As Global Brand Director at Spotify, Alexandra Tanguay has shaped the way we perceive the brand, reposition the tech giant from a software company to a music platform. We spoke to her about leadership, the importance of flexibility and what she’s learned about how and when to grow a company.
Before Spotify, you worked in advertising, publishing and fashion, how did you make the switch to tech?
Truthfully, the switch to tech wasn’t as conscious as I’d like to take credit for. I loved Spotify as a brand/product and saw the opportunity to work for a company that myself and many others organically loved, at a time when the brand had barely marketed (a marketers dream!). It wasn’t until after I landed at Spotify that I realized how different working in tech was to the rest of my experience. People spoke a different language than I did, and had experience far different than I did (in work and in life).
Have you had any challenges taking on a leadership position in a particularly male-dominated industry?
In tech, the business revolves around the product, not the marketing… that was true culture shock for me coming from many organizations that work in the reverse way. However, if you play your cards correctly you can make your differences work FOR you, rather than against you. Diversity is everything in the workplace that stands for diversity. The same for being a woman, make it work FOR you.
Being a woman in any work environment has it’s own challenges, but at Spotify I like to look at them as opportunities. Women are great leaders, we are caring managers (I genuinely love my team so much) and we generally, communicate really well. If you leverage the qualities that naturally come easy to you because of being a woman and couple them with the skills you are every bit as good at as any guy, you often build a differentiated (and likeable) identify for yourself as an individual and as an employee. It’s a lot harder for people to forget someone who has done something differently/against the grain. I like to remind myself of this when I, at times, feel disadvantaged for being a woman.
You’ve worked in a number of places and industries in your career, how do you know when to leave a job? What are the signs that you need to make a change?
Happy, Interested, Inspired, Challenged. If I have all four, then I don’t need to look elsewhere. However, the second one starts to slip is the second it makes sense to open your ears and eyes to new opportunities. Sometimes when you open up you realize you only need to look inward to regain what is missing, but once you’ve done some introspection and one or more of these is still absent, then it’s time to search for a new opportunity that will satisfy you and your need for growth as a professional and an individual.
Part of your mission, when you started at Spotify, was to bring creative way of thinking to everything the company does. How do you make that happen?
At Spotify, the key consumer audience we serve are millennials, who comprise a new creative class of their own with standards of creativity that far surpass previous generations. Our product wouldn’t exists without music and the artists/creators that make it. Knowing these are the two constituencies we cater to, if we want to connect with them, we need to think like they do. It’s particularly important for a tech organization like Spotify to have a creative and human-first approach if we want to connect with our audiences authentically, otherwise we risk coming across as a cold “tech” organization vs. an innovative company that has changed the face of the music industry for both fans and artists.
In order to drive home this type of thinking, many times you just have to educate and teach those around you (who have a different POV and different experiences to draw from) about why you believe in what you believe in—if you have passion, it’s often times that simple to win them over.
What’s the biggest lesson you learned this year?
The biggest lesson I learned is not to be precious and not to worry about things you can’t control. Sometimes the most success can be found when you open yourself up to new experiences and opportunities- despite what you think may be the result. The reality is, you are wrong at least 1/2 the time and you just never know. At it’s core, preciousness is just a projection of fear. Everything deserves an open mind and a fair shot, and when you grant that, sometimes the most unexpected yet best opportunities surface.
In my opinion, flexibility is the most underrated quality, if you can learn to accept things as they are, be flexible and go with the flow, you can usually accomplish exactly what you have set out to on your own accord while keeping those around you happy—which is key when it comes to a teamwork/office environment (and really anything in life).