At Johnson & Johnson, ranked on Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” list and named a “2014 Top 50 Company for Executive Women” by the National Association for Women Executives, company-wide efforts such as our “Women’s Leadership Initiative” (WLI) help to develop and support women throughout their careers. Debra Bass, president of the baby global franchise organization, has held varied marketing positions within and outside of Johnson & Johnson, spanning a number of industries and brands. Debra is also on the global steering committee for WLI and leads chapter engagement activities. Below, she shares her thoughts on career planning and the challenges she has faced during her career journey.
Taking Charge of Your Career
“Quite simply, no one else can shape your future like you can. As an employee, you need to plan your career and not expect your management to do it for you. It’s also critical that you be very deliberate about what you want, how you want to shape your personal brand and how you will navigate the specific journey to achieve your goals. It’s your career—own it and be deliberate about it.”
Challenges I Personally Faced
“The first challenge was clearly defining my mission. At a certain point in my career, I realized strategic marketing is where I brought the greatest value and what I was most passionate about, so I took action and decided to major in strategic marketing. Until that point, I felt that I was fumbling around with different general management roles in different industries, not really sure of what I wanted and how to get there. Once I declared what I wanted, it was easier to map my career route and stay focused on the end goal.
The second challenge that I, along with many women, face is work/life integration. I’m in a dual career working household: My husband has a career, and we have a 13-year old and an 11-year old. I’ve made peace with the fact that it is not all going to be perfect, but it is all going to work.”
The Importance of Company Support
“At Johnson & Johnson, my immediate management, mentors, sponsors and the HR community have all been very helpful, primarily by listening to—and valuing—my goals. I am very fortunate to have had a variety of different work experiences, which I helped make happen with support from the company, by declaring what I wanted.
“I started my career at Johnson & Johnson in North America consumer line marketing. After a short time away, I came back, but this time spent six years in the medical device business. At the time, senior leadership supported bringing in a traditional consumer-trained marketer to medical devices because they wanted classical marketing skills as they looked to build new capabilities and brands in the medical device space. Ultimately, the company took a risk and hired me even though I did not have experience in that particular business. I took myself out of my own comfort zone, too, but was confident in the skills I had acquired as a strategic marketer, and I knew I was joining an environment that valued me and would support me in the transition. I learned a lot from that, and am a better marketer because of it. Later, my leadership supported me when I made my way back to the consumer business, which is where I currently sit in the global franchise organization.”
My Career Advice
“Be clear and deliberate in what you want, what you are good at and what you are passionate about. Then do the work and go for it! Surround yourself with people who will support you on the journey, and enjoy the ride.”