Hila Roberts started in the retail industry when she was 10 years old. That entrepreneurial spirit has led Roberts into a successful 14-year career with the world’s largest home improvement retailer, The Home Depot. “Retail is in my blood,” Roberts recently told Fairygodboss.
As the COVID-19 pandemic changed online shopping behaviors, the iconic retailer’s e-commerce segment increased significantly. But as Roberts told us, a new business area has also emerged. The Retail Media business area is rapidly evolving within the industry. Having the experience and the network under her belt, Roberts saw an opportunity to create a new role for herself while growing as a leader, and went after it. “I was very specific with my mentors and managers as to what I wanted to do next. Home Depot’s Retail Media business was just starting out and it really aligned with my goals.” says Roberts.
Roberts is now Senior Director of Retail Media+ Partner Management. Read on to learn more about Roberts’ career journey, how Retail Media is changing the industry, and how she challenged herself to build a new business at the iconic retailer.
What made you interested in pursuing a career at The Home Depot?
Retail is in my blood. We moved to the US to be part of a family retail business in Las Vegas, Nevada. As kids, my brother, cousins, and I were in the store all the time. By the time I turned 10, I started working during the holidays as a gift wrapper. When I was looking for career opportunities after business school, I knew I wanted to go back to retail. It was 2006 and The Home Depot was in a unique position to find organic growth without opening new stores. I wanted to be part of that journey in retail.
Tell me about the roles that you've held at The Home Depot, as well as your current one. What about this role most excites you?
In my 14 years at The Home Depot, I’ve held 13 roles! I started in a Business Leadership Program working in store operations as well as in stores as an Assistant Store Manager. That eventually took me into the merchandising space at The Home Depot. I held various roles from Merch Finance to Merch Planning to becoming a Merchant across a few different businesses here. Merchandising is an amazing group that taught me how to source products, market them, and partner with teams to determine how and where products are sold to customers. Through all of this, I had the unique opportunity to cultivate strong relationships with our suppliers – big and small.
In 2019, I decided to take on a new challenge to leverage what I know about merchandising and The Home Depot to start the Retail Media+ business in our Marketing & Online department. In August 2020 I was promoted to Senior Director – Retail Media+ Partner Management, responsible for growing suppliers’ participation in marketing. In this new role, I lead a startup within The Home Depot framework, leveraging my unique skills learned and relationships cultivated from 14 years at The Home Depot. With my team, I get to ask questions that have never been asked before and develop strategies and processes to grow and scale — all while helping drive sales and deepen the bond between The Home Depot, our suppliers, and our customers.
A lot of people believe that developing your career means changing companies, and not infrequently. What has enabled you to develop/advance your career without company hopping?
First, there is a benefit to joining a large company with many opportunities. Second, The Home Depot has changed a lot since I joined, which has enabled me to change with it. As a company, The Home Depot has a culture of helping associates continue to grow. We value hard work and will leverage your background while also giving you room to develop.
Not everyone will find that in their company, but you should at least look. Every time you change companies, you start over in relationship and reputation building versus leveraging the time and network you’ve already invested in. I have been fortunate in my career to find opportunities within The Home Depot and leverage my network and reputation to grow.
You've been at The Home Depot for 14 years. What made you want to join the Retail Media side of The Home Depot?
After 10 years in merchandising, I was ready for a new experience that would expand my understanding of our online business, as well as stretch me as a people leader. I was very specific with my mentors and managers as to what I wanted to do next. The Retail Media business was just starting out and it really aligned with my goals. Additionally, I could leverage my experience in merchandising to also impact the business from day one. Not only did this role meet what I was looking for, but it’s also been a wonderful experience to build a new business, develop a team, and learn from the people around me.
How would you describe Retail Media to someone who has never heard of it?
Retail Media provides advertisers turn-key full funnel marketing opportunities to reach audiences in new ways with performance to prove their investment. For example, a consumer brand can choose to advertise on The Home Depot’s website or social channels, which gives them the ability to reach their target audiences in new ways and at scale while understanding the impact to sales, reach, and impressions. Brands of all sizes have the options to partner with us to grow their businesses online with our customers.
What advice would you give someone who is interested in pursuing careers in Retail Media, given that it's a newer field?
Retail Media is an evolving field. I encourage jobseekers to continue to stay up to date with the current media landscape and how Retail Media fits into that picture. From there, determine how your skills can be applicable to help not only our business, but the businesses of the products that we sell, so we all grow. The other piece is the necessity to understand how to translate marketing spend into sales growth. On top of understanding marketing and sales, speaking business language is a plus.
What skills or backgrounds would you consider beneficial to someone seeking to join a Retail Media team?
Curiosity is key. You must be interested in how to continue to progress the technologies and offerings and how to connect that to the needs of the brands we work with. I also look for someone with fire in their belly. You really need to want to do more even when we don’t have all the answers.
How do you think brand advertisers will adapt to the rise of Retail Media networks in 2021, especially with the global pandemic?
Customers have been leveraging online for shopping or research, even before the pandemic. This has grown exponentially during these times and I don’t believe we will go back to pre-pandemic behavior. Brand advertisers will want to partner with the best retailers who understand their customers and can help in every step along the journey.
From a leadership perspective, how have you ensured that your team has the tools and resources needed to be successful during a pandemic?
On my team, we don’t apologize for interruptions made by life - pets, kids, spouses, etc. In fact, it has been nice to integrate life into work a little more. Personally, my kids like to say hi to the team and are in the weekly videos of our wins. It is important that leadership sets the example and ensures the team knows to focus on work, BUT more importantly on their family.
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