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Mad Men? More like MAD Women.

5-ish questions answered about being a successful woman in the business world.

If you’ve ever watched Mad Men, you might have gained a little insight into understanding just how far women have come in the business world, especially in the field of marketing. We no longer are expected to fetch coffee or sit quietly in meetings and take notes. Instead, we are leading meetings where our insights and opinions matter. Oh, and we get our own coffee and take our own notes too, because yes, we are excellent multi-taskers.

So, how is this relevant? Well, I’m glad you asked. Today, is National Business Women’s Day. The day was first supported by the American Business Women’s Association in 1982 and later recognized by Congress in 1983 to celebrate the accomplishments of women in the workforce. To celebrate this day, I sat down with MADlab’s owners, Deidra Langstaff and Mary Beth Hobby, to answer 5-ish questions about being successful women in the business world.

1. Which seventh season Mad Men woman are you and why?  

Deidra says she is a Peggy, and I couldn’t agree more. If you haven't watched Mad Men, Peggy Olson starts off as a receptionist, but because of her ambition, heart of gold, and competitive nature, she ends up running the creative department at the end of Mad Men’s last season. 

Like Peggy, Deidra is ambitious.  Deidra started off working as a junior media buyer at DMB&B and is now running MADlab with her business partner Mary Beth Hobby.  Deidra also has a heart of pure gold. In her first position with DMB&B, she learned that being nice is "nice," but sometimes you have to be pushy and fight for your clients. This is evident in Deidra's actions today. She cares about her clients and goes above and beyond to make them happy. Mary Beth says that Deidra also shares Peggy’s competitive nature as well. 

"She's not competitive in the sense of sports or with people, but she is competitive with herself. She never settles for good enough. Her competitiveness drives her to be better."- Mary Beth Hobby

Mary Beth says that she is very similar to Mad Men's Megan Draper. If you aren't familiar with Megan's character, Megan was a secretary, who married Mad Men’s main character, Don Draper, and then moved to Hollywood to follow her dreams of being an actor. Like Megan, Mary Beth is a creative soul who follows her dreams. 

Although Megan Draper and Mary Beth have very different ways of expressing their creativity, both know how to engage audiences through storytelling. Mary Beth perfected her gift of storytelling while working as a Broadcast News Producer for WTVM. As for following her dreams, Mary Beth is doing just that. Mary Beth is now the co-owner of MADlab, where she gets to help brands creatively tell their stories through her writing and design.

2. What inspired you to pursue a career in the field of marketing?

Initially, both women didn’t technically start out in marketing but gained applicable experience that allowed them to be successful in the marketing world.

Deidra started in advertising and quickly realized there was so much more that brands/companies needed. This realization led her to pursue a career in marketing. One thing that Deidra shares about marketing is that it’s NOT just advertising or sales, it’s so much more. Marketing is research, strategy, PR, graphic design, events, budgeting, analytics, customer service and sometimes even scrubbing toilets.

As for Mary Beth, pursuing a career in marketing was an accident. As previously mentioned, Mary Beth’s first job was in broadcast news. She loved the fast-paced atmosphere but hated the odd, long hours. She eventually quit her job and moved back home where she met Deidra who helped her get a job with a former client. Four months later, after working hard and impressing the hell out of Deidra, Deidra hired her.  Mary Beth says her “marketing career was either a great accident or just part of a greater design.” Either way, she says “she is grateful. She found a career that she loves and made a best friend along the way.”

3. How do you define success and what/who has contributed to you reaching this success in your business?

When asked this question both women agreed that success looks different for everyone and perceptions of success tend to change as you grow older. 

For Deidra, success is proven results and the satisfaction of being able to walk away from a client, knowing that she is no longer needed.  She says that her clients are the ones that have contributed to her success and continually inspire her to continue doing what she does. Deidra says there is nothing like hearing the “cha-ching” of increased sales or helping clients solve certain business problems through marketing initiatives.

Mary Beth’s definition of success has changed over time; however, today she defines success as being excited about what she is working on and who she is working with. She contributes her success to her family, hard work ethic, and involvement in 4-H. She says that growing up on a farm instilled in her the value of hard work, which has allowed her to achieve both her personal and professional goals. She explains that her previous involvement in 4-H also contributed to her success because it helped shape her natural abilities and taught her important skills, like the value of networking.

4. As women in the business world, what are some obstacles that you’ve both had to overcome and what advice can you offer in overcoming these obstacles?

When asked this question, both women agreed that gender and age were big obstacles they have had to overcome in the business world. “You’re seen as someone’s younger sister or daughter, not as a professional,” Mary Beth says “and you are either too young and naive or too old and out-of-touch,” Deidra adds. 

Although perceptions of sex and age can’t be changed overnight, some advice Deidra and Mary Beth share, that has helped shatter the “glass ceiling” in their own careers, is to be confident, be engaging, speak up, know your facts, be willing to work twice as hard, have a good sense of humor, and stay relevant by educating yourself.

5. Lastly, (and this maybe the most important question of the interview) what is your favorite Mad Men quote of all time?

Deidra: "I'm in charge of thinking of things before people know they need them."- Joan Harris. 

Mary Beth: “If you don’t like what they’re saying, change the conversation.”-Peggy Olsen