Interview with Alia Kemet, McCormick & Company

For this year’s International Women’s Day, our team at Slice is proud to celebrate women across the marketing and communications industry through an interview series.

This interview is with Alia Kemet, the Vice President, Creative & Digital Marketing, at McCormick & Company. Read our full interview series here.

How do you define your leadership?

I lead to win, and for me, winning is about the entire team thriving and building a culture that celebrates everyone’s diverse strengths while driving unprecedented business results. I strive to be a courageous people leader who sets challenging, seemingly unattainable goals for myself and my team which will disrupt competitors, create transformational business growth and inspire the lovely humans I work with to be the best versions of their creative and professional selves. I have really high expectations as a leader for myself and my entire team and I vehemently push for excellence in all things at every level. I hate hierarchy. Great ideas can come from anywhere. Crushing hard goals with my team is the best part of the journey. 

How has your leadership changed in the past year?

It probably comes as no surprise that this past year I have leaned on speed and agility more than ever. I have always been a lighthouse kind of leader. I believe in setting a vision and a roadmap for where we want to go and allowing people to bring their own expertise to help us reach our destination. Prior to the pandemic, I was more high touch—not a micromanager but certainly expecting a higher degree of control. This year, we have had to pivot with speed and agility across many simultaneous projects. The volume of work we have in the pipeline is huge and I learned to trust the leaders on my team to hold the space and create magic for the company even if I am not in the room. Consequently, I am amazed with what we have been able to accomplish. I have grown immensely because of that trust while achieving record breaking success across the team. 

I’m also more focused on the happiness of others. I know the children of my team members. I remember their names and sometimes talk to them because everyone is home and they drop into meetings. I know the fur babies too and I think knowing people beyond their work persona allows for greater connection. I value that connection. 

Can you share a story that demonstrates a key learning for you in your leadership journey?

When the stay at home order went into place, I evaluated how I would deliver content without accessing our content studio. We create between 75-80% of our digital content in-house for twenty brands across North America.

My company was very compassionate about how the pandemic was impacting people and we were given permission to adjust our goals. I think I could have eased back on the team goals, but I deeply believe in my teams unfailing ability to do hard things. I called a meeting of my key leaders and told them “our team is the most creative and innovative group of people I know, and we were built for this moment!”. 

The creatives took home equipment. Our food stylist and producers took home kitchen tools. We produced content from home within 48 hours of the stay at home order and over the course of the year have developed several new content series based on week to week analysis of social and search data. We drove more traffic to our owned properties than I thought possible—at one point over 200% growth vs. the previous year. We doubled our earned impressions leveraging big transformational ideas like connecting consumers over tacos with Drew Barrymore, Bringing Eli Manning to Twitter, and producing French’s Mustard Beer to name a few. Ultimately, we did adjust our goals. We made them bigger and harder. We crushed those goals. We connected to consumers and achieved winning moments that directly impacted business success and revenue growth. 

Who do you follow on social media that you would recommend to other women leaders?

Mita Mallick, Marla Kaplowitz, Bozoma Saint John, Debbie Allen, Jamele Hill, and Ally Love to name a few. I would also recommend my new podcast Phenomenal Grit, Career Conversations for Women of Color.

Thank you to Alia for taking part in our interview series. And be sure to read the entire series!

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