As CEO of Isobar US, Deb is responsible for driving growth across Isobar’s seven US offices. Prior to joining Isobar, Boyda was the Central Region President for SapientRazorfish where she oversaw the Chicago and Austin offices. Before her role at SapientRazorfish, Boyda worked on the client side for a number of years. Most recently, she was VP and General Manager at Beam Global Spirits & Wine. She’s also held leadership roles at Miller Brewing Company, Ogilvy & Mather, Leo Burnett and EuroRSCG. Deb received a Bachelor’s Degree from Harvard University and her MSA in Marketing and Advertising at Northwestern.

  • How has your life experience made you the leader you are today? When it comes to leadership, there are a few key things that have influenced my path and have made me into the leader I am today.  When I was young my father was a very serious advocate for education.  He believed that with a good education I’d be able to stand on my own two feet, regardless of what path I chose. While this may be a more common practice today in our country, it is not automatic that daughters get the same opportunities as sons.  If it weren’t for my dad’s persistence and support, I never would have gone to Harvard or Northwestern.  Like so many kids, I felt like an imposter when I first started.  Then I realized that I did have what I needed — as long as I was willing to go for it.  These were two incredibly formative experiences that led me down my current career path. Years later I found myself a single mother — raising my son…supporting him emotionally and financially.   During this time I received some interesting and life-changing advice.  Something I would take with me for the rest of my life: You’re not doing this because you have to, but because you can.  You have the capability and resilience to do both (be a mother and have a career), really really well.  It’s not about lack of choice, it’s because you really can do it.  As time went on, being a mother has continued to teach me leadership lessons.  Raising kids has been one of the best experiences of my life and experience that translates directly into work success.  Being a mother teaches you that you never know what’s coming your way – you have to been even keeled and inspirational at the same time.  Because, truly, you never know when the next surprise is coming your way.  The same principles stand true at work.  Employees are human beings, people.  And they come with all the wonderfulness and challenges that goes along with human beings.  You need to be able to be tough and an advocate at the same time.  All in all, while I feel great about where I am now in my career, that hasn’t always been the case.  I’ve had flops along the way and, as cliche as it may sound, you really learn as much (or more) from the failures.  However, in this industry, as a woman, you learn to pick yourself up and move forward.  People should embrace and celebrate the flops because, let’s be honest, you can’t win all the time.

 

  • How has your previous employment experience aided your current role? The single best choice I ever made was to leave the professional service industry to move to the client side for a portion of my career.   The ability to literally sit on the other side of the table when agencies and consultancies come into pitch was a very big wake up call.  It became quickly apparent that everyone sounds, essentially, the same and that differentiation in how you present your solutions and yourself is critical.  Additionally, it has made me acutely aware that we are just one tiny micro moment in a client’s crazy day, where they are worrying about earnings, business success and their own significant business and personal issues.  This has completely transformed my thinking around client approach.  I lead my teams to be short, pointed and give the clients what they need while delivering transparency.

 

  • What have the highlights and challenges been during your current role?  The biggest delight in coming to Isobar has been twofold.  First, is the intellectual horsepower of the people that work at Isobar – it is second to none.  Second, is Isobar’s unique and interesting interpretation of what digital transformation means.  Digital transformation has become a bit of a buzz “phrase,” but Isobar’s definition keeps it fresh: Experience-led transformation with an emphasis on augmenting the human experience. The success of our client’s businesses rely on human beings having positive experiences with their products or services. It is important to focus on that and not be so internally focused on the enterprise that you lose sight of who is opening their wallet to buy what you have to sell.  It’s Isobar’s continued focus on people that has been the ultimate highlight.

 

  • What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry? My advice is simple: Speak up and take a seat at the table.  Male executives are getting savvier about the value of having a diverse team.  It is required by clients and smart for business.  That said, even though things are moving in the right direction, this industry is still embryonic in its evolution and therefore women should not be shy.  Be noisy.  It is in your best interest. And, when a seat is offered, take it. If it is not offered, create one for yourself. If that doesn’t work, move on to a company that values you as a woman leader.

 

  • What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career to date?  Focus on human relationships and human decency.  Through those two things, you can inspire and motivate people to connect with clients and best meet their needs. There is a lot of ‘smart’ in the world, but there is also a lack of ‘smart + relationship’ chemistry. To think you’re smarter than other people, and that that alone will be your ticket to success, is a mistake. As I said before, putting people first is essential.

 

  • How do you maintain a work/life balance? The first thing I do to maintain a work/life balance is to not think of it as work/life balance.  Instead, I think of it as a more integrated life experience.  In my job there are times I will work late, or times I’ll need to take a global call in the middle of the night.  On the flip side, there are times I’ll leave for an hour in the afternoon for a yoga class – it is all about living my life in the way I want to and making room for the things that are important.  Integration, as a principle, creates balance.  It’s okay for me to check my phone on Saturday just the same way it’s okay for me to get a haircut Wednesday afternoon.  Integration is key.

 

  • What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?  Confidence.  By a mile.  Most women that make it to a certain level in their careers have what it takes, but that doesn’t always mean they have the confidence.  Know that you are essential to the success of the business.  After all, if it weren’t for them, the businesses would fail.

 

  • How can we encourage more women to start their own business? It is crucial for successful women to invest and back small businesses started by women.  This support can take the form of money or work.  Even when a business may not be as experienced, it can go a long way to use/hire them.  Something magical happens when you back a woman who is taking a chance.

 

  • How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?  I’m very fortunate to have had an amazing female mentor early on in my career.  At the time, she was the hardest, toughest boss and incredibly demanding.  She had me working until the wee hours countless times.  She didn’t demand that I do that, but I wanted to impress her.  I wanted to succeed like she had.  However, she has also been a relentless and tireless advocate in my development.  She taught me how to toughen up, how to not take things so personally and, most importantly, how to advocate myself.  I can honestly say that, if it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t be here in this role.

 

  • Which other female leaders do you admire and why? Right now is an amazing time for women.  When it comes to leaders I admire, the list is vast.  Whether it’s in the realm of politics, or it’s in student activists, such as the Parkland students or it’s business leaders who are confronting really challenging turnaround situations, such as moving into industries that don’t typically have CEOs.  All of them are showing an unbelievable amount of nerve and it’s inspiring.  Anyone who is willing to stick their neck out and not back down, someone who is willing to break down boundaries because she thinks she can do better, anyone who is not willing to let loose their fury for what they believe in – these are the people we should look up to.  Women leaders take on the toughest challenges, whether it be the ‘first’ or the ‘fixt it’ problem and that, is something worth admiring.

 

  • What do you want to professionally and personally accomplish in the next year? Let’s start with the professional side of things.  In my role as CEO I hope to make a big step forward in driving the growth agenda.  I firmly believe our best days ahead of us and I hope to take us there.  When it comes to personal goals, I want to be sure that I stay really integrated into my children’s lives.  They are all adults now, standing on their own two feet, which makes it all the easier to lose connection with them – I’m planning to do everything I can to ensure that doesn’t happen!

 

  • What are the top three tips you can offer to an entrepreneur starting out? Three tips, short and sweet:
    • One: If not you, then who? There is no reason you can’t succeed.
    • Two: Resilience is your greatest asset.  Don’t give up and stick with it.
    • Three: Be gutsy and badass in asking people about what you need to make your business successful.

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