Humility, Passion, and Love: Huge's Group VP of User Experience, Emily Wengert

Since I joined Huge 10 years ago, they have employed some of the strongest, well-respected female leadership I’ve ever encountered.

Emily Wengert
Group VP of User Experience Huge
 

How would you describe the overall culture at your agency and would you say that there is a separate female culture?     

We have a thriving women’s camaraderie here at Huge. Especially in the last 5 years we’ve made great strides to build groups within the organization that allow us to connect with each other in meaningful ways. These groups (like most things at Huge) formed organically rather than from any corporate initiative, which makes them that much more engaging. Their agendas and activities are driven by the people who are in them.

We have a couple affinity groups that I am an active member in that focus on women across our offices globally.

Huge Women: A Slack channel for daily conversation and a social group who meets monthly. This group is heavily focused on mentorship and discussing the realities of being a woman in the workplace, in part to identify when there might be gaps in how the broader organization thinks about and supports us and how we can solve that.

Working Moms: Another Slack channel where we discuss nanny recommendations, daycare tips, camps we love, and other day-to-day struggles and successes of being a working mother.

And because we have so many women returning from maternity leave, there’s a natural cohort that develops among returning moms, who share their experience, coordinate schedules for the pump room, and generally commiserate on the challenges of balancing family and work. I found this extremely helpful when returning from having my own twins four years ago.

In your opinion, what do you see as being the biggest change in the advertising industry since women have begun to break the “glass ceiling”?

Since I joined Huge 10 years ago, they have employed some of the strongest, well-respected female leadership I’ve ever encountered.

That said, I think every place of employment (not just advertising) has a long way to go. We need to recognize the implicit bias that keeps women from CEO, CFO and CXO roles on a larger global scale. There still is a pretty solid glass ceiling as far as I can see. For example, I’m far too often in rooms with clients where the most senior people are, without fail, always male.

What are some of the challenges that women still face in the industry?

Within advertising, we can do more to amplify female creative voices. I once read an interview with Paula Scher and felt SO reassured that she changes her outfit multiple times in the morning until it’s just right. Imagine that’s how starved we are (or I am) to see examples of how creative women lead their lives.

I’m encouraged by the fact that more women approach me now for mentorship than ever before. But we need to create larger, connected communities – not just mentors.

What steps do you take to ensure you achieve a healthy work-life balance?   

I don’t work weekends. Right there makes all the difference. When I was new to the industry, I thought being a good employee meant always thinking about work, always giving more. I work a lot of weekday evenings, which is right after my kids go to bed — my most productive time.

But once I stopped assuming I would “have” to work the weekend, I actually became more focused and creative when I was working. Now working weekends is the extremely rare exception.

What professional achievement are you most proud of?

I see my professional achievements in two large buckets: things that truly help others and things I personally find deeply fulfilling. For the former, I’m most proud of fixing a major salary issue I learned about when I first took over leading the UX team.

We had people who had been at the company a while who had gotten raises but not the kinds of bumps I knew they deserved as some of our most valued employees. I made the case to senior leadership, and they agreed. The solve was to determine fair market ranges for people’s salaries and correct anyone who wasn’t in them to assure people felt their true value at Huge.

In terms of the personally fulfilling category, my favorite thing I’ve ever done is something I recently finished: launching a pop-up store in Japan for the popular Asian skincare brand SK-II. I helped concept an end-to-end facial recognition driven smart store and was responsible for the holistic experience design of the store. To this date, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But I absolutely love that my career keeps challenging me.

Tell us about a mentor that helped guide you in your career. What made them so special?

I had a creative director in my last job who had such great spunk and attitude. She always owned the room when she entered it, which was impressive to me because most of the creative leaders were male. But simultaneously she was super approachable and laid back. She’d literally kick off her shoes and we’d brainstorm together to come up with crazy ideas. I loved it.

How do you as a successful woman plan to inspire the next generation of women?

Attempt to exemplify humility, passion, and love for everything I do to inspire the same in others.