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In conversation with Rachel Fadlon - Episode 10 - Inspiring the Next CMO series

Updated: Mar 17, 2022

Join Lou in a conversation with Rachel Fadlon, an excellent industry marketing director. Rachel talks with us about:

  • her favourite word 'shenanigans'

  • taking a rare advantage of family time that the pandemic created

  • her career working through different cultures and countries

  • the importance of transferable marketing skills across sectors

  • inspirational leaders in marketing

  • being brave and trying something new

  • the best advice she has ever been given

  • marketing hints and tips

Podcast channel: Website, Google Podcast, Apple, Podbean, Spotify

Links from the session:


Lou: Welcome, everybody, to our "Behind the Fluff: Inspiring the Next CMO" podcast series. Now, you can find lots of great resources on our website, Today, I am so, so happy and delighted to have Rachel Fadlon with me. Now, Rachel is an industry marketing director and someone I've actually met through this process and has been recommended to me. And we spoke for the first time a couple of months ago and Rachel is definitely a girl after my own heart. And she is absolutely awesome, so hello, Rachel!

Rachel: Hello! Thank you for having me.

Lou: No problem. So, the first thing that we always start off with is, we have a campaign that we do called, #IntBunchWordOfTheDay, and we love to find out from the community, what your favourite word is and why?

Rachel: Okay.

Lou: So what's your favourite word?

Rachel: Well, I'm going to have to go with shenanigans, if it's not already fairly clear why, it's a very fun word. I like to incorporate it into sentences, really as much as possible. And also I'm a bit of a mischief-maker myself, so I just enjoy shenanigans and I just think the word is almost an onomatopoeia, it feels like mischievous, to me, the word.

Lou: It does, what an excellent word. I hope that you just bring them up, into like serious meetings? Somehow.

Rachel: Of course I do.

Lou: Yes.

Rachel: I always try to introduce shenanigans as much as possible.

Lou: That's absolutely brilliant. Okay, so first thing's first, we want to know a bit more about you. So, what is the best thing that you have discovered in this last year, year and a half, since we've been in this funny, old pandemic?

Rachel: Okay, bear with me, I'm going to say it's my kids, and I'm not being sarcastic and I'm not trying to be funny, I discovered them in a new way. My daughter is 17, almost 18, and my son is 15, very soon to be 16. And during this last year, my husband is an administrator at a private school and he was in-person all year. Whereas my children and I were at home, I was working remote and they were studying remote, the entire year.

Lou: Wow.

Rachel: So, yes. I discovered, well, my children are just lovely human beings. And they...

Lou: Mm-mm.

Rachel: I got to know them in a way in, I think, a more intimate way than I've been able to their whole lives, because we literally had

Lou: Yes.

Rachel: a year of uninterrupted time together. One of my favourite things from this last year was when we were able and when I didn't have meetings, we sat together every day for lunch and I've never gotten to do that with my kids. So I just feel like I've gotten to know them. I was lucky enough to get to know my kids, in a way that I wouldn't have been able to before and I feel really grateful.

Lou: Yes. Yes. I think that's a hundred percent right and I think that a lot of parents and people out there, that will really resonate with them. Whether it's a child or a family member, I think there is a lot that can be said for the valuable, concentrated time that we've actually spent with those people that we never really had the opportunity to do before. And even if it was forced on us, it's just, yes, I, it very much resonates with me. Last year, Poppy was, she was two, two and a half, and she goes to nursery every day, Monday to Friday. So for me to actually have to spend time with her, like you, we all work remotely here anyway, but to be forced to spend that valuable time with her, it was just, yes, they are amazing aren't they? They are absolutely

Rachel: Yes.

Lou: amazing human beings.

Rachel: They really... And I can't say this strongly enough, kept me sane, during the year.

Lou: Yes.

Rachel: I'm a really social, extroverted person and it was a hard year,

Lou: Yes.

Rachel: also for my kids. And they really, I don't know if they'd say the same about the past year as I'm saying right now, but I don't know if I drove them crazy, but it was just lovely. I mean, we found so many things to do together that, yes, it was just an invaluable time. And now they're away at, they go to a sleep-away camp over the summer, they've gone for years. This is the first time where I am like yearning, physically to see them, I miss it. I can't believe how much I miss, I miss them not being home. It's, yes.

Lou: Yes.

Rachel: The whole new-

Lou: Don't know what to do with yourself, do you?

Rachel: No, what do I do without my children? We had our routine. We had our little meals, we had our shows we watched. I can't watch any shows because I have to wait for them.

Lou: Oh, no!

Rachel: It's a lot.

Lou: Oh, I'm sure that they'll be at camp, maybe on their phone, they'll be watching these shows and they'll come back and go, "No, Mum, I didn't watch that show, let's watch it together".

Rachel: They best not. Well, I'll tell you what, the campers, my son, they're not allowed to have any electronics there.

Lou: Oh, they'll be fine.

Rachel: So, yes. He definitely didn't know, my daughter, who's a counsellor, that's quite possible that she did do that.

Lou: Yes. You just can't help it, can you? My husband and I are like that, we'll start watching a series together and then he's like, "Oh, should we watch that?" And I'm like, "Oh, I'm on season 7 now, sorry".

Rachel: I do the same thing.

Lou: I'm a binge watcher.

Rachel: Yes.

Lou: Oh, brilliant. So, who inspires you, Rachel?

Rachel: You know, I think that's a... that's a big question. I don't have a specific person in mind. I just, there are so many people that inspire me all the time, in so many different ways.

Lou: Mm.

Rachel: I am... I don't know, I just... I get inspired, I am inspired by just tough, resilient people. I'm inspired by people who are not afraid to speak their minds, especially their, you know, there are so many things going on in the world today and I am so inspired by people who aren't afraid to speak up and advocate for others. That's particularly been inspiring to me this last year, is people's bravery in standing up, not just for themselves, but for other groups.

Lou: Yes. Definitely. And I think, it's very important, what you said, it's when trusting, when I asked this question, it usually isn't one person, unless it's someone that's been very impactful on someone's lives, it's... we take inspiration from all around us. And I think it would be very rare to find someone that would only have one person for example, that's ever inspired them. And I think absolutely taking strength from strong, resilient people and especially caregivers in the last year and all these people who've been the frontliners, absolutely incredible how, as humankind, we can really be. Yes, it's a funny old year isn't it.

Rachel: Yes, yes.

Lou: So, when you were young, what did you want to be? This is where I get a little visual in my head. when someone says like, Superman or something, I have these little images.

Rachel: Okay, well, so that's funny, because when I was really young, if you asked me what I wanted to be, I would say an eagle, because I just really

Lou: Oh.

Rachel: wanted to fly.

Lou: Wow.

Rachel: And then when, I just wanted wings and I wanted to fly. When I got a little-

Lou: That's a bird to choose, isn't it, I mean, if you're going to go for a bird,

Rachel: Yes.

Lou: go for the eagle.

Rachel: Go for the eagle, right for the eagle,

Lou: Yes!

Rachel: that was what I wanted to be. But there's a little bit of a theme in that then, so when I got older, when people asked me what I wanted to be, I had this image in my head that I wanted to be the thing that was the hardest thing that you could be. And I was a kid, so I'm like, what's the hardest thing? How? What's the hardest? So, I got in my head that the hardest thing in the whole world you could be, is a brain surgeon. So I would say, "Brain surgeon". It wasn't necessarily because I was interested in medicine, it was because I have thought that was the hardest job in the whole world and that's what I was going to do.

Lou: I think it's brilliant. I thought you were going to say like president or something. I apparently thought that brain surgeon was harder than president. Well, you know, a brain surgeon may actually say to you, "Yes, it is". Unless they've been a president and they can compare it.

Rachel: Right.

Lou: So, if you were to have dinner tonight with anybody alive, dead, it doesn't matter where they are in the world, at what stage, who, and you can have as many or as little people as you want, it's up to you, it's your night. Who would you have?

Rachel: I'm going to say Golda Meir. Golda Meir was the fourth prime minister of the State of Israel. I think this woman was just a badass. I've been following her, I read her autobiography in middle school. I admire the hell out of this woman. She was twice an immigrant, she's originally from Kyiv, and they're Jewish.

Lou: Right.

Rachel: Her and her family immigrated to the United States, to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. And then she sort of grew, her childhood was there, and then when she grew up, she immigrated to Israel at the time when Israel was just becoming a nation. This is a woman who had to learn a second language, adjust to a new culture, and again, as a woman in politics, anywhere in the world, it's not easy. And she, I just think she's incredible. She had to be one of the guys, she is tough as nails, she's amazing. She was a leader during, well, there are always rough times in Israel, but really during a historical time when there were wars going on and I just think she is, I would, man, what I wouldn't give to have dinner with her.

Lou: Yes. She sounds incredible.

Rachel: Tough as nails, amazing and you know earlier, you and I were having a discussion, before we started the interview about having imposter syndrome and feeling nervous. And I would just love to ask someone like her, "You seem so tough and confident, what's really going on behind the scenes there? Are you always tough

Lou: Yes.

Rachel: and confident or do you question what you do too? Do you get nervous? Do you have panic attacks? Do you?" You know? Those sort of things are interesting to me.

Lou: I bet she would really surprise you.

Rachel: I think so too.

Lou: Yes.

Rachel: I think most people do.

Lou: Yes, absolutely. We are all human at the end of the day. And I think,

Rachel: Exactly.

Lou: feeling nervous and those kinds of emotions, it tends to show that you care. So I think it's important,

Rachel: Right.

Lou: because it also keeps you grounded as well. So, let's talk about your career. Now, tell me about your career and how you got to where you are today?

Rachel: Well, I've had a rather winding path in my career and I will say that my illustrious marketing career started at a very small startup company in Jerusalem, Israel, where I was the office manager. I was a poor, poor graduate student, at the Hebrew University. I was getting a master's degree in Israeli Politics and Society, because I don't know if you know, I'm fascinated by politics and did actually think I wanted to become a politician in my naive youth. And in order to put myself through my master's program, I had a friend of a friend who was part of the startup. And in the beginning, it was just a gig to pay my bills in the beginning. It was, I was office manager, it was interesting. It was something new. I don't remember how long into it... I think the founders of the company saw that I had potential beyond being on administrative duties. So I quickly moved into the one and only marketing position in the company and I loved it. I mean, I'd already had a knack for writing and I loved anything creative. And so it just sort of felt like a natural fit. I will say that I've never had any formal training in marketing, I learned everything on the job. And so I would say I spent my early years, my twenties in Israel, kind of growing up in that world, in that marketing world and learning there. So the culture is very different than from where I am now, in the States. But I think that's only been beneficial and positive for me here.

Lou: Yes.

Rachel: After that company went bankrupt, I found a job in another software company in Israel, that's still there and...

Lou: Just to put that in there.

Rachel: Just as a...

Lou: This is not like when you go somewhere, they go bankrupt.

Rachel: Exactly, yes, I swear it wasn't me. It was not my marketing skills.

Lou: Was it my marketing budget spend?

Rachel: I swear, to be fair, I had zero in that company.

- Lou: You were very creative,

Rachel: And then in the-

Lou: like many of us had to be.

Rachel: I love that! And well, that's what's fun about startups. And then the next company that I went to was also, I learned a lot there and I was in the high-tech right at the time where the bubble burst. I don't know if you remember that, and everyone was getting laid off. So, and I found typically, that the first people to get laid off are the marketers, because as you said, I think the perception is that sales make money and marketing spends money. And so they typically let the marketing people go, so I lost another job and at that point, I decided that I would be open to marketing, it didn't have to be... at first, I was looking for more high-tech.

Lou: Yes.

Rachel: There really weren't any opportunities at the time so I was very, very fortunate that at the time I was looking, there was a position available at Israel's National Holocaust Memorial.

Lou: Wow.

Rachel: And, so I got the position. I still feel so fortunate that I worked there. I was the liaison. So I was the spokesperson for foreign media. And what I appreciate in Israel, which is very different than the US, your resume doesn't have to 100% align with what the role is. If they think you're a good fit and they think you have brains, and they think you can figure it out, they'll hire you.

Lou: Yes.

Rachel: So you can come from a totally different sector or position and it's not like, I feel in the US, they kind of silo you once you're on this track. You have to stay there,

Lou: Yes.

Rachel: because if you don't, you have to sort of start from the ground up again. Whereas in Israel, if they see that you could be a good fit, you could get the role. So I, yes, I was very fortunate. So I kind of moved into this PR role, leading very large press conferences for international media. At the time that I was there, Israel, the Holocaust Memorial was holding, I believe it was 50 years marking the time, from the first uprising from the Holocaust. I believe that's what it was. And so we had a 50 year, marking a huge ceremony where, diplomats from all over, the heads of state from all over the world attended.

Lou: Wow.

Rachel: And I was responsible for all of the foreign media and for the press for that event. Again, it just, an absolutely incredible opportunity, and I appreciate the fact that in Israel, you can just learn things on the job and they didn't expect you to know everything coming in. So it was an amazing opportunity.

Lou: Yes.

Rachel: After that I, excuse me, my husband and I moved to the States, I'd had a daughter. And when we moved back to the States, I, sorry, I had my daughter, she's about a year old and then very soon after that became pregnant with my son and decided that I needed to take a step back. And didn't really want... I'd been interviewing for some rather large jobs, I live in the Boston area,

Lou: Yes.

Rachel: in the Boston area. And it was like, you know what? I don't think I want to do that right now. My kids are little,

Lou: Yes.

Rachel: I know how demanding these roles are. I looked for a part-time role in the Jewish community to stay connected, for my own sanity, to get out of the house. And really,

Lou: Mm.

Rachel: when my son went back, went to kindergarten, that's kind of full-time school here, I was like, "Okay, I'm ready to go back to work now."

Lou: Yes.

Rachel: I had no intention of staying home and was looking, but like I was saying earlier, it's challenging here to find a role, when you've been out for a little bit, and to get into a new country and new connections and a new network, it was hard.

Lou: Mm.

Rachel: But I did, I was lucky again, I found a role in a nonprofit organization, as the director of marketing and communications, and did that for, I don't know, about five years. It was wonderful. We worked with a national non-profit organization that works with children, with Jewish students with disabilities.

Lou: Yes.

Rachel: Another incredible opportunity. And luckily, I had a friend, Tamir, who you might know, who I think referred... who introduced the two of us.

Lou: He did, yes, he recommended you to this.

Rachel: Tamir is wonderful. He had been at EBSCO for quite a while and in fact, basically, since he started, kept saying to me, "Rachel, I'm working at this great place". Every time a role in the marketing department came up, he's like, "Take a look at this role. What do you thinking about this role? How about this role?" And then finally, he said, "Rachel, I have a role for you. It reports directly to me, it's this great opportunity working with this new open source community, we're creating open source software". And then as soon as I heard, ah, open source, this is a job that has a heart. That is something I can get passionate about, that is a meaningful role. I was like, "Okay, let's talk about it". And so I've been at EBSCO, Tamir is incredible. It's a great role. It's allowed me to grow and learn more. And again, in the States, it's a little harder, and they did take a chance on me, because I did not have a background in the library industry, but I have a long background,

Lou: Yes.