Catherine Wolpe is the VP of Brand Marketing at Billie, a new kind of body care brand that was built specifically for womankind.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
I’ve always been drawn to brand, marketing and advertising as this fascinating intersection of business and creativity. I went to a liberal arts college, and there weren’t a lot of clear pathways into a career in those fields at the time.
I did a ton of cold outreach that landed me a few informational chats and internships, and ultimately helped me get my foot in the door. While the majority of my career has been spent at creatively-driven agencies developing campaigns for brands like Nike, I also spent some time in-house at Apple, where I was primarily focused on global advertising for the launch of Apple Watch.
One of the things I’ve loved most about my career is the number of different types of brands I’ve been able to touch – sport & fitness, tech, CPG, spirits, auto, a cannabis startup. It’s one of the unique things about a career in marketing and advertising that I’ve found endlessly engaging.
Currently, I’m the VP of Brand Marking for Billie. We’re a new kind of body care brand that was built specifically for womankind. We disrupted the women’s shave category when we launched in 2017, with a fairly priced razor designed specifically for the way women shave, and a fresh point of view that sought to destigmatize women’s body hair. We’ve since expanded into additional body care offerings and continue to tackle the pressures women so often face in their daily lives.
I oversee our brand strategy and creative across all consumer touchpoints, from product launches to retail to DTC to big brand moments. It’s been incredibly rewarding working with such a talented team on a brand that stands for something so important.
2) What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
My workdays are somewhat unique in that I live in San Francisco but work east coast hours. So I’m usually up just before 6am. I make coffee, check slack and email, and take my pup out. My workday usually starts around 6:30 or 7am and wraps by about 3pm PT. Because my work schedule isn’t synched perfectly to my time zone, I tend to have breakfast and lunch when I can during the day.
No two workdays are alike. A day might include meetings with our product marketing team on upcoming launches, connecting with our growth team around our strategy and supporting creative, reviewing proposed updates to our website, discussing a script, casting, directors and photographers for a project we’re working on, reviewing or creating briefs, discussions with our co-founders, the list goes on! I love that each day brings forward new challenges to think through.
Because my workday ends “early”, I usually have time in the afternoon to dedicate to activities that keep me feeling centred. Being physically active has always been a huge part of my life (I was an athlete through college), and I find certain workouts that aren’t metrics-centred have a massive impact on my overall wellbeing.
Yoga, running, and SoulCycle are usually my go-tos. I’ve also recently gotten into pottery. Finding a new hobby that allows me to be a student and spend hours creating and refining has been incredibly therapeutic.
I tend to go to bed fairly early during the work week. I’m not one of those people who does fine on 5 hours of sleep! And I’ve been focused lately on replacing my evening social media scrolling with reading or a few minutes of meditation. Easier said than done, but it definitely helps me wind down.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
Billie allows employees to work from wherever, which I love for so many reasons. It’s indicative of a culture of trust, understanding, and flexibility, and also allows us to hire the absolute best talent for a role, regardless of where that person happens to live.
We have a beautiful office in Soho that’s open to anyone who wants to go in. And then there are key moments when individual teams and the full company come together in-person.
Last summer I’d begun considering a move back to the west coast from New York. An option to work remotely meant that I was able to take an incredible role at a company I loved without feeling like there was a trade-off in my personal life.
I’ve always been someone who’s thrived in an environment of autonomy and trust, and I think a flexible model of working really instils that. It’s also such an interesting time to be in a creative industry, and to be figuring out what works best when it comes to these flexible styles of working and collaboration – when in-person is needed vs not, how to facilitate connection among team members, etc.
I find it all really fascinating and think we’re lucky that we get to have a hand in creating the next chapter of “work”, vs being beholden to a system created ages ago that we inherited.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
Work-life balance to me is feeling meaningfully engaged in a job that allows you to live a life outside of work that you want. And that’s going to look different to every person.
Transparently, it’s been something I’ve historically struggled with. I’ve always been ambitious, which meant that earlier in my career I was happily volunteering for extra projects and saw no problem staying at work until 10 at night for weeks on end. When I entered the workforce, there was very much a sense of having to “pay your dues” and I didn’t want to miss a single opportunity to learn or grow or advance in my career.
But there have been some important shifts for the better in terms of our relationship to work and what’s culturally the norm or glamorised and what isn’t. Once I reached more of a leadership position, I felt a responsibility to be a part of that positive shift, because I really do believe it has to come from the top.
If leadership at your company puts those who routinely work themselves to the brink on a pedestal, that becomes the barometer for how to get ahead. If leadership tells you to take vacation or not work on vacation, but does the opposite, it signals to the team to do the same. It really struck me that I have a responsibility to make sure the people on my team don’t have to operate in the dynamic I did for the majority of my career.
I think it’s so critical that leaders of organisations are encouraging, modelling, and positively reinforcing healthy boundaries when it comes to workload and balance.
All that said, I truly love what I do, and being on the west coast, it’s easy for me to let my east coast work days bleed into west coast afternoons. I’ve found that doing something that forces me to step away from my phone – a workout or time in the pottery studio – helps signal to my brain that the work day is over and I can focus on life outside of my job.
But I have to schedule those mental shifts for myself. I’m also grateful that my partner has always had a much healthier relationship to work and career than me. He’s been great in helping me consider a more balanced perspective.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
I’ve tried to stop the endless social media scroll that can happen in the evening, and to create a “wind down” routine around reading and light meditation, to varying degrees of success 🙂
I’ve definitely become more conscious of using the schedule send feature in slack and gmail, so that non-urgent notes are being communicated during regular business hours and we’re trying to minimise communication outside of regular work hours to things that are time-sensitive.
And I’ve had to adjust from being die-hard about working out in the morning to finding the energy after my work day wraps.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
My favourite business book of all time is No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention by Reed Hastings and Erin Meyer. While there are bits of the book I’m not in complete agreement with, I absolutely love how they talk about hiring best in class talent and paying them top of the market, and fostering a culture of transparency and feedback.
I also love Brené Brown’s Dare to Lead podcast. So much of how I show up as a leader for my team is informed by her work. I also get a lot out of Dr. Laurie Santos’ The Happiness Lab and Charles Day’s Fearless: The Art of Creative Leadership.
And then I really enjoy the My Week in New York newsletter by New York Magazine and The 10 Point morning newsletter from the WSJ.
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
I tend to use the notes app in my phone for nearly everything, including a list of non-work things I want to get done each day, travel, etc. I’m also a staunch google-suite advocate – I love their entire platform for work.
Lastly, I’m so grateful for my at-home SoulCycle bike. When I lived in NY pre-pandemic, I rode all the time with my all-time favourite instructor, Karyn. The at-home bike means I still get to ride with her even though I’m on the other side of the country. And her classes are absolutely transcendent.
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
If I had to narrow it down to a single person, it would probably be Tim Cook. I often wonder how someone can manage that kind of weight of responsibility for a company like Apple, and still feel they have time for things outside of work. And I think what he’s done with the company over the last 10+ years, particularly given the shoes he had to fill, is remarkable.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
I have two parting thoughts. The first is that despite how exhausting and in ways, traumatic, the shift of the last 2+ years has been, there is real opportunity in this time we’re living in.
For the first time in 100 years, we aren’t just inheriting a system that was established to serve a different workforce in a different time. We all get to have a hand in crafting the future of work, and what it should look like. I find that incredibly exciting.
And lastly, always try to make time to pay it forward. Whether it’s through mentorship, taking an informational call with someone just getting their start, or helping connect people to your network. I firmly believe that a generosity of spirit and kindness only begets more of the same.
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