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Another piece of advice I’ll offer is to teach people how to treat you. One example that comes to mind is around setting boundaries. Even though I have established an open door policy, when we were in the office, I would shut my physical door to signal that I needed some time to get work done and or take a mental break to recharge my battery. I am a better leader when I take care of myself.

As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Elina Vives.

Elina is currently the Vice President and General Manager at Signify [formerly Philips Lighting] leading the company’s consumer lighting business in the U.S. She is responsible for driving the commercial strategy, organizational design, product launches, and business operations. She is successfully leading the exponential growth of the connected lighting brand Philips Hue through direct-to-consumer ecommerce enhancements and performance marketing.

She has held several marketing leadership roles at global Fortune 500 companies with a proven track record of profitably growing FMCG and lifestyle brands. In addition to her extensive technical marketing background, Elina is recognized as a financially savvy and analytical commercial leader with the ability to swiftly prioritize and deploy resources to achieve P&L objectives.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “back story”? What led you to this particular career path?

I like to describe my story as one of grit and grace. At a young age, I stepped into a leadership role in my household by helping to care for my three siblings. My family taught me the importance of persistence and the value of hard work, which has helped me get to where I am today.

In terms of my career path, I went to Saint John’s University, where I studied brand marketing and truly found my passion: for communications, and for consumer behavior and engagement. I am obsessed with understanding how they use products and view and interact with brands!

Upon graduation, I started my marketing and sales career in the fast-moving consumer goods industry at Miller Coors. Over the course of 16 years, I progressively took on greater responsibility within the organization, eventually being named Vice President of Brand Marketing for the Coors portfolio. I like to get uncomfortable and challenged myself to take on cross-functional roles at Miller Coors. This allowed me to put myself in colleagues’ shoes, and truly understand different avenues in supporting our customers and end-consumers.

I then moved on to spend three years with Samsung, where I served as Vice President of Marketing for the mobile computing and wearables and the home appliances divisions.

Ultimately, in 2020, I felt I was at a crossroads in my career― I could either continue to follow the traditional marketing path and become a CMO or push myself to grow as a general manager of a business. As I mentioned, I love to be challenged and jumped at the opportunity to join Signify. Not only did it present the chance to learn about a new industry — lighting, as Vice President and General Manager of the US Consumer Channel, I’ve been given a broader, end-to-end view of the business. I am responsible for the organization’s operating model, collaborate closely with supply chain and am working with our team to improve our Direct-to-Consumer e-commerce channels, for example. It’s exciting and setting me up to achieve even greater things: I aspire to be a CEO.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

You may not immediately recognize the name Signify. But we have a 130-year legacy in lighting — we are the maker of the Philips brand of lighting products as well as the Philips Hue and WiZ Connected smart lighting systems.

I am drawing from my prior experience and working with our team at Signify to be more consumer-focused. This includes talking about our products differently, moving from tech-and-spec to use case- and benefits-driven communications. We are also creating more snackable communications now that we are marketing in digital world, so we reach consumers where they are in the journey with content they want to engage with. Our ultimate goal is to create an authentic connection with our consumers and build lifetime value for our brands

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I think all great marketers make mistakes, especially early on in our careers. While I don’t have one specific example that comes to mind, the best advice I can share is that when these mistakes happen, we should use them to fail forward: learn from what went wrong and build resilience to succeed in the future.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

I’m proud to call Kevin Doyle, one of my former leaders at Miller Coors, a mentor. He truly knew how to bring out the best in me. He challenged me to step outside my marketing comfort zone for a sales assignment. He also taught me a lot about the importance of customer centricity and empathy, which has become a part of my professional DNA.

More recently, I have joined Chief to connect with and learn from other women in senior leadership roles. I have also established my own personal “board of directors” to lean on. These individuals, which include Signify Americas President and CEO Kevin Poyck, inspire me and display leadership qualities I strive to emulate.

It is important for me to pay it forward and make an impact on others’ professional journeys. I serve as executive sponsor of Signify’s women’s focused employee resource group called S.H.E. (short for Supporting.Helping.Empowering). I am committed to helping our members become advocates for their own career advancement and realize their full potential.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

Disruption is a charged word — it signals the need for change or to correct a flaw of something that’s happening in an industry. Instead, I choose to view it as having a growth versus fixed mindset. You should challenge the status quo when it is in service to your customers and the business. But, you also need to get out of your own way for it to work.

However, being disruptive for disruption’s sake isn’t a good thing. Sometimes new leaders come into a business and try to shake things up. It can end up being detrimental to a team if not done with caution: implementing incremental changes while also keeping an element of consistency.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

Seek to understand before being understood. Empathy is an essential leadership skill and key to building trust with your team. I firmly believe that the better a listener I am, the more we can accomplish together.

Another piece of advice I’ll offer is to teach people how to treat you. One example that comes to mind is around setting boundaries. Even though I have established an open door policy, when we were in the office, I would shut my physical door to signal that I needed some time to get work done and or take a mental break to recharge my battery. I am a better leader when I take care of myself.

Lastly, it’s important to remember that the best clients get the best work. This applies to whether you work with an external vendor or agency, or even with enabling functions or internal teams that you need to collaborate with to run the business. Partners don’t want to go the extra mile for bad customers.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

I’m never satisfied, which is why I think I’m always raising the bar for myself. I’m concentrating my energy on continuing to attract and retain the top talent at Signify; ensure our team’s relentless focus on our retail customers and end-consumers and continue to develop them in terms of aptitude and attitude — both are vital to be successful.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by ‘women disruptors’ that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?

We continue to struggle with leader gender stereotypes. Female leaders tend to be brought down for the same attributes that uplift male counterparts. I think we’ve all heard a woman be called bossy for commanding attention in a room, but a man is a boss for doing the exact same thing. We can’t put our heads in the sand and be paralyzed by these perceptions. We need to recognize when this happens and reshape the narrative.

It’s hard to not dwell and not question ourselves as women disruptors — but we need to stop any negative self-talk and move on.

How can our readers follow you online?

Thank you for allowing me this opportunity. I welcome readers to connect with me on LinkedIn.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

Female Disruptors: Elina Vives of Signify On The Three Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.