We've joined up with four HERproject brands as part of a campaign to promote and accelerate leadership for and by women. As part of this, we asked Mandy Seidel, Vice President of Global Sourcing, Pottery Barn, for her experiences of and views on this topic.
Can you tell us a bit about you, how long you've been in your current position, and what led you to join the company?
I've been in my current position for seven years and I joined the company 19 years ago. It was my second job out of college and I joined Pottery Barn because it was an aspirational brand that always resonated with me. I believed in the quality of the products, which has always been extremely important for me because I have to believe in what we're manufacturing.
What positive impacts do you think you'll have through your role?
I love working with our partners around the world, being exposed to so many different cultures and ultimately bringing beautiful products to life for our customers. Having worked for Williams-Sonoma, Inc. for almost 20 years, I've seen many vendor partners pass their businesses to the next generation and support female leaders in the process. Knowing that the business we do together contributes to their business being kept alive for generations within the family is just awesome.
What inspires you as a leader?
Williams-Sonoma is a special place to work, in part because of all the inspirational female leaders I’ve had the opportunity to work with and learn from. Watching these women, I’ve realized that they can do it all; they're mothers and they have a career, for instance, and it shows that you can break down barriers. I've seen that with many of the female leaders I work with overseas as well. Whether it's within our own leadership team at WSI or within our vendor community, I’ve been fortunate to see these strong women who really find a way to do it all, balancing careers with family and finding time to pursure personal passions —and that's what I think has inspired me over the years.
Are there any specific female leaders whether at the company or in the world that inspire you personally?
I was listening to a podcast about Elizabeth Cutler and Julie Rice, the two women who started Soul Cycle. I think by nature I am not somebody who takes a lot of risk, so I get really excited and motivated by listening to people, especially women, who do take a risk. It makes me think: try it! What’s the worst that can happen! That kind of spirit is really inspiring.
What does it mean to you to be a leader?
Being a leader means holding yourself accountable, being an active listener, being respectful, having self-awareness, being courageous and fostering an inclusive and collaborative environment.
I think there's also something about just paying attention and being present. I’ve seen leaders of teams who are more managers than leaders—they’re not truly paying attention to the people that they are working with on a daily basis and inspiring them to do their best work. Paying attention and being present can make a big difference.
What’s the most important thing you try to keep in mind in your role as a leader?
It’s important to stay positive and calm and maintain some levity when faced with a challenging situation - we’re furnishing people's homes, we're going to figure it out!
What advice would you give to women as they climb the corporate ladder?
I encourage women to develop a diverse professional network they can turn to for advice, support or mentoring. A variety of perspectives is important, so it’s helpful to foster relationships with both women and men, as well as people from different industries or stages in their career — that variety is important. It’s nice to have that sounding board to help you gain perspective.
What drives your commitment to women's empowerment and gender equality?
Ultimately, it's what I want to see and part of who I am. Early on in my career I was given the opportunity to be part of a management and leadership training program called Women Unlimited. In my group, many of the women were working in an “old boys’ club” type of industry. Listening to them share their stories, I realized I wasn't experiencing what they were. This was completely eye-opening to me and helped me appreciate working in an inclusive environment that was empowering and supportive. It was a tremendous benefit and I’m grateful to have spent much of my career at a company that supports women’s empowerment and gender equality. So that, in turn, has driven my commitment to supporting and mentoring up-and-coming women leaders.
Was there a leadership experience where you felt especially empowered?
Early on in my career, I had the opportunity to unexpectedly take on a lot of new responsibilities all at once and step into a leadership role. My manager took a leave of absence and she didn’t know how long she’d be out. She encouraged me to stay strong and gave me the opportunity to step into a challenging new role. She believed in me and I felt supported and respected by the entire team. I was empowered to do the role and and that was great for me.
Can you give an example of a time you met a female leader in the supply chain?
Early on in my career, I visited a key vendor partner of ours who manufactures many of our textiles for Pottery Barn. She’s the namesake founder of her company and she was telling me the story of how she started her business. She’s very passionate about textiles and built a successful business while raising her family and having the support of her husband in a time when women didn't work. It was pretty incredible to me. She broke through the boundaries and her story continues to inspire me to this day.
How can we help more women become leaders in the global supply chain?
Ultimately, it's about supporting women across our global supply chain and giving them opportunities for both career and personal growth. I also think it’s important for women to share their stories – it helps women learn from each other’s experiences. I feel extremely fortunate to have been in the workforce and building my career at a time where the opportunities for women have really expanded.