What’s wrong with wanting to be number one at all times? Nothing at all according to Martha Stewart digital sales associate Madeleine who discusses the importance of being competitive and even a bit selfish when it comes to being a young woman starting a career in sales. Madeleine also shares with us what it is like to work for the controversial lifestyle media mogul and why she believes “everyone has a little bit of Martha inside of them.”
Places you have lived in? Philadelphia, (PA), Baltimore, (MD), Toronto, (CA) New York, (NY), Princeton (NJ)
Places you would like to live in? Rio de Janiero, (BA), London, (UK) San Francisco, (CA)
Job? Digital Sales Associate for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia
You followed in your mother’s footsteps when you decided to work in sales for a big corporation, what do you think are some of the biggest differences between your experience in sales and hers?
My mother became one of the first saleswomen at Xerox and stayed at that job moving up the ladder for twenty-five years. However now you are encouraged to move around and therefore don’t have to have the same goals in five years. I have been told in certain job interviews that it is not possible to move from a sales assistant to a sales executive without leaving the company first and that’s a real shame. But there are some good things with my generation for example I mentioned to her that I wanted to get a mentor for my career work and she suggested a professor of manners from finishing school. I mean my mother needed to wear a suit every single day just to be considered one of the guys on the sales team. She had to take the time to learn how to sip tea with a pinky in the air whereas my work environment is much more casual yet professional.
Martha Stewart is known for turning a catering business into a multibillion-dollar empire, but she’s had her share of negative attention. How does this affect the overall image of the company?
I think that there are a lot of misconceptions about Martha herself, which then reflect on the company’s image. There was obviously a lot of controversy when Martha was made an example of for insider trading. She did pay her dues and now she is back better than ever. You may not like Martha Stewart as a person, but you have to respect her drive and focus as a businesswoman. She made it possible for women to become media moguls and created the lifestyle category all on her own. However, a lot of people assume that Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia only targets the strict super woman, which is the image that they may think of when they think of Martha. I mean a lot of people don’t realize that 37% of our audience is actually male! It definitely reaches a much broader audience then I think people assume.
Speaking of The Martha Stewart image, do you agree that certain products or attitudes marketed by the company are grounded in antiquated ideas of women that do not represent independent career focused women such as yourself?
We are not teaching women how to make dinner for their husbands in a dress, heels and an apron. It is not that image anymore and whether or not women of today will admit it, everyone has a little bit of Martha inside of them. Whether it is planning a wedding, holiday entertaining, cooking, or decorating, there is something within the brand that affects all of us in some way. I think a lot of the things the company sells enable women to do more in their own lives rather than constrain them.
The employees working for Martha Stewart are mostly female, was that ever an issue for you?
As I am a person who has many more male friends than females, the fact that it was almost 80% female did originally concern me but the women who work there are so driven, intelligent, and inspiring that I knew I needed to become a part of it. This is also inspiring because I have not met a lot of women my age who are not very motivated.
What do you do when you are not working?
Go to the gym [laughs]. I spend time with friends, family and my boyfriend who lives in Washington DC so I travel often to see him. I also like reading, or drinking a glass of wine and watching movies alone in my apartment. Everyone should live alone at least once because you get to know yourself better and value the time to yourself so much more.
Speaking about living, is there anything that you would change about your lifestyle in NYC?
I would definitely change the male to female interactions that happen on the street for example the cat calling. It can be flattering but sometimes it gets on my nerves and I can do without it. I like being noticed but for the right reasons. Other than that I love living in New York.
How do you think women should respond to cat calling? What do you think inspires men to cat call that does not inspire women?
Why would a woman ever cat call? I just wish men wouldn’t do it because it makes me uncomfortable. If a woman were to do it, I feel it would offend me personally because in my opinion we are so much above that as a gender! We don’t need to bring ourselves down to that level.
Some argue that when people have busy schedules they see their significant other just as much whether they are around the corner or far away, with your boyfriend living in D.C. do you agree with this and does the long distance ever affect you?
I don’t find it a problem at all. I like long distance relationships since, as you can imagine, I am very independent and like having my space. During the week I am very work focused and can’t nurture a relationship, but I do like having someone every other weekend that I can spend time with. While we are not seeing other people, it is sort of like a part time relationship in terms of the amount of effort we are putting into it and I like that cushion.
Do you believe that your twenties are the years to be selfish and focus on yourself?
Yes. I have very strong opinions on this because my parents got married at a young age. You only have a short period of time to move your career forward as fast and as much as you can, because once you get married the next step is children. I don’t want to commit to that tomorrow and lose out on this tiny window of time that I have to focus on myself. Some, especially men, may consider that selfish but it is my life and you only get one life. There will always be time left over to settle down.
Looking at your friends who have decided to get married at an early age or perhaps right after college, what are your thoughts?
I think it is too soon. Getting married in your early twenties is almost unfair to your partner because you are going to grow a lot as your career develops and you could go in a different direction as you develop. I also don’t believe that at this age you can have known someone long enough to commit your life to them. I worry about the impulsiveness of my peers who want to get married or already have children.
How important is it for you to be number one in your work and career?
Oh I really like being number one. I am really competitive and whenever I see someone getting close to me in sales calls, I start dialing like crazy just to be number one. The funny thing is that it was exactly the same when I was in Kindergarten and my mom always tells this story of when I was five and she was called into a parent teacher conference. Imagine you are a working mother with a busy schedule wondering why on earth do such parent-teacher conferences even exist at such a young age and she was told by my teacher, “Your daughter is very smart but she is a little hard to work with and it is kind of her way or the highway.” My mother simply responded with “And that’s a bad thing?” Because that is the way I was raised. It is not necessarily important to be the best but you should always challenge yourself to be better.