Women in Business: Trynka Shineman, President, Vistaprint

Trynka Shineman's career in marketing spans more than 18 years and all facets of the marketing discipline including strategic planning, market research and analysis, and go-to-market channel efforts. She has focused on acquiring and retaining customers at scale in both ecommerce and traditional marketing settings. As president of Vistaprint, Trynka leads the planning of the company's capabilities, product and marketing strategies. Most recently, Trynka oversaw the re-positioning of the Vistaprint brand, signaling an evolution of the company's business model to one that is customer centric, focusing on Vistaprint's commitment to its customers and growth strategy. Prior to assuming her current role in July of 2014, Trynka held several roles at Vistaprint including chief marketing officer of both Europe and North America and president of the North American Business Unit.

Before joining Vistaprint in March 2004, she served as a director and senior manager for PreVision Marketing, an Inc 500 and Software 500 innovator in the direct marketing field. Trynka held increasing levels of responsibility during her eight-year tenure at the company and developed programs for several major accounts including CVS, Hallmark and Toys "R" Us. Trynka also wrote a regularly published advice column for Direct Marketing Magazine where she shared her expertise on the latest analytic, technology, creative and marketing trends in the customer relationship management field.

Trynka earned her B.A. in psychology from Cornell University, and a M.B.A from Columbia Business School.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I come from a large and diverse family and believe I uniquely value diversity in individuals, personalities, and active debate. In addition, I recently completed a 2-year expat assignment in Paris as I took on my first global role. As a leader, being based out of Paris helped me to immerse myself in Vistaprint's European business and develop relationships with our European leaders. But more importantly, immersing myself in a different culture truly broadened my perspective, reshaping who I am as an individual and how I see the world.

My mom is an entrepreneur with audacious aspirations for herself, her kids and the various businesses she started or participated in over time. She always took ideas and fledgling businesses and leaned into them aggressively. Some things worked and some failed - but the failure was never devastating. This taught me to go for it, take a long-term owner perspective, and put risk in perspective. My father is also an entrepreneur, and I've also had the pleasure of working directly for a number of founder CEOs over the course of my career - including today - and I've come to even further value the entrepreneurial spirit and strive to create an owner-mentality in my teams.

I was a psychology major in college and learned a lot about consumer behavior, creativity and innovation but also the importance of using data to refine hypothesis and make decisions. The more I learn the more I realize how important this is to create value, and I try to create environments that nurture both the left and right brain.

How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at Vistaprint?
My background is in CRM so I've always been in environments that exercised both my analytic skills and my creativity. Prior to Vistaprint, I was at an agency called PreVision Marketing (Now 89 Degrees) so got to work with many different companies, such as CVS Pharmacy and GAP, with different customer segments and strengths, which helped me understand the value of creating a unique and compelling value proposition.

I've always worked in organizations that were growing rapidly,which means I've never been in an environment where my job was the same for more than 18 months and/or where the company looks fundamentally different every 3 years. This was true before Vistaprint, and has certainly been true for the 10+ years I've been at Vistaprint. I love changing environments. I constantly focus on what change I want to impact and where I want to make my mark. I can't imagine anything different!

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Vistaprint?
Vistaprint went through a period of incredible growth from its inception through 2010. I joined in 2004, and it was energizing to be part of that early growth story. In that period our biggest challenges were how fast we could hire, how fast we could expand our product portfolio, how fast we could expand geographically, and creating/maintaining our great culture even as the team was growing.

Over the past few years we've been going through a transformation as we realized that "what got us here wouldn't get us there". In 2011 our revenue was over 800 million dollars; while we were still growing, the market was changing all around us - and when we took a step back we realized that our product quality was not strong enough; our site experience was too complicated, and that some of our business practices were creating unnecessary hurdles for our business owners. We decided at that time to make a change, starting by focusing on our culture, to become much more customer centric. Over the past 3 years, we've invested tens of millions of dollars improving our product quality, our site experience, and simplifying the way we go to market so customers can more easily get the best value. As a leader, this period of time was an incredible learning experience where many of the innovations that I had personally contributed to were no longer relevant or creating value for our customers. This was a very difficult change for the organization; at first we faced skepticism from employees about whether we were serious; also we found that some of the ways we had made decisions (incrementally) were not applicable for a holistic change of this magnitude; and finally we realized that the change would take longer and payback financially less in the near-term then we expected.

I am very proud that as a company we remained resolute and we are now at the point where, against both internal and external benchmark, we feel we have created an incredible and differentiated value proposition for the millions of small business owners that purchase our products. I'm looking forward now to where we go from here.

