Lead(H)er - Estelle Mense, VP of Marketing of BlueSnap
“Being at BlueSnap feels like I’m riding a bike where working at a large corporation is more like driving a tractor trailer. We’re much more nimble and can change directions quickly. But if we come to a steep hill with our bike, we don’t have as much power. We’re clever though, we make it work,” Estelle Mense, VP of Marketing of BlueSnap, explained.
Growing up in France, Estelle always knew she wanted to study and obtain a career in business. She attended Instituts d'études politiques (IEP) where she majored in economics and finance.
The last year of undergrad, Estelle participated in an exchange program that sent French students to the state universities in Oregon. She ended up at Portland State University where she quickly fell in love with the American education system and the community.
“I had never heard of Oregon back then. I looked upon the US map I had, and there was only one town, and that was Portland! Within a few days, I knew I loved it, and I knew one year wouldn’t be enough for me. So I decided also to do my MBA there.”
After she graduated from her master’s program, Estelle went back to France and became a Management Associate at Citibank where she worked in product marketing for mutual funds developing customers and sales communications.
“Citibank in France is a very small retail bank with a fourteen branch network, so it is not like what you’d think of it in the US. I traveled often and ended up moving to Brussels for eighteen months.”
At this point, Estelle decided to get married to her significant other who she had met at Portland State. However, he lived in New Haven, Connecticut so being in Brussels wasn’t very convenient.
“Luckily, thanks to the support of contacts I had in New York who helped me network, I landed a job with Citi Cards. I went from a small operation to this large corporate headquarters in New York City.”
During her seven years in the Citi Cards division, she learned a great deal about quantitative driven direct marketing and data science.
“I had some roles in core direct marketing functions like customer acquisition, lifecycle management which were extremely process-driven jobs which were great in terms of learning the business but got a little bit repetitive. I also launched many new cards and rewards programs that were more open-ended. The last couple of roles I had were in the small business credit cards group, so I had a specialty in marketing to small and medium-sized businesses.“
After nine total years at Citibank, GE Money (now Synchrony Financial) reached out to Estelle and offered her a position as a Senior SME & CRM Marketing Leader.
“In 2005, GE was looking into building our their co-branded credit card marketing practices and was looking for someone who had experience marketing to small businesses. It was very different in the sense that the company was selling its credit cards through retailer's, like Banana Republic and Lowe’s, store cards. This was interesting to me because I never work with retailers before. I learned what matters to them in terms of driving sales and the role of payment.”
Estelle worked for GE Money for four years and even stayed with them as a remote employee when she and her husband moved to Boston. However, when the economic meltdown of 2008 hit, her job was impacted.
At this point, Estelle was data-driven. She knew how to market to businesses, use direct marketing, and run big marketing campaigns. During her search, she saw a job with Staples that caught her attention, so she reached out to a friend who worked there to connect with the inside recruiter.
“Up until 2009, the marketing team for the B2B division of Staples was a primarily focused on supporting sales through collateral and events. There wasn’t any direct or digital marketing because they didn’t have the tools or the customer database. They hired me to build that practice, a database, and marketing programs. Eventually, that led to a multi-channel sales and marketing approach. I was there supporting that journey for almost seven years.”
Exactly two years ago, Estelle found out that she needed to spend time with family she felt like it was a good time to leave Staples as it was going through a lot of change. By this time, she was the Sr. Director Online Marketing and Customer Analytics, and she realized that she spent too much energy working the machine.
After a few months doing research and consulting, Estelle realized she wanted to transition into a much smaller organization. With many years of diverse marketing experience under her belt, Estelle started looking for a position where she could lead marketing and put all the pieces of the puzzle together.
“Many organizations were skeptical that I had only worked at Citi, GE, and Staples. It doesn’t exactly scream small company. There’s a lot of misconception that at big companies, you don’t do any work. Some assume that if you’re a VP or director at a large company, you just work on strategy. I had to work really hard to show that I’d be able to roll up my sleeves.”
“BlueSnap has a good mix of people who came from both smaller and larger organizations so the big hurdle of only working at larger organizations was basically a non-issue. I was so happy to find such a great fit! We’re a payment services company and I work as the VP of Marketing where my primary role is demand generation along with branding and PR. My typical day is a mix of looking at the data and what’s happening with our current program, thinking about our content strategy and branding, looking at our overall web presence and linking this message between marketing and sales.”
“A marketer is never satisfied with their marketing budget. Whether you’re at a big or small company, it always comes down to prioritization. With marketing being such a wide field, there are a million things you can do and we can’t do all of them. We need to be very focused on what’s the priority and how to assign people resources and dollars to what’s most important.”
Rapid Fire Questions
BS: What do you like to do in your free time?
EM: I have two kids. A 14-year-old ballerina and an 11-year-old soccer player, so I spend a lot of time with them during their activities. I also love yoga, barre classes, going for walks, taking hikes, skiing in the winter and traveling during vacation time, mostly to visit family in Europe.
BS: How many cups of coffee do you typically drink in a day?
EM: I have two cups in the afternoon. I don’t like coffee in the morning; it’s all about the after lunch coffee.
BS: Where is your favorite spot in the Boston area?
EM: Walden Pond.
BS: If you could choose one thing, what would you say is your greatest accomplishment other than family?
EM: I’ve had the chance to have tenured work relationships. After mentoring people for three to four years, it was amazing to see people accomplish things that you knew they didn’t think they could do. That’s the most rewarding accomplishment of thing for me. The business wins, the person wins, and you win as a manager or mentor.
BS: Ten years ago, is this where you would have seen yourself?
EM: I think so!
BS: What one piece of advice would you give to a recent college graduate?
EM: I’d say find the right mentors that can help you and motivate you. When you come out of college, you’ll likely start at a place that’s not the end of your journey. Having the right mentor to help you through the decision making process and who can help you grow will help you throughout your career. It’s interesting; I think the mentors that you have earlier in your life can be mentors for life if they’re the right relationship.