Female marketing executives had some advice for attendees of MM&M’s Hall of Femme event in New York on Thursday morning: don’t be afraid to take chances.


Whether negotiating for a higher salary or leaving a comfortable job for a challenging one, executives noted that they’ve taken risks and advocated for themselves to advance their careers.


Vanessa Thirion-Cullity, executive director of U.S. marketing at Novartis Oncology, told her stories of leaving the small town in the south of France where she grew up and overcoming challenges like the devastating accident that left her unable to walk for a year.

Another challenge was interviewing for her current role at Novartis. Thirion-Cullity was certain she had botched the interview, but she later learned that being true to herself was what landed her the job.


“They asked about my leadership style. Instead of telling them what I thought they wanted to hear, I spoke my truth and gave them my honest and true perspective,” she recalled. “I realized that by being my authentic self, I had shown them that I had a good degree of self-awareness and that was precisely what they were looking for.”


Thirion-Cullity shared other life lessons, including not looking in the rearview mirror, surrounding yourself with people who can see your capabilities, and trusting your potential.


Alisa Lask, VP and GM of the aesthetic business unit of Galderma, decided to leave a global, high-profile job for a less-senior role in an area she wanted to learn more about.


“Always think one or two jobs ahead,” Lask said. “In order to take the next step, I realized I needed to take a lateral move.”


Meanwhile, Sandy Rodriguez took a chance when she joined a healthcare company from a completely different industry. She recalled her initial confusion after joining the healthcare world, but kept taking risks in her new field. Rodriguez eventually got a handle on the industry and landed in her role as VP of corporate communications for Takeda Pharmaceuticals U.S.


“I was so lost, I didn’t understand the language of healthcare and it was so regulated,” Rodriguez said. “I found a group of people who showed me the way and gave me opportunities. They saw something in me and valued that I had different perspectives.”


Executives advocated for empowering women early in their careers, when it’s often most difficult to take risks or speak up. Thirion-Cullity remembered a professor telling her she couldn’t change her career track early in her professional life and using it as a driver. Today, she is empowering her own daughter, who decided to wear mismatched socks against her mother’s wishes, to make her own choices.


“I won’t let a narrow-minded professor tell me what I cannot do and can do,” Thirion-Cullity said. “Trust your potential. If you don’t feel strong enough, keep knocking on the door until you get a ‘yes.’”