look for a range of things including curiosity, passion, positive energy, communication skills, related or transferable skills and experience, and accomplishments in life - whether that be in sports, grades, over-coming adversity, whatever! I like to see when people who take pride in their accomplishments.
With more experienced business people, I look for demonstrated business impact. It is important to have the right skills and experiences, but even more important that those skills and experiences have led to positive outcomes for a business.
M: You have an impressive pedigree working at PepsiCo, Taco Bell, Levi, Gap, and now Nordstrom. What qualities do you possess that have lead you to excel in your industry and land jobs at such great companies.
L: Working for blue chip companies, I developed a deep appreciation for the importance of understanding the organizational priorities and how myself and my team can support those priorities. I've also learned how to navigate organizational complexity and the importance of bringing people together around the common cause of the customer. I have been fortunate to work for some truly amazing companies across industries, but they have all been united by strategic focus, complexity and excellence in everything they do.
M: What is your advice to young women starting out in their professional lives?
L: Consider how to create opportunities for yourself. There are so many different jobs in the world today - many of which didn't exist ten years ago. Nevertheless, it is often hard to land your first job. Network, volunteer, take risks, and figure out what you love to do. Continue to push the boundaries from there, as you evolve and grow in your career.