Stephanie Meltzer-Paul is senior vice president, digital marketing, Dunkin’ US. She was promoted to her current position in July to oversee the continuation of Dunkin’ US’ digital transformation, including mobile app, web, loyalty program, personalized marketing, and customer care center. In addition, Stephanie is a Women in Retail Leadership Circle member! We asked Stephanie some rapid-fire questions so you can get to know her better!
Women in Retail Leadership Circle: What’s the best book you’ve read recently?
Stephanie Meltzer-Paul: I’m a huge reader so it’s hard to choose just one! I would definitely recommend “Catch & Kill” by Ronan Farrow and also the memoirs “The Sound of Gravel” by Ruth Wariner and “Educated” by Tara Westover. And for something on the lighter side, “Daisy Jones & The Six” by Taylor Jenkins Reid.
WIRLC: What’s a tip you have for productively leading a team while working remotely?
SMP: I really do prefer everyone turn on their Zoom camera as much as possible. Being able to see facial reactions is invaluable. And I started virtual Friday breakfast meetings. I used to do a 30-minute Monday stand-up meeting in my office to discuss quick-hits for the upcoming week, but found during this time we needed to keep things lighter as a group, so the Friday meetings are agenda light, no formal presentations. Just me recapping the week, typically doing some sort of virtual get-to-know-you game, and discussing the latest binge-watching recommendations.
WIRLC: What’s a mistake you made early on in your career?
SMP: Not going for roles because I felt I wasn’t 100 percent perfect for them. In some companies I wasn’t as aggressive going for roles internally or working for leaders with different styles, and I realized I was afraid to challenge myself.
WIRLC: What’s the toughest part of being in charge?
SMP: Ultimately the decision is on you, right or wrong. You can’t look at anyone else if it goes sideways. You have to own your reasoning no matter the outcome. Secondly, staying close to your team’s mental well-being and frame of mind is a challenge. The higher up you go employees are afraid to say what they’re scared about, what they don’t know, when they’re exhausted. So you have to ask the direct questions and create a safe space for them to open up.
WIRLC: What’s the best way you motivate team members?
SMP: A simple “great job,” both verbally AND in writing, goes a massive way. And timely praise is important. Don’t wait for the one-to-one. Don’t wait for the quarterly reviews. Give it along the way. Secondly, show them how what they’re doing is making a difference. Share the metrics. Share the feedback from leadership meetings they aren’t in.
WIRLC: What woman inspires you right now and why?
SMP: My mom. She went through a horrible injury this year when she fell and broke her neck. She’s made nearly a full recovery and is very lucky, thankfully. Throughout it all she didn’t complain or feel sorry for herself, and tried to keep her humor. At 75 she handled it better than I could have at my age.
WIRLC: Some experts feel that the COVID-19 pandemic may spark innovation across many industries. What’s something you’re looking forward to for the future of retail?
SMP: There was a big digital transformation prior to COVID-19, but even more so now. I love the bridge between digital and traditional. Shop online, pick up curbside, for example. And I see some retailers doing virtual styling and then they ship you the items. In my industry, restaurants are being designed with a digital-first mentally, such as drive-thru lanes dedicated to mobile pickups.
WIRLC: What’s one thing you look for when interviewing a potential candidate?
SMP: First and foremost, can I carry a conversation with this person? Are they engaging with me? Asking good questions? And do they seem passionate about the role and the company? I want tough questions back to me because it shows someone is inquisitive, and I want people like that in meetings once they’re hired.
WIRLC: What’s something that you learned about yourself in 2020?
SMP: That I don’t need that many clothes and shoes! Hahaha. It’s amazing the money I saved by not shopping or the office environment, even though I miss dressing up each day. And I learned my husband and I can be together 24-7 and not kill each other, which gives me hope for when we’re both retired.
WIRLC: What’s your favorite podcast?
SMP: Oh my, so many! I love “How They Built This” to hear how companies were founded, “American Scandal” for some good true-stories, and “Crime Junkies” since I’m really into true crime.
WIRLC: After the pandemic, where is somewhere you’d love to travel to?
SMP: We’ve had a vacation booked twice to the Canadian Rockies that had to be cancelled. Maybe 2021 will final be our year.
WIRLC: What’s one habit you adopted while working from home that you’d like to keep with you as you return to the office?
SMP: Flat shoes.
WIRLC: How would you describe yourself in a single sentence?
SMP: Jersey-girl living in Boston, digital marketer by day, TV binge watcher at night, introverted but with a healthy dose of snark thrown in from time to time.
WIRLC: What’s your favorite app?
SMP: The Dunkin’ app, of course! A close second is Sephora’s app.
WIRLC: What do you do to recharge?
SMP: I run a lot of mornings to clear my head, and every week I try to tackle the New York Times Sunday crossword to test my brain.
WIRLC: What’s your biggest accomplishment?
SMP: My marriage.
WIRLC: What advice would you give to the next generation of female leaders?
SMP: Speak up respectively, know your worth, and don’t wait for the door to open for you. You have to knock loudly and then enter.
WIRLC: Who has left the most impact on your life?
SMP: Professionally I’ve worked under some great people I’ve learned a lot from and picked up things here and there. Personally, it was my dog, Joey, who passed away a few years ago after having him 13 years. I considered him my child and he brought out my nurturing side. I miss him every day.
WIRLC: How would you describe your leadership style?
SMP: Available, straightforward, inquisitive, and informal in smaller groups. I’m also a fierce champion of deserving people. Many a HR person finds me a pain-in-the-you-know-what for how much I push to get the right person promoted or the money I believe they deserve.
Everyone needs to champion themselves, too, but at the lower levels they need upper management advocates. Be an advocate for those underneath you. That creates a loyal team like nothing else.