Fairygodboss

Erin (Hauck) Gorky is a born strategist who honed her skills of leadership, teamwork and motivation on the soccer field. From the age of three through college and beyond, her athletic career is what helped shape her character both on and off the field. 

“My ability to read the field and make strategic choices is what made me valuable,” Erin says. “This is also how I see myself off the field, and I believe those same skills propel me forward in my career.”

In her current position, as Ampersand’s Head of Agency Partnerships, Erin uses her global experience, agile leadership style and perspective to drive successful campaigns for her clients and lead her team. We reached out to Erin to ask her about her top advice for managing others and moving into a leadership role. Here’s what she said.

Tell us a bit about your job. What’s your current role, how long have you been in this role, and what were you doing previously?

I have a great job! As the Head of Agency Partnerships at Ampersand, I work closely with our agency partners to develop and implement audience-first, multi-screen TV strategies for their clients to drive real brand outcomes.  

I’ve always been interested in the advertising industry. I studied advertising and business at the University of Tennessee. After graduation, I came to New York and took the first job someone offered me, and lucky for me, I loved it. So, I started my career on the agency side at OMD, which gave me exposure to so many facets of the industry. The rest is history (in the making).

What is your no. 1 piece of advice for other women who are moving into or want to move into leadership?

Don’t wait for what you want. Be aggressive — ask for it. You deserve it, and they’re lucky to have you. But it’s not always an easy conversation, and it’s important for you to think strategically about your approach. You don’t walk into your manager’s office to ask for a raise without being able to speak to the “why.” What value will you add to the team and the organization if you’re given the opportunity to lead? Also consider when is the right time to ask for those opportunities.

I grew up as a soccer player, and, while I wasn’t a star by any means, my ability to read the field and make strategic choices is what made me valuable. I could create plays, disrupt counter attacks, and really orchestrate the flow of the game. This is also how I see myself off the field, and I believe those same skills propel me forward in my career. 

So, for example, a couple of times I’ve written my own job description. I started with the things that I was really good at: the value I knew I could add to the organization. From there, I also add anything that I want to learn out of my next role based on feedback or insights I had during interviews or in informal conversations with peers in the industry. If I met someone and the conversation was in line with what I was looking for, I would share my draft with them. And, eventually, it got me to where I wanted to be. It got me here.

How would you describe your leadership style?

Agile. Great leaders know how to extract the best from their employees to help them be successful. The only way to do this is to take the time to know your staff and adapt your leadership style to one that they will respond well to.  

It’s my job to read the field and to know how to coach each individual to extract the best possible performance from the team as a whole.

What’s one strategy you’ve used when managing an individual or team that you think has been particularly effective?

Something that doesn’t always come naturally to me, but is extremely important, is to be vulnerable in front of the people you lead. I’m not talking about complaining or crying in front of my employees, I’m talking about being human. It’s an effective way to win their trust. 

If I had to summarize my style, it’s that I am fairly hands off when I can be. My general approach, whether overseeing a team of two or 40, is to trust the people who report to me. 

A lot of people believe that developing your career means changing companies, and not infrequently. What has enabled you to develop/advance your career?

I think my career advancements can be attributed to a healthy combination of skill and luck. The important thing is to keep learning. If you’re not learning, you’re not moving forward, and it’s time to move on. You should always be a little uncomfortable.

We’re in a fast-paced industry, there’s always something new to learn. Taking the time to educate yourself, staying involved in industry organizations and networking are all important ways that you can stay informed and relevant.

Can you identify anything you said or did that earmarked you as someone ready for advancement?

I’ve always tried to go the extra mile in order to be a greater asset to my team, my superiors and the organization I support. 

What was the best quality of the best boss you’ve ever had?

A boss that has your back! 

Managing people — especially if you’re new to it — is not easy. How has Ampersand and your own manager helped set you up for success? How is this kind of support reflective of the overall culture at Ampersand?

Leading by example. I’m very fortunate that the layers of leadership above me in my current role are top-notch. There is trust, transparency and support across the organization, and it’s easier to do your job when you feel secure and supported — it permeates the culture of the organization as well. For example, my manager goes out of her way to give credit where credit is due, especially when touting our achievements to the executive leadership. 

What’s been your most valuable career mistake?

Letting ego get in the way of anything. Along the way, you’re going to make mistakes. Having some humility and understanding what you could have done differently, or better, is important. Every mistake is a learning opportunity. If you walk away not having learned anything, you’re not being introspective enough. 

What’s something you’re especially good at at work?  

Time management and organization. 

What about outside of work?

Trip planning. I love to travel, and I’m very detail oriented, so I can make a mean itinerary. I’ve been to every continent except Antarctica, and I briefly lived in Sydney, Australia for work. One thing this pandemic has done is piqued my interest in travelling more domestically. I want to visit our National Parks with my now one-year-old daughter in tow.  

What are you trying to improve on?  

My patience, always. I grew up in a fast-paced agency environment, and I like being busy. People in my personal and professional life don’t always move at my speed. 

What’s the one career move you’ve made that you’re most proud of?

That’s hard to say. I’ve learned a lot with every move I’ve made, and I have been very intentional with my career path. I’m currently very proud of where I work and who I work with, so Ampersand is an easy answer. However, there was that one time that I got to go work at OMD Sydney, Australia as part of a temporary work exchange program. That was pretty cool.

How do you prioritize and deal with your to-do list each day?

I’m very organized and typically have aggressive plans for each week, which I set ahead of time. I set deadlines for myself and will block out time on my calendar to dedicate to specific tasks if I expect the day to get overbooked with meetings. 

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