BABE #276: ABBIE BYROM - Director of Global Partner Marketing, Samsung SmartThings
As the Director of Global Partner Marketing for Samsung SmartThings — a Samsung-owned smart home company offering technology that monitors, controls and automates a wide range of connected at-home devices — Abbie oversees daily initiatives including (but not limited to) global marketing, communications, public relations and account management. She’s a driven self-starter who believes in the power of mentorship, vintage shopping and Texas BBQ, and she’s crushing the male-dominated tech industry like a total BWH.
Hometown: Raleigh, North Carolina
Current city: Houston, Texas
Alma mater: North Carolina State University
Degree: BA Journalism; Minor, Political Science
Very first job: Shoe sales
Hustle: Director of Global Partner Marketing, Samsung SmartThings
Babe you admire and why?
Ashley Longshore, the artist. I love everything about her. She is unabashed in her opinions, offers no apology for who she is and her take on life, business, art and feminism (nor should she). She’s empowering, exciting, razor sharp and a refreshing take on what female leadership can look like if you aren’t Hillary Clinton or Elizabeth Warren. She is the embodiment of the freedom all women should embrace in themselves and be unafraid to promote to the world.
How do you spend your free time?
My free time is usually filled with creative projects that let me use a different part of my brain. I’m an interior design enthusiast, always redecorating my house, and I love DIY projects that pack a big punch (read: flamingo wallpaper). There’s a tiny map-dot of a town in Texas called Round Top, which is famous for being the largest and best “flea market” in the world. But it’s really an antique and design lover’s mecca six weeks out of the year. You can find me there pulling vintage designer jewelry, cowhides, handmade furniture and every oddity you can think of. My favorite find so far is a 12-piece set of 1950s rose colored martini/champagne glasses.
Go-to coffee order and/or adult beverage?
When I’m tired, a flat white with an extra shot. When it’s happy hour, the spiciest margarita you can make, no salt.
Current power anthem?
This is a huge toss up between Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5” (was there ever a more perfect song to reflect how women feel so often?) and probably an old favorite by Queen Bey, ”Upgrade You.” I loved that someone was singing about what women brought to the table and that we had our own money; when I was younger that was a powerful message for me as I chased my career.
What would you eat for your very last meal?
Texas barbecue from TRUTH BBQ, with a slice of coconut cake from their bakery.
If you could have coffee with anyone in the world, who would it be?
My grandmothers. It would be great to experience more of the wisdom they had, that I didn’t ask enough about when I was younger. I would give anything to hear their take on a lifetime as women and what they learned.
Tell us about your hustle.
I’m the director of global partner marketing at Samsung SmartThings. It’s a great mix of relationship building, partner management and marketing. My goal is to really find ways to bring different brands together to tell a collective story about what SmartThings and our platform can offer consumers, and how we can change the way they live their lives for the better.
What does your typical workday look like?
Every day for me couldn’t be more different than the last. Today, I spent a lot of time on engineering calls, which I always love because I don’t touch that part of the business and it’s not my expertise. It’s a great chance for me to learn so much about our business that is outside my skill set. My key areas of focus are marketing, global comms, PR, retail/trade marketing and relationship/account management. These tasks can be very different day to day, but my morning always starts with a scan of my email, and I’ll open all the ones that need a response. Five-minute-or-less responses get done first and out of the way. Midday and early afternoon is typically spent on video conference calls with my internal teams and global subsidiaries going over upcoming integrations and launches, messaging and marketing needs and more. Afternoons are typically spent Slacking with my marketing team and business development teams on specific actions, catch-up conversations and planning. If it’s a long day, I usually have a 7 p.m. conference call with my global team at HQ, which is in South Korea.
How have your past professional and academic experiences prepared you for the work you do today?
This is hilarious, because I always argue that nothing prepared me for what I would do and experience in my career. Educationally speaking, my journalism degree is useful in the sense that I’m able to articulate and present things well. The most valuable course of my college career would have to be Public Speaking 101. It wasn’t even my choice to take it, but the training has served me very well over the years. The rest I had to learn as I went. I started my career in marketing at a small company where the job was really about nice flyers, pictures, copy on the website and some other promotional tasks. I was 24 and didn’t even know what data meant, and I certainly had no understanding of marketing tactics and how it related to a business model. Somehow I kept getting hired at bigger companies with better, harder jobs (that public speaking class helped me ace interviews!) and I just kept Googling and learning on the fly. I read everything I could about what I didn’t know, asked as many questions as I could and yes, I faked it until I made it.
What’s been your biggest career milestone?
Probably my work on the Samsung Home Appliance campaign with Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard four years ago. I was supporting that business unit at the time and historically home appliances aren’t very sexy. We had low brand awareness for that category back then because we were the company known for mobile phones, and doing a big budget commercial campaign wasn’t an easy sell internally. The budget was hard fought and my team of three was able to create one of the best ad campaigns of the year with our agency partner, which led to an Effie nomination and Bronze Effie award. I was so proud of the work our team did and the creative execution, and I was thrilled that we created a breakthrough moment for Samsung in the marketplace. It’s the type of experience marketing people dream about. I loved every minute of it.
How has being a woman affected your professional experience?
I’m a pretty autonomous self-starter, but the reason for that isn’t necessarily my internal metal—it’s because no one looked at me as a mentee. I had stellar reviews, consistent promotions and I made it known that I wanted to grow and lead in my various companies. But mentorship is a lost art and in male-dominated businesses women don’t get the same opportunities to be “groomed.” This is my personal opinion, but one that has been reflected often among my female friends and professional network for years. I’m not alone in that challenge. Creating more opportunities for women to share in the kinds of mentorship and sponsorship opportunities men often have, would help to create longer and more rapidly progressing career paths for women.
What’s the gender ratio like in your industry? Do you see it evolving?
I work in tech, and the ratio right now sits around 20 percent women to 80 percent men. There are definitely more women being encouraged to go into tech-forward fields and jobs, and I see that trend continuing. However, we have a long tail to that trend, especially with all the bad press that consistently comes out with regard to the treatment of women in the workplace in the tech sector. Tech is still very bro-centric, culturally, and a lot of that has to do with money. But women now hold 40 percent of the world’s global wealth, according to a 2018 American Express study, so I’m confident things will continue to progress.
Who are some women in your field you look to for inspiration?
Joanna Peña-Bickley, head of design at Amazon. I met her at an industry event about a year ago and I was just blown away by her. She’s a champion for women, great ideas, progress and thoughtful innovation. I sat with her for an hour or so as she doled out the type of advice and guidance most people pay for to table of women in tech and media, over a happy hour cocktail. She was a wealth of knowledge and advice, but also the example of what women can be in our industry if we aren’t afraid to go after what we want.
Career and/or life advice for other babes?
Regardless of industry, my motto in building my career has always been to say “Yes, and?” Take the work. Do the work. Slay the work. Keep it moving.
Connect with Abbie:
This interview has been condensed and edited.
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