Career success | Catherine Walsh,
Best Buy Canada (MBA 2000)

Image of Catherine Walsh

How do you find out what your strengths are? For Catherine Walsh it took years of traveling, some heavy-duty international work experience and an MBA to find out: she’s a game-changer.

“There have been times when I was literally making it up as I went along,” said Walsh, recounting almost 10 years of experience working with cutting-edge companies to push the envelope on industry norms. Walsh was working at Microsoft in Milan when they introduced their newest syndication partner, Facebook; and she held a key role at Italy’s 3 Mobile when her team became the first on the planet to launch 3G.

After that, it was all about landing her dream job, Senior Manager, Media & Consumer Insights at Best Buy Canada - a company that’s moving lightning-fast to reinvent retail, both online and off. And a place where strengths are valued.

"I love the speed retail travels,” says Walsh. “At Best Buy, I get to work with the smartest group of retailers in the entire country, and I get to be here at a time when we’re literally redefining the customer experience - on their terms."

It’s that motivation (and just a little bit of impatience), that makes Catherine Walsh one of Vancouver’s outstanding marketing leaders. Here’s her story:

Describe your current role in 140 characters or less...
I'm the Nancy Drew of Best Buy Canada, connecting curious marketers with relevant strategic insights. Always looking for the perfect channel for the message.

One word that best describes how you work.

What is your “Superpower”? (What is the one thing you do you do better than most?)
Best Buy is a strengths-based organization, meaning that every new employee gets the opportunity to find out their unique ‘strengths’ make-up (mine is: Maximizer, Positivity, Relator, Individualization, Activator). It’s fascinating to see, on paper, the different skills that everyone brings to the table, but I think my superpower lies in bringing out the human side of the assessment. When I’m working with my team, I always try to keep their strengths top of mind, and I try to nurture and leverage them wherever possible (stretch assignments!). Oh, and one of our company values is to have fun while being the best; I try to model that every day (Positivity!).

"I get to work with the smartest group of retailers in the entire country."

Where does your motivation come from? Does motivation come easy for you or is it work/discipline to sustain it?
My motivation has always come from keeping an open mind and trying to spot opportunities - even in the most unlikely places. Once when I was considering a new role, I got a disappointing voicemail saying my interview had been cancelled; they’d offered the job to another candidate. I decided to ignore it and showed up to my interview anyway. And, you know what, I got the job.

How has your motivation worked for you? Has your motivation ever worked against you? Have you ever had to wrestle with your motivation?
Motivation for me can sometimes bring impatience along with it. People don’t necessarily appreciate impatience. I’ve learned to bring that intensity to life in a positive way that is motivating. A wise man once said, "a watched pot never boils."

Can you point to any career/life turning points that either: a) provided clarity or b) served as a springboard/accelerator/ launching pad
I was working at Microsoft Advertising in Milan - that’s where I really discovered my passion for digital media. I was fascinated by the speed of innovation, and how small ideas could become game-changers almost overnight. That was during the advent of Facebook and we were their syndication partner. One of the biggest challenges was helping clients understand the synergy between broadcast and digital. It was still a broadcast-oriented landscape. Our clients who took the leap to digital saw significant results in their campaigns - and I was hooked.

"My biggest educational decision was returning to school to get my MBA."

Why did you make the educational choices you did and what would you recommend for others on this front?
My biggest educational decision was returning to school to get my MBA at UBC’s Sauder School of Business. I had a few years of work experience at the time, and really felt that I needed more grounding in the foundations of business, especially the ‘numbers’ side (a science that goes hand-in-hand with the art of marketing). Today, I deal with huge media budgets - knowing how to make the dollars work the hardest and the smartest is a big part of how I contribute to the company.

When you look back over your career to date, what are you most proud of?
The team I lead at Best Buy has undergone significant change. I’m proud of where we landed, the dynamic we have created on the team, and the cutting- edge stuff we are able to do. In supporting Best Buy Canada’s strategy to become the number one omni-channel retailer for our customers, we get to both ideate AND execute. I am working with one of the brightest groups of people in the industry.

You're interviewing a candidate and there's no doubt, they've got it. What ingredients were you looking for? When it comes to hiring, what does you/your organization consider the special sauce?
I have done hundreds of interviews in my career, and I can tell within 10 minutes whether there is a fit. I always look for self-awareness, humility, confidence and curiosity. I’m very aware of energy and always notice what kind of energy a candidate brings to the room.

How “LinkedIn” are you? Do you use it? What role has networking played in your career?
I love LinkedIn. I was apparently one of the first million to sign up - I’ve been a member since 2004. I have used it to headhunt, I’ve used it to get recommendations for new hires, and I also use it to keep in touch with people who have helped me in my career along the way. I love the new endorsement function - pay it forward!

This story was originally published by Peter Reek, Founder & Principal of Smart Savvy & Associates, on the Smart Savvy blog.