What advice can you offer to women who want a career in e-commerce?
Other than finding a great company my single biggest piece of advice is to Be Curious. Learn about new technology and use it, look at industry leaders or growth stories and think about where there success has come from. Ask a lot of questions, subscribe to variety of online newsletters to stay current on trends.

What is the most important lesson you've learned in your career to date?
To date, I think one of my most important lessons is the need for leaders to focus on reinvention/reimagining the company in the future. The environment in which we operate is changing very quickly. Technology is changing, competition is changing, new business models are being introduced, customer expectations are changing. As leaders, it's our job to set a vision that is not anchored in today's reality but one that looks to the future. In 2011, when we decided that we needed to change, Vistaprint would have been considered an incredible success by many measures. But we've moved away from many of our tactics and strategies that were working so that we could create a stronger and more sustainable value proposition to grow in the future. Having been through this, I feel we could have recognized this need a few years earlier. The lesson for me as a leader is to ensure that I'm spending enough time externally seeing, learning and understanding the trends around us so that I can re-imagine the company for the future.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I have a number of efficiency tips to make sure I manage my time well, both personally and professionally. For example, I make sure I carve out time on my calendar for specific work or deliverables that I have as opposed to just leaving my calendar open. I batch work, so if I'm incredibly busy I will work very late one night so that I don't end up working a 'little' late every night. I plan ahead. I plan my PTO at least 6 months in advance (it's very hard to find a week to take off at the last minute - it's very easy to do this 6 months in advance). I think preventative health is very important, and take 1 day a year for all of my appointments. On a personal note, I have a regular babysitter so my husband and I can go out once a week, which is critical to maintaining a strong relationship; there are weeks where we are so tired we want to cancel, but we force ourselves to go on a date and are always glad we took the time to spend with each other. Most importantly, I constantly ask about how others manage their time so I can continue to improve!

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
I have been very lucky to work at companies that don't put constraints on women in the workplace. From my experience, I really think the biggest issue is that women place artificial constraints on themselves as a result of what they believe to be cultural norms. There are numerous examples. From holding back in meetings so they feel they are acting gender appropriate, to taking a heavier burden than their spouse on managing the home even prior to having children, to agonizing over whether they will be a stay-at-home mom years before they have children.

As a specific example, I recently had a conversation with a number of women in Vistaprint's technology group. One of them asked me what advice I would have for her when she has a strong opinion in a meeting; she worried that by stating it she would be perceived as a bully. My response of course is that she should not be more or less forceful to be gender-appropriate; if she has a well-informed opinion she should make sure she is heard.

I recognize this is easier said than done, but think it's important for women to own their career and their development and ensure the constraints they feel are not ones they are creating themselves.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I've only had 4 managers over the course of my career (3 out of the 4 were women), and have been very lucky to develop a strong and personal relationship with each one. I think building a strong, resilient relationship with your direct manager can create a manager/mentor relationship that adds tremendous value. For me, what's important in these relationships is trust, mutual respect, and directness. Even better, over the course of time, as our roles have changed I consider my prior managers friends - who know me well, who I highly respect, who I can continue to use as a sounding board for advice.

I think that mentoring takes many forms. I always take the opportunity I have as a result of my role to reach out to women around the organization, both individually and by creating forums for women, so we can better support each other. For example, I often reach out to women going out or getting back from maternity leave to let them know that I am happy to brainstorm if they want help thinking through work-life balance; I've created a women's leadership dinner quarterly in some of our office locations; I joined our 'women in technology' discussion group to make sure that I can hear about ways to create a stronger environment for women to succeed.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I am constantly inspired by our small business owner customers as a group- 60% of the small business owners that we talk to are women. I think that starting a business takes an incredible combination of creativity, courage and drive. Whenever I have the opportunity to talk to our customers and hear their stories, I find it personally inspiring.

I also really admire Sheryl Sandberg - I think that her book Lean In is very empowering to younger women entering the workplace. I think that it's laudable how she's used her role and her personal success as a platform to help women globally.

What do you want Vistaprint to accomplish in the next year?
I'm so proud of the changes we've made over the past 3 year and I think this has set us up to have a very exciting 2015. As I think about accomplishments in 2015, there are three I'd highlight:
I want to expand our product offering in signs and decorative apparel. We have some incredible technology insights in these areas that enable us to help small businesses across an even broader array of products.

I want to infuse more focus on innovation at all levels of the organization into our culture.
I really want to get the word out about the changes we've made in the company. I am confident we have simply the best way for small business owners to create marketing materials and we're ready to start talking about that!