Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Harmony Murphy: Delving into the importance of mentorship with global leader Vera Breuer 

Harmony Murphy is Retail Head, Advertising UKI at Google and NDA’s monthly columnist.

As part of my global quest when it comes meeting and understanding global leaders and business owners to understand their stories / learnings more deeply and amplify; For international women’s day I met with my phenomenal mentor Vera Breuer –  currently an EMEA advertising director at Google, based in Dublin.

 It is incredible to have access to and be mentored by someone with a wealth of experience, passion for the retail / tech industry and a woman who I really do feel empowers and lifts others in saying and doing. By definition not to confuse a coach with a mentor,  a mentor being an experienced business practitioner, who can use their expert knowledge, skills and insights to offer you independent guidance and advice; Vera being not only this but also a mentor who has faced similar situations, has tangible advice and is a female leader paving the way for others this helped with connection and trust. My advice to other women selecting a mentor:

  • Pick a mentor who shares your values and definition of success. …
  • Find someone who has attained specific goals that you are aiming for….
  • Look for someone able and willing to build new relationships. …
  • Select a mentor who has differences that can challenge and push you.

 I wanted to share more about Vera, her background, thoughts and motivations as all of these I find very inspiring and am sure many women in a wider forum will do too, these play a big part in our mentor – mentee relationship as she draws on holistic and past experience to help guide me.. With an extremely incredible Global career journey.

As well as Google Vera has worked in senior leadership positions across well-renowned brands driving complex strategy, change and transformation including Global President at Kipling, General Manager at The Body Shop (Asia) and General Manager at L’Oreal Deutschland to name a few!

I find Vera’s story powerful and refreshing, her  mentorship approach pragmatic yet empathetic and the fact that Vera is agile in her approach to career – being able to be in the driving seat at such fantastic companies within top roles whilst also relocating and balancing a family. Very much a role model and another stakeholder who has positively impacted me during my own journey and relocation with wisdom and transparency through-out. So without further ado let’s hear more directly from Vera:

  1. Vera you have had an incredible global career working at some incredible brands in very senior leadership positions, so tell us what is some of the secret to your success?

If I look back at  my professional journey, I have consistently adhered to three guiding principles: maintain a curious and adaptable mindset, avoid getting too comfortable  and enjoy what you do. A career is not a linear progression; changing into different sectors or cultures can be immensely enriching, offering diverse perspectives and experiences.

I have held leadership positions in various countries and regions, and have managed a brand at a global level. Each step helped me to build a wealth of knowledge and drive teams in different cultures and at the same time I always enjoyed the challenges. My 18 years in the APAC region have taught me so much about managing different cultures, and being agile in order to be successful. 

  1. Please inspire us, what are some of your pivotal career highlights / moments and why?

Looking back at  pivotal moments in my professional career, I consistently associate them with periods of challenge. These moments often involved financial constraints, the responsibility of leading a team that required large transformations, or completely revamp a brand to  increased success. During these pivotal moments, it was essential to make difficult decisions, which, while necessary, were not always popular as they challenged the status quo.  Nevertheless these situations provided me with the greatest opportunities for learning and growth, including invaluable lessons gained from failures. 

My proudest highlights have been successfully navigating these challenges and celebrating success collectively as a team. Throughout my career, I have had the privilege of collaborating with incredible people that I admire and I get incredible satisfaction from seeing them succeed.

  1. What are some of the challenges you have faced as a woman in a leadership position throughout your journey, do you have a mentor you regularly speak with? 

At the beginning of my career in Asia, I was employed in an industry predominantly governed by males ; managing advertising for Formula One in China or engaging in negotiations with substantial retailers in the travel retail sector for L’Oréal. I was very privileged to break a few glass ceilings by being for example the first female GM in Travel retail for L’Oreal in the Asia-Pacific region. Notably, these privileges were accompanied by the fact that I had never reported directly to a female manager and consistently constituted a minority in the leadership teams of which I was a member.

While I had my fair share of gender related challenges, I have witnessed substantial progress, undeniably initiated by the “Me Too” movement, which has been progressively integrated into the workplace. However, we remain very distant from the ideal state. I perceive it as my key responsibility to transform these workplaces to drive  a more inclusive environment for the future generation, including my daughter.

Regarding mentorship, I have gained invaluable insights from individuals whom I have supported in their development. I consider them a profound source of inspiration, as I firmly believe that the future lies predominantly with the forthcoming generation of leaders who challenge the status quo.

  1. How do you maintain work-life balance and what is some broader mentorship advice here you would impart to other women? 

I find the work-life balance an interesting concept, encompassing that work stands in opposition to life. I have always enjoyed my work and there are moments where one needs to prevail over the other and I have tried to make very intentional choices in these moments.  As a working mother my proxy has always been to see how my children turned out and if they would at some stage turn around and tell me that I failed them. They both turned out to be extremely open and curious people that stand strong in life ready for any challenge. So my advice would be to put the guilt aside and be very intentional on where you set your priorities. 

  1. What are three tips you would give to women passionate about a corporate career agnostic of seniority or tenure in their journey?  

I would suggest the following 3 tips: 

  1. Be your own advocate and get close to people, who advocate for you. I Have seen in so many times in my mentees, who hope to be seen through their achievement but are incredibly behind their male counterparts to market themselves. 
  2. Connect with Women outside your industry to get different perspectives and open your horizon. This gives you a great opportunity to meet people beyond your scope and industry. I joined the Gen CEO of women in CEO positions in Germany and it has been such an enriching but also humbling experience . 
  3. Invest in your own growth, especially in soft skills. We are so privileged to live in times with strong paradigm shifts especially driven by AI. Read, get up to date and develop your skills to stay up to date. At the same time the inside corporate world is changing. Managing a team where the average age is 26 Yo in the tech industry has taught me so much about soft skills and right expectation settings. The right leadership skills are key to have your team behind you.