By Evan J. Cutts
Boston, MA — As a millennial and Chief Marketing Officer of General Electric’s Venture Capital business, Dara Treseder was raised in a generation taught that anything is possible, with hard work, intention, and trust. It’s fitting that she associates her generation with limitless possibility and lives accordingly. Driven by this belief and a sense of responsibility to pave the way for other women, Treseder has earned recognition from AdAge as one of the “Top Women to Watch,” from Inc. Magazine as one of “30 Inspirational Women to Watch in Tech,” and from Forbes as one of the “9 Marketing Experts [Other] CMOs Need To Be Aware Of.”
A champion of diversity, inclusion, women’s health, and empowerment, Treseder shares her passion, purpose, and expertise in the following exclusive interview.
EJC: Can you tell us more about your role as Chief Marketing Officer for Business Innovation and General Electric (GE) Ventures?
DT: It’s an exciting role. I am able to lead our global marketing efforts–including digital, content, brand marketing, and event marketing–in the licensing, business creation, and venture capital arm of GE. We are working to drive innovation for growth for GE and our business partners. That is a lot of fun for me. I enjoy working closely with our partners, whether in the new markets we’ve created, or otherwise. In addition, I work with other teams within the larger organization to ideate new and better ways to adapt.
EJC: What does innovation mean to you?
DT: Growth. It’s also a willingness to ask myself and my team, ‘How can we do things better? Faster? More creatively?’ GE Business Innovations is really a growth engine.
EJC: What goals to do you set for yourself and your team when you arrive at work?
DT: To set a new standard for digital marketing. I ask, ‘How are we going to best support the growth of our business and partners?’ And I challenge [my team] to deliver with excellence every day.
EJC: How would you describe your marketing strategy?
DT: One of my core focuses is on strengthening our business’ critical capabilities. I lead my team to focus on details that may seem insignificant but have a huge impact. We are always looking to better determine and activate value proposition, pricing, and product launching. It’s equally important to center on our customer experience. Ask, ‘What’s in it for my customer?’ At the end of the day, my goal is to provoke deep insight and delight our customers.
EJC: What’s your philosophy on success?
DT: Success is a full life, a life lived fully, with intention and trust. I consider myself blessed to be where I am, to have an exciting and rewarding career, while raising a family.
My grandmother, who recently turned 90, was the first Muslim woman to become a lawyer in Nigeria. She often reminds me of a Winston Churchill quote: ‘Success is not final, failure is not fatal.’ These are words I live by. You have to keep trying as long as you’re breathing. Take risks, embrace challenges, and chase opportunities. If you fail, that’s okay. We all fail and can learn from our failures. That quote is a grounding principle [that] reminds me to stay humble and inspires me to keep going.
EJC: In your experience, which better serves your goals: work-life balance, or work-life integration?
DT: It is very difficult to achieve balance. Rather than striving for balance in my life, I seek harmony, being present where I am. It also means intentionality; when I’m with my kids, I’m with my kids. I’m not on my phone. When I’m working, I’m working. That’s the harmony I aspire to attain each day; that way I can bring my best and whole self to everything I do.
Seeking harmony also requires that I’m very intentional with my time. I am constantly assessing my calendar to cut out things that waste time and don’t add value to others. I think about opportunity costs. The time I spend traveling, for example, is time I can’t spend with my kids, so I’m careful about my time commitments.
EJC: Tell us about your motivations and inspirations.
DT: I am motivated by a tremendous sense of responsibility, as a woman of Color in a C-suite position at a major corporation. I need to succeed, not just for me, but for those around me. When I think of the concept of leaning in, I don’t think of it as a singular act. To me, leaning in is a collective effort. I am motivated to ensure that my success opens doors for others.
I’m inspired by several strong and amazing women here at GE. Sue Siegel, the Chief Innovation Officer of GE and CEO of GE Business Innovation, is a phenomenal leader and a multiplier. She is a leader who inspires other leaders to be even better. Linda Boff, CMO of GE & VP of Learning & Culture, is an exceptional marketing leader and inspiration. The President of GE Ventures, Marianne Wu, is a source of inspiration. I consider myself very lucky to be able to work with, and learn from, such powerful women paving the way for the next generation.
I am, of course, inspired by my family: my parents, who instilled in me ambition and contentment; my husband, who is an entrepreneur and incredible model of an equal partner; and my children, who keep me focused on the larger picture.
EJC: If you could give advice to other women and women of color who want to succeed in Corporate America, what would it be?
DT: Think like a startup. That means knowing the value you offer, owning that, and marketing yourself. That includes knowing, not guessing, what your expertise is worth. That also means building a killer team, a personal board of directors or advisors. This should be a diverse group of trusted individuals from all of the important areas in your life. My team, for example, ranges from undergrad professors to my 90-year-old grandmother.
You need to tirelessly invest in your product; you are your product. You need to learn, stay curious, raise your hand for difficult projects, and master new skill sets. Don’t be afraid to fail. Remember that you can pivot and reinvent yourself, these are important aspects of the human experience.
It’s important to keep in mind that sometimes you need to move in order to grow, and other times you need bloom where you are. Be aware of which stage you’re at and act accordingly.
EJC: What does it mean to be a woman of Color in 2018?
DT: Embracing the opportunity, the responsibility, to break down barriers. To get a bulldozer and shatter the concrete wall, so that those who are with us, beside us, and behind us can exist, live, and thrive in a better world.
Now is the time for us to own and embrace our power. To take a seat at the table, raise our hands, and ensure that we’re heard and compensated appropriately. And, we must not forget our community. The work we do must move us closer to a just, inclusive, and equitable world.
Dara Treseder will be the Keynote Speaker at the SOLD OUT Women of Color Leadership and Empowerment Conference hosted by State Street Corp. on Friday, June 22nd, 2018.