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Rachel Weiss, who’s role recently evolved to VP of Strategic Growth and Open Innovation for L’Oreal USA, has a knack for purposeful innovation. And when she joined us for the Adweek Symposium in NYC last month, her contributions to the “what’s working and what’s not” when it comes to innovation were nothing short of impactful. In her current role, she’s tasked with leading digital strategies, including disruptive technologies and new digital business ventures for the beauty brand, but what’s truly novel about her work is her focus on developing women entrepreneurs. Six years ago, Rachel founded L’Oreal’s Women in Digital initiative, supporting women pursuing careers in digital and IT with testing, mentorship and recruitment opportunities – and they’re getting ready to relaunch the community-driven program this spring. Read on to hear about Rachel’s career journey and why patience and iteration are critical to successful innovation.
Why did you choose to join L’Oreal?
Beauty is a fast moving category that is part of culture. I always was a deep consumer of beauty products and culture and the idea of joining the biggest player as an early digital expert was very exciting to me. I love that the industry moves so fast. Before L’Oreal I was working at Citi focused “emerging channels” for the bank focusing on mobile, social and the college market. I believed since I started my professional career in the 90s that technology and the internet would fundamentally change how we communicate with each other. Working since the advent of the industry has been exciting and rewarding to see how early ideas that once seemed magical become mundane and part of everyday experiences.
What current developments in marketing are most exciting to you?
We live in such a pivotal moment where our culture, attention and relationships (real and virtual) are evolving. Ideas we dreamed of how technology could make our lives easier through digital assistants, robots and tools to monitor our own healthcare and wellbeing are becoming more normalized and accessible. I see robots that are helping the elderly. I look at the conversations and the pure volume of attention in communities on Twitch and Tik Tok and I get excited about new platforms. I watched a virtual concert of DJ Marshmello inside Fortnite and have been talking about that with my friends the past few days. The lack of distinction between your physical and digital world will dictate the future of marketing and retail that has been progressing over years but finally reaching scale. I am excited about how beauty fits into this new world.
What are you working on now that is innovative?
I am very excited about relaunching a program close to my heart which is our L’Oreal Women in Digital Next Generation Awards. Over the past six years, L’Oréal has sought out women-led businesses poised to grow the beauty industry through cutting-edge technology and we believe this initiative is important as ever. The program has rewarded and been early partners for entrepreneurs such as Rachel Tipograph from Mik Mak and Courtney Caldwell from Shear Share.
While the Next Generation Awards is the cornerstone of the program, the real benefit is the community of entrepreneurs, investors and talent we have built that informs us on our innovation practices and partnerships. We have a database of over 3,000 entrepreneurs derived from the program with many of our early entrepreneurs we met becoming investors. We’ll be announcing more about the new program this spring so stay tuned for more!
What learning moments have you had in your career?
My biggest moments of growth are when things go wrong or are hard. I’ve had so many bosses over my career and the period of transition working with new leaders and collaborators is always initially challenging, but always the times of my deepest growth. I have many great friends who are also my mentors and challenge me on a day-to-day basis.
What’s the best advice you’ve received that has helped you in your career?
Don’t put the “no” on yourself. Don’t let the accepted norms dictate your creativity. I always pitch ideas and solutions if I believe they are growth opportunities for the company and I am not afraid to push again if initially rejected. I believe in constant iteration and refinement. Innovation is a “long” game and patience is critical.
What’s something that most people don't know about you?
I am a classically trained soprano. I also play the sax.
What book would you most recommend to fellow marketers?
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. I still live by this book – the principles are timeless.