Meet Maria Vorovich, co-founder of GoodQues, a data-driven strategic consultancy, She is an award-winning (Effies, Cannes, Clio) leader who has launched, built and repositioned brands for success such as Covergirl, Marriott, McCormick, Mac, and many more, a globetrotter, culture-enthusiast and trend-spotter.
Who is Maria Vorovich ? Define yourself.
Life will define and redefine you; daughter, friend, refugee, fiancée, CSO, founder, volunteer, etc., but, I define myself, first and foremost, as an adventurer. Taking on every day with excitement for what will be around the corner.
"Clear and concise thinking, simple and poignant presentations, easy and clear communication are the keys to success working with any brands"
You are a refugee from Minsk, Belarus, how was your childhood? how did your life change when you arrived in NYC?
I’ve tried to write the first sentence in response to this question at least 50 times, but, where do I begin to tell the story of a tough immigration? We were very poor, we scoured the streets for discarded furniture, we lived 6 people to a one bedroom apartment and McDonalds was our only option for fine dining. But, to tell you the truth, it wasn’t all bad.
There’s one story that helps to bring my childhood to life, the good and the bad. It was our first December in America and my sister and I couldn’t wait to put up a Christmas Tree, a familiar tradition in a very unfamiliar country. Now, I can’t recall if my parents couldn’t find or couldn’t afford a Christmas tree, probably the latter. My sister and I learned that there would be no tree and we were devastated. We cried ourselves to sleep! When we woke up the next morning, we saw an outline of a Christmas tree, made out of Christmas lights. It was huge and hanging from a wall in our apartment, from the floor to the ceiling. My parents spent the night with hammers and nails to create the tree for us, and it was one of the happiest holidays I can remember.
You have a Bachelor degree in Marketing/Advertising and Business Management at City University of New York-Baruch College, why did you choose those courses of study?
I grew up as an art kid; I went to a Middle School focused on fine Arts and continued an arts program into high school, but, art doesn’t pay the bills. Or, at least that’s what my immigrant parents believed. They begged me to do something “more serious”.
I didn’t know what “more serious” meant so I embarked on a string of internships right after High School. I worked at a digital publisher (Heavy Inc.), an advertising agency (Berlin Cameron United), a fashion house (Prada) and more, until I realized that I could tie my love for creativity to something “more serious” if I pursued a career in marketing and advertising.
You have worked as Global Strategy Director at Grey New York, overseeing projects for integrated brands such as Pantene, COVERGIRL, Marriott, Clairol and more. You lead the holistic brand planning, social, digital, communications strategy and creative development for award-winning campaigns like COVERGIRL Katy Kat (North American Effie ‘17), COVERGIRL So Lashy (Silver Clio '17) and CLAIROL Real Color Stories (Cannes Silver Lion ‘17). What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned over the years working with these important brands?
Working with brands the caliber of Pantene and Marriott, the greatest lesson I learned is about the beauty of simplicity and the art of communications. Working on big, powerful brands is extremely exciting, but, these behemoths have a million moving pieces, a thousand differing points-of-view and a hundred projects due every month. The most brilliant ideas can easily become lost in the shuffle. Clear and concise thinking, simple and poignant presentations, easy and clear communication are the keys to success working with these brands or any brands.
Why did you start your own consultancy GoodQues while you work in Air Paris?
I was 30 years old when we first connected in the of Summer 2019. Today, in January 2020, I am 31 years old and no longer at Air Paris. Our consultancy, GoodQues took off in the Fall of 2019 and I parted ways with Air Paris. GoodQues has signed a new contract virtually every week since launch!
My co-founder and I had been dreaming up the idea of GoodQues for years. Her and I met at Grey New York; she built the data strategy team while I was leading the strategy for Covergirl, Pantene and Marriott. We continued to grow in our careers; she became the Head of Data Strategy at Grey and I went on to become the Chief Strategy Officer at Air Paris. We were seeing a huge shift in our world. The amount of data and information we had available to us was growing. We realized that any brand that wasn’t using data to inform their decision-making was going to fall behind.
The trick was to transform data from “big data” to “meaningful data”. We developed a unique methodology and unorthodox paths into research to better understand brand audiences and deliver breakthrough strategy for businesses.
You've won a few awards (Effie, Cannes, Clio) and building your career to be inherently digital, data-driven and consumer-centric, fostering ideas that are culturally disruptive and deliver real value for people and in turn, for brands. You have your own company, What´s the recipe for your success?
My personal recipe for success is dependent on one key ingredient: curiosity. We are bombarded with newness, we can feel overwhelmed by it, or we can transform that energy into inspiration.
My experience has trained me to absorb huge amount of information and to look for anomalies and human truths. It’s this curiosity, to seek, to find and to transform into meaning that has allowed me to win awards for my work and foster exciting ideas.
"My personal recipe for success is dependent on one key ingredient: curiosity. It’s this curiosity, to seek, to find and to transform into meaning that has allowed me to win awards for my work and foster exciting ideas "
Everybody has had dark moments in their lives, what have you done to get out of that phase?
Ha! Therapy! Therapy and a strong community of family and friends. People in your life who will listen to you and truly hear you. It’s the only way to surpass dark moments.
What is the reality of your day-to-day?
When my co-founder and I first started talking about GoodQues, we dreamt about luxurious, slow mornings and mid-day yoga classes. It’s the entrepreneurship fairytale and it’s especially prevalent in New York. There are so many fabulous people sipping on matcha lattes at all hours of the day!
