For Sara Gelenberg-Field, a career shift was just what she needed to realign who she was professionally with who she was becoming personally.
After more than a decade driving groundbreaking marketing initiatives at brands like Starbucks and The Gillette Company, Gelenberg-Field took a step back to ask herself, “What do I really want in life?”
That pursuit eventually led her to AboveBoard, where she landed an executive role at an organization offering fresh opportunities for growth and challenge in a new season of life. Ahead, Gelenberg-Field talks career advancement, personal growth, and why people and relationships are key to all of it.
Can you walk us through your career at a high level and tell us how you got to where you are today?
I’ve been in marketing for over two decades, about 25 years now. I began my career working for a PR agency where some of our biggest clients were in the consumer products realm. I loved talking to my clients about the work they did as brand management experts in consumer products. I started to think that's where I wanted to evolve and take my career. I was talking to one client in particular at The Gillette Company and she said, "Go to grad school, get an MBA, and then give me a call in a couple of years. We'll see if we have a job opening for you." And sure enough, that's what happened.
Not long after I joined, The Gillette Company was purchased by Procter & Gamble. I met a ton of amazing people along that journey. And then in 2011, I got a call from Starbucks. As a marketer, I jumped at the chance to work for one of the most iconic brands. I moved to Seattle where I got a chance to help Starbucks grow its consumer products division and extend its brand into grocery stores.
In 2018, the division of Starbucks I worked at was purchased by Nestlé, and I was given a chance to continue working on the Starbucks brand for Nestlé. I continued to elevate my career and take on greater and greater scope and responsibility within Nestlé, leading all of Nestlé’s coffee marketing through the end of 2021. Overall, I worked on the coffee business for Starbucks and other brands for over a decade.
So, you've always been in the marketing field, specifically in the consumer products space. What are the threads you think have pulled the pieces of your career together?
One consistent theme—regardless of the brands and businesses I've worked on—is consumer obsession and really diving into the heart of our consumers, figuring out what makes them tick and what's happening in their lives, even outside of the category we're selling products in. If we can really dig into that and understand their lives, their motivations, their needs, their wants, their dreams, then we will be successful at building our brand and creating a really meaningful and deep connection with them.
On the personal side, continually being challenged, growing, and learning have always been really important.
The minute I felt comfortable or like I wasn't being challenged or pushed to grow is when I raised my hand and said, "I'm ready for something new."
How did the pandemic affect your career trajectory?
It really caused me to take a step back and think about what's next for me in my career. What do I want out of my life as a working mom? I knew I was ready to take the next step in my career and try a new challenge in something different outside of the coffee realm. But as a working mom of a teen and a tween, I didn't want to jump right into my next role immediately. I wanted to take some time off and spend it with my daughters. So I left Nestle in October of 2021 and took the holidays off to decompress, reflect, and think. Later, I started doing research on different job opportunities. I was just kind of curious about what was out there. That's when I found AboveBoard.
What ultimately led you to join AboveBoard?
I first encountered AboveBoard through a few of their job postings on LinkedIn.
I went to AboveBoard's website, and the message about inclusivity and transparency really resonated with me. It just really spoke to me as a female leader.
That's when I started reading more deeply about the AboveBoard platform and decided to go ahead and join. I felt like the jobs posted there were very different and were much more curated than any other job site I had seen. I thought, “Wow, okay. I'm seeing a lot of jobs that would be interesting for me at my level.”
What was it about Mommy's Bliss that spoke to you and made you interested in that opportunity on AboveBoard?
Being supportive of other working parents has always been something important to me. I had a chance to do that in the organizations I worked in previously by coaching and mentoring other working parents and sharing some of the experiences I've had, especially as my kids have gotten older.
The idea of working for a company that actually makes products for parents, for moms, and kids and babies just felt like such a nice intersection of bringing my professional and personal life together. When I did a little bit more research on the types of products Mommy's Bliss made and found out it was founded by a woman and run by her daughter, the CEO, it just felt like such a good cultural fit for me, as well as just a product and career fit for me.
In terms of your experience as a female leader in the marketing space, how do you feel your approach to leadership has evolved throughout your career as you've risen up the ranks and taken on more responsibility?
Listening has been a big part of my approach as a leader, to really listen and understand what my team wants or needs and what my cross-functional counterparts want and need.
Consensus building and collaborating effectively through deep relationships with the people I work with has been something I value doing.
Supporting others, helping them grow and learn, and creating a diverse and inclusive environment where everybody feels like they can achieve what they want to achieve has also been really important to me, especially for working parents as I've navigated through my own journey as a working parent.