Val DiFebo was born to be a leader, and we’re incredibly excited to share a peek into her mindset and lifestyle. As the CEO of the Deutsch NY office, she has worked in advertising since 1992 on brands from Reebok to Proctor & Gamble. Aside from her incredible work in the industry, Val has quickly become a respected thought leader, and has been featured in the New York Times, Fortune, and The Wall Street Journal.
WIth a huge neon “YES” sign above her desk, Val strongly encourages pushing limits and taking thoughtful risks. We love her discussion of mindfulness in this article. :) Read on to learn about her journey through the world of advertising and navigating this world as a mother and wife.
1. Walk us through your journey -- How did your passion for advertising start, and how did you get to the CEO position of an agency?
Val DiFebo: My journey started with psychology courses I took at Williams College. I was studying behavioral psychology and was curious about how information is processed to influence people’s opinions, attitudes and behaviors. It seemed to me that advertising and marketing were businesses that connected with my curiosity.
I began my career in media planning and migrated to account management. I came to Deutsch having worked on big, disciplined, best in class marketing organizations like P&G, Nabisco, Dole and American Home Products. That experience helped me move swiftly from managing Brands at Deutsch to managing the Agency and our integrated offering.
2. What is the biggest lesson you've learned throughout your career? How did you learn it?
VD: I’ve learned so many great lessons. Among them is to always do what’s right for the Company and your Brands (not individuals, not departments, not the press or award shows). Perhaps the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that it’s ok to make mistakes and learn from them -- I find fear paralyzing where as thoughtful risk taking is exhilarating.
3. Tell us about your goals. What do you continue to aim for even in your current position?
VD: One of my goals is to always be listening and curious. To be open minded and find new ways and new talent to drive our clients’ biz and our own.
4. Walk us through your typical day as a CEO (feel free to get detailed on morning routines and self-care efforts, not just what work you do!)
VD: This CEO is also a mom, wife and board member to a few non-profits, so every day looks slightly different depending on how I manage the demands of those roles. I wake up early, and breakfast is non negotiable -- coffee with cinnamon and yogurt with granola, or eggs.
After our son leaves for school I get to the office and typically meet with my leadership team -- some days together, sometimes one on one. I meet with employees and clients, and often do some type of industry related activity. I mentor employees and students who are interested in advertising and of course am always looking for new ways for us to grow. I make time for yoga and meditation a few days a week and while I don’t “check out” from work, I like to get home for dinner with my family.
5. What are some challenges you’ve faced as a female CEO in a male-dominated industry? How have you overcome these challenges?
VD: I’ve been in this role for 10 years. Early on, there was a lot more resistance and misunderstanding about women’s leadership skills and while I had support and champions for bosses, the industry was lagging behind. Today, with slightly more women in these roles, there are fewer hurdles and challenges but they still exist in pockets.
6. Just for fun: You're stuck on an island and can only take three food items with you. What would they be?
VD: Ice cream, peanut butter and water (because I won’t last long without that).
7. What’s your favorite way to eat gr8nola?
VD: In ice cream or yogurt.
8. What’s your number one tip for anyone who wants to achieve gr8ness in their lives?
VD: Explore yourself to know what you like to do. Doing what satisfies you will bring you joy (which sometimes means challenges and lots of complexity), and will be rewarding.