Women in Business Q&A: Jane Delworth, Managing Director, mono

Jane brings an all-encompassing perspective to client accounts thanks to her globe-spanning 20 years of communications experience in both client and agency environments. She has been a driving force behind work for Target, Apple, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and Herman Miller as well as recent client acquisitions Sperry and The North Face. Recognized as a creative thinker, Jane is adept at challenging the status quo and leading teams to groundbreaking ideas.

Prior to joining mono, Jane managed award-winning work for GE global corporate advertising while at BBDO New York. She also spent time in Sydney managing the Asia, Oceania, Africa (AOA) business for Nestle Purina, facilitating Purina's global expansion. In between these moves and agency roles, Jane was the key strategist for advertising, in-store marketing, and packaging for several areas at Target.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I would say two key experiences in my life have played a large role in how I navigate the world today. First, I changed schools five times throughout grade school and high school. Each school presented a new challenge when it came to figuring out how to fit in and navigate interpersonal dynamics. I learned at a young age to read people and situations beyond the surface of what was being said. Today I call it my "spidey sense" -- and, at times, it's been more valuable in my career than any formal education.

The second experience is my love affair with the outdoors; I've become an avid hiker, a beginner mountaineer and a dabbler in rock climbing. There's a lot I've learned from sleeping at 20,000 feet, eating freeze dried food, going weeks without showers and being convinced a mountain lion is waiting to snack on me at any minute.

In rock climbing, if you don't communicate you might very well die. That message sunk in quickly and the idea of the vital importance of clear communication is something I've applied to my career. Keeping people informed and engaged throughout any project is so important. People want to be a part of something bigger. They want to understand the vision, they want to know how they can contribute and they want to be heard. Sure, it can be more efficient to give marching orders, but it's much more rewarding to actually speak with everyone involved in the project. I never underestimate who needs to hear the full context of a situation. That person may end up being the critical link to success or failure.

Once I started learning more about rock climbing and mountaineering I realized that these sports that seem reckless and careless are actually about analyzing risk and making calculated choices. The same is true in any business situation. Pushing boundaries and believing in a path outside the norm is what will lead to the most rewarding results. From the outside, it looks risky but it's thinking through the downside and doing all you can to mitigate that. I believe in the upside of standing out and taking risks. You have to have an unshakeable belief that you can make it happen.

How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at mono?
By nature I'm a bit of a gypsy. I like new adventures, new environments, and new challenges. I've been fortunate to work in creatively driven, innovative environments but prior to mono, they would lose their charm within a few years as I became frustrated with the silos and processes that got in the way of good ideas. These experiences helped me realize that I cared as much about the process of getting to a good idea as the idea itself.

mono has been different for me since day one. It's a highly collaborative culture. And while "collaboration" tends to be a trendy topic, it's a foundational belief at mono. We share ideas in a pretty raw form and work together to poke holes and build until we have the strongest thinking possible. It's incredibly vulnerable and takes courage to speak up when you may not agree or when you haven't fully formulated your idea. It's also incredibly invigorating because we trust each other and push each other to do greater things. mono is a very entrepreneurial environment where everyone has a sense of ownership in the work and in building the agency as a whole. Unquestionably, the best work of my career has been at mono.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at mono?
I came to mono 7 years ago when we were small and hopeful. It's very rewarding to have personally contributed to where we are today. Everyday I work with the smartest and most creative people I've encountered in my career. My best times at mono have been when we're navigating the unknown. We're like a dog with a bone when we develop an idea that has never been done before and is perfect for a client brand. We will leave no stone unturned until it's living successfully out in the world. It's addicting.

Without a doubt, navigating our culture as we experience rapid growth is the biggest challenge. In the early days, maintaining our culture was fairly intuitive. Growth was at a slower pace and we could take our time helping people understand who we are and why we're different. As new people join the fold in greater numbers, it's challenging to articulate what was at one time an unspoken "known." It's been a great exercise for us to write down our values so that everyone can embrace them and truly understand how we work and why.

What advice can you offer to women who want a career in advertising?
Believe in yourself. Early in my career a presentation consultant told me that I should always wear suits and red lipstick to compensate for my diminutive stature (I top out at a whopping 5'0"). Thankfully I ignored that advice. Soon after that experience I landed at an agency where a senior manager told me "you have a unique sense of humor. Use it." Someone recognized something special I bring to the table. That moment helped me recognize that the things that are unique to me are the things that are going to make me successful. People want to work with genuine people. Don't be afraid to be you. It's your biggest advantage.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
To a degree, I believe that today work and life are intermingled so it's important to love what you do. That's not meant to be code for "all work and no play" but it's a statement to not waste time doing something that you hate.

I'm a firm believer that time away from the office creates a fresher, more productive person. It's a priority I set for my life and a series of choices I make every day. I work out most mornings at 6 am because it makes me a saner, happier person. Every year I need to take some sort of epic trip so I made sure to find a work environment and an agency that supports me when I tell them I need three weeks to go to South America and try to climb a giant mountain.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
I can't believe that we're still seeing headlines about unequal pay. I recently read an op-ed citing evidence that progress in closing the male/female pay gap has been at a near stand-still over the past decade. And at a time when more and more articles are pointing to the fact that female-led organizations are some of the strongest performers. I don't understand how we, as a culture, can recognize the strength of women leaders yet think it's ok to not compensate equally. And, while I think pay equity needs to be tackled on a large stage, women also need to take charge of this conversation. We need to better understand, believe in, and fight for our value.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
Growing up with three older brothers, I have a stubborn streak. I was always trying to prove that I could figure it all out for myself. In my career, that means I have learned from doing, from trying and from making mistakes along the way. While it's been valuable, it certainly would have been helpful to have someone guide me a bit. And perhaps that background is what has led me to strongly believe in mentoring those around me. I love seeing someone with promise and helping him or her find their way. I love creating an honest and open environment so that people can become their best selves. My career path has not been a straight line and I think that experience is so helpful to share with others. There's no one right way...except to do it your way (cue Frank Sinatra).

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I'm a big fan of Amy Poehler's "Smart Girls" effort and the philosophy of teaching girls (and women) to Change the World by Being Yourself. In a world where there seems to be much debate over how women should and shouldn't behave in the business world, I love supporting the idea that we should be ourselves.

What do you want mono to accomplish in the next year?
Bringing our ambition of growth to life and continuing our incredible momentum. Over the past six months, we have started new partnerships with Sperry, Propel, The North Face, Mozilla and Smashburger. This year we'll be entering a new market and along with my colleague, Jeffrey Gorder, I'll be establishing our office and our brand in that market. On a personal front, I'm excited to take on new challenges on a bigger scale. From a mono perspective, I'm excited that this expansion highlights our ambitions as an agency and showcases our momentum and growth.