Exclusive Trusted Magazine Q&A with Gabrielle Hase, CEO and Digital Non-Executive Director @ Ultra Commerce
How would you describe your career path?
I have always been interested in computers and all things digital, and my career has coincided with the existence of the Internet. Early on, I worked in publishing in New York City, which I loved, but which was very slow to adopt to the new way of doing things. After my MBA, I immersed myself in all things ecommerce and have been working for a variety of brands and retailers on helping them launch and grow their digital commerce capability since then.
So, my career path has been, in a word, non-linear. I think we are seeing this more and more with younger generations, where people develop a skill set and an area of expertise and then apply that to a portfolio of projects and companies. My work has always been at the intersection of consumer brands (like Sweaty Betty and LK Bennett) and retail technology (like Amplience and UltraCommerce), and that combination is evident today in the mix of Boards I’m on. These include consumer brands Planks Clothing and Tate Enterprises, and technology providers K3 and UltraCommerce.
What was your most challenging experience and how has it changed your mindset?
My most challenging experience was a very personal one. I found myself in a toxic work environment and didn’t have the confidence or, frankly, experience to handle it in the way I would today – but I suppose that’s the nature of these kinds of things, where they make you smarter and stronger but are pretty tough to go through at the time. It taught me that company culture is a very powerful thing, and it’s crucially important to understand what it is, and whether it’s the right fit. Companies are living, breathing organisms where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and success or failure can very much depend on how well you can work within it. Being a contributing member of a good culture can be so much more rewarding than simply earning a good paycheck. It also helped knowing that I wasn’t the only one who went through something like this, but it definitely knocks you for six when it happens. The other lesson I took from it was that like anything, it was only a moment in time and not something that defined my career forevermore. It was one of many experiences I’ve had, both good and bad, that I am grateful for.
When you get surprised by unusual or uncertain context, what do you think?
I’ve found that I have an initial emotional response, followed by a more logical and oftentimes more appropriate one. Giving the emotional response time to work itself out, which usually doesn’t take that long, was something that it took me a while to learn but now I know how to manage surprises better. Not always, but more than I used to…
If there is one thing Covid has taught us as a society, it’s to be more comfortable with uncertainty, which is a very hard thing to do, but all it means is be prepared. At least consider what might happen if things don’t go to plan, and be comfortable with your Plan B, C and D, even if they aren’t plans you ever want to execute.
Based on your experience, what’s the key success factor for a female leader/ manager
I think a key success factor for women is the same as it is for everyone, which is emotional intelligence. Understanding what to do is obviously very important but being skilled at managing the ‘how’ drives a successful outcome. Really knowing what motivates a team, and the larger environment in which a team operates, is critical. Research shows that women tend to score higher on emotional intelligence or empathy tests than men, but I think this is an oversimplification and can be a damaging perception, because I’ve seen women with a shocking lack of EQ and men who do take the time to properly understand motivation and develop environments to support that.
I also believe that having a high EQ means you are more likely to be self-aware, and better understand your own strengths and weaknesses as a leader. I don’t particularly enjoy managing people – I tend to be too impatient both with myself and others – so I know that the best way I can contribute is by supporting teams but not managing them directly. As a result, I’m more effective in my job and I contribute in different, but no less important, ways.