Janelle Starr is EVP, marketing of Heartbeat.

What would you do if you didn’t work in healthcare?

If I had lived out my childhood fantasy, then I would be a professional dancer. A more likely alternate career at this point in my life would be an interior designer. I’ve remodeled a couple of homes over the past few years and found it be a really exciting creative outlet.

Talk about the last time you experienced a fist-pumping victory moment.

The beauty of Heartbeat is we’re celebrating big and little victories all the time, so peer props are regular and feeling valued is constant.

On a grander scale, when Heartbeat joined the Publicis Health network a few years back, I was honored to be part of the agency management team that led the successful integration and ensuing year-over-year growth of the agency. It’s a touchstone in my career.

When was the last time you endured an “agony of defeat” moment? What did you learn from it?

Any pitch loss is a heartbreaker. For those that haven’t worked in an agency, it’s hard to accurately describe the effort, passion and straight-up man hours that go into it. You work so hard and want to win so badly.

Over the years I’ve cataloged the reasons for losses and what I’ve deduced is there is no pattern. What one client loves, another does not. What is deemed a weakness by some, is a strength for others. Because there are no easy answers, we focus on bringing our unique Heartbeat point of view to the table, yet continue to probe, analyze and adapt.

How long ago was the last time you took the time to recharge your batteries? What did you do?

A couple of summers back I spent 10 days in Tokyo and Kyoto with my husband and his two sisters. We visited mind-blowing Zen gardens and shrines, had drinks at an owl café (we actually petted owls while imbibing refreshments), took in a baseball game, ate the best pancakes of all time, and visited Yayoi Kusama and Snoopy museums. Japan is just the greatest.

What do you find frustrating about working in healthcare marketing?

Like many, I’d love to see more courage. There is so much marketing that looks the same (cafés, dogs, birthday parties) that you could just interchange logos and nothing would feel amiss. Marketers believe their strategic approaches are unique, but if the creative comes out homogenous, something is wrong. I wish everyone involved – agency and brand leaders – pushed more, took the risk, and reveled in the reward or owned the failure. 

To ensure pay parity and career advancement for women, I will…

Proactively champion women whose talents are evident and freely share advice and mentorship whenever asked.

What are your words to live by?

It all works out. There have been moments in my life where something felt like it was just a disaster, but those disasters led to different paths that landed me where I am today and I regularly say out loud, “Man, life is good.”

What is one thing you would tell young women starting their careers in healthcare marketing?

Thoughtfully speak up and be clear about your ambitions. Those ambitions can be short or long-term, but nothing will ensure that what you want actually manifests like clearly making it known to your leadership.

Favorite drink?

Adult: red wine.

Every day: I recently discovered that only Target stocks key lime flavored LaCroix (different from their regular old lime). It was a revelation. Our fridge is now stocked and Target continues its reign of awesome.

What three people, alive or dead, would you like to host at a dinner party and why?

I come from a big extended family and have a few cousins who are far flung, much loved, and rarely seen. A summer evening of grilling, adult spirits, memory sharing and all the inevitable laughter that would come with it would be soul filling.

If you’d grant me a fourth, then it’s Serena Williams. I’m a huge tennis fan, so dinner with the greatest of all time is a must!