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Office Hours Recap: Meet Kristine Shine, CRO of Sugar, Inc.

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The Levo League was thrilled to have Krisine Shine speak at Levo League Office Hours a few weeks ago. Kristine, who serves as the Chief Revenue Officer for Sugar Inc., leads the company’s sales efforts across their 15+ media brands and two e-commerce businesses, ShopStyle and PopSugar Shop. Kristine brings extensive experience in the digital media space having held numerous leadership roles that have led to significant revenue generation and innovative branded entertainment partnerships.

General words of wisdom:

  • I like diversity in my jobs. I was not one of those people who like to hunker down on one thing. I am someone who likes to touch a little bit of a whole lot of things.
  • Networking and just trying to be very open minded but understanding what my core was and what I love most led me down this path and from there, being open to many opportunities.
  • It is great to take all of your past experiences and not know what is ahead but know that you are following your passion.

What is Gen Y doing right? What are we doing wrong?

I think you guys are doing everything right. Gen Y is setting the stage for our future. They are huge influencers. They are the absolute largest generation out there– bigger than the baby boomers. They are influencing upwards which is their parents’ generation as well as downwards which is the next generation.

For what Gen Y is doing right-they are so deeply embedded in technology that they are doing everything right. I think what they are doing wrong (I say this with the deepest respect because the bulk of my team is Generation Y) is that they, in the broad sense, tend to have very high expectations for themselves and feel that they deserve everything that prior generations may have earlier on in the game. I see it a lot in my staff, the clients I am working with, and our audience. There is an enormous amount of ambition which is awesome but there is sort of a general feeling that a year under their belt and now they want the next title, the big promotion, the big stock and all that kind of stuff. It takes a lot of work and a lot of learning and I think that experience is something that you can’t get in business school and you can’t get by reading a book.

Experience is an insanely valuable tool and as much as your ambition says I want the next step in my career-whatever it might be-the reality is that experience and spending some years in a current position is invaluable. I look back at my 19 years of post-graduate work and every single day is a learning experience. I look at some actions I took last week and I am learning from them this week. I just don’t think you can step into a leadership position or that next level of job without really embracing the experience and learning from it and taking the feedback that you’re getting from your peers, your mentors, your boss whoever it might be. In one sense the ambition rocks and I love it. In the next respect it’s like you really have to settle down and nothing is going to replace experience and it is invaluable.

Gen Y tends to mix personal and professional media personas together–is this bad?

No. I think it is awesome. I always say work is my hobby. I’ve always mixed my personal life with my professional life it is one of the reasons I ended up in the career I did. My husband, my family, my life is all blended into one and I don’t separate my work and my career and my ambitions from my mommy persona. This is who I am and it all mixes together and it enhances the way I bring up my children and the way I handle my business. I think you just have to be conscious of what you are putting out there in the public. Everything that is on Facebook, on Twitter, on everything is super public.

You have to think of yourself as a celebrity in some respect and you have to be thoughtful of what you put out there in your personal and private life. It all does blend into one big melting pot. I think it is awesome. I love women who love their careers and their life and want it to be part of who they are instead of putting it into separate little boxes. I don’t think we should be shy about our goals and ambitions and it should be part of our family life and everything and our social personal and everything should blend together.

What types of challenges, if any, have you had as a woman in advertising? How did you overcome them?

I gratefully have never had any challenges as a woman in advertising. I have had a lot of challenges in advertising but they haven’t come from being a woman in advertising. I have been in all male environments so if you look at Business Week and McGraw Hill Companies it is a lot of men in a lot of blue oxford shirts and red ties. I navigated very well though that and I have had a lot of opportunities.

My boss was a female and was my mentor and still is today. With that being said, the publisher was as old school as they got, and was the one who gave me the go-ahead to jump over to the online division and be the vice president there and run their sales orgs at a very young age. I have been lucky to be recognized for my contributions and not my gender and I’ve never really run into any of those issues. I always say if you can–lead with your brain. Be the intelligent person in the room. You are sitting here on this platform because you are incredibly smart women who are thinking about what is next for you. If you are brining that into any room I don’t foresee any issues. In my 19 years at a media company I never ran into a sexist situation.

What brand is “doing it right” to be successful in the changing technology landscape?

I am really interested in content, which is one of the reasons I am at Sugar. I am extraordinarily passionate about content. I can point to a lot of different technology companies that are doing it right but I am most impressed with content communities that are leveraging technology. I grew up in the publishing world and there are not a lot of traditional publishing companies that have segwayed well into leveraging technology for the next phase of their growth. One of the companies I am incredibly impressed with right now is ESPN-I always have been. I think they have done an amazing job with their brand and with what they have done with their company online. They are, I believe, the number one men’s site online. They have a huge audience and have diversified their product online so the have taken their TV presence and brought them online and I think that that is pretty awesome.

For Sugar, when I think about our future and what we are doing-we have built our company online which is the opposite of ESPN. We are building our content business online and I think our opportunity is to grow in the direction offline that ESPN started from. I think there are a million tech companies you could point to but combining that technology and content play is unique and those are the companies I am most interested right now.

How did you balance your work and your partner (husband) relationship with your personal goals?

That’s the hardest thing I do every single day. I have two small kids they are seven and eight. I have been married 12 years and have been together for 15–I got with him pretty young. It is hard. It is a daily challenge every single day. Everyone says it and they say it in every book but communication is everything. It is everything in business and everything in your personal relationship.

My husband took care of the kids for the first 6 years of their lives while I went out and kept a roof over their heads and worked on my career. My husband just recently started a small business a couple years ago. I am thankful that I am at a company that is family owned and really supports me my husband, my family, my life so that I am insanely dedicated to them and in turn I can give my time to Sugar and to my family.

It is a challenge and everyone balances it differently but it is a decision that you have got to make on your own. It is an extremely hard thing and I know what I won’t compromise. Every single day I know what I won’t compromise on and you have to know what you won’t compromise on.

How did you experience as an entrepreneur enrich your return to an executive role in the industry?

It is everything. I really encourage women, people, whomever, to take risks, to follow dreams, to follow their own passions. Do it while you’re young-going back to that family question-once you have your family you have to think about college funds and all that. Do it while you are young and you don’t have family situations and all those other things that you have to focus on.

I think it is a lot harder to take those risks then so do it while you’re young. That experience of starting your own business-and I’ve done it twice already, I left the industry, started a business in Connecticut and then helped my husband start his business here. It makes you think differently and it gets you in touch with a different audience and a different group of people. I think we have a tendency to live in our own little world just as human beings and it is really important to step out of that and recognize that there is different people out there, different types of people out there, and we are not all the same. You can’t create products and experiences mapped to only what you know.

Watch Kristine Shine’s entire Office Hours here.

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