The truth is, entrepreneurship is all consuming. Every day there are 1,000 things to do and everything feels urgent. We could easily work 8am-8pm, 7 days a week, but, we are choosing not to. Sure, there are crazy days, weeks even. However, we want to build our business on the foundation that work doesn’t have to be crazy. We want to provide the best value for our clients, but never at the expense of burnout. It isn’t sustainable and it never produces the best work. We are growing a company that wants to change what day to day might look like. Maybe, one day, we will have mandatory mid-day yoga.
Do you have any particular philosophy that guides your career decisions?
Yes. We believe empathy leads to profit. This is why we have such a keen focus on understanding people. After all, every company exists in service of people, customers who are consuming a product. The more a business can be empathetic to their customers, to understand “their people”, the more successful the business will be. We practice empathy in our research in order to unearth opportunities and solve business problems.
What do you love most about your job? & what is the most difficult part?
I love a good challenge! I love burying my head in a problem and working with people to solve it. I love fiery dialogue. I love disagreements that lead to a better outcome. Contract negotiations, operational logistics — the romance is lost on me. I prefer solving problems and digging through research. It’s the natural introvert in me!
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
There’s only one thing that stands between a failed start-up and a functioning business: tenacity. There will be bad days and there will be dead ends; entrepreneurs need to be prepared to pivot. We do it over and over. If something doesn’t work, you shift gears. If a tactic fails, you try a new one.
Can you share with us, the do and don'ts for the brands in advertising?
There are too many do and don’ts! Where to begin? The number one do? Don’t spend too much time looking for answers internally. Companies, too often, are speaking to themselves. Look to the world and listen — you will find more answers than you know what to do with.
Many authors say women can and must strive to have everything – a shining career, blossoming family life and a perfectly balanced lifestyle all at once, others point out that– then women are placing unrealistic expectations on themselves if they believe they can have it all, you are single with no kids so according to your experience, what do you think about these statements?
I was recently out with a group of friends; a lawyer, a founder of a SaaS company, an anesthesiologist and a food tech CMO. We all agreed that “to do it all” is impossible. Something has to fall to the wayside. We went in a circle to talk about what was the one thing that consistently fell off of our list of priorities.
For me, I loved art for years as a kid, but I can’t remember the last time I picked up a paintbrush. It somehow feels, I can always be doing something “more productive”, but lately, I wonder, what is more productive than finding time for yourself?
"We are living in a tricky time. The glass ceiling used to be palpable, you can practically see it and feel it, it was a hard glass. Today, the “glass ceiling” is metaphorically made out of cellophane. The ceiling is more malleable, it can stretch, but it is still there"
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I love to host friends and family. My fiance and I cook for people, we organize events and game nights. Our network is incredibly important to us. I also read a lot, articles, magazines, books -- I love it, but I have to make more time to do it.
What are your plans for the future?
Big plans for 2020 and beyond. I want to continue to grow GoodQues, I want to give back to the world by creating fulfilling, fun and fair jobs. I want to spread our vision and help businesses make better, more human decisions. In my personal life, I’m very excited to get married. My fiancé and I are planning a wedding in Tuscany!
There is still the glass ceiling for women in the world: Fewer opportunities, jobs underpaid just for that fact of being a woman, etc. Have you experimented the glass ceiling? if yes, what are the biggest challenges you have faced and how have you overcome them?
We are living in a tricky time. The glass ceiling used to be palpable, you can practically see it and feel it, it was a hard glass. Today, the “glass ceiling” is metaphorically made out of cellophane. The ceiling is more malleable, it can stretch, but it is still there. I’ve had managers and supervisors call out my physical attributes as positives or negatives. I am not brave like some of the other women who’ve reported this kind of behavior, for me, I still carry it as a burden. So, what do you do to overcome the ceiling? My way was to start my own business, to create my own opportunity and to create opportunities for others.
What tips, can you give to young girls who want to become a C-level executive or entrepreneur in advertising like you?
To raise your hand. I have never seen this advice not work. When I was just starting out in advertising, I was asked to join a team on a big pitch for the agency. We were told about the pitch on Friday and set a meeting for Monday to plan our attack.
I was the most junior team member and I was incredibly eager to prove my worth.I spent that weekend crafting an approach to win the business. I presented it to the team on Monday. A month later, the executives on the project let me lead the pitch to the Client. It was my Peggy Olsen moment and it catapulted my growth in the agency. I don’t believe I’m special in any way— I was simply the person who raised their hand and that made all the difference.
I think in your position, many people may have the wrong idea of who you are (personally), and what do you (professionally), with this idea in mind, what is being Maria and what´s not?
It’s important to me to live as transparently as possible. My father always says, there isn’t a single person that goes through life unscathed. I am an open book to tell people my story, express the hardships and share in the celebrations. For me, my career has been a combination of luck and tenacity and hopefully, people understand that is what it takes and nothing more! You capitalize on the luck and you keep trucking along when you are unlucky :)
Who is the woman you admire the most and why?
It will be a cliché to say, but, my mother. My mother has a warmth and sweetness about her that she’s carried through life despite a bevy of bitterness. She’s lived through Chernobyl, endured the collapse of the Soviet Union, spearheaded an immigration with two small children, survived a stroke, worked in the arts, founded a fashion company and recently, started a late in life career as a real estate broker. She is the queen of reinvention, second only to Madonna! She is a chameleon and I admire her, not only for never giving up, but instilling in us that life is light. Being alive is wonderful and we have to cherish it, despite inevitable hardships.
"I don’t believe I’m special in any way— I was simply the person who raised their hand and that made all the difference"
Something else do you want to add or share with us?
The last thing I want to say is that I truly believe anyone is capable of starting and succeeding in entrepreneurship. It is a mindset, to say, “I will not give up on this”. The more you believe in yourself and your vision, the more likely it is to come true.
Name: Maria Vorovich
Sector: Marketing Consultancy