By Saabira Chaudhuri
In Personal Board of Directors, top business leaders talk about
the people they turn to for advice, and how those people have
shaped their perspective and helped them succeed. Previous
installments from the series are here.
The head of beauty and personal care for Unilever PLC North
America was more into math than makeup while growing up. Esi
Eggleston Bracey thought she would follow in the footsteps of her
father, a math teacher, and pursue a career focused on numbers. She
remembers being good at it, taking high school level math classes
in junior high and college level classes in high school.
Those aspirations changed at Dartmouth College, where she
studied engineering sciences and accepted engineering internships
at firms like Motorola Solutions Inc. and Argonne National
Laboratory. Spending time alone in a lab and having to dissect mice
took a toll. "Part of it was the isolation because I liked people,"
says Ms. Bracey, who spent college involved in group activities
like jazz dance, acting and a sorority. "I didn't like getting my
A new path emerged when a recruiter from Procter & Gamble
Co. rang her at her dorm, Ms. Bracey agreed to go to an information
session about managing brands, mainly so she could get off the
phone. The session -- which centered on problem solving, leading
teams and understanding what makes people tick -- proved
unexpectedly exciting. "It was like a lightbulb went off," recalls
Ms. Bracey. "I thought: 'Wow I am quite interested in this.'"
Her first job at P&G was in soap, as a brand assistant for
Comet Cleanser. A few years on, she created Febreze, conceived of
as a fabric refresher. "We wore blazers and would go to bars and
weren't making a ton of money," she says. "What if we had a way to
get rid of clothes' odors without dry cleaning?"
It wasn't until eight years later that she moved into the beauty
division "where I found my love."
She worked her way up to become marketing director and general
manager for CoverGirl and Max Factor -- where she made a name for
herself by swapping models for a more diverse collection of famous
faces including Queen Latifah, Drew Barrymore and Ellen DeGeneres.
"It was about making it aspirational but also relatable."
The CoverGirl brand encompassed at least a thousand different
products and sizes. Ms. Bracey relished the complexity of figuring
out which ones were the most important, where trends were headed,
and trying to decipher what consumers really wanted. She moved to
Geneva to run P&G's global cosmetics business, living there for
eight years and gaining a view of the business world outside
After Coty bought P&G's beauty arm in 2016, Ms. Bracey moved
to be Coty's head of beauty but soon left the New York-based
company after the job felt too similar and she decided she was
ready for a change. Returning to the corporate world was the last
thing on her mind and having grown up in a family that campaigned
for racial equality she "wanted to do something meaningful in the
community," she said. "My mother was very much an activist and my
family has a legacy of activism."
Then Unilever called, dangling the beauty and personal care role
that would give her responsibility for iconic brands like TRESemmé,
Dove and Suave in North America. Ms Bracey says she was at first
skeptical about the company's much-publicized commitment to using
business to make a positive impact. "I thought it was propaganda,"
she says. But after talking to executives over several months Ms.
Bracey says she was won over. "I could use my experience in the
industry to do some good."
Operating executive focused on consumer goods and retail at the
Ms. Bracey met Ms. Arnold early on during her 25 year stint at
P&G. She describes her as a "long time mentor" who was a
"game-changer" for her career. Ms. Arnold moved Ms. Bracey from
P&G's soap division to work on beauty products. Later, she
promoted her to be P&G's youngest general manager, quelling any
doubts Ms. Bracey had about accepting the role. "She pushed me past
my comfort zone," says Ms. Bracey.
Ms. Bracey often tapped Ms. Arnold for advice even after the now
Carlyle executive left the company, saying she was drawn to her
authenticity. "She would walk around with no shoes on at P&G;
married a woman; sponsored people who didn't fit the mold."
Chief Operating Officer at Parkwood Entertainment
The relationship between Mr. Pamon and Ms. Bracey stretches back
decades. The pair became friends in high school, graduated together
and until today he's her "homeboy" and one of the people who is "in
Mr. Pamon previously worked at JPMorgan Chase & Co., the
National Football League, HBO and McKinsey & Co. He now works
alongside Beyoncé at Parkwood, the management and entertainment
company founded by the singer, and was an executive producer for
the film made for HBO of her album Lemonade.
When Ms. Bracey decided to leave Coty she had dinner with Mr.
Pamon who encouraged her to follow her own path. To her, he's a
"confidant" and the person who showed her how it is possible to
"push the envelope and disrupt."
BlackRock's global head of diversity and inclusion
Soon after moving to Geneva for P&G, Ms. Bracey heard about
Michelle, who was described to her as the "other" Black American
woman in the city." The pair met up and quickly bonded over the
experience of being Black Americans in a foreign land.
"We became great friends," says Ms. Bracey of Ms. Williams, who
worked on diversity issues for Novartis and Credit Suisse while in
Switzerland. "Michelle is thoughtful about how you chart your own
destiny, one that works for you." She admires that her friend
founded a media company and wrote a book chronicling her own career
that is intended to help women navigate American corporations.
Head of Egon Zehnder's Technology Officers Practice in North
An executive recruiter, Mr. Gray took on the role of informal
career adviser to Ms. Bracey after the pair met a few years ago
while he was doing a board search. She estimates they talk once a
month about business issues and board opportunities and says she
seeks his advice on how she can broaden her experiences and
perspectives to lead better. "We had an instant affinity," says Ms.
Bracey. "It helps to have someone who has an objective perspective
on how your profile and skills compare to others."
Before Ms. Bracey joined the board of theme park company Six
Flags Entertainment Corp. in August, she sought out Mr. Gray's
advice. Those chats helped her decide that being on a smaller board
in an industry buffeted by Covid-19 would help her learn a lot.
"The recruiter who placed me in that role has different interests,"
she said. "Chuck knows me and helps advise me."
Write to Saabira Chaudhuri at firstname.lastname@example.org
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
October 03, 2020 00:15 ET (04:15 GMT)
Copyright (c) 2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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