Tanya Lewis profiles seven leading communicators whose careers have been propelled by coming back to previous organizations.
Title: CVP, global marketing communications
First stint at company: 2003 to March 2009
Returned to company: September 2009
2009-2010: Comms director, Renault-Nissan Alliance
March-Sept. 2009: VP, corporate comms, Microsoft
2003-2009: CVP, global comms, Nissan
2003-2004: VP, comms, Nissan NA
2000-2003: VP, comms, NA, Jaguar Land Rover
1992-2000: Comms manager, Ford
For more than 20 years, Simon Sproule has worked for some of the world's biggest auto brands. His first stint at Nissan ended in early 2009 when he left Tokyo for Redmond, WA, to lead global communications for Microsoft.
“Microsoft is a great company with a terrific reputation,” he says. “It was a very intellectually interesting role. The opportunity to step outside of an industry in which I have deep knowledge and gain experience in another sector was a rare privilege.”
Though his time at Microsoft was brief – Sproule likened it to a “sabbatical” – the company's thorough understanding of communications' power left an indelible impression on him.
“I took away many valuable lessons,” explains Sproule. “Like the tech sector, the auto industry loves to benchmark. It's also a very competitive, fast-moving business. It behooves anyone in a tech or a car company to be constantly curious.”
In late 2009, those lessons accompanied him as he came back to direct communications at the Renault- Nissan Alliance, which was rethinking its outreach.
“I realized my career plans and interests would be better served by returning to Nissan,” he recalls. “To be involved in the restructuring of communications at the Alliance was a huge opportunity.”
Sproule returned to Japan after 15 months in France, but the prospect of integrating marketing and communications was the great lure.
“To come back to a former place of employment, you must understand the opportunities,” he advises. “Make sure you're returning for the right reasons.”
Title: President of global client management
First stint at agency: 1987-2006
Returned to agency: March 2013
2009-2013: President, global consumer marketing, Weber Shandwick
2006-2009: CEO, Euro RSCG Worldwide PR
1987-2006: Various roles, from AAE to GM of consumer brands, Edelman
After nearly two decades at Edelman, Lisa Sepulveda left to become CEO of Euro RSCG Worldwide PR, now known as Havas PR, in 2006.
“I grew up at Edelman and was looking to stretch and learn about the world outside of the agency,” she says. “There was no other reason for leaving. I had done some incredible things at Edelman. I went to Euro less for the CEO title and more for the chance to create a new culture at a firm that had been through a few leaders and needed mending.”
Sepulveda left Euro after three years to head up global consumer marketing at Weber Shandwick. Earlier this year the chance came to return to Edelman – and the time apart proved very beneficial.
“In my years away from Edelman, I ran a company, created a culture shift, learned how to be truly global, and gained new perspective,” she says. “I honed skills I didn't even know I had, which makes me a stronger practitioner.”
When Richard Edelman asked her to return as president of global client management, Sepulveda rejoiced at the prospect of a role where she could build and galvanize teams, exercise global expertise, and work closely with clients.
“It was impossible to not consider the offer seriously,” she explains. “The job speaks to my skill set and what I want to continue to do – work with great teams and be in the trenches with the clients.
“Edelman has experienced unbelievable growth while maintaining its entrepreneurial spirit,” adds Sepulveda, “but it's still the Edelman I always loved. It has been a heartwarming return for me.”
Title: VP and MD, New York
Agency: Cone Communications
First stint at agency: 2002-2006
Returned to agency: 2008
Currently VP and MD, NY. Previously was VP, business development and account director
2006-2008: Head of PR, Rockport
2002-2006: Various roles, Cone Communications, from AAE to supervisor
2000-2002: Comms associate, Boston Housing Authority
1998-2000: Correspondent, The Boston Globe
As a kid, Byron Calamese always had to have the newest pair of Adidas. In grad school, he did a study on differences between marketing footwear in Europe versus the US. At Cone Communications, he worked on several shoe clients.
Unsurprisingly, he could not pass up an opportunity in 2006 to head PR at Adidas subsidiary Rockport, but “it was a difficult decision,” he says, “because I was emotionally connected to Cone.”
That bond proved powerful as Calamese returned two years later, citing how much he missed the creative collaboration he enjoyed at the firm.
“After being at Rockport, I relate better to clients because I understand their day-to-day pressures,” he says. “It also accelerated my understanding of holistic business and the value of integration.”
In his two years away, Calamese maintained strong relationships with Cone colleagues, which helped him stay aware of how the firm had evolved.
“Social media exploded and Cone made strong advancements,” he says. “You should feel confident the organization is progressing and that its culture empowers staff to bring new ideas to the table.”
Before deciding to return, Calamese also wanted to feel aligned with Cone's senior leaders.
“Ask tough questions about where the business is going and make sure you fully grasp the role to which you are returning,” he advises. “I knew there were opportunities to grow in different areas and that's important. Sometimes people remember you the way you left, but it's critical they understand how you've advanced.”
Title: VP of communications
First stint at company: 1998-2000
Returned to company: August 2012
2010-2012: President of PR, Olson
2004-2010: Owner, Dig Communications
2004-2007: Consultant, Miller Brewing; consultant at Boston Consulting Group (August 2004-June 2006)
1998-2000: Marcomms manager, Miller Brewing
1995-1998: Account supervisor, Ketchum
1994-1995: AAE, Cramer-Krasselt
Pete Marino left Miller Brewing Company in 2000 to get his MBA from UCLA, but it wasn't long before he was working with the company again. Miller Brewing was Dig Communications' first client when Marino founded the agency in 2004.
Wearing two hats, he simultaneously served as president of Dig and as Miller's acting director of media relations until 2007.
Integrated shop Olson acquired Dig in late 2010 and Marino stayed on as president of the PR practice until 2012. However, when the chance to rejoin the Miller family presented itself, he grabbed it.
“I was a kid when I left Miller in 2000,” he says. “I'm a completely different professional now. It was 12 years, but in many ways it was a lifetime. I was a solid minor leaguer when I left. I returned as a major league player.”
Selling Dig was an emotional decision for Marino, as he was challenged by the prospect of transitioning from being an entrepreneur to a PR steward within a much larger organization.
“I decided I would be best served doing something else,” he explains. “I know and care a lot about the American beer business – and MillerCoors. When I had an opportunity to join the company, I recognized it was a good time to do something on the corporate side at a level I hadn't done before.”
For those pondering a return to a former company, Marino underscores the need to understand how that organization has changed while you were away. “Understand the context for why you're returning,” he emphasizes, “and what you're returning to.”
Title: Consumer practice director, North America
First stint at agency: 2003-April 2012
Returned to agency: October 2012
May 2012-October 2012: EVP, global client relationship manager, Edelman
2003-2012: SVP and director of the New York personal care practice, MSLGroup
2000-2003: Senior account manager, Text 100
1997-2000: SAE, Edelman
Amanda Glasgow's résumé reveals two comeback stories. Edelman is where she began her career in 1997. It is also the agency to which she returned for a brief stint last year.
In between, Glasgow spent nearly a decade at MSLGroup, to which she came back last October as its North American consumer practice head. The latter post was one she couldn't refuse, particularly as it also included the role of global client engagement director for P&G, the firm's largest client.
“They're two big jobs,” she explains, “but P&G had been my client at MSLGroup for almost a decade. I love P&G and the business needed a global leader. I considered picking up that torch a privilege. Edelman is a great firm, but I couldn't say no to the possibilities MSLGroup presented.”
The opportunity to work with a geographically disparate team during her second Edelman stint instilled a confidence in Glasgow that she could direct a unit spread across North America. It also dissolved preconceived notions about how things are “supposed to be” and empowered her to provide MSLGroup with a fresh perspective.
“I've never left a job because I was unhappy,” she points out. “Consequently, I've always wondered if I did the right thing in the first few months of a new role. You remember all the wonderful things, so it's natural for the rose-colored glasses to kick in. “I thought about that a lot on this last boomerang,” adds Glasgow. “In the end, though, I knew the opportunity was right and that I was going into a position set up for success.”
Title: VP, Global Connect
Company: BMC Software
First stint at company: 2006-2010
Returned to company: May 2012
2010-2012: Global VP, marcomms, Honeywell Aerospace
2006-2010: Global comms leader, BMC Software
2002-2005: Senior director, global comms, HP
2001-2002: Senior director, global media relations, Compaq
2000-2001: SVP, Neale-May & Partners
1992-2000: VP and GM, DelStar
Mark Stouse feels you can go home again – under certain circumstances. He left BMC Software in 2010 for Honeywell Aerospace before returning last year to help rebuild and redesign global communications. The appeal of his new role, which included oversight of the Customer Connect program, was that it placed communications “more in the center of the business than ever before.”
“If your return is more of an emotional decision, it won't last,” he advises. “Don't try to recreate the past. Return determined to innovate.
“BMC wanted me to do that and to leverage my business experience, not just my professional expertise,” adds Stouse. “That made it compelling.”
Stouse's time at Honeywell expanded his perspective and provided an opportunity to run a very large team and communicate with multiple b-to-b and consumer audiences.
“Honeywell is Ali Baba's cave of cool stuff,” he explains. “To leverage that portfolio into a powerful, integrated story – and to do it with such a great team – was extraordinary.”
Stouse returned to BMC as it was preparing to launch self-service app MyIT. He helped recruit Kim DeCarlis, a long-time colleague with whom he feels “very aligned,” as CMO.
There's been no lack of excitement at BMC during his latest stint. In the past year, the company went private after a yearlong battle with activist investors.
“It's exciting, interesting, and important work as we innovate at BMC,” he reports. “Alignment and trust are key, particularly in the midst of big change.”
First stint at agency: 2005-2007
Returned to agency: June 2013
2011-2012: National political director, DNC
2009-2011: Southern political director, White House Office of Political Affairs
2008-2009: Deputy director, Presidential Inauguration Committee
April-Dec. 2008: National political director, Change to Win
2007-2008: Comms director, New York Attorney General
2005-2007: Various roles, DKC
Jeffrey Lerner was considering taking a year off from DKC in 2007 to work on then-unknown Senator Barack Obama's presidential campaign when newly elected New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo asked him to become his communications director. In 2008, labor federation Change to Win recruited him to lead its presidential campaign efforts – and Lerner saw an opportunity to be a part of a seminal moment.
“I wanted to be involved in a part of history,” he recalls. “The Obama campaign was that chance.”
By 2011, Lerner was national political director for the Democratic National Committee. After the 2012 election, he traveled a bit before returning to his agency roots at DKC this past June.
“Politics, campaigns, and issue advocacy are in my blood,” he says, “but I wanted to diversify and work with really smart people. DKC was an easy choice.”
Learning to get clients' stories placed during his first stint at DKC taught Lerner the “art of conversation, relationships, and the phone call,” skills that were “helpful” in the national political arena.
“Working for the president, you're surrounded by so many smart people, you have to bring your ‘A' game every day,” he says. “In no other environment do you interact with so many different people who care passionately about so many things.
“In trying to create legislative reform and major change at a national level,” adds Lerner, “you learn how to do public affairs campaigns on the biggest stage in a way that requires you to be a quick study. That weds perfectly with my current role at DKC.”