Erica Brinker spent her early career marketing at some of the most iconic brands in the world. Little did she know, only years later, she would be helping a 100-year-old brand communicate a pivot to their business with a team she built from scratch. At Honeywell, Brinker says she’s doing the most exhilarating work in her career with the full support of her company, from the CEO to the multi-talented people on her team.
We spoke to Brinker about how she made a brand new role at Honeywell her own, how she hired a groundbreaking team and how her leadership style helps them perform at their best. Then, she shared what makes Honeywell an especially great place to work, and spilled her no. 1 piece of advice for women who want to find their dream job. Hint: sometimes you need to create that opportunity for yourself.
Tell us a bit about your job. What’s your current role, and what did your career path look like prior to being in this role?
I have been with Honeywell for eight years. I moved into my current corporate role, Vice President of Brand Marketing, almost two years ago after leading business development for our Software and Services business within Aerospace. Before that, I led our marketing communications for Aerospace, from our digital and social media presence to our more traditional marketing and advertising initiatives. The aerospace industry is such a cool business, so it was a really exciting way to enter into the company.
Before Honeywell, I held roles in marketing, business development and customer service in many industries. Working at places like Ralph Lauren and Tiffany & Co. early in my career built a solid foundation in brand marketing that I have carried with me.
While at Honeywell, you’ve built a team that you’re now leading. How did you approach this?
Honeywell is in such an exciting time of transformation, and my role today is what I consider the best job in the company. But one of the most rewarding aspects of the role is the immediate and extended brand team. When I took this job, it was a new role for corporate, so the roles we identified to build out the team were new, too. When I thought about the types of roles needed, I thought first about the customer need and then about the channels to market where we were reaching them. Then, we went from there.
Our team works hard on everything from branded content to licensing to digital marketing. We are running at 100 miles an hour, and our high level of trust with each other allows us to move at this fast pace. We have such a passion for what we are doing that it makes the work feel really rewarding.
What’s the one career move you’ve made that you’re most proud of?
The proudest moment I have had with Honeywell occurred just recently when we launched our brand campaign. With our 100-year history, we weren’t creating a new brand, but instead providing an opportunity to succinctly communicate the pivot we are making to become a software-industrial company. This required us to tell our story differently, and we wanted employees to be the first part of that change.
The campaign features our innovative technologies through the eyes of the inventors, dreamers and doers at Honeywell – we call them “futureshapers.” Our differentiator as a company is not just the world-changing innovations we create, but also the people that make it happen, so it seemed natural to highlight our employees.
Just recently, there were two points where I realized the impact of the job I was doing. The first was the launch event with our employees. It was an overwhelmingly positive response. We have seen lots of activity by our employees on social media with our #futureshaper campaign, and that energizes me. It was a really proud moment to share this with employees and see how it impacted them. Just a few weeks after our employee launch, I saw our commercial air on television. I couldn’t wipe the grin from my face. I was so proud to work with these incredible employees who brought the new Honeywell story to life.
How has Honeywell been particularly supportive and helped you overcome a challenge?
This recent brand campaign launch was inherently challenging because it touches every part of the business. We had to communicate our value to customers, employees, shareholders, recruits and the media. And like any company, we already had a way that we always did things, so change management was key to making this program a success.
What’s been so incredible is that this program has been supported with great involvement at all levels, from our CEO to my managers to the leadership who have helped me to drive change across our organization. The most surprising aspect of this process was the level of engagement from our CEO. I know this helped us get to a better result and provide a catalyst to make change happen faster.
I am so grateful to the team that I get to work with every day. We work hard, and we have a lot of fun, too. For many of us, this has been simultaneously the most exhausting and rewarding work we have done in our careers; And at Honeywell, it’s been the most exciting, because we know how transformational this is for the company.
How is the sense of support you’ve felt reflective of your company’s overall culture/policies?
Honeywell is such a unique company. I often equate it to a gym membership. Just joining a gym won’t all of the sudden make you fit, but if you are willing to put in the work consistently, you will see the rewards. Honeywell is a performance culture and the people I work with everyday are the top of their fields. It is so invigorating to work with people who bring their best everyday, no matter where they are in the company, at all levels. It makes you perform at your best.
What initially drew you to Honeywell? And what’s one of the most amazing things about your workplace that you didn’t learn until working there?
When I started interviewing for my first role with Honeywell, I wasn’t even sure what Honeywell made or what kind of customers the company had. As I entered the interview process, each person was smarter than the next. And by the end of the process, I really wanted the role — I needed to work with so many brilliant people! That feeling of working with the best has never changed and it’s one of the aspects of the company that many of us appreciate each day when we come into the office.
With over 100 sites around the world, one of the best parts of the job is being able to work with the best people globally. Working with so many cultures and different countries continues to be one of my favorite aspects of the company. I got my MBA in global business management and have always had an appetite for learning how business is done differently around the world. Honeywell provides that opportunity, and it’s something that continues to keep me engaged and excited to come to work.
What’s the most memorable piece of career advice you’ve received?
I have been fortunate to work for some incredible leaders and have some helpful mentors along my career journey. Perhaps not outright advice, but the leaders I have admired most are ones whose behavior match their words. The managers who have been able to show their human side, be respectful and supportive of their teams’ careers. The leaders with these qualities have also been at the helm of the highest performing teams and this doesn’t seem to be a coincidence. This is something I try to model as a leader.
What’s your #1 piece of advice for women who are navigating uncharted territories at work?
As women, I think we are sometimes afraid of being straightforward communicators. It’s been engrained for many of us to approach challenges with a light touch. My advice would be that you can go further in your career by approaching opportunities more fearlessly. For instance, if you want to go in a new direction in your career, go to the hiring manager and share your ambitions. It might not result in an immediate change, but it will put you on the consideration list. If you have an idea that you feel could make an impact, organize your thoughts and pitch it to the leader. If you see the need for change, take it upon yourself to figure out how to drive it.
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