Zoe Zeigler (@MissZoeZ) defies the myth of the millennial job hopper.
The Toyota marketer and ColorComm communications director has spent the last eight years working various roles at the auto company. Having found her “dream job” more than once within Toyota’s ranks, she’s become an expert on locating strategic growth opportunities and skill set enhancing roles.
Here, she provides some insight into her current role and gives advice on how others can find success and longevity right where they are.
Hashtags + Stilettos (H+S): Can you describe your role at Toyota in more detail? What are your day-to-day responsibilities?
Zoe Zeigler (ZZ): As assistant manager of corporate marketing and communications for Toyota in North America, I’m responsible for managing the creation and day-to-day execution of national corporate advertising campaigns that effectively tell the company story to key audiences.
Each day is different, but campaigns always begin by coming together with leadership from across the organization to identify business and industry insights that anchor the need for an ad campaign. I then work closely with our advertising agency to develop and fine-tune the strategy before the campaign goes into production. I also manage the development of all the creative elements – from photo and video shoots, websites builds, print and digital ad creation, paid and organic social media content, search engine marketing, and more.
In addition, I oversee communications activities to amplify advertising initiatives through earned media as well, which includes drafting internal and external communications strategies, overseeing our PR agencies’ efforts to secure media placements, directly interacting with media, and preparing our spokespeople for interviews related to our marketing campaigns.
H+S: How long have you been in this role?
ZZ: I transitioned into my current role about a year ago, but I’ve spent the past several years of my career in a variety of roles across marketing and communications functions in Toyota’s LA and New York offices.
H+S: You’ve spent most of your career at Toyota, which is a departure from the common belief that most millennials are job hoppers. What have been the major benefits of staying with Toyota for so long?
ZZ: I’m really blessed to work for an organization that encourages its employees to explore different roles and career tracks from within the company. I’ve held something like seven different roles since I’ve began with Toyota, under four of the company’s different brands (Toyota, Lexus, Scion and Toyota Financial Services).
Each role I’ve been in has prepared me immensely for the next, so one of the major benefits of being at the same organization for so long has been being able to tap into my different interests and move around and up in my career while maintaining that consistent foundational business insight that’s key to all the projects I contribute to.
H+S: Can you talk a little more about the benefits of working for a large corporation?
ZZ: Yes. As I mentioned, I think it’s the breadth of different career opportunities they offer.
Large organizations also often have formalized training pipelines to develop top talent and pump them into management roles in key business areas. They’re also more likely to contribute to educational resources, like graduate degrees, professional conferences, etc., that complement what employees are learning on the job and in the office.
H+S: What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about changing jobs every year or two because they think it’ll help them advance faster?
ZZ: A consistent piece of advice I’d give is to be strategic in your career moves and transitions. In some industries, it’s beneficial to change jobs every two years to move up or round out one’s expertise. For others, it’s a red flag. I think the most important thing is to know the norms for your industry and to make sure that each move you make in your career demonstrates a clear opportunity to get you closer to your ultimate career goal. And, whether you’re changing jobs or staying put, always make sure to construct your resume in a way that helps recruiters and managers clearly understand that your trajectory was strategic.
H+S: That’s great advice. You’ve held various positions at Toyota, ranging from brand strategy to media relations. Which one has been your favorite and which role was the most challenging?
ZZ: I’ve had so many great roles, but my current role is my favorite because, on top of developing some pretty cool marketing campaigns, I get to develop people and mentor my team members to help them reach the next level in their careers as well.
The most challenging, but also one of the most valuable, was when I spent three months serving on the front lines in the customer service department as part of a rotational management development program. I got to interact with customers first-hand and got unfiltered insight into their needs and wants from Toyota. Now, no matter what role I’m in, that experience helps me connect my job back to the end customer and really understand how the initiatives I’m working on ultimately affect the perception and experience with the brand.
H+S: Can you talk about some initiatives or projects you’ve worked on at Toyota that you’re most proud of?
ZZ: I’m currently leading a fun initiative called “Arrive in Style”, which is Toyota and Teen Vogue’s joint campaign to empower teen girls to be safer behind the wheel. It has been a real treat to work with a media partner like Teen Vogue, partly because I get to incorporate beauty and fashion into my job, and what girl wouldn’t love that.
From the very beginning, I really got to shape Arrive in Style into what it is today, which has resulted in a campaign that has earned Toyota coverage in the New York Times and the Today Show, while delivering on our goal of raising awareness of Toyota’s commitment to safety.
Another recent initiative I’m proud of is “Meals Per Hour,” a campaign to better tell the story of how Toyota collaborates with non-profits in unique and unconventional ways to benefit society. We enlisted influencers to follow us as we worked with a non-profit in New York and asked them to document the process along the way in their own voice and to share it through their own channels and on our mealsperhour.com blog. The project culminated in a short film by award-winning filmmakers, which was viewed over 1 million times on YouTube and earned us coverage in outlets like CNN, The Huffington Post and Mashable.
H+S: Who or what inspires you?
ZZ: My father. Before a brain illness took him out of the workforce, he was a well-respected executive at a top Fortune 500 company. I got my business-savvy from him at a very young age. I see my career and my life as a continuation of his legacy.
H+S: Do you have any mentors? If so, what impact has their presence had on your career?
ZZ: Inside Toyota, Latondra Netwon, group vice president and the most senior level African American woman at the company, has been a wonderful mentor and sponsor for me. She has encouraged me to ensure that I’m not just doing good work, but that I’m getting the right credit for it. She has taught me how to be strategic in promoting my achievements among key players within the organization, as well as advocated for me behind closed doors, which has ultimately led to promotions and new opportunities for me.
Outside of Toyota, I serve on the leadership team for the organization ColorComm, which is connecting me to a lot of leading women in the marketing and communications industry. I’ve built some really valuable relationships through the organization, ones that have benefited my career just as much as formal mentors have.
H+S: If someone was interested in following in your footsteps career-wise, what advice would you give them?
ZZ: There are so many different avenues you could go down in the marketing & communications field – from market research, to brand management, to creative services, to public relations – and they are all very different disciplines. Make sure you learn about the importance of each and how they work together to deliver effective campaigns, even if you don’t touch them all in your specific role.
Always…always be a student of your industry. The evolution of social and digital media is changing the marketing and communications world faster than ever, and people who are not open to constantly learning and being students of their craft are pretty committing career suicide.
H+S: What’s been the biggest lesson you’ve learned in your career so far?
ZZ: I learned that most of the time, my dream job wasn’t just going to up and fall in my lap. I had to be proactive.
For professionals, and professional women especially, we have to make sure that we take charge of own careers. Don’t wait for that role you’re interested in to open up; go meet the person managing that department right now and express your interest in learning more and contributing to their team. Don’t wait for you boss to ask you what you want to do next; proactively tell them what your career goals are and bring them on as an ally to help you attain those goals. We get nowhere by just sitting back and waiting.
H+S: What’s the best business advice you’ve ever received?
ZZ: The best advice I received that applies equally to my professional and personal life actually came from a book called Ask For It: How Women Can Use the Power of Negotiation to Get What They Really Want.
That book really opened my eyes to all the things that we as women miss out on simply because we don’t ask for it and negotiate on our own behalf – everything from better salaries, to flexible work schedules, or even something as simple as lower cable bills. The book offers extremely valuable techniques and examples to help women get what they want, on their terms. A must read!
H+S: What is one big goal you hope to accomplish over the next year? Five years?
ZZ: A goal that I just realized in the spring of this year was completing New York University’s certification in digital media marketing, which has really enabled me to better deliver integrated marketing solutions in my job.
Over the next five years, I’d probably say my goal is to earn an MBA to make myself an even more valuable resource to whatever organization I’m working for, be it someone else’s or my own.