Kristi VandenBosch: Navigating Change and Resilience 

Once after a conference speech, Kristi VandenBosch was offered both a beer and a job, marking the beginning of her transformative journey at OLIVER Agency, an advertising company that builds in-house marketing teams and ecosystems for brands. Now president of that agency—and formerly the CEO of Publicis and Chief Digital Officer of MXM (now known as Accenture Song), among other exciting roles—VandenBosch joins the WomenHeard: Changemakers podcast to share a wealth of inspiring experiences from her remarkable career journey. 

Tune in to this episode for captivating insights on propelling business objectives forward and embracing pivotal “change moments.” Here’s a taste of what you can expect to learn about. 

Finding Ways to Connect
VandenBosch’s communication and leadership skills and unique ability to hold emotional space for clients is perhaps one of her superpowers, enabling her to establish meaningful connections regardless of the other person’s position on the corporate ladder. OLIVER Agency’s unique business model and distinctive approach—essentially bridging the gap between in-house and external agencies—also lets her build a more collaborative partnership with clients, letting her understand the problems beyond traditional briefs. 

“I’ve never felt this much confidence of how I am at the right side of marketing again,” she says.

Facing Challenges Head-On
Later in the episode, VandenBosch discusses how she’s navigated challenging times, both in her professional and personal life. One great example: Like so many other businesses, OLIVER Agency faced unusual circumstances during the COVID-19 pandemic and had to take transformative measures to adapt its in-house agency model while still empowering businesses to thrive and be efficient. 

She’s also open about inclusivity goals: “We started to build a business and culture around amplifying voices that normally wouldn’t be amplified in our industry and we made that a big part of our culture,” she says while discussing the agency’s commitment to inclusion, diversity and belonging initiatives.

Building Supportive Environments
Finding mentorship and being surrounded by supportive networks is so important, VandenBosch says, especially for women facing toxic environments or obstacles within their industries. 

Toxic workplaces are like bad marriages, she adds, stressing the liberating feeling and confidence that comes with deciding to leave. Although there may be unforeseen stumbling rocks in one’s professional journey, she urges resilience and hopes young women will have the ability to learn from that experience and move forward.

“You may lose a job you love, you may have someone betray you,”  VandenBosch says. “This will not define you.”

Leadership, Humanity, and Generosity
The conversation eventually shifts towards leadership styles, with VandenBosch advocating for leading through humanity, rather than fear or expertise. 

“Vulnerability is about being honest that you are on a journey and you are asking them to join you,” she says, underlining the greatness of generosity and creating an environment that advances personal and professional growth while embracing the concept of being real and authentic. 

Recharging and Looking Ahead
At the end, VandenBosch opens up about her approach to recharging, which involves prioritizing alone time and engaging in activities like seeing a phenomenal Broadway show and walking home after so she can enjoy the beauty of New York City. 

And when it comes to the future, she’s feeling optimistic, especially after witnessing the activism and involvement of Gen Z. “I have a lot of hope through this generation,” she says.

Many thanks to Kristi VandenBosch for joining us! For the full interview, listen to NYWICI’s WomenHeard podcast.

Written by Hande Erkan